Animal and Human Virtue

Aelian, History of Animals, Prologue 1

“There is likely no paradox in the fact that humans are wise and just and most solicitous of their own children, shows proper concern for those who raised them, secures food for themselves, and guards against attacks and all of those other gifts endowed by nature. For the human has been allotted speech, the most precious gift of all, and has been thought worthy of reason, a thing which is the greatest advantage and surpassingly useful. And humans also know how to revere and worship the gods.

What is a magnificent wonder, however, is that the unthinking animals should have some virtue too by nature and should even have many of the human possessions assigned to them.”

Ἄνθρωπον μὲν εἶναι σοφὸν καὶ δίκαιον καὶ τῶν οἰκείων παίδων προμηθέστατον, καὶ τῶν γειναμένων ποιεῖσθαι τὴν προσήκουσαν φροντίδα, καὶ τροφὴν ἑαυτῷ μαστεύειν καὶ ἐπιβουλὰς φυλάττεσθαι καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ὅσα αὐτῷ σύνεστι δῶρα φύσεως, παράδοξον ἴσως οὐδέν· καὶ γὰρ λόγου μετείληχεν ἄνθρωπος τοῦ πάντων τιμιωτάτου, καὶ λογισμοῦ ἠξίωται, ὅσπερ οὖν ἐστι πολυαρκέστατός τε καὶ πολυωφελέστατος· ἀλλὰ καὶ θεοὺς αἰδεῖσθαι οἶδε καὶ σέβειν. τὸ δὲ καὶ τοῖς ἀλόγοις μετεῖναί τινος ἀρετῆς κατὰ φύσιν, καὶ πολλὰ τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων πλεονεκτημάτων καὶ θαυμαστὰ ἔχειν συγκεκληρωμένα, τοῦτο ἤδη μέγα.

British Library, Sloane MS 278, Folio 47r

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