On “The Plinian Races” and the Monsters of the Natural History

For your first Blogpost of the semester, I’d like to do a few simple things to get you thinking about the assigned reading for 1/25, and also to do some additional work with the important “monster theory” of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen.  So, for this first test-run on the course blog, I’d like you to do two specific things (which should amount to at least two robust paragraphs overall):

1)  In his chapter on “The Plinian Races,” John Block Friedman makes some interesting comments about the (supposed) monsters of the ancient world, particularly from the perspective of the Greeks.  He includes a variety of examples of human groups (from India and Ethiopia) who are understood (or, rather, misunderstood) by ancient authors as having mysterious, monstrous qualities.  He also offers some analysis of these beings, and draws some interesting conclusions about them.  For part one of your Blogpost, then, I’d simply like you to offer a specific quotation from Friedman’s discussion that you feel is especially interesting or important.  Then, discuss it by explaining what, specifically, is so intriguing about your chosen quote?  Why does it seem so noteworthy as a window into the culture (and monsters) of ancient Greece and Rome (or India and Ethiopia)?

2)  For part two of your response, I’d like to do a bit more work with Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s influential essay “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)”.  Here, I’d like you to apply ONE of Cohen’s theses to ONE monster outlined by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History.  If you apply and use Cohen’s ideas as a way to explore or understand Pliny’s varied discussion of monsters found both on land and in the oceans, what connections or ideas arise by using Cohen’s model?  The point here is to further enhance your understanding of Cohen’s complex essay by working closely with it and using it to help you understand another complex piece of monstrous writing.

I’ll be curious to see what you all have to say for this first Blogpost of the semester!!

45 thoughts on “On “The Plinian Races” and the Monsters of the Natural History

  1. In my discussion today, I am going to be focusing on a quote on page sixteen of “The Plinian Races” by John Block Friedman. The quote I chose is followed after the italicized words “Hairy men and women”, which states, “many varieties of hairy people appear in Pliny and in the legends of Alexander, and I group them for convenience…” Let’s stop there. I thought it was extremely interesting how often these findings of “hairy men” occur. I feel as though since these sightings took place so often apparently, Alexander would have reported feeling as though it was a “normal” thing in Indian culture? However, the rest of the quote is as follows, “the Alexander legends often locate these people at fords of rivers where they serve as delaying figures to heighten the suspense of Alexander’s forward march”. After this statement, this starts to make me question if Alexander placed these so called “hairy creatures” as the crossroads he encountered just so he can appear as an heroic figure by defeating or escaping this so-called creature? I mean, given that there was so much unsupported speculation going around about India and Ethiopia, why wouldn’t the common people who have never been to India believe the oh-so-heroic Alexander the Great?
    One theory from “Monster Theories” I believe would tie well into my chosen quote from “The Plinian Races” would be theory #2 “the monster always escapes”. This applies well because Friedman expresses how there are “many varieties of hairy people” that appear in Alexander the Great’s “research” on India. This implies that no matter what Alexander did or did not do, the “hairy people” always showed up eventually. Since the article does not go into too much detail on what that implies, my best guess would be that the hairy person truly challenged the Greeks to broaden, yet bias, their imaginations on what people in different cultures and societies looked like. Since the hairy people appeared so much in India, the Greeks most definitely must have assumed the Indian people were excessively hairy- or at least hairier than they were. Due to these assumptions, I am sure it was a shock for the common person in Greek society to finally meet/experience India for themself. Overall, the “hairy” “monster” Alexander recorded witnessing just might have been people in Indian culture who were hairier than Greeks, which sadly led to the Greeks’ assumptions of different cultures.

  2. In Friedman’s discussion the quote I thought was most intriguing was on page 24. “There appears to have been a psychological need for the Plinian peoples. Their appeal to medieval men was based on such factors as fantasy, escapism… and very important fear of the unknown. If the monstrous races had not existed, it is likely that people would have created them”. I found this quote to be interesting because people everywhere in the world, no matter what the time period is, have fear of the unknown. The fear of the unknown changes accordingly to the time period but the basic concept of it does not change. When a person sees something that is different from themselves, they categorize them as different or when speaking about what they saw, they will exaggerate their features to make them seem monstrous, when in reality it is something that we do not understand.

    I chose the monster Androgini, “man-women” and relate it to the fourth theses “The monster dwells at the gate of difference.” Androgini in the terms of Pliny are people who live in Africa and have the genitals of both sexes. Looking into the present day, Pliny seems to be describing a transgender person. In today’s society, many people still do not accept the LGBT community, they view them as different or not normal. Theses four describes how the group who have the more power look at others as monsters. In this case the group who has the power are heterosexuals and if you do not fit that category, you are different. On page nine of Cohen’s monster culture, it talks about a hybrid and as Bruno Roy said “The strange dog- headed monster is a living excoriation of gender ambiguity and sexual abnormality”. From the early days of Pliny to the 21st century, not fitting the “norms” of sexuality are considered different and monstrous.

  3. After reading John Block Friedman’s article “The Plinian Races” I found a line that truly stuck out to me. On page 24 Friedman states, “Their appeal to medieval men was based on such factors as fantasy, escapism, delight in the exercise of the imagination, and-very important- fear of the unknown. If the monstrous races had not existed, it is likely that people would have created them.” This is particularly interesting because it explains how we simultaneously desire and fear monsters. We are afraid of change and of the unknown. When something or someone is different we make assumptions, and ostracize them. However, monsters may portray our biggest desires. We wish to escape the rules of society and act how we truly see ourselves. In this case, we become the monster.

    Using Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s essay “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)” I was able to connect one of the theses to a monster addressed in Friedman’s article. The thesis I chose is fourth on the list, “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference.” Looking at Friedman’s description of the Bragmanni, he states their name is “an obvious corruption of Brahman”. To Pliny, Hinduism was most likely unfamiliar territory. Because it was different than what his culture believed in this probably influenced him. Thesis four states that monsters lay on the outside, or Beyond. Cohen states, “…for the most part monstrous difference tends to be cultural, political, racial, economic, sexual.” (pg. 7). This clearly connects to the Bragmanni Pliny describes because they are of a different culture entirely in an environment that operates differently than Roman society.

  4. In Friedman’s article, a quote I found interesting was, “I consequently beg my readers not to let their contempt for many of these creatures lead them also to condemn to scorn what I relate about them, since in the contemplation of Nature nothing can possibly be deemed superfluous,” on page 8. I found this interesting because there really isn’t anything in nature that can be said to be unneeded, or waste. Pliney believed that everything in nature was meant to have a purpose but how are we to determine what has a purpose and what doesn’t? How are we to say what should be deemed as unnecessary in nature?

    I chose the monster Astomi which means, “mouthless.” I am going to compare it to Cohen’s Monster Theory Thesis IV, which states that the monster dwells at the gates of difference. This means that the monster is usually ostracized because they are not like us. According to Cohen’s monster theory, anything that is considered as not “normal” is monstrous. These monsters have no mouths, they are clearly not portrayed as “the norm.” They are also hairy all over and they do not eat or drink, they are able to survive by smelling, therefore they are monstrous because they are completely outside the realms of normality.

  5. Monsters We Created

    First of all, We, or should I say the people of that time, created monsters in which we didn’t know or understand for various reasons. They looked different, they walk walked different, and they socially did things that people at that time didn’t understand. ” Alexander” was accustomed to society that he was around in a day to day basis and he was not aware of things from afar. It appears that when he came across something different and not what he was accustomed too, he labeled it as ” monstrous” and not the norm.

    Too choose one person or another on what a monster is should be considered in our day biased. Unfamiliar rituals by certain groups are not ” monstrous” until a certain group labels it as that. In Jeromes Cohens writings, it was him who created these monsters and put this into society to make it real.

