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Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 25-26

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Clifford Morsley’s News from the English Countryside (which comes in 2 volumes of which this is the first and this is the second) is a fascinating compendium of marvels of more or less credibility which were reported in the British press. e.g.

A New Species of Cook

There is at this time in the possession of Mr. Sample, of the Angel Inn, Felton, a hedgehog which performs the duty of a turnspit as well in every respect as the dog of that name, runs about the house as familiarly as any other domestic quadraped, displays a docility hitherto unknown in that class of animals and answers to the call of Tom.

The Derby Mercury, 20 December 1798

We can only be sad that there was no 18th-century That’s Life! on which Tom could have attained stardom across the nation rather than merely among the burghers of Derby.

The ancient world had its fair share of “marvel”-mongers; Phlegon of Tralles was one of them. He remained untranslated into English until 1996. Unusual births are among the topics he discusses:

ἐν Ῥώμῃ δικέφαλόν τις ἀπεκύησεν ἔμβρυον, ὃ ὑποθήκαις τῶν θυοσκόων εἰς τὸν Τίβεριν ποταμὸν ἐνεβλήθη, ἄρχοντος Ἀθήνησιν Ἀδριανοῦ τοῦ αὐτοκράτορος γενομένου, ὑπατευόντων ἐν Ῥώμῃ  αὐτοκράτορος Τραϊανοῦ τὸ ἕκτον καὶ Τίτου Σεξτίου Ἀφρικανοῦ.

Δωρόθεος δέ φησιν ὁ ἰατρὸς ἐν ὑπομνήμασιν, ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ τῇ κατ’ Αἴγυπτον κίναιδον τεκεῖν, τὸ δὲ βρέφος ταριχευθὲν χάριν τοῦ παραδόξου φυλάττεσθαι.

At Rome a woman gave birth to a two-headed baby, which, on the priests’ advice, was thrown into the river Tiber. This was during the archonship of Hadrian (who became emperor) at Athens, and during the consulship at Rome of the emperor Trajan for the sixth time and Titus Sextius Africanus [=A.D. 112].

And Dorotheos the doctor says in his memoirs that in the Egyptian Alexandria a catamite gave birth; the baby was embalmed and it is preserved, because of this marvel.

Written by aleatorclassicus

July 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Phlegon of Tralles