Steven D. Smith, Man and Animal in Severan Rome: The Literary Imagination of Claudius Aelianus. Greek culture in the Roman world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xii, 308. ISBN 9781107033986. $99.00.
Reviewed by C. W. Marshall, University of British Columbia
Man and Animal in Severan Rome is an exciting and imaginative study detailing the literary virtues of Claudius Aelianus—Aelian— with a particular emphasis on De natura animalium (NA). Smith’s Aelian emerges, perhaps surprisingly, as both a sophisticated literary stylist and a politically savvy observer of the Severan court. His polished anecdotes (Smith regularly calls them “fragments”, which is misleading), strung together with deliberate haphazardness, are shown to reveal an author maintaining his position just outside the periphery of the imperial circle: “Aelian’s moralizing should be understood not as an instrument of power, but as an expression of disavowal and longing for a transformation of the world” (273). […]