  6. 1)This collection of Ancient Greek descriptions of Indian and Ethiopian races shows how misunderstanding and fear can lead to monstorizing people, possibly without merit. One quoted description of a “monstrous race” is as followed:
    “Androgini(“man-woman”). We learn from Pliny that these people, who live in Africa, have the genitals of both sexes. As Isidore of Seville said of them, “They both inseminate and bear.”
    This is a perfect example of the Greek’s lack of knowledge (of what we know today as a hermaphrodite) causing them to miscategorize the things they don’t understand as monstrous. They do this with many other people with disabilities such as missing eyes, missing legs, malformed lips, and even dwarves became “pygmies”.
    2) The monster I choose to apply Cohen’s thesis to is the so called Indian “balæna” or Gallic “physeter”. From our best interpretation today, we believe he was talking about what we call in modern day Bowhead whales and Sperm whales respectively. The thesis that I connect the description of these monsters to is the 6th thesis. “The Fear of Monsters is a Kind of Desire”. The way the author describes these whales shows that he is truly in awe with them and their abilities, despite their scary and destructive power. Although they may hate the monster they envy its size and strength, especially when describing how the monster towers over the sails of the boat and explodes its spout of water.

  7. In John Block Friedman’s article “The Plinian Races”, the quote that I stood out the most to me was the one concerning the “Four Eyed” Maritime Ethiopians. Friedman goes on to comment that that artist “unable to represent this rather abstract concept, simply makes them a race with a second set of eyes above their normal ones, and shows them holding bows and arrows.” While Pliny had intended this nickname to comment on their keen sight using arrows, the artist chose a very literal take when it came to their design. I find this to be both humorous and interesting, as it shows how certain people’s outlooks on reports can turn what was a normal human being with great bow and arrow skills into a mythical or monstrous creature of sorts. I find it interesting how certain ideas/ outlooks change when jumping from person to person and also how misunderstandings can fully influence how other people and cultures view these people.

    When looking at some of the monsters outlined by Pliny the Elder in Natural History, I found his take on the sea monsters of the Indian ocean. In this, he mentions that “the most numerous and largest of all these animals are those found in the Indian seas…For then it is that in these regions the whirlwind comes sweeping on, the rains descend, the hurricane comes rushing down, hurled from the mountain heights, while the sea is stirred up from the very bottom, and the monsters are driven from their depths and rolled upwards on the crest of the billow.” This relates the most to Cohen’s fourth theory, “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference.” Here the difference is more gates of the unknown. It would make sense that one of the most unattainable and geographically different areas on earth would house the largest and to infer, the scariest monsters. They are also brought about by huge natural disasters which helps to highlight not only the immense means of which these insanely huge monsters need to be dug up by, but also adds to the unknownness as natural disasters at that time, and even today, are widely unknown and unpredictable.

  8. John Block Friedman explores a vast number of different exotic ideas of monsters as described by ancient explorers such as Alexander the Great, Ctesias, Megasthenes, and Pliny. Many of which range from those of the simple and mundane, to the most outlandish and absolutely horrifying. However the single race description which seemed to seize my attention the most was that of the Astomi. Friedman alternatively calls them the, “mouthless” or “Apple-Smellers” and describes them as, “Mouthless men… [who are] hairy all over but wear garments of a soft cotton… They live by smell, and neither eat or drink, but smell roots, flowers, and fruits. Especially apples… they will die if they smell a bad odor” (Friedman). This apparent race is especially interesting to me because of the shear ridiculousness of it. The idea that there once existed anything near an entire race of people that had no mouth and lived on sheer smell alone is a wild thought. Now at the end of the writing, Friedman attempts to explain some of the races and their origins by pointing to the factual existence of actual cultures of people. He relates the origin of the so-called “Apples-Smellers” to a Himalayan tribe that smelled onions to ward of illness (Friedman). To me this explanation is an extreme stretch and personally in my opinion doesn’t make the cut. The idea of men with no mouths who smell apples to survive is just too preposterous a claim to be chalked up to realistic events or peoples.

    Now there are several instances in Friedman’s work where Cohen’s “Monster Theory” comes into play and is seen. The most interesting link to me, however, was the tale of the Cynocephali or the “dog-head”. The Cynocephali are described as men who live in the mountains of India, are dressed only in animal skins, live in caves, and communicate by barking. They are described as having abnormally large teeth and can breath fire (Friedman). This race most accurately describes the third of Cohen’s 7 theses; that the monster is a harbinger of category and defies binary human logic, in turn, frustrating those who observe it. The Cynocephali are a perfect example of such, since they have characteristics and traits of dogs (Large teeth), and mythical entities (breathing fire), as well as human ones (living in caves and wearing animal skins). The existence of these people in the minds of those who traveled to witness them is a prime example of what monsters are and they completely embody Cohen’s third thesis.

  9. 1) In Friedman’s discussion the quote that I thought was especially interesting was on page 17 about the Four Eyed Maritime Ethiopians. The quote goes as follows, “The illustrator of the Sion College bestiary, unable to represent this rather abstract concept, simply makes them a race with a second set of eyes above their normal ones, and shows them holding bows and arrows.” The quote intrigues me because it basically pointed out that they made a monster out of a normal human being. Friedman stated that they are actually not four eyed, that they are simply rather gifted with a bow and arrow. Friedman did not mean for it to come across as them having four eyes, but rather that they had excellent vision. It’s interesting that when the artist heard “four eyed” they immediately made it to look like a monster instead of someone say with glasses. It truly shows how we would rather make a monster out of someone different rather than try to grasp the concept of their difference from us.
    2) One monster outlined by Pliny the Elder that applies to one of Cohen’s theses is Hairy Men and Women. Hairy Men and Women fit into the 2nd theory, stating that monsters always escape. Friedman states that there are many varieties of hairy people so he groups them together for convenience. Hairy Men and Women are a perfect example of theory 2 because monsters are resilient creatures that we cannot rid ourselves and they are everywhere. If you get rid of all the Hairy Men and Women from one variety that won’t stop the other varieties. The other varieties of Hairy Men and Women will still be free to roam because you can not get rid of them as fast as they can reproduce.

  10. 1. The Pilinan Races. What intrigued me was the quote of “he speaks of giants in his own day who attained a height of nine feet nine inches and then describes a dwarf only two feet high. These extremes do not disgust him as they might have done earlier Greek writers” in Greek times many were disgusted by the abnormality of these people, but ow during Roman times Pliny writes about them with wonder. I find this very interesting and even important because people in our day and age still see like the Greeks did. Instead of sitting there and not understanding them, he is intrigued and enjoys describing them. He sees someone from a different race unlike the others did before. I chose this quote because it shows Pilny not spewing hate, but curiosity and passion for other races. Homer speaks on Indians calling them “Aithiopes” meaning burnt faces. There were races that had not existed during this time, but many that did, and still do. There are many legends of out there that are very fascinating. Everyone perceives others differently. Monsters have been a huge part of life for so long, and you can really see what the culture was like back in ancient Greece and Rome.

    2. The monster that I have chosen is Speechless Men. It was said “In Ethiopia, According to Pliny, live some speechless, gesturing men; they are shown communicating this way by the Sion College bestiary illustrator.” These men were clearly deaf, and they could not communicate with speech. They were seen as monsters because of Cohen’s fourth thesis. It states Monster dwells at the gates of difference. This fits with the Speechless Men, because it was outside of the norms to be speaking without words. They were monsters because they were not like everyone else. Cohen helps understand why Pliny categorized these men as monsters, because you can look at the social norms back in that time, and realize that they did not understand why these people were doing gestures instead of speaking. This was abnormal to people. Now we see it differently because there are many deaf people, and even ones who are not that use a similar type of gesturing called sign language.

