"Ancient Natural History" surveys the ways in which people in the ancient world thought about nature, particularly animals and plants. It looks at those people whose wider views are known, so that we can see their natural history in context. As a large number of readers are aware of the importance of Greek "science" in later periods of European history, this book is designed to show how such doctrines arose in ancient society.
Ancient natural history was the gathering and presentation of "historiae, " items worthy of note by the philosopher, popularizer or marvel-monger. These "histories" were natural because they were part of the physical world. The book examines the relationship between the physical world, the gods, Greek philosophy and the purposes of those who expressed such different notions about "nature." Attention is given to Aristotle's animals and Theophrastus's plants.
"Histories" worthy of note most often came from distant places, and Strabo's geography is taken as illustrative of the principles of the book. Pliny's "Natural History" is examined in some detail. A major theme of the book is how natural history was treated differently by different societies: the Greeks, the Romans, Jews and Christians.