Plutarch’s Moralia



This work, no. 50 in the Planudean order, is often referred to by the Latin title Quaestiones Naturales. The manuscripts give it the name Αἰτίαι Φυσικαί, agreeing in this with the ancient catalogue (? 4th cent, a.d.) of works by, or ascribed to, Plutarch known as the Lamprias catalogue, in which it is no. 218. That catalogue lists also Αἰτίαι Ῥωμαϊκαί, Αἰτίαι Ἑλλήνων, Αἰτίαι βαρβαρικαί, Αἰτίαι ἀλλαγῶν, Αἰτίαι γυναικῶν, Αἰτίαι τῶν περιφερομένων Στωϊκῶν, Αἰτίαι τῶν Ἀράτου Διοσημείων. Of these only the first two survive, in manuscripts that provide them with no proper title. Since Bernardakis’s edition it has been customary to name the three extant works Αἴτια Ῥωμαϊκά, Αἴτια Ἑλληνικά, Αἴτια Φυσικά, invoking analogy, including that with Callimachus’s famous poem, and the fact that Plutarch himself, referring to the first, uses the words ἐν τοῖς Αἰτίοις (Romulus, chap. 15). Quaestiones Naturales, however, are never cited by him; there is, therefore, nothing to show what he called it, and it seems better to retain a name known to have been used by his Greek-speaking readers than to invent one by conjecture. Nor is there anything intrinsically objectionable in the name Αἰτίαι Φυσικαί; although most of the questions are introduced by the phrase

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.plutarch-moralia_causes_natural_phenomena.1965