  11. In John Block Friedman’s article “The Plinian Races” I’d like to comment on how the Ancient Greek descriptions of the races from India and Ethiopia were misinterpreted to characterize people as a monster or monster qualities. I found some text from the article showing these descriptions like on page 4 of 21; “Aithiopes” Meaning “Burnt Faces: relating the two races of India and Ethiopia. As well the Greeks have a little understanding of describing things and just deemed stuff monstrous that was different. “Androgini(“man-woman”). Discovering that these people live in Africa an have the genitals of both sexes. As Isidore of Seville said of them.

    I choses the monster “Andrphoni (“man-woman”); I would like to compare it to Cohen’s Monster Theory Thesis IV, we did in last class which states that the monster dwells at the gates of difference. This perfectly describes the thesis because any monster in this text would fit the description of dwelling in the gates of difference. Monsters are abnormal, strange, different, and have unusual qualities which deem them monstrous. There is no question in mind that the Andrphoni is different because no human life consists of both offspring.

  12. Part one: The quotation I thought was the most interesting was when Alexander the Great came into contact with the Amazon warriors. He states ” warlike women who live without men and sear off the right breast in order to to draw the bow more powerfully” I thought this was an interesting tactic used by the Amazon warriors so that they would have a better edge on their opponent on the battlefield. Also a lot of people had a lot of different ways to try and outsmart their enemies. But this was by far the craziest thing I have ever heard and I give them a lot of credit for this. Because it must have been torture to go through a process like that. It seems so noteworthy into culture and with monsters because this one quotation is about a method of their culture. This method is apart of their culture because it’s what they did to probably survive and to defend themselves against their enemies. Also with the whole monster theses thing, I bet when Alexander the Great saw the Amazon warriors he probably thought they were monsters or beast. Because they probably looked different then other women with the whole seared off right breast. Which connects to thesis IV about how monsters dwell on the gate of difference. So when Alexander the Great saw the warriors he probably thought to himself that they are monsters. But in reality they were just doing what’s apart of their culture.

    Part two: The monster that I chose to be outlined by one of Cohen’s theses was the Basilisks. The thesis that I choose to outline the Basilisks was thesis I where it starts talking about the monster’s body is a cultural body. The Basilisks body is very interesting it’s like a big giant snake lizard figure with large teeth it also breath poison . So by definition the monster’s body does incorporates fear since it’s a scary looking beast. So if I had to ever go up against a Basilisks, I would run the other way because I would be too frightened to fight it. Also just like the Vampire and the stake in the heart or beheading, the Basilisks needs to be killed a certain way. You can throw a spear at it or try to stab it with a sword and it should die after that. But there is a catch, if the Basilisk does die the poison that it has in it’s system. Will run the weapon and kill the person who killed the Basilisk. So the best way to kill the Basilisk without getting anyone hurt. Is to throw a weasel down the Basilisk hole and the weasel will kill the Basilisk with it’s odor from the soil but sadly the weasel will end up dying in the end.

  13. The quote I would like to expand upon is on page 4 of “The Plinian Races: “…Pliny’s method is often anecdotal. His Stoicism led him to believe that everything made by nature was intended to have a purpose, which the natural scientist tries to find in the most ordinary things as well as in wonders.” What intrigues me the most about this quote is how a vast majority of different monsters were all made for a specific purpose. As humans, we would definitely be fearful if say vampires were legit, however we would also be quite interested in that type of lifestyle if they did exist. We are engrossed in what the human mind can imagine, but we are afraid if we take the wrong turn and believe in ghosts or zombies. In spite of all this, we intended for each monster to have a purpose in order to make life more interesting. The ancient Greeks and Romans had a particular interest for exploring the races of different monsters in order outline their differences.

    Thesis I: The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body relates to Book 8, chapter 11 of Pliny the Elder because they are discussing the similarities and differences of elephants versus dragons. Culturally, both of these creatures are culturally different, whether it’s where they originated from or analyzing their differences in size. There are unique ideas that are useful when trying to understand the variations of land and water creatures. In this chapter, we learn that elephants could actually be somewhat similar to dragons in that their size and ability to last in hot climate makes them able to execute the same capabilities as a dragon. Elephants may appear so high and mighty because they originally descended from other types of species. Science proves that human formation has altered immensely since the beginning of time and therefore so has other types of animals.

  14. The most interesting quote I found in John Block Friedman’s chapter “The Plinian Races” was on page 24. “First, there appears to have been a psychological need for the Plinian peoples. Their appeal to medieval men was based on such factors as fantasy, escapism, delight in the exercise of the imagination, and- very important-fear of the unknown.” This sticks out to me the most since many people have fear for the unknown every day. Fear sticks with people and they are scared for new things or changes in society for their lives. Some people try to imagine happy things so they won’t have as much fear for the unknown.

    The Pandae is a monster that connects to the fourth theses, “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference” in Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Thistheses says that things are different in culture or society is divided up. These monsters are different and strange with their physical looks and that they can only bear children once in their lives. They have eight fingers and toes and ears that are almost half the size of their bodies. Since their body appearance are very different from other monsters and can only have one child, they are monstrous and don’t fit in with society.

  15. In “The Plinian Races” by John Block Friedman, the human groups from India and Ethiopia are described to be different like no other. The entire piece was full of intriguing information but there is one section that stood out to me the most. Cynocephali translates to “dog-head”. “Among the most popular of the races are the Dog-Heads, who according to Ctesias, live in the mountains of India. They communicate by barking. Dressed only in animal skins, they live in caves and are fleetfooted hunters, using swords, bows, and javelins.”. As soon as I came across the word, dog-head, I was immediately interested in what this creature is made up of. When you think of the word dog, most would say joyful and sweet come to mind, not inhumane and evil. The Dog-Heads bark in order to communicate and also push the limits of animal behavior with them being able to breathe fire. These savage like creatures show how the word monster is used to describe one of earth’s greatest companions, a dog.

    In the “Monster Culture Seven Theses” I specifically want to talk about Thesis IV: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference. When I read about Astomi I automatically thought about thesis IV. Astomi means “mouthless” or are also called Apple Smellers. These things are mouthless, hairy men. They wear precious linens such as soft cottons or down. Since they are mouthless they are dependent on smell sense that is their way of gaining nutrition. If they come upon an odor that it bad they will automatically die. This creature pushes social norms to a different level. A man without a mouth is definitely out of the ordinary.

  16. 1. In John Block Friedman’s chapter on “The Plinian Races” one quote I found very interesting was on page 15. He refers to the Ethiopians. He says; “The geographic lines were so vague that it was more of a literary than a cartographic entity, variously found in Africa, India, or both.” I found this quote interesting because Friedman is referring to the Ethiopians as monsters with dark, burnt faces who only spend their time in the sun and yet he is still trying to refer to all the inhabitants of this land, Ethiopia, as monsters. Some monsters he describes later are looking nothing like the monsters of the “Ethiopians” but are still considered “Ethiopians.” He is referring to the land itself, but still referring to the monsters he describes as people. So, were these people Ethiopians? Or were they Indian or African? Or, were there monsters from those lands as well that were never talked about.
    2. I will be referring to Friedman’s monster Cynocephali, a dog-headed man who has huge teeth, breathes fire, communicates by barking and lives in caves. I want to apply Cohens third theses to this monster because it is a hybrid between man and dog. It fights, attacks and runs like a human but runs, looks like and communicates like a dog. They place this dog in a cave because he does not fit anywhere else, he is an outsider to those around him because he does not speak the language they speak or act in the way others act, so he is shunned.
    If we were to use all seven theses to understand the different monsters discussed in Pliny’s Natural History, we would notice that each monster takes on its own sense of being, and despite some monsters being similar, they all hold their own accountability that allows them to stand out and different from the rest. Some relate to theses 3 by being a hybrid. Some to theses 1 by only being a monster because of where they are from. Many like theses 4 because they look very different from those around them, like the Epiphagi for example. But although some of these monsters only take part to one theses, most relate back to many theses which allow each of these monsters to be connected in a way. This also allows readers to see the difference between monsters all while connecting them back to one another is the sense that each thesis helps predict the next. You cannot have one without the other in the end. The theses helps both readers and learners understand that there are many parts to the monster and breaking it down will help us grasp the concept of what they really are, how they came about and why they are still talked about to this day.

