In the history of literature, there are only a few written works that enjoyed a greater success than bestiaries. The latter ones are popular encyclopedic compendiums with different stories about both mythical and real animals. Basically, many of these books have existed for long centuries, dating back to the pre-Christian period of time, but none of them were as influential as old English Physiologus.
The manuscripts of Physiologus are found in many languages, including Syrian, Latin, Dutch, Italian, and so on. There is a famous statement that people can’t find any other book in the literature history that has the same cultivated language and influence on each class of people, with the Bible as the only exception. However, this book still remains a mystery because no one is completely sure when it was written at first. People don’t know the origins of this text and its author. That’s why it’s important to examine some of the most prominent ideas about Physiologus.
There are certain doubts about its proto-book that appeared in the pre-Christian period, and many people suggest that it was influenced by the prominent works of Aristotle. Besides, Egypt is considered as the most evident origin of this famous book because it includes the stories of Phamenoth, Ibis, Crocodile, Phoenix, and some other creatures that belong to Egyptian religion and literature. Another interesting detail is that Theagenes and Chariclea, a well-known Greek romance includes one Egyptian character, thus making references to sacred and ancient Egyptian texts and mentions Charadrisu, which is a mythical bird included in Physiologus.
This passage about a mythical bird is similar to the ones described in this ancient book and they both demonstrate its ability to cure many ailments by staring into the eyes of patients. In addition, this important reference to proto-Physiologus actually predates the first known Greek text by 2 centuries. The dating of the 1st Christian Physiologus is disputed by many people, but most of them agree that it was introduced in the 5thcentury, and this early version was written in Greek. When it comes to Old English parts of Physiologus, the only surviving ones can be found in the Exeter book and they include a few stories reproduced in the text. They still offer many matters to be researched and analyzed by students.
In the history of literature, there are only a few written works that enjoyed a greater success than bestiaries. The latter ones are popular encyclopedic compendiums with different stories about both mythical and real animals.