Aulus Gellius

Aulus Gellius (c. 125 – after 180 AD) was a Latin author and grammarian, who was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome. He was educated in Athens, after which he returned to Rome. He is famous for his Attic Nights, a commonplace book, or compilation of notes on grammar, philosophy, history, antiquarianism, and other subjects, preserving fragments of the works of many authors who might otherwise be unknown today.

Aulus Gellius
Frontispiece to a 1706 Latin edition of the Attic Nights [fr] by Jakob Gronovius
Frontispiece to a 1706 Latin edition of the Attic Nights by Jakob Gronovius
Bornc. 125 A.D.
Diedc. 180 A.D.


The only source for the life of Aulus Gellius is the details recorded in his writings.[1] Internal evidence points to Gellius having been born between AD 125 and 128.[2] He was of good family and connections, possibly of African origin,[3] but he was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome. He attended the Pythian Games in the year 147,[2] and resided for a considerable period in Athens.[1] Gellius studied rhetoric under Titus Castricius and Sulpicius Apollinaris; philosophy under Calvisius Taurus and Peregrinus Proteus; and enjoyed also the friendship and instruction of Favorinus, Herodes Atticus, and Fronto.[1]

He returned to Rome, where he held a judicial office.[4] He was appointed by the praetor to act as an umpire in civil causes, and much of the time which he would gladly have devoted to literary pursuits was consequently occupied by judicial duties.[1]


His only known work, the Attic Nights (Latin: Noctes Atticae), takes its name from having been begun during the long nights of a winter which he spent in Attica. He afterwards continued it in Rome. It is compiled out of an Adversaria, or commonplace book, in which he had jotted down everything of unusual interest that he heard in conversation or read in books, and it comprises notes on grammar, geometry, philosophy, history and many other subjects.[4] One story is the fable of Androcles, which is often included in compilations of Aesop's fables, but was not originally from that source. Internal evidence led Leofranc Holford-Strevens to date its publication in or after AD 177.[2]

The work, deliberately devoid of sequence or arrangement, is divided into twenty books. All these have come down to us except the eighth, of which nothing remains but the index. The Attic Nights are valuable for the insight they afford into the nature of the society and pursuits of those times, and for its many excerpts from works of lost ancient authors.[4]

The Attic Nights found many readers in Antiquity. Writers who used this compilation include Apuleius, Lactantius, Nonius Marcellus, Ammianus Marcellinus, the anonymous author of the Historia Augusta, Servius, and Augustine; but most notable is how Gellius' work was mined by Macrobius, "who, without mentioning his name, quotes Gellius verbatim throughout the Saturnalia, and is thus of the highest value for the text".[5]


The editio princeps was published at Rome in 1469 by Giovanni Andrea Bussi, bishop-designate of Aleria.[6] The earliest critical edition was by Ludovicus Carrio in 1585, published by Henricus Stephanus; however, the projected commentary fell victim to personal quarrels. Better known is the critical edition of Johann Friedrich Gronovius ; although he devoted his entire life to work on Gellius, he died in 1671 before his work could be completed. His son Jakob published most of his comments on Gellius in 1687, and brought out a revised text with all of his father's comments and other materials at Leyden in 1706; this later work became known as the "Gronoviana". According to Leofranc Holford-Strevens, the "Gronoviana" remained the standard text of Gellius for over a hundred years, until the edition of Martin Hertz (Berlin, 1883–85; there is also a smaller edition by the same author, Berlin, 1886), revised by C. Hosius, 1903, with bibliography. A volume of selections, with notes and vocabulary, was published by Nall (London, 1888). There is an English translation by W. Beloe (London, 1795), and a French translation (1896).[4][7] A more recent English translation is by John Carew Rolfe (1927) for the Loeb Classical Library.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Ramsay, William (1867), "A. Gellius", in Smith, William (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 2, Boston, p. 235
  2. ^ a b c Leofranc Holford-Strevens, "Towards a Chronology of Aulus Gellius", Latomus, 36 (1977), pp. 93-109
  3. ^ Leofranc Holford-Strevens (2003), Aulus Gellius: an Antonine scholar and his achievement, pages 13–15
  4. ^ a b c d  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gellius, Aulus" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 558.
  5. ^ P. K. Marshall, "Aulus Gellius" in Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 176
  6. ^ Unless otherwise indicated, this section is based on Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1988), pp.241-244
  7. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Gellius, Aulus" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.