  17. In the “Plinian Races” by John Block Friedman there was a certain quote that specifically stood out to me. “These extremes do not disgust him as they might have done earlier Greek writers; he has a Roman tolerance for and joy in human diversity, and seems in Book 7 to take a special pleasure in describing the monstrous races of men” (p.8). I believe this quote is important because he is positively expressing diversity and the good it can bring to society. While people during that time felt being different was unacceptable, somebody decided to put it in a positive perspective. In today’s society, diversity is major in every aspect. It is great for us humans to put aside our differences and accept everybody in hopes to change the world. It is worth noting diversity during their time, because there is a wide variety in culture. Many monsters were actually not thinking to cause harm and have an evil mindset. But all of us humans who put our assumptions on them based of difference, made them the way they are. Isolation can do a lot to someone, it causes them to feel unaccepted and unloved. Everybody deserves a chance to make a difference and to be accepted in society.

    The monster(s) I chose were the Sea Monsters of the Indian Ocean. I am choosing to relate these monsters to Cohen’s first thesis “The Monster’s Body= The Cultural Body”. These monsters were known to lurk at the depths of the sea, and many soldiers and explorers were aware of these monsters. They would survive by feeding off of the land and its resources. They were capable of sinking ships with a large world pool. Alexander the Great decided to go against them in battle. The monsters were very stealthy and feared nothing. After feeding on shore they would return, and wait again.

  18. In John Friedman’s discussion, he writes a lot about each of the different “monsters” roaming around. In reality, some of these horrible creatures are not even creatures at all. A lot of them are just horrendous people who would do anything to help others out. A specific quotation that really struck me was on page 21. At the bottom of this page, Friedman begins to talk about “Wife Givers”. The name itself explains exactly what it is. He described this group of men in a very general way: “They are an amiable race who honor and give wives to any traveler who stops among them.” The reason I chose this quote is because, although this happened in Ancient times, it still is going on in today’s society. Men, pimps, will give girls away in the form of prostitution. Any man who wants “companionship” can get it. I find it appalling that from ancient times to today this horrible, monstrous act still goes on.

    I chose the monster “Artibatirae”. I would describe this “beast” as more of an animal. Pliny describes them as: to walk on all fours or “prone as beasts.” I would relate this monster to thesis number 6 “Fear of the Monster is Really a Kind of Desire.” I chose this thesis because I feel as if people would definitely want to learn more about this creature. Instead of being terrified of this beast, people would want to learn more about the history of it and why it is walking on four limbs instead of two. Where did this creature come from and what exactly does it do to specifically be called a “beast?” People always say how scared they are of monsters, but are we really? In reality, a lot people want to learn more about his wild creature. They find it exhilarating and interesting to hear about the history of each and every monster.

  19. When speaking about the amyctyrae,, Friedman quotes from Ctesias, Megasthenes, the Alexander cycle and Pliny’s accounts, “This race has a lower lip-or sometimes an upper- that protrudes so far that it can serve as an umbrella against the sun” (Friedman 5). This is particularly interesting as the author further goes on to try to categorize the real-life being that they have previously misunderstood in history. With further speculation, the author offers the idea that the amyctyrae could be representative of the lip-stretching customs of the Ubangi. I chose this specific passage because the word monster is most often used to portray a being that deviates from the societal norm. As the amyctyrae could really just be a cultural difference, it is intriguing to analyze the precedence of the word “monster” in this case. This is frequently still a problem in today’s society as those who are visibly different are immediately questioned as the mind subconsciously tries to place people in different groups.

    As for a relative monster theory, theory four best represents the amyctyrae, being that the monster dwells at the gates of difference. What is represented as the monster, is always marked with a difference from the typical expectation. Theory four is directly to the amyctyrae as the described monstrous quality may just be a misunderstood concept. Being that those travelers are from a completely different landscape adds to the effect of not having a full understanding of the terrain around them. With different languages and cultures, it is rather selfish to assume the amyctyrae to be monstrous because they did not look or act like the Greek people. This is often a problem of those in earlier times as it was harder to travel abroad and experience new atmospheres. What was available to the explorers, was expected to be how every other place and person was also to be, and when granted with darker skinned individuals with different belief systems, cultures, and languages, they were immediately labeled as the monsters.

  20. In his chapter on “The Plinian Races,” John Block Friedman makes some interesting comments about the (supposed) monsters of the ancient world, particularly from the perspective of the Greeks.  He includes a variety of examples of human groups (from India and Ethiopia) who are understood (or, rather, misunderstood) by ancient authors as having mysterious, monstrous qualities. A quote that I found intriguing while reading this piece of writing would be when Friedman said “Thus it was that the ancient world first heard of India as a marvelous region at the edge of the earth, where the sun rose and where the traveler encountered many strange peoples.” I found this quote interesting because it is describing the way that the people of this time described these monstrous beings. People describe these monsters as strange, and in some ways they are but in others they are just different than the normal person.
    A monster that was outlined by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, that I found interesting would be Catoblepas. Catoblepas is an animal of a moderate size and tends to move at a sluggish pace. Catoblepas has an extremely large, and heavy head that he has a hard time carrying. Due to the heaviness of his head, it is always facing down towards the ground. If Catoblepas were to pick up his head and look into the eyes of a human, that human is instantly dead. I believe that Jerome Cohen’s first thesis: The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body would best describe Catoblepas because it’s body is it’s temple. The monstrous body is pure culture. Catoblepas’s body is it’s protection for anyone who may trespass the fountain.

  21. For my discussion, I will be focusing on the text at the end of page 25 where Friedman states “Yet, even knowing the sources, we have scarcely begun to unravel the intricate threads of their transmission from antiquity through the Middle Ages, or to account for Western interest in them. For their continued power to fascinate we must look at other characteristics of the late antique and medieval mind- “. Here in all essence Friedman is saying or explaining thoughts behind why we are intrigued by monsters. I found this quote significant because through monster culture comes the idea of curiosity among the world, in our own perspectives. Specifically, this quote is intriguing because it brings back the concept of curiosity and why we want to know about monsters and what they do, we find that in ancient Greece and Rome the idea of a monster is different from what is expected in Western Civilization, and Friedman states we must look at them in the ways of antique but there is no one way a monster can look, there is always a difference whether now or then. People always try and classify monsters which can’t be done.

    I am choosing the monsters “Albanians” to compare to Jeffery Jerome Cohens “Monster Theory” thesis IV, that The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference. The Albanians are characterized as owl eyed and sees better at night than day and, gray haired when birthed. The monster relates to Cohens thesis IV because the monster truly does dwell at the gate of difference because no “normal” (today’s standards) is born with grey hair and considered owl eyed. The monster is not seen in the eyes as normal because of its differences and that is why it is classified as a “monster” according to Cohens Thesis IV.

