What little is known of Aulus Gellius’s (AW-luhs JEHL-ee-uhs) life derives from his surviving work, the Noctes Atticae (c. 180 c.e.; Attic Nights, 1927). Gellius spent most of his life in Rome and studied under some of the best instructors of the age. He also spent time touring Greece. In fact, Gellius states that he originally compiled the materials for his work in order to while away long winter nights in Athens and later worked up his notes in twenty books (or chapters) in order to provide instruction for his children. The work treats an incredible variety of topics, including, for example, morality, philosophy, natural science, medicine, law, religion, history, biographical anecdotes, literary history, textual criticism, and etymology. Gellius’s style is lively, and he includes dramatic dialogues and demonstrates a fondness for both archaism and neologism. Of the twenty books, the beginning of the preface, book eight, and the end of book twenty are no longer extant.
Gellius was popular in later antiquity. In the Middle Ages, excerpts from his work were often included in anthologies. During the Renaissance, his work was very highly valued. No longer as popular as he once was, Gellius continues to attract readers mainