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, where he held a judicial office. 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.


The only source for the life of Aulus Gellius is the details recorded in his writings.[1] He was of good family and connections, possibly of African origin,[2] but he was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome. He traveled much, especially in Greece, and resided for a considerable period in Athens.[1] He studied rhetoric under Titus Castricius and Sulpicius Apollinaris; philosophy under Calvisius Taurus (de) 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.[3] 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] The precise date of his birth, as of his death, is unknown; but from the names of his teachers and companions, he must have lived under Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius.[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.[3] He afterwards continued it in Rome.[3] 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.[3] One story is the fable of Androcles, which is often included in compilations of Aesop's fables, but was not originally from that source.

The work, deliberately devoid of sequence or arrangement, is divided into twenty books.[3] All these have come down to us except the eighth, of which nothing remains but the index.[3] 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.[3]

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".[4]


The editio princeps appeared at Rome in 1469. The earliest critical edition is that of Jakob Gronovius (Leyden, 1706). A later edition is that of M. 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).[3][5] A more recent English translation is by John Carew Rolfe (1927) for the Loeb Classical Library.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Ramsay, William (1867), "A. Gellius", in Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 2, Boston, p. 235 
  2. ^ Leofranc Holford-Strevens (2003), Aulus Gellius: an Antonine scholar and his achievement, pages 13–15
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gellius, Aulus". Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 558. 
  4. ^ P. K. Marshall, "Aulus Gellius" in Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 176
  5. ^ 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.
  • 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

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