  22. ” The Plinian Races” by John Block Friedman was very interesting to me because of the numerous monsters he described. On page 25 Friedman writes, “Finally, there can be no doubt that the practice of Yoga in some sects of Hinduism, as well as some other Indian religious custom, suggested the idea of physical and cultural monstrosity to Greek observers.” This quotation stuck out to me during this reading because of how one cultures monster is an other meditative state. Yoga is a very relaxing and physically beneficial practice. I found it humorous that they would be viewed as monsters because of the visually disturbing positions. This quote makes me think about what things modern Americans do that could possibly be thought of as monstrous to different cultures.
    The theory I have chosen is #4 “the monster dwells at the gates of difference”. This theory relates to the story “A Man Recognized and Saved by a Dragon”. To me this story synced well with this theory because the dragon was different and intimidating due to size, causing the father to reject the dragon and take it away from his son. If the dragon was smaller in size and fit into the norms of a reptile would he still be alarmed and find him monstrous? This dragon was only considered a monster because it was different and people fear the unknown. At the end of the story, the dragon ends up saving the man showing how none of the dragon’s actions made it monstrous only its stature.

  23. The one post from “The Plinian Races” I found to be interesting was the short part where Friedman talks about Androgini, or the man-woman. We would call this today as a hermaphrodite. I believe that this is important because something that is more accepted in today’s society they seen has monstrous. It is not fully accepted in today’s society, but it is not seen as monstrous anymore. This trend is mentioned in many of our readings such as Bildhaur’s writing. The concept is the same in the sense that hermaphroditism was seen as a monstrosity.
    I believe the theory I can relate to this is thesis 4, “The monster is the ‘other'”. This is because we made these people into monsters, so we could find some reasoning to why they are not like us. There are still people in today’s society that believe that they are still “monsters”, but the same reasoning takes place in this scenario; we want to make an excuse for why they are different.

  24. From John Block Friedman’s article “The Plinian Races”, I found one quote to be particularly interesting. As information spread across countries and cultures, it became necessary to translate texts from one language to another. During this process, words were often mistranslated, giving a whole new meaning to the original texts. On page 19 Friedman explains this stating, “Pliny speaks of the Sciopods as Monocoli, transliterating the Greek word ‘one-legged,’ but this name was misread as Monoculus or ‘one-eyed’ by Latin readers and was soon adapted to the descriptions of one-eyed beings like the classical Cyclops”. I find this fascinating because much like this, many past historical accounts may not be accurate, due to the same misconception and misunderstanding. Many old histories or stories that we have accepted to this day could have some sort of inaccuracy within them.

    To compare to Cohen’s thesis to a monster outlined by Pliny the Elder I chose the story told in book 8 chapter 22 ” A man recognized and saved by a dragon.” This story best relates to thesis four “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference.” Generally, this thesis defines the idea that monsters have aspects that we don’t associate with our own cultures. Chapter 22 first goes against that notion by describing a monster that befriended and eventually saved a man from danger. However, my understanding of the story is that it goes on to accept thesis four saying that the nature of the monster, in this case, was only due to a destiny needing to be fulfilled, rather than any innate qualities the monster might have possessed.

  25. After having read a chapter from Friedman’s book there was one quote that stuck with me. “But curiously the direct personal observation of the east did not result in a corresponding reduction in the legends of the monstrous races said to live there.” Pg. 24 I find this quote memorable because it speaks to two of Jerome Cohen’s the first being that the monster dwells at the gate of difference and the second being that the monster polices the possible. It relates to the first thesis due to the fact that all of the monsters described by Friedman are all human-like but with exaggerated physical deformities or animal combination. Thus, showing the principle that people will always tend to exaggerate differences that will turn what different into a monstrous race. This quotes then applies to the second thesis due to the fact that many of the monsters mentioned are all participating in the taboo. Thus, indulging in the taboo and seeing how these monstrous races function is a way for the readers to indulge without the guilt.
    The monster, which is the Basilisk, that I have chosen to examine is found in chapter 32 of the Natural History by Pliny the elder. When looking at the basilisk it becomes clear that they embody the second thesis: the monster always escapes. While the text does give away for the basilisk can be killed it is still incredibly deadly. It can kill shrubs and other plants not only with touch but with its foul breath. It can kill a man with only a look thus allowing the basilisk to escape and terrorize another day. Not only that but the text implies that there are many basilisks around since they are easily found and that many kings have seen the basilisk corps. Thus, proving even if one creature was killed there would be another taking its place in the nightmares of humanity.

  26. In his chapter on “The Plinian Races,” John Block Friedman inadvertently highlights the role that colonialism plays in the discovery of these monstrous races. Friedman states on page 25, “For their continued power to fascinate, we must look to other characteristics that expressed themselves in errors of perception, but errors that were willful, poetic, and imaginative.” Here, he explains that many of the otherworldly characteristics that were mentioned in the catalog were created through errors of perception. When I read this, I was reminded of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which is a novel that relays the journey of an Englishman to the Congo, where the narrator describes a group of malnourished slaves he found there as creatures, “While I stood horror-struck, one of these creatures rose to his hands and knees, and went off on all-fours towards the river to drink.” (39). Although Conrad’s narrator never refers to any people from the Congo as having any unique characteristics like those mentioned in the catalog, the texts are similar due to the apparent disgust aimed at the people of other races by describing their differences as monstrous.

    Cohen’s 4th thesis, “The Monster Dwells on the Gates of Difference”, can be applied to all of the races highlighted within Friedman’s text. A specifically striking example is that of the Troglodytes. These people are described as cave dwellers that are not literate. This is the exact opposite of the people who discovered them and defines the clear difference in culture between the two races. The Troglodytes are also uncommonly fast and hunt on foot, which is very much unlike the Greeks, who used agriculture and animal husbandry to obtain their food and if they did hunt, it was most likely done by utilizing technology.

  27. By reading the descriptions of the ancient “monsters” highlighted in this chapter of Friedman’s book, readers are able to step into the minds of ancient people and gain a better understanding of the misunderstanding that leads to these monstrous characterizations. While each monster is certainly interesting in its own way, I was most entertained by the monster called the Icthiophagi, or the fish-eater. According to Friedman, these mythical creatures are “fish-eating peoples” who “are usually riverine and shown holding a fish.” What makes this particular description so interesting to me is that is really not interesting. It appears to just describe a group of people who live near the sea and eat fish. This is a prime example of how many refer to unknown or different people as monsters. This was a common theme present in almost all of the monsters described in the chapter. People who looked different, such as Ethiopians or hairy people, were characterized as monsters, as were people with slightly different lifestyles, like the Icthiophagi. It is interesting that even still today ignorance often leads to fear.

    Of all the monster stories outlined in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, the one titled “A MAN RECOGNIZED AND SAVED BY A DRAGON” stands out as my favorite. We are able to further understand and analyze the dragon in the story using the third of Cohen’s seven theses. This thesis states that “monsters are the harbinger of category crisis.” Humans have a hard time categorizing monsters because, at least in some part, they are human or have human qualities. The dragon in the story has the emotion and protective instincts of a human, standing up and saving a boy he used to know. Despite the fact that humans share these qualities with the dragon, we still cannot fully empathize or understand the beast because at the end of the day, they are not fully human and we cannot relate to their savage/immoral side.

  28. A quote that stood out to me in the chapter of “The Plinian Races” is found on page 23 and is as stated; “Pliny speaks of the Sciopods as Monocoli, transliterating the Greek work “one-legged”, but this name was misread as Monoculus or “one-eyed’ by Latin readers and was soon adapted to the descriptions of one-eyed beings like the classic Cyclops”. I believe this quote shows just how complicated it can be to decipher and discover the origins of monsters in different cultures. This quote describes how many monsters are just misinterpretations of other creatures from different cultures. These false translations of texts from different cultures can be the birthplace of mythical creatures in monsters in a new culture. I believe this quote shows that monsters are always constant in cultures around the world but can be different across the board due to different interpretations and conceptions.
    The monster that I have chosen to look at is the “Beast which kills with its eye”. These creatures are moderate in size, sluggish, and has a heavy head which causes the creature to always look down. One look is said to be able to kill a man and these creatures reside at the head of the Nile river. I believe that the “Catoblepas” was created by the indigenous people of the area to serve as a protector of the river. This creature would fall under Cohen’s 1st thesis which is the Monsters body Cultural Body. I believe that this creature is used to ward off travelers or anyone else who would go near the fountain of the Nile. The Nile River is revered by many people and is the life blood of cities such as Cario and Khartoum, and any disturbances to the rivers source could be detrimental to the people that rely on the waters.

