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Paradoxography is a genre of Classical literature which deals with the occurrence of abnormal or inexplicable phenomena of the natural or human worlds.

Early surviving examples of the genre include:

It is believed that the pseudo-Aristotelian On Marvellous Things Heard (De mirabilibus auscultationibus) "contains a core of early material from the Hellenistic period which was then added to over time, including some material that was added in the 2nd century C.E. or even later."[1]

Phlegon of Tralles's Book of Marvels, which dates from the 2nd century AD is perhaps the most famous example of the genre, including in the main, stories of human abnormalities. Phlegon's brief accounts of prodigies and wonders include ghost stories, accounts of monstrous births, strange animals like centaurs, hermaphrodites, giant skeletons and prophesying heads. Phlegon's writing is characterised by brief and forthright description, as well as by a tongue-in-cheek insistence on the veracity of his claims.

Other works of this genre in Greek include Heraclitus the paradoxographer's On Incredible Things (1st or 2nd century AD) and Claudius Aelianus' On the Nature of Animals (3rd century AD).

In Latin, Marcus Terentius Varro and Cicero wrote works on admiranda (marvelous things), which do not survive.


  1. ^ Laura Gibbs, review of Gabriella Vanotti, Aristotele. Racconti meravigliosi (Milano: Bompiani, 2007), Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.02.22

Further reading