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Imperialism, Mirabilia, And Knowledge: Some Paradoxes In The Naturalis Historia

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Chapter Summary

As an inquiry into nature, the Naturalis Historia is a work of knowledge and on knowledge. As a work written by a servant of the Roman emperor, it is also influenced by an imperialistic perspective. At the time of its composition, Roman culture manifested a strong interest in all kinds of mirabilia. In the Naturalis Historia, imperialism, knowledge and mirabilia share complex links, and this paper aims at clarifying some of them. Imperialism has often proved to be amotor for the conquest of knowledge. Discoveries of new territories and practices lead also to an interest in all sorts of extraordinary things and beings. The Naturalis Historia illustrates both the appropriation of nature and knowledge by the Romans, and the fascination with mirabilia. In this context, mirabilia can be thought of as a compensation for the people.

Keywords: imperialism; knowledge; mirabilia; naturalis historia; Roman emperor



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