medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Dear Kerry,

You wrote:
> My candidate for the origin of the term and mythology.  Plny's
> Natural History.

Are you seriously sugesting that Pliny originated the Greek term
_basiliskos_?  Or that the mythology surrounding this creature has its
origin in his _Natural History_?  In view of the multiplicity of
references to the basilisk in surviving ancient Greek and Latin writing,
why should one believe either of these propositions?

You also say:
> See more:
>  It
> seems pretty well documented and I could not find an earlier
> citation.

I read that recently as well and came away with the impression that it
was largely reasonable but insufficiently reliable in matters of detail.
 To say that Pliny's _Natural History_ was written in 77 confounds that
encyclopedia's likely date of dedication with its presumably much longer
time of composition.  To say that Lucan's _Pharsalia_ was written "c. 65
AD" when Lucan died in 65 is obviously inaccurate, as it allows for
composition by the author after his death.  To refer to Ammianus
Marcellinus as a "Latin author" while passing over in silence his Greek
parentage and culture or the fact that Latin was for him an acquired
language may be thought misleading in an account that routinely tags
ancients as either Latins or Greeks.  To place the composition of
Heliodorus' _Aethiopica_ in Greece is to engage in fiction: H. came from
Emesa in Syria and we don't know where the work was written (though one
candidate, not surprisingly, is Emesa).  To credit someone capable of
such blunders with accuracy in other matters that one has not verified
on one's own is dangerous.

John Dillon

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