  29. Reading Friedman’s argument, he made some very solid and constructive points about monsters and different cultures from ancient Greece, Ethiopia, Rome, and India. On page 23, Friedman writes, “There seems to have been a need for amplitude and diversity among the early chroniclers of the monstrous races, and the tendency was to take a race with several unusual attributes and remove one to form an entirely new type”. This point really stood out to me, as it was something that we have discussed in class. As time moves on, and people start to discover and discuss these new monsters, there always seems to monsters created that encompass traits from several different other monsters. A monster can seem scary or threatening enough with just with just one trait or flaw, and mashing different monsters to make another even more complex one is what keeps our fear and curiosity alive.

    I find that the monster Androgini relates to the seventh thesis of Cohen’s thesis, “The Monster Stands at the Threshold…of Becoming”. Cohen writes, “these monsters ask us how we perceive the world, and how we have misrepresented what we have attempted to place. They ask us to reevaluate our cultural assumptions about race, gender, sexuality, our perception of difference, our tolerance toward its expression.” This relates very much to the Androgini, because they are examples of how we deal with what is considered to be different to us. The Androgini are ancient examples of what we would now call hermaphrodites or intersex people, and although there was most definitely intersex people among the population at this time, those people were most likely killed and/or ousted because of their difference. These monsters were created to show how intersex people were not welcome and showed how confusing people found and still find this to be, even in 2018. Since the Androgini are both with parts of both genitals, there are seen as outcasts since they can have no set gender, or even sexuality. Intersex people are still found to be misunderstood and considered outcasts by some, and the difference that they bring to the table is still considered so strange and taboo, that intersex babies often undergo dangerous surgeries in order to be considered “normal” by society.

  30. An intriguing quote that particularly stood out to me in John Block Friedman’s article “The Plinian Races” , is as followed: ” Their appeal to medieval men was based off such factors as fantasy, escapism, delight in the exercise of the imagination, and – very important- fear of the unknown. If the monstrous races had not existed, it is likely that people would not have created them.” Monster have had unjust stigmas placed upon them throughout generations that humans have lose sight of who the real monsters truly are. If we had not created the beast, the beast would not exist. We, as humans, thrive off the fear of the unknown. We dip our toes into the idea but never fully plunge into the depths of the uncharted area. Curiosity keeps us hungry for more.

    Several of the creatures depicted in Friedman’s article fall into the category of ‘The Monster Dwells at the “Gates of Difference”, illustrated in Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s essay “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)”. The one particular monster I want to reflect on at the moment is the Sciopods or “shadow-foot”. What stood out to me immediately is their physical appearance. They are one-legged creatures that spend majority of their day protecting their heads from the sun with one single great foot. They would be considered an abomination in today’s time and lies on the border of uncomfortable and unexplainable. They are not like us and therefore considered an outcast.

  31. In Friedman’s chapter on “The Plinian Races” a quote that stood out to me was “…the tendency was to take a race with several unusual attributes and remove one to form an entirely new type.” I found this interesting because it is evidence that we are constantly making up the monsters. We take ideas from other monsters to make new ones. I believe this is a reason why a monster is never seen twice as the same thing. Monsters never disappear; they come back as different forms each times. I also found this quote interesting because it is like thinking about humans. We are alike on the inside, but change one or two features and we are all different on the outside. You can see how we are just like monsters or maybe we are the monsters.

    The thesis in Cohen’s essay that I can relate Friedman’s essay with is thesis one. This thesis discussed how a monster is a monster, but in different countries and cultures the monster is presented or viewed differently. For example, a dragon in China is different than one in the United States. Friedman discusses monsters that live on land, in the ocean, from different places , and how different explorers described them. A monster in Friedman’s essay that sticks out the most to me is the “man-eater” or anthropophagi. He described them as people who drink from the skulls of humans, wear the heads of other humans, and eat their parents. Those were mostly from Scythia and Africa. In the United States we know “man-eaters” as giants. In Cohen’s essay under the first thesis he says, “monsters exist only to be read,” and this is exactly what we are doing with Friedman’s essay. It is about us reading how others tell their stories on the monsters they came across. We are reading their descriptions on the different “races.” We may never know the truth about the monsters. We will only know what has be written down for us to read.

  32. The first chapter of John Block Friedman’s “The Plinian Races” gives a great amount of insight into how a culture goes about the creation of a monster. One line that stuck out the most was on page 25 which stated “Finally, there can be no doubt that the practice of Yoga in some sects of Hinduism, as well as other Indian religious customs, suggested the idea of physical and cultural monstrosity to Greek observers.” This suggests that many cultures make monsters out of observed unfamiliar phenomenon most likely in an attempt to make sense of what they are seeing. This misunderstanding could only grow because of the lack of communication between the ancient Indian and European worlds, allowing the legend to grow and cement itself within European history.

    The legend of the basilisk in Book 8 Chapter 33 of Pliny the Elder’s “The Natural History” is a good representation of the first thesis of the monster’s body being a cultural body. The basilisk is a monster of death, killing everything in its path with every fiber of its being. It appears to be unstoppable until we are told of its weakness towards the weasel. The overall lesson can be found in the line “so true is it that it has pleased Nature that there should be nothing without its antidote.” The basilisk is an example of a cultural lesson taught through a metaphor: that every problem has a solution.

  33. I Find the quote “Their appeal to medieval men was based on such factors as fantasy, escapism, delight in exercises in imagination,and fear of the unknown”. These days we know that some of these races are false or mistaken identity, but to the people back then they were real. It made the world a fantastical place that doesn’t exist today due to all the information being transferred everyday. It also speaks to the seventh monster theory. Some of these races are based on real people, but their imagination filled in the rest. It shows that in their own way humans really do create their own monsters.

  34. “Errors of perception on the part of early travelers could be responsible for other fabulous peoples” (Friedman 24). What I find so intriguing about this quote is the examples given to the reader by Friedman after it to explain the quote. Knowing that the Greeks and Romans were not actually seeing “monsters”, but people who are of a different culture than them uncovers a sense of ignorance in those that discovered these “monsters”. In another one of my classes my professor talked about Christopher Columbus and how he lied about North America being home to monsters, so that the King and Queen would fund another of his voyages. Knowing this has made me wonder if the Greek and Roman explorers who saw these people in Indian and made them out to be monsters were doing so, so they could continue to go on explorations. Though Friedman explains how some of the misconceptions the explorers made could have happened, it is hard for me to believe that the Redfooted Men, who were said to be twenty-four feet in height, were not entirely fabricated by the explorers.

    Wife-Givers as discussed in Friedman’s “Pliny & Ancient Monsters” immediately brought Cohen’s sixth theses “Fear of the Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire” to my mind. Friedman says, “These men had a very limited popularity, appearing only in the Fermes and Wonders tradition. They are an amiable race who honor and give wives to any traveler who stops among them” (Friedman 21). The Wife-Givers treat women as if they are not people, having no free will. This “monster” is steeped in misogyny, and is not far from how some men wish to treat woman, as objects.

