Learned Pursuits

Peter Parsons

  • Aulus Gellius: An Antonine Scholar and His Achievement by Leofranc Holford-Strevens
    Duckworth, 284 pp, £35.00, November 1988, ISBN 0 7156 1971 3

The scene is set in Athens, a mid-December in the mid-second century AD. A group of Roman students meet to celebrate the Saturnalia with dinner and conversation. The host sets a quiz: each man gets a problem – a rare word, a doubtful tense-form, a logical teaser, an antiquarian practice, a debated passage of Plato or some ‘charmingly obscure’ verses from an archaic poet. A knowledgeable answer wins two prizes – a laurel wreath, and a volume of the Classics. Thus Polite Learning joins hands with Whole-some Mirth. In the background of this edifying picture reclines our narrator, the lawyer and littérateur Aulus Gellius.

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