Wonder in the Ancient World

This Research Guide was created based on a workshop discussing recent scholarship on Wonder in the Classical World, held by the CHS on 7-8 May 2023. Discussions drew on scholarship from ancient philosophy and religions, ancient medicine, philology and literature studies, and more.

Readings from the Workshop

Below are citations for all the modern scholarship and ancient texts discussed at the workshop, organized by presentation.

General Readings

Hunzinger, Christine.  2015. “Wonder.” In A Companion to Ancient Aesthetics, ed. Pierre Destrée and Penelope Murray, 422–437. Malden, MA.

Neer, Richard. 2010. “Wonders Taken for Signs.” Chapter 1 in Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture, 20–69. Chicago.

Schepens, Guido, and Kris Delacroix. 1996. “Ancient Paradoxography: Origin, Evolution, Production and Reception.” In La letteratura di consumo nel mondo Greco-Latino, ed. Oronzo Pecere and Antonio Stramaglia, 373–460. Cassino.

The Archive as a Space of Wonder: Practices of Documentation and Citation in the Lindian Chronicle

Higbie, Carolyn. 2003. The Lindian Chronicle and the Greek Creation of Their Past, 18–49. Oxford.

Greenblatt, Stephen. 1990. “Resonance and Wonder.” Bulletin of American Academy of Arts and Sciences 43(4): 11–34. Cambridge, MA.

Shaya, Josephine. 2005. “The Greek Temple as Museum: The Case of the Legendary Treasure of Athena from Lindos.” American Journal of Archaeology 109(3):423–442. Chicago.

Enigmatic Wonder(ing) and Surprise

Antipater of Sidon. Epigrams, AP VII.424, AP VII.425

Hesiod. Theogony 572-583.

Keesling, Catherine M. 2009. “Exemplary Animals: Greek Animal Statues and Human Portraiture.” In Bodies and Boundaries in Greco-Roman Antiquity, ed. Thorsten Fögen and Mirelle M. Lee, 283-310.

Leonidas of Tarentum. Epigrams, AP VII.422.

Depraz, Natalie, and Anthony J. Steinbock. 2018. “Introduction.” In Surprise: An Emotion?, v–vii. Cham.

Steinbock, Anthony J. 2018. “Surprise as Emotion: Between Startle and Humility.” Chapter 1 in Surprise: An Emotion?, 3-21. Cham.

Ontological Thauma: Wondering About Being in Greek and Chinese Philosophical Texts

Bury, R. G. 1929. Plato. Timaeus; Critias; Cleitophon; Menexenus; Epistles, 112–125. London.

Llewelyn, John. 1988. “On the Saying that Philosophy Begins in Thaumazein.” In Post-structuralist Classics, ed.  Andrew Benjamin, 181–199. London.

Neville, Robert Cummings. 2019. “Indeterminacy in Chinese Thought: Spontaneity and the Dao.” In The Significance of Indeterminacy: Perspectives from Asian and Continental Philosophy, ed. Robert H. Scott and Gregory S. Moss, 342–356. New York.

Ziporyn, Brooke, trans. 2009. Chapters 1 and 2 in Zhuangzi: The Essential Writings. 3–21. Indianapolis.

Readers of the Lost Ark/Tomb Readers: Pseudo-documentarism and Wunderkultur

Popescu, Valentina. 2013. “The Aesthetics of Paradox in Lucian’s Prolailiaí.” Nuntius Antiquus 9:57-86.

Popescu, Valentina. 2014. “Lucian’s True Stories: Paradoxography and False Discourse.” In The Ancient Genre and the Frontiers of Genre, ed. Marília P. Futre Pinheiro, Gareth Schmeling, and Edmund P. Cueva, 39-58. Eelde.

Tybjerg, Karin. 2003. “Wonder-making and Philosophical Wonder in Hero of Alexandria.Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 34(3):433–466.

Technical Wonders

Aulus Gellius. Attic Nights 10.12.8-10.

Cassiodorus. Variae 1.45.10-11.

Fisher, Philip. 1998. “The Aesthetics of Rare Experiences.” In Wonder, the Rainbow, and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences, 1–31. Cambridge, MA.

Gell, Alfred. 1992. “The Technology of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Technology.” In Anthropology, Art, and Aesthetics, ed. Jeremy Coote and Anthony Shelton, 40-63. Oxford.

Hero. On Automata Making 4.4.

Hero. Pneumatics 2.32.

Hero. Pneumatics Prooimion 343-347.

Pausanias. Description of Greece 6.20.12, 6.20.14.

Pliny the Elder. Natural History 34.148.

Pseudo-Aristotle. Mechanics 847a12-28.

Simondon, Gilbert. 2012. “On Techno-Aesthetics.” Parrhesia 14:1–8.

Tybjerg, Karin. 2003. “Wonder-making and Philosophical Wonder in Hero of Alexandria.Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 34(3):433–466.

Wonder and Competition

de Nie, Giselle. 2011. “‘The Miracles of Ancient Times are Renewed’: Enthusiasm, Doubt, and Resistance Around the Year 400.” Chapter 1 in Poetics of Wonder: Testimonies of New Christian Miracles in the Late Antique Latin World. Turnhout.

