In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Aulus Gellius

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Biography
  • Editions and Translations
  • Commentaries
  • Aims and Intentions
  • Attitudes and Values
  • Cicero
  • Greece and Rome
  • History
  • Law
  • Linguistics
  • Literature
  • Memory
  • Philosophy
  • Presentation and Structure
  • Translation
  • Source Criticism
  • Language and Style
  • Second-Century Archaism

Classics Aulus Gellius
Leofranc Holford-Strevens
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0200


Aulus Gellius was a scholar of the 2nd century CE who lived in Rome apart from a visit to Greece, the author of a miscellany in twenty books and some four hundred chapters that he called Noctes Atticae, in English Attic Nights, in memory of beginning work on it during winter’s nights in Athens. The subjects covered include history, law, geography, philosophy, but above all grammar in its broad ancient sense of linguistic and literary studies; a persistent theme is the relation between Greek and Roman culture. At the time, the literature and the language of pre-Augustan and particularly pre-Ciceronian writers were much in vogue; Gellius abounds in quotations from early texts not otherwise preserved, but at the same time gives a vivid picture of intellectual life among a bookish elite and displays an engaging authorial personality. The work is written not in the functional prose of technical authors but in accordance with the literary fashion of the age, with archaic words and constructions alongside neologisms.

General Overviews

The first modern study of Gellius outside reference books was Nettleship 1883; after a long period of neglect, he returned to greater prominence toward the end of the 20th century. Brief accounts were given in Schmidt 1997 and Holford-Strevens 1999; monographs were published in Astarita 1993 and Holford-Strevens 2003, which remains the most comprehensive discussion. Anderson 1994 enters into dialogue with the first edition of Holford-Strevens 2003 and is answered there. The essays in Holford-Strevens and Vardi 2004 cover various aspects of Gellius’s milieu, work, and reception. Modern literary theories are applied to the text (and to Holford-Strevens 2003) in Gunderson 2009.

  • Anderson, Graham. 1994. Aulus Gellius: A miscellanist and his world. In Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt. Part 2, Principat. Vol. 34, Sprache und Literatur. Fascicle 2, Einzelne Autoren seit der Hadrianischen Zeit und Allgemeines zur Literatur des 2. und 3. Jahrhunderts [Forts.]. Edited by Hildegard Temporini and Wolfgang Haase, 1834–1862. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter.

    Always stimulating.

  • Astarita, Maria Laura. 1993. La cultura nelle “Noctes Atticae.” Catania, Italy: Centro di studi sull’antico cristianesimo, Università di Catania.

    Useful, but some blind spots, notably blanket rejection of source criticism.

  • Gunderson, Eric. 2009. Nox Philologiae: Aulus Gellius and the fantasy of the Roman library. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

    Persistently ludic.

  • Holford-Strevens, Leofranc. 1999. Aulus Gellius (ca. A.D. 125–ca. A.D. 180). In Dictionary of literary biography. Vol. 211. Edited by Ward Briggs, 26–34. Detroit: Gale Group.

    A brief overview for the general reader.

  • Holford-Strevens, Leofranc. 2003. Aulus Gellius: An Antonine scholar and his achievement. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199263196.001.0001

    Attempts to be comprehensive in its coverage of facts and probabilities. A revision and expansion of Aulus Gellius (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1989). A corrected paperback, with a brief appendix, was issued in 2005.

  • Holford-Strevens, Leofranc, and Amiel Vardi, eds. 2004. The worlds of Aulus Gellius. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199264827.001.0001

    Wide range of topics. The individual essays are listed here under the appropriate headings.

  • Nettleship, Henry. 1883. The Noctes Atticae of Aulus Gellius. American Journal of Philology 4:391–415.

    DOI: 10.2307/287665

    For a long time the only study of Gellius available in English, hence overquoted and overpraised: unduly negative, and improbable in its source criticism, but it had the effect of shifting attention away from other topics, notably antiquarianism, toward Gellius’s engagement with language and literature. Reprinted in Nettleship, Lectures and Essays on Subjects Connected with Latin Literature and Scholarship (Oxford: Clarendon, 1885), pp. 248–276.

  • Schmidt, Peter Lebrecht. 1997. Aulus Gellius. In Handbuch der lateinischen Literatur. Vol. 4, Die Literatur des Umbruchs: Von der römischen zur christlichen Literatur, 117 bis 284 n. Chr. Edited by Klaus Sallmann, 68–77. Munich: C. H. Beck’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung.

    The best account of Gellius in a history of Roman literature.

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