  35. Reading “The Plinian Races” he stated how ancient people (particularly the Greeks) viewed people that were from different countries that they didn’t understand. These “races” included people from countries such as India and Ethiopia. A part that stood out to me was on page 24 where a tribe in the Zambesi Valley. It stood out to me because these people were thought to be monstrous due to a deformity that many of them share. People that belong to this tribe are called the “ostrich-foot” people because of the mutation of a single gene which is passed to their offspring because of their incestuous behavior. This tribe does not practice marrying “outsiders” so their traits are passed around. People coming from different countries would not have known about the societal working of this tribe that have actually led the distribution of this mutated gene. But since they did not understand why the people of this tribe had this characteristic then they were deemed as monstrous. As we have discussed in class, anything that was unknown is seen as monstrous.
    This portion to me seemed to related to Thesis One “The Monster’s Body Is A Cultural Body”. I feel like this thesis can apply because the “monstrous body” of this tribe of people is representative of their culture. Apart of one of their cultures “rules” is to not marry anyone from the outside and the fact that their village is in a remote setting. In class discussions we talked about how the monsters body is a reflection of its time and place and I feel like that can be applied to this situation as well. Because now that we know more about their tribe and why they carry the characteristic of the “ostrich-foot” it is not see a monstrous compared to when they were found during Pliny the Elders time.

  36. John Block Friedman list some ancient Greek monsters in his article, “The Plinian Race”. In his article he writes, “Probably the Sciopod who shields his head from the sun with his foot while lying on his back derives from observation of people in Yoga positions.” This quote stuck out to me because I found it interesting that something as common as Yoga would have been viewed as monstrous in the eyes of Greek observers. This is a noteworthy window into the culture of Ancient Greeks because anything just a slightly bit different could be seen as monstrous, even if it is as simple as Yoga.
    John Block Friedman describe many different ancient monsters, one of which being the Antipodes. The Antipodes were a race that was a part of a world that had men walking upside down. To describe this with one of the seven theses from Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s essay, I would say it best fits with Thesis Four: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference. This thesis describes monsters as beings that defy boundaries, usually in differences of political, racial, economic, cultural or sexual boundaries. (Cohen, 7). The Antipodes defy cultural boundaries and normalcy by walking upside down, this would be peculiar in today’s world, let alone in ancient Greece.

  37. Part one: The quote that got my interest in the Plinain Races that Friedman said was “ There are men called Catius, just and handsome, who live on raw flesh.” It states that the even that a monster can be of the flesh it is not always ugly and have some kind of deformed. That even a monster can be attractive and it can be part of our desires that we hide from society. It is a way to express the feelings that we hide and the fear of expressing these kinds of desires that we hide away. In the greeks and the Romans that they had the ideas of the way the thought about how mixing with others from different races.

    Part two: One of the theses from the monster culture of the seven theses that have to do with the practices that are forbidden to practice that is not accepted by the normalized in society. Thesis VI: Fear of the monster is really a kind of desire. This talks about how we hid the kind of desires that is not normal for the rest of the society to view. This can terrify or even evoke the kind of monstrosity depending on the kind of forbidden act that is seen as not normal.

  38. “First, there appears to have been a psychological need for the Plinian peoples. Their appeal to medieval men was based on such factors as fantasy, escapism, delight in the exercise of the imagination, and—very important—fear of the unknown. If the monstrous races had not existed, it is likely that people would have created them (Friedman 24)”.
    I chose this quote because it conveys the relationship between men and monsters in a concise and effective manner. Throughout history humans have an innate and internalized need for excitement and fear and the idea of monsters provides this. Obviously humans have no preference as to what kind of monsters they get their kicks from because there are endless varieties. The reading as a whole shows this and this quote further emphasizes this assumption. This quote also directly relates to Cohen’s Thesis 6, fear of the monster is really a kind of desire. We project our own need onto a monster and they get away with things that we, as humans, would never be able to do. People need monsters as a sort of scapegoat so that when fear rises in them they have something to blame, rather than admitting that they are just afraid of what they do not know or understand.
    The Pygmies presented on page 18 of Friedman’s writing relate directly to Thesis 2 by Cohen; the monster always escapes. “On occasion in the later Middle Ages they are conflated with dwarfs (Friedman 18)”. Friedman later goes on to say that Pygmies do in fact exist even today but they may be hard to recognize if you are trying to compare them to the medieval accounts. Pygmies transformed throughout history, illustrating that the monster always gets away. They may die in one sense or story, in this case as pygmies, but they are brought back in another sense or story, in this case as dwarves. Dwarves are also prominent in modern culture, they can be found in movies such as Snow White and in real life as an actual dwarf.

  39. The quote I found most intriguing from John Block Friedman’s “The Plinian Races” was about fear of the unknown. Friedman writes, “First, there appears to have been a psychological need for the Plinian peoples. Their appeal to medieval men was based on such factors as fantasy, escapism, delight in the exercise of the imagination, and- very important-fear of the unknown. If the monstrous races had not existed, it is likely that people would have created them” (24). Fear is an emotion that many people do not understand, they are afraid of the things they have little to no knowledge on. Regardless of time period, people have always fabricated tales of monsters to help cope with the lack of misinformation. Once people have the opportunity to gain knowledge on an unknown topic, it helps ease the tension and fear of the unknown, resulting in more in-depth monsters being created. Humans always have some irrational fear or lack of information, the monsters that we fear come from our inner demons, you ultimately are creating a creature that embraces your inner demons.
    Cohens first theses: The monsters body is a cultural body, can be applied to “Pliny the Elder’s” book 8, chapter 33. The basilisk may not be a big creature, “being not more than twelve fingers in length” but it is still a deadly creature that no one messes with. “It was formerly a general belief that if a man on horseback killed one of these animals with a spear, the poison would run up the weapon and kill, not only the rider, but the horse as well” a creature believed to be this deadly did not get its stigma without the fear of unknowing humans. The basilisk is a creature that cannot be killed very easily, making others tremble in its path. They say the best way to kill a basilisk is to throw a weasel into the hole of the basilisk, “the weasel destroys the basilisk by its odour.”

  40. “Races also multiplied through what we might call a creative misunderstanding of their names”
    I find this quote interesting because it really shows how the word of mouth can influence an entire society back in that time period where it was hard to gain information of research and truth. The author goes on to describe after this quote how a group who he called “one-legged” got mistranslated to “one-eyed”. Just based off this I can assume that there was so many other races created due to simply mistranslating and being misinformed. I believe this is noteworthy because of how much false information not only on monsters but other things in that culture were being spread. We talk in our culture now about not believing everything you here but it would have been nearly impossible to fact check during that time period.

    The monster I have chosen is the Astomi which means “mouthless” and the Thesis I am going to use is Thesis VI “Fear of the Monster is Really a Kind of Desire”. I believe that this thesis connects with Astomi as well as all the other monsters in the book because the question must be asked, Why are they discussing these “monsters” in the first place? Why worry about these so called monsters who live so far away from the greeks. Well to answer that question in “The Plinian Races” the book talks about how the people who went over to India started a highly enjoyable genre of travel writing through their books although not all of their claims may have been supported. The monsters turned from interesting and somewhat scary beings into an interesting read and fantasies in a way due to this literature. This information presented shows how a fear can turn into something people want to hear about.

