Animals in Greek and Roman Thought: A Sourcebook (Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World)
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Although reasoned discourse on human-animal relations is often considered a late twentieth-century phenomenon, ethical debate over animals and how humans should treat them can be traced back to the philosophers and literati of the classical world. From Stoic assertions that humans owe nothing to animals that are intellectually foreign to them, to Plutarch's impassioned arguments for animals as sentient and rational beings, it is clear that modern debate owes much to Greco-Roman thought.
Animals in Greek and Roman Thought brings together new translations of classical passages which contributed to ancient debate on the nature of animals and their relationship to human beings. The selections chosen come primarily from philosophical and natural historical works, as well as religious, poetic and biographical works. The questions discussed include: Do animals differ from humans intellectually? Were animals created for the use of humankind? Should animals be used for food, sport, or sacrifice? Can animals be our friends?
The selections are arranged thematically and, within themes, chronologically. A commentary precedes each excerpt, transliterations of Greek and Latin technical terms are provided, and each entry includes bibliographic suggestions for further reading.
rather are prompted by the desire for food. Have you not noticed that no one ever blames a little child for anything he does, since he has not yet attained to an accountable age? Although an infant is immature, he is a rational man by nature, having newly received the seeds of wisdom, which, though not yet developed, will soon mature. Throughout the duration of his growth, the seminal powers spread rapidly like sparks in a forest, fanned by a breeze or wind. But the souls of other creatures do
pleasure. In truth, a kind of compassion actually followed this, and a belief that there exists a sort of fellowship between that type of beast and humankind. (Epistulae ad familiares [Letters to His Friends] VII. 1. 3) 2. Seneca The Stoic philosopher Seneca alludes in the passage translated below from his treatise De brevitate vitae (On the Shortness of Life) to the arena combat with elephants offered by Pompey in 55 BCE which Cicero describes in his letter to Marcus Marius excerpted above, but
creature? That former age, which we call golden, was rich in the splendid produce of trees that the earth nourishes and did not pollute its mouth with gore. Then birds were safe to move about the trees, and the hare wandered carefree in the middle of the fields, nor had the trusting nature of fishes caused them to hang from a hook. Everything was free of deceit, heedless of trickery, and full of peace. Later some noxious individual, whoever it was, envied the food of the gods and buried flesh in
nature” (para phusin) may hint at the argument, common in defenses of the vegetarian lifestyle today, that the human being is anatomically unsuited to the consumption of meat. He makes this argument specifically at On the Eating of Flesh 994F, where he declares the human being “not carnivorous by nature,” and at 995D, translated below. It is worth noting that Plutarch relies very little, in developing his case for abstention from meat, on Pythagorean considerations of transmigration of souls. In
is, as was stated before, continuous. (Historia Animalium [History of Animals] 588b4–12) Ascidia (Sea-squirts) differ in nature from plants, but still they are more animal-like than are sponges, for they have altogether the character of a plant. For nature passes continuously from the inanimate to the animate, moving through living creatures that are not animals, in such a way that there seems to be little difference altogether from one to the next. (De partibus animalium [Parts of Animals]