When elephants weap.: Plin., Nat. 8, 20-21

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University of Debrecen.
The literature of classical antiquity has lost much of its attraction, and the circle of its possible readers has been narrowed significantly. Even in literary criticism that reaches beyond classical philology, its position has dwindled to a source of motifs, topics, archetypes, and we clearly lack such interpretations as would present ancient literature from an angle that would appeal to the readers of our age. This paper is devoted to an analysis of the 20th and the 21st chapters of the zoological part (book 8) of Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia. Through a comparative interpretation that is attentive to the cultural-medial aspects of the textual locus, the essay provides a paradigm for uncovering the meaning – which would appeal to readers in the 21st century – in ancient texts with the help of different methodological perspectives, in this case the simultaneous application of narratological and comparative approaches.
Pliny the Elder, Natural History, ancient zoology, elephants, spectacles, Caesar, Pompeius Magnus, narratology