  41. Though the entire paper is rather interesting, albeit a little hard to understand at first, the part that stands out the most as the most interesting has nothing to do with the various monsters mentioned or defined. Rather, this tidbit of information has to do with Pliny himself, and that quote is “His Stoicism led him to believe that everything made by nature was intended to have a purpose, which the natural scientist tries to find in the most ordinary things as well as in wonders.” It follows up with a quote from Pliny himself, in which he said, “We marvel at elephants’ shoulders carrying castles…at the rapacity of tigers and the manes of lions, whereas really Nature is to be found in her entirety nowhere more than in her smallest creations. I consequently beg my readers not to let their contempt for many of these creatures lead them also to condemn to scorn what I relate about them, since in the contemplation of Nature nothing can possibly be deemed superfluous.” This is deemed interesting because whereas one would think most writers would portray monsters as fearsome and things or “others” with derision, Pliny spoke or wrote of the subject with a tone of wonder. Thus, relating back to the initial quote about how “his Stoicism” was what made him so apparently accepting that all these “monsters” lurked just at the edges of maps and the Greco-Roman world. In fact, taken into a broader aspect, perhaps that is why, when it comes to Greek/Roman Mythology, every legend, every myth, every hero exists mirrored with a monster. Ancient Greece/Rome was seemingly riddled with monsters that are all pretty well known in the modern world, and this quote sheds some light on why that just might be. Instead of writing monsters off as terrors to hide from (and therefore eventually “forget”), a popular school of thought and philosophy (Stoicism) believed them to be part of nature, and therefore just be part of the natural world, which can then relate to how even in myth, the monsters the heroes vanquished were still creations of the gods whom the people worshipped anyway. His follow up quote even suggests that people at the time were aware of “others,” and despite being considered monsters, he even asked readers to not feel too contemptuous towards those very monsters as he believes they were part of the natural world (as in, Nature created them therefore their existence were not total abominations).

    The monster that will be related to one of Cohen’s seven theses is the dragon that Pliny the Elder has several chapters dedicated to, specifically about it fighting or trying to drink the blood of an elephant. Perhaps it is the depth and detail in which Pliny explains the fight between the “dragon” and the elephant; however, a theses that could connect to it would be the one that goes, “fear of the monster is really kind of a desire.” As discussed in class, this thesis basically summarizes the idea that monsters are a representation of some repressed human desire that would otherwise be taboo to indulge in. With the dragon and the elephant, and the way this seemingly never ending battle is described, the first thought that comes to mind is bloodshed or mortality. A fight to the death between a giant creature using blunt force to try and smash the thing coiling around its body, trying to drain it dry of blood is a little reminiscent of gladiator battles (which were famous in the Roman Empire), and the gladiator battles were a way to satisfy the Romans’ need for a good fight/blood spill. Not to mention humanity’s obsession with mortality and death, because the excerpt/chapter about the dragon and elephant did not end at just a victor at the end. Rather, it is an ultimate struggle that results in both their deaths – with the dragon sucking the elephant dry of its blood and then the dragon getting crushed under the elephant as its drained body falls over. Therefore, this monster represents that thesis; especially, despite the horrific imagery painted in the text, there is still a morbid fascination with this battle between creatures.

  42. In Friedman’s chapter, “The Plinian Races,” he discussed a few ancient monsters. One quote that intrigued me in this chapter was on pages 22-23, it states “The literary process by which the races were augmented was rather like cellular division and mutation. In some cases one race was divided into several. In others two or more were combined. Still other variants occurred when an unfamiliar name was misunderstood and passed on in a new form.” I found this quote the most interesting because of the fact that typically people want to steer clear of monstrous beings. If that was truly the case, why were people taking these monsters and manipulating them to create even more? With this idea, he lists the monsters Monoculus, Monocoli and Cyclops, and explains how Monoculus was created because people were misreading Monocoli. This idea is also represented in the monsters Astomi and Straw-drinkers in the fact that they both mouthless—Astomi able to smell and Straw-drinkers able to drink through the same orifice that they breathe. It was interesting to see how these monsters came to be.
    One of the monsters that is discussed in Pliny’s book 8 chapter 33 is a Basilisk, or a type of serpent. These monsters are very small with white marks on their heads resembling a crown. Although so far it does not seem monstrous, we learn that it does not slither around like a normal snake, it moves around upright. They kill anything that comes in contact with them. This monster closely aligns with Cohen’s fourth monster theory, or that the monster dwells at the gates of difference. This monster is ostracized because it is not viewed as normal. It scares away all other serpents due to the fact that it is not like the rest.

  43. 1. In Friedman’s chapter “The Plinian Races” the quote that seemed to interest me the most was “His Stoicism led him to believe that everything made by nature was intended to have a purpose, which the natural scientists tries to find in the most ordinary things as well as in wonders.” I particularly liked this quote because, to me, it seemed as though he was stating that everything is meant to be as it is, whether it be freakish or glorious. The second portion of that sentence also stood out to me because I took it as, people try to justify or even discourage the differences in people. I feel as though it’s noteworthy for ancient Greece and Rome because it shows that people potentially fear differences. Though in some cases idolize them. In the passage, the Odyssey is mentioned, a story of Gods, Goddesses as well as demons and monsters. It is really interesting to note that Gods and Goddesses are that of another world, they have powers and are ‘different’ in respect to humans, though in that era, people idolized them. Yet, the monsters were feared, like the Aithiopes, or “burnt faces”.

    2. a. I thought Chapter 11 of Book 8 was very interesting, particularly the quote “The contest is equally fatal to both; the elephant, vanquished, falls to the earth, and by its weight, it crushes the dragon which is entwined around it.” I thought this was interesting because though the ‘dragon’ appears to be more frightening and appears to have the upper hand through out the entire battle, it ultimately meets its demise as well, for it was wrapped around the elephant as the beast fell, crushing the dragon to death in the process. I think this takes Thesis 7, the monsters stands at the threshold, to a different level of “we did it to ourselves”. I view this from the ‘dragons’ point of view, trying to get one up over the elephant by wrapping himself around its body though, in the end he had fallen with the elephant, and ultimately ‘did it to himself’. The dragon was essentially his own monster by fault of his own.

  44.     In the first chapter of “plinian races” one quote that stood out to me when is when Friedman says ” the pandae people have eight toes and eight fingers, and ears so large they cover the body to the elbow”. This quote grabbed me because of how absurd it sounds. It was very interesting on how people came to these conclusions like saying the panotii people “used their ears as a main part of their survival by detaching there ears and using them as a blanket or using them to fly away like wings”. This is noteworthy as a window into culture by how people’s imagination could run wild, the ancient Greeks probably believed anything that has a deformation or was abnormal at the time was a monster in their eyes. Even the dog people were were probably not actually half dog and half human, it was probably just a hairy person that someone was scared of and created a label for them.  
        In “monster culture” one of the seven theses I chose to compare was Thesis IV The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference with the wild-beast. The wild beast fits in with this thesis by his differences in form compared to the normal, he has claws for hands and a heavy head that is always tilted down with sharp teeth. This monster dwelled in the mountains of India living up to the name the wild beast.

  45. A quote from John Block Friendman’s article “The Plinian Races” that intrigues me is, “Their appeal to medieval men was based on such factors as fantasy, escapism, delight in the exercise of the imagination, and-very important- fear of the unknown. If the monstrous races had not existed, it is likely that people would have created them.” I feel that this quote really embodies how humans are natural story tellers and how we have a tendency to make up meanings for the unknown. The meaning of the monstrous races could have been the result of a bored mind attempting to create something entertaining or it could be an attempt to explain something that appears to be unexplainable.

    The monster that I chose to be outlined by one of Cohen’s theses was the Pygmies. The reason I chose them is because they are an actual group of people that reside in Central Africa, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia and Brazil. I have chosen to relate these “monsters” to Thesis IV: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference. The reason being that they were automatically assumed to be monstrous based only on their height and color. They are said by Pliny the Elder to be “only one and one-half to two cubits tall” which translates to two and a half to three feet tall and he refers to them as “dwarfish black men”. We now know that Pygmies are an ethnic group which average the height of four feet and eleven inches. I found it fascinating how accurate his description of the people is compared to some of his other descriptions.

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