Further reading



  • Anderson, Graham. (1994). "Aulus Gellius: a Miscellanist and His World," in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, vol. II.34.2. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter.
  • Beall, S. (1997). "Translation in Aulus Gellius." The Classical Quarterly, 47(1), 215-226.
  • Ceaicovschi, K. (2009). "Cato the Elder in Aulus Gellius." Illinois Classical Studies, (33-34), 25-39.
  • Lakmann, Marie-Luise. (1995). Der Platoniker Tauros in der Darstellung des Aulus Gellius. Leiden, The Netherlands, and New York: Brill.
  • Garcea, Alessandro. (2003). "Paradoxes in Aulus Gellius." Argumentation 17:87–98.
  • Gunderson, Eric. (2009). Nox Philologiae: Aulus Gellius and the Fantasy of the Roman Library. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.
  • Holford-Strevens, Leofranc. (2003). Aulus Gellius: An Antonine Scholar and his Achievement. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Holford-Strevens, Leofranc. (1982). "Fact and fiction in Aulus Gellius." Liverpool Classical Monthly 7:65–68.
  • Holford-Strevens, Leofranc, and Amiel Vardi, eds. (2004). The Worlds of Aulus Gellius. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Howley, Joseph A. (2013). "Why Read the Jurists ?: Aulus Gellius on Reading Across Disciplines." In New Frontiers: Law and Society in the Roman World. Edited by Paul J. du Plessis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Howley, Joseph A. (2018). Aulus Gellius and Roman Reading Culture. Text, Presence, and Imperial Knowledge in the Noctes Atticae. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Johnson, William A. (2012). "Aulus Gellius: The Life of the Litteratus" In Readers and Reading Culture in the High Roman Empire: A Study of Elite Communities. Classical Culture and Society. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Ker, James (2004). "Nocturnal Writers in Imperial Rome: The Culture of Lucubratio." Classical Philology, 99(3), 209-242.
  • Keulen, Wytse. (2009). "Gellius the Satirist: Roman Cultural Authority in Attic Nights." Mnemosyne Supplements 297. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill.
  • McGinn, Thomas A.J. (2010). "Communication and the Capability Problem in Roman Law: Aulus Gellius as Iudex and the Jurists on Child-Custody." RIDA 57, 265-298.
  • Russell, Brigette. (2003). "Wine, Women, and the Polis: Gender and the Formation of the City-State in Archaic Rome." Greece & Rome, 50(1), 77-84

External links


Androcles (Greek: Ἀνδροκλῆς, alternatively spelled Androclus in Latin), is the main character of a common folktale that is included in the Aarne–Thompson classification system as type 156. The story reappeared in the Middle Ages as "The Shepherd and the Lion" and was then ascribed to Aesop's Fables. It is numbered 563 in the Perry Index and can be compared to Aesop's The Lion and the Mouse in both its general trend and in its moral of the reciprocal nature of mercy.


In ancient Greek religion and myth, the Anemoi (Greek: Ἄνεμοι, "Winds") were wind gods who were each ascribed a cardinal direction from which their respective winds came (see Classical compass winds), and were each associated with various seasons and weather conditions.

Aulus Postumius Albinus

For other persons with the cognomen "Albus" or "Albinus", see Albinus (cognomen).Aulus Postumius Albinus was a politician of the Roman Republic, and second consul in 99 BC with M. Antonius. Aulus Gellius quotes the words of a senatus consultum passed in their consulship in consequence of the spears of Mars having moved. Cicero mentions him as being a good orator.He was the grandson of Spurius Postumius Albinus Magnus, and probably son of Aulus Postumius Albinus. He was also the adoptive father of Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus, one of Julius Caesar's assassins (from whom Decimus Brutus adopted the name of Albinus).


