Welcome to the Paradoxography website

What is paradoxography?

'Paradoxography' is the name now given to a genre of ancient – mostly Greek – literature describing various marvels of the natural and human worlds, which had its origins in the Hellenistic world. The earliest writings date to the third century BCE, with a work of Callimachus that survives only in quotations by the slightly later Antigonus. Most paradoxographical texts were reasonably sober, if rather trivial, compilations of striking instances from authorities such as Aristotle or Herodotus: a sort of 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not' of the Graeco–Roman world. A few were more sensationalist in nature: monstrous births, ghosts, and the wilder reaches of ethnographic and historical works in the style of Ctesias rather than Herodotus.

A more detailed introduction can be found in the About Paradoxography page on this site.

About this site

The primary purpose of the site is to make available English versions of the paradoxographical texts, which (with three exceptions) have never been published in English translations. Those exceptions are the pseudo-Aristotelian περὶ θαυμασίων ὰκουσμάτων (De mirabilius auscultationibus – On Marvellous Things Heard), benefiting from its misattribution; Phlegon’s περ θαυμασων (On Marvels) and περ μακροβων (On Long-lived Persons), made accessible through a translation with commentary by William Hansen; and the compilation of the anonymous Paradoxographus Vaticanus, with translation and commentary by Jacob Stern. Antigonus' ἱστοριῶν παραδόξων συναγωγή (Compilation of Marvellous Accounts) has been translated with commentary as a PhD thesis by I.R. Ciuca, but this has not been published.

My translations are based primarily on Giannini’s 1964 critical edition of the texts, and will be supported by extensive cross-references. Faced with the dilemma of postponing publication indefinitely while building the full referencing framework (along with online links) or putting up the texts little by little, I opted for the latter approach. The translations will therefore be published as posts on a companion blog, Paradoxographorum Reliquiae, while also being added to a page in this website. They will be supported by a set of references set up initially from Giannini's index terms, which will be added to and amended as required. Since work on this can be carried out only as a spare-time activity, the frequency of posting will vary, though I am aiming for a minimum of one per week.

It should be stated at the outset that the translations fill the gaps in the literature in the manner of sand-bags rather than dressed stone: they are primarily quick-and-dirty’ reference versions I am putting together as an aid to private study. Nonetheless, in the continuing absence of any more scholarly efforts, it seems useful to release them into the wild in this state rather than to wait until the opportunity arises to work on them more systematically. 

Treatment of the existing translations is related to their accessibility. As the Loeb translation of Ps-Aristotle is already in the public domain, I will use that with only minor alterations for errors and ambiguities, or where the Greek text has been amended by later editors. Hansen's translation of Phlegon is available in print in a very affordable edition; I will therefore provide only cross-references for this text since it is not my intention to undermine more scholarly work that is readily available to the average person. I will, however, provide a full translation of Paradoxographus Vaticanus, since the Stern version is in the form of a single chapter in an expensive edited book, and of Antigonus, since the Ciuca translation is not accessible.

The site is intended to be a true online resource; thus, in making cross-references, I will link to versions of texts in the public domain rather than necessarily citing the best available (though these will, of course, appear in bibliographic details). So the user will be directed for purposes of comparison to, for example, D’Arcy Thompson’s translation of Aristotle’s History of Animals or to William Smith’s comprehensive but outdated dictionaries of classical geography and biography rather than to the current best versions. Those readers who have access to academic libraries will know where to look for the most up-to-date references, while those who do not will be saved from the frustrating experience of being directed to material that they are unable to see or use.

For this reason, as well as the provisional nature of the translations themselves, the site can make no claim to be an authoritative resource; however, I hope that it will prove to be of some use, particularly to readers with little or no Greek – at least, until something better comes along.

The Paradoxographorum Reliquiae blog 

While this site will be the major repository of my project, the blog will provide a place for more dynamic updating of content and for occasional ephemeral comments related to paradoxography. In particular, translation of the text will always run ahead of the rather more time-consuming work of creating the cross-references, so text without cross-references may appear on the blog before being fully updated on the site. 

Site structure and navigation

The structure of the site is partly visible on the navigation panel at the left; to avoid unnecessary clutter, not all sub-pages are shown in the navigation text itself. Most elements appear both in the side panel and in the tabs at the top of the page; the main exception is 'Related Authors and Texts', which for layout reasons appears only at the side. At the moment, the emphasis is on content, so many of the sub-pages are in the form of rather visually unexciting tables. 

The 'Related Authors and Texts' heading relates to other ancient authors that cite or are cited by the paradoxographical texts. There are often several open-access versions available, and the page devoted to each author or text provides links to all options; internal links lead to these pages rather than to any external source so that the reader can choose whichever version they prefer. Some texts are not accessible in easily navigable form; where these are of significant value, such as the works of Aristotle and Theophrastus dealing with natural history, I have modified the appropriate open-access texts to provide versions within the site. 

Credits and acknowledgements

All sources used will be credited; if you feel that any of the material used has been insufficiently acknowledged, please let me know via the comments section and I will make any necessary amendments. 

While I don't want to make invidious distinctions, some resources have been been so central to this project that it would scarcely have got off the ground at all without them: within the world of classical studies, there is Perseus, of course, but also the Pleiades project, and LacusCurtius; while outside, there is the Internet Archive—and, of course, Google who provide the platform on which it is built. (I am concerned here only with free open-access resources; various commercially available publications and tools have naturally also been essential.)

Words and passages in Greek have been typed using Russell Cottrell's Aristarchoj Unicode font.

Copyright and licensing

It would have been impossible to create this site without drawing on material made publicly available by its creators. In a similar spirit, whatever you find on this site is made available under the terms of a Creative Commons 'Free Culture' Attribution-ShareAlike licence. This means that you can use and re-purpose original material on this site in any way you wish, on condition only that you acknowledge me and this site as source and, if you are using it for commercial purposes, that access to content taken from this site remains free and accessible to all. 

n.b. Please note that more restrictive conditions may apply to featured non-public domain open-access sources drawn on in creating the site: always check the original permissions if in doubt.

Paradoxography is also on
This site is a work in progress; see Recent Updates and blog for additions.
Comments and feedback on this site are welcome here.

Recent updates

  • More cross-references Cross-references to sources cited in Giannini's footnotes are now available for Antigonus up as far as Chapter 30.
    Posted May 3, 2015, 8:20 AM by Rachel Hardiman
  • Solinus I and II All of Solinus Books I and II have now been transcribed. Navigate to them from the main Solinus page.
    Posted Feb 7, 2015, 5:21 AM by Rachel Hardiman
  • More Antigonus and Solinus ... Translations of Antigonus now up as far as Chapter 59 on the blog (without cross-references); transcription of Golding's Solinus up to Book I Ch. 80 here.
    Posted Feb 7, 2015, 5:22 AM by Rachel Hardiman
Showing posts 1 - 3 of 12. View more »