Ehrman, Bart D., and Zlatko Pleše. 2011. “The Infancy Gospels.” Part 1 in The Apocryphal Gospels: Text and Translation, 10-29.

Spittler, Janet. 2019. “The Development of Miracle Traditions in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles.” In Between Canonical and Apocryphal Texts: Processes of Reception, Rewriting, and Interpretation in Early Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. Jörg Frey, Claire Clivas, and Tobias Nicklas, 357-380. Tübingen.

Wonder and Medicine

Bynum, Caroline W. 1997. “Wonder.” The American Historical Review 102(1):1–26. Chicago.

Galen. De naturalibus facultatibus 3.15, 2.210-2.211K.

Hippocrates. De articulis 42.

Hippocrates. De corde 10.

Hippocrates. De morbo sacro 6.352–6.354L.

Hippocrates. De natura pueri,13.

Kazantzidis, George. 2019. “Introduction. Medicine and Paradoxography in Dialogue: Approaching thauma Across Science and Fiction.” In Medicine and Paradoxography in the Ancient World, 1–40. Berlin.

Kazantzidis, George. Forthcoming 2023. “The Beauty That Lies Within: Autonomy, Mechanics and Thauma in Hellenistic Medicine.” In Body and Machine in Classical Antiquity, ed. Maria Gerolemou and George Kazantzidis, 218–243. Cambridge.

Wonder in Jewish Greek Literature

Hadas, Moses. 1951. Aristeas to Philocrates; Letter of Aristeas, §§83–99. New York.

Holladay, Carl R. 1983. Philo Senior. About Jerusalem, ff. 4–6. In Fragments from Hellenistic Jewish Authors, Volume II, 240–245. Atlanta.

Jacobson, Howard. 1983. The Exagoge of Ezekiel. Cambridge. Repr. 2009.

Sonnet, Jean-Pierre. 2019. “He Who Makes Wonders: God’s Mirabilia in the Hebrew Bible Between Narrative and Poetry.” In Astonishment: Essays of Wonder for Piero Boitani, ed. Emilia Di Rocco, 31–47. Rome.

Van Ruiten, Jacques T. A. G. M. 2006. “A Burning Bush on the Stage: the Rewriting of Exodus 3:1-4:17 in Ezekiel Tragicus, Exagoge 90-131.” In The Revelation of the Name YHWH to Moses, ed. George H. van Kooteen, 71–88. Lieden.

Additional Scholarship

Bogdanov, Sergey I., and Roman V. Svetlov. 2021. “Wonder in the Pedagogy of Antiquity.” Journal of Siberian Federal University. Humanities & Social Sciences 14(6):774–781.

D’Angour, Armand. 2011. “The Birth of Athena.” Chapter 6 in The Greeks and the New, 134–161. Cambridge.

Eaglestone, Robert. 2022. Truth and Wonder. Abingdon.

Di Rocco, Emilia, ed. 2019. Astonishment: Essays on Wonder for Piero Boitani. Rome.

Gerolemou, Maria, ed. 2018. Recognizing Miracles in Antiquity and Beyond. Berlin.

Hughes-Warrington, Marnie. 2019. History as Wonder: Beginning with Historiography. Abingdon.

Kazantzidis, George. 2019. Medicine and Paradoxography in the Ancient World. Berlin.

Kazantzidis, George, and Dimos Spatharas. 2022. Medical Understandings of Emotions in Antiquity. Berlin.

Lightfoot, Jessica. 2021. Wonder and the Marvellous from Homer to the Hellenistic World. Cambridge.

ni’ Mheallaigh, Karen. 2014. Reading Fiction with Lucian: Fakes, Freaks and Hyperreality. Cambridge.

Papalexandrou, Nassos. 2021. Bronze Monsters and the Cultures of Wonder: Griffin Cauldrons in the Preclassical Mediterranean. Austin.

Passmore, Oliver. 2018. “Thaumastic Acoustics: Thyphoeus and ‘Ty-phonics’ in Pindar, Pythian 1.26 and Hesiod, Theogony 834.” Mnemosyne 71(5):733–749. Leiden.

Schinkel, Anders. 2018. “Wonder and Moral Education.” Educational Theory 68(1):31-48. Malden, MA.

Tobia, Kevin Patrick. 2015. “Wonder and Value.” Res Philosophica 92(4):959-984. Charlottesville.

Wilson, Jeffery Dirk. 2017. “Wonder and the Discovery of Being: Homeric Myth and the Natural Genera of Early Greek Philosophy.” The Review of Metaphysics 70(3):411–433. Washington, DC.

Related Topics

With such an interdisciplinary topic, relevant scholarship can be published in any number of fields. Below are some options for alternate search terms, as well as other fields to explore, both ancient and modern. You can use these terms when searching our catalog at https://hollis.harvard.edu/ to discover all the invaluable sources in the CHS Library!

Alternate Search Terms







Related Fields



Affective Science (Emotion Studies)