PHYSIOLOGOS. This Greek text was begun around 200 B.C. by Paul of Mendes (Augustamnika I), who confused the scientific study of nature with magical traditions. Others continued the work after 200 B.C., although the remote origin of the Physiologos could probably be placed before that date. It is composed of forty-eight short stories, relating to real as well as to legendary animals, such as the unicorn and the siren, and to trees and to stones. The stories contain elements of reality, tradition, and superstition, set in different climes reaching as far as India. Each story ends with an edifying moral. The structure and content of the work popularized the Physiologos for all time, making it a widely translated book, from which the medieval cathedrals of Europe drew ideas for their sculpture.
Coptic and other Oriental Christian literature drew upon the Physiologos, especially since it was composed in Egypt. Although no complete manuscript of the Coptic Physiologos exists, there are citations and allusions to it in contemporary writings. Though originally written in Greek in Egypt, the Coptic version of the Physiologos received a thorough study by A. van LANTSCHOOT, a study that was begun by Adolf Erman (1895). Lantschoot assembled eighteen references to it, ten unpublished up to that time.
The Copts agreed with the premise that Solomon was the author of the Physiologos—even crediting him with the Jewish tradition that appeared in the first century before and after Christ in pseudo-Solomonic style. In the questions-and-answers literature (erotapokriseis) of the probably fictitious Presbyter Theodorus and the patriarch JOHN III (677-686), Solomon is called the Physiologos and cited on the stories about the pig (question 9) and the bee (question 15), the wolf, the serpent, and the peridexion tree (question 19).
The stories about the bee, the eagle, the alloe-bird, the amethyst, the impure animal, the hart, the charadrius (a type of plover), the raven, the hyena, the lion, the wolf, the peridexion tree, the pearl and the emerald and the agate-stone, the phoenix, the pig, the snake, the sycamore, and the turtledove can be found in a variety of Coptic texts. In addition to these nineteen stories, SHENUTE the Great of Atrib probably used the Physiologos when speaking about the flies.
At present it is impossible to make a survey of the history of the Coptic Physiologos. What we do know indicates that it was popular among the Copts. Several recensions of it probably existed in Egypt.
C. DETLEF G. MÜLLER
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