In ancient Roman religion, Averruncus or Auruncus is a god of averting harm. Aulus Gellius says that he is one of the potentially malignant deities who must be propitiated for their power to both inflict and withhold disaster from people and the harvests.Although the etymology of the name is often connected to the Latin verb avertere, "to turn away," a more probable origin lies in averro "to sweep away," hence averrunco, "to ward off," perhaps with a reference to magical sweeping. Varro asserts that the infinitive verb averruncare shares its etymology with the god whose primary function is averting. Averruncus may be among the indigitamenta pertaining to another god such as Apollo or Mars, that is, it may be a name to be used in a prayer formulary to fix the local action of the invoked deity. Precise naming, in connection with concealing a deity's true name to monopolize his or her power, was a crucial part of prayer in antiquity, as evidenced not only in the traditional religions of Greece and Rome and syncretistic Hellenistic religion and mystery cult, but also in Judaism and ancient Egyptian religion.In other references, Averruncus is also known as the god of childbirth.

Dexippus of Cos

Dexippus of Cos (Greek: Δέξιππος ὁ Κῷος; 4th century BC), also called Dioxippus, was a Greek physician of Cos, who was one of the pupils of the celebrated Hippocrates, and lived in the 4th century BC. Hecatomnus, prince of Caria (385-377 BC), sent for him to cure his sons, Mausolus and Pixodarus, of a dangerous illness, which he undertook to do upon condition that Hecatomnus should cease from waging war against his country. He wrote some medical works, of which nothing but the titles remain. He was blamed by Erasistratus for his excessive severity in restricting the quantity of drink allowed to his patients. He is quoted by Plutarch, and Aulus Gellius, in the controversy that was maintained among some of the ancient physicians as to whether the drink passed down the windpipe or the gullet.

Hierocles (Stoic)

Hierocles (Greek: Ἱεροκλῆς; fl. 2nd century) was a Stoic philosopher. Very little is known about his life. Aulus Gellius mentions him as one of his contemporaries, and describes him as a "grave and holy man."

Leofranc Holford-Strevens

Leofranc Holford-Strevens (born 19 May 1946) is an English classical scholar and polymath, an authority on the works of Aulus Gellius, and a former reader for the Oxford University Press.

He is married to the American musicologist Bonnie J. Blackburn.

Lex Aebutia de formulis

Lex Aebutia de formulis (The Aebutian Law Concerning the Lawful Forms of Private Actions) was a law established in ancient Rome in around 150 BC, though the date is quite uncertain.

Introduced by the magistrate Sextus Aelius, this law greatly expanded the number of civil actions under the jurisdiction of the praetor. Primary sources are Gaius, Institutes 4.30 and Aulus Gellius 16.10.8.


Mnesitheus (Greek: Μνησίθεος; 4th century BC) of Athens, was a Greek physician, who probably lived in the 4th century BC, as he is quoted by the comic poet Alexis. He belonged to the Dogmatic school of medicine. He enjoyed a great reputation, and was particularly celebrated for his classification of diseases. He wrote a work "On Diet," Περὶ Ἐδεστῶν, or, according to Galen, Περὶ Ἐδεσμάτων, which is several times quoted by Athenaeus. He wrote another work, "On Tippling", in which he recommended this practice. He is frequently mentioned by Galen, and generally in favourable terms; as also by Rufus of Ephesus, Aulus Gellius, Soranus of Ephesus, Pliny, Plutarch, and Oribasius. His tomb was still existing in Attica in the time of Pausanias.A physician of this name from Cyzicus in Mysia is quoted by Oribasius.


