Aelian (Claudius Aelianus), a Roman born ca. 170 CE at Praeneste, was a pupil of the rhetorician Pausanias of Caesarea, and taught and practised rhetoric. Expert in Attic Greek, he became a serious scholar and studied history under the patronage of the Roman empress Julia Domna. He apparently spent all his life in Italy where he died after 230 CE.
Aelian’s On the Characteristics of Animals, in 17 books, is a collection of facts and beliefs concerning the habits of animals drawn from Greek authors and some personal observation. Fact, fancy, legend, stories and gossip all play their part in a narrative which is meant to entertain readers. If there is any ethical motive, it is that the virtues of untaught yet reasoning animals can be a lesson to thoughtless and selfish mankind. The Loeb Classical Library edition of the work is in three volumes.
Translations and commentaries are few, and only three Greek texts had been printed (all in the sixteenth century) before the present one and the one begun by F. Boll and finished by Emilie Boer in 1940.