The Moles are goddesses who appear in an ancient Roman prayer formula in connection with Mars. The list of invocations given by Aulus Gellius pairs a god's name (given in the genitive case) with a feminine nominative noun that personifies a quality or power of the god (Moles Martis, "Moles of Mars"). These pairings are often taken as "marriages" in the anthropomorphic mythological tradition. An inscription records a supplicatio Molibus Martis, supplication for the Moles of Mars.The name Mola (plural Molae) would refer to a goddess of the mill, as in mola salsa, the ritual substance prepared by the Vestals from flour and salt, but the connection with war or Mars would be unclear, though perhaps conceptually related to Iuppiter Pistor, "Jupiter the Miller". W.H. Roscher includes Mola among the indigitamenta, the list of deities maintained by Roman priests to assure that the correct divinity was invoked for rituals.

Pamphile of Epidaurus

Pamphile or Pamphila of Epidaurus (fl. AD 1st century) was a historian of Egyptian descent who lived in Greece during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero (ruled 54 – 68 AD) and wrote in the Greek language. She is best known for her lost work Historical Commentaries, a collection of miscellaneous historical anecdotes in thirty-three books. Although this collection has been lost, it is frequently cited by the Roman writer Aulus Gellius (c. 125 – after 180 AD) in his Attic Nights and by the Greek biographer Diogenes Laërtius in his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. She is also described in the tenth-century Byzantine encyclopedia, the Suda, and by the Byzantine writer Photios (c. 810/820 – 893). According to the Suda, she also wrote a large number of epitomes of the works of other historians as well as treatises on disputes and sex. She may be the author of the anonymous surviving Greek treatise Tractatus De Mulieribus Claris In Bello, which gives brief biographical accounts of the lives of famous women.

Paradox of the Court

The Paradox of the Court, also known as the counterdilemma of Euathlus, is a paradox originating in ancient Greece. It is said that the famous sophist Protagoras took on a pupil, Euathlus, on the understanding that the student pay Protagoras for his instruction after he wins his first court case. After instruction, Euathlus decided to not enter the profession of law, and Protagoras decided to sue Euathlus for the amount owed.Protagoras argued that if he won the case, he would be paid his money. If Euathlus won the case, Protagoras would still be paid according to the original contract, because Euathlus would have won his first case. Euathlus, however, claimed that if he won, then by the court's decision he would not have to pay Protagoras. If, on the other hand, Protagoras won, then Euathlus would still not have won a case and would therefore not be obliged to pay. The question is then, which of the two men is in the right?

The story is related by the Latin author Aulus Gellius in Attic Nights.

Philippides (comic poet)

Philippides (Ancient Greek: Φιλιππίδης) was an Athenian poet of the Greek New Comedy. He was the son of Philokles of Kephale and was active during the 111th Olympiad (c. 336-333 BCE). Aulus Gellius records that he died at an advanced old age from the joy of an unexpected victory at a dramatic competition. He was a great personal friend (philos) of King Lysimachus (i.e. "successor" of Alexander the Great ) Philippides is reported as having had great influence with Lysimachus. In 285 BC Athens passed a decree to honor Philippides for his continuous requests to Lysimachus for aid to recover Piraeus and the forts. In 286/285 BC Philippides was elected agonothetes.

Sulpicius Apollinaris

Sulpicius Apollinaris was a learned grammarian of Carthage who flourished in the 2nd century AD. He taught Pertinax, himself a teacher of grammar before he was emperor, and Aulus Gellius, who speaks of him in the highest terms. He is the reputed author of the metrical arguments to the Aeneid and to the plays of Terence and (probably) Plautus. (J. W. Beck, De Sulpicio Apollinari, 1884)

Titus Annianus

Titus Annianus was a poet of ancient Rome, who lived in the time of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian, and wrote erotic or light verse (ludicra carmina), possibly in the Faliscan language.Annianus was a friend of Aulus Gellius, who says of Titus that he was tremendously knowledgeable about ancient literature and the rules of language. He claimed to Aulus Gellius to have been a pupil of Marcus Valerius Probus. Among other things, he appears to have written (somewhat ribald) Fescennine Verses. Based on the information that Gellius provides, modern scholars consider this Annianus to be the author of a number of verses that the grammarian Terentianus ascribes to an anonymous Faliscan poet.Aelius Festus Aphthonius (via the grammarian Gaius Marius Victorinus, whose work Aphthonius's was often appended to) mentions Annianus as the author of a Faliscum carmen. (Whether Terentianus and Aphthonius meant the poet wrote in the Faliscan language, or was an ethnic Falisci, or both, is uncertain.)

The few verses of Annianus' that survive seem to be dedicated to pastoral country life and viniculture, and it is supposed that these are overall reflective of his body of work, owing to the fact that in his short description, Aulus Gellius depicts Annianus as harvesting grapes.Annianus is likely identical with the "Annianus Faliscus" mentioned by Ausonius as writing Fescennine Verses in Hadrian's time.


In ancient Roman religion, Vagitanus or Vaticanus was one of a number of childbirth deities who influenced or guided some aspect of parturition, in this instance the newborn's crying. The name is related to the Latin noun vagitus, "crying, squalling, wailing," particularly by a baby or an animal, and the verb vagio, vagire. Vagitanus has thus been described as the god "who presided over the beginning of human speech," but a distinction should be made between the first cry and the first instance of articulate speech, in regard to which Fabulinus (fari, "to speak"; cf. fabula) was the deity to invoke. Vagitanus has been connected to a remark by Pliny that only a human being is thrown naked onto the naked earth on his day of birth for immediate wails (vagitus) and weeping.These "divine functionaries" (German Sondergötter) whose names express their sphere of influence are considered characteristic of Indo-European religions. The name Vaticanus in connection to vagitus is discussed by Aulus Gellius and Augustine of Hippo. Gellius quotes Varro, who is generally acknowledged also as Augustine's main source on ancient Roman theology:

We have been told that the word Vatican is applied to the hill, and the deity who presides over it, from the vaticinia, or prophecies, which took place there by the power and inspiration of the god; but Marcus Varro, in his book on Divine Things, gives another reason for this name. "As Aius," says he, "was called a deity, and an altar was built to his honour in the lowest part of the new road, because in that place a voice from heaven was heard, so this deity was called Vaticanus, because he presided over the principles of the human voice; for infants, as soon as they are born, make the sound which forms the first syllable in Vaticanus, and are therefore said vagire (to cry) which word expresses the noise which an infant first makes.

Despite the insistence on an etymological connection between the god's name and vagitus, Gronovius thought the correct form should be Vaticanus, and that Vagitanus was Vulgar Latin rather than classical. Augustine mentions Vagitanus/Vaticanus three times in Book 4 On the City of God in deriding the "mob" of Roman gods (turba deorum). In demonstrating that the names of gods reveal their function, he points to Vaticanus, "who presides over the cries (vagitibus) of infants," noting elsewhere that among the many deities associated with childbirth, Vaticanus is the one who opens the mouth of the newborn in crying (in vagitu).

Vatican Hill

Vatican Hill (; Latin: Mons Vaticanus, Italian: Colle Vaticano) is a hill located across the Tiber river from the traditional seven hills of Rome, that also gave the name of Vatican City. It is the location of St. Peter's Basilica.


Vejovis or Vejove (Latin: Vēiovis or Vēdiovis; rare Vēive or Vēdius) was a Roman god. Romans believed that Vejovis was one of the first gods in this world.


Xenophilus (Greek: Ξενόφιλος; 4th century BC) of Chalcidice, was a Pythagorean philosopher and musician, who lived in the first half of the 4th century BC. Aulus Gellius relates that Xenophilus was the intimate friend and teacher of Aristoxenus, and implies that Xenophilus taught him Pythagorean doctrine. He was said to have belonged to the last generation of Pythagoreans, and he is the only Pythagorean known to have lived in Athens in the 4th century BC. We learn from Diogenes Laërtius that Aristoxenus wrote that when Xenophilus was once asked by someone how he could best educate his son, Xenophilus replied, "By making him the citizen of a well-governed state." According to Pseudo-Lucian, Aristoxenus is supposed to have said that Xenophilus lived 105 years. Xenophilus enjoyed considerable fame in the Renaissance, apparently because of Pliny's claim that he lived 105 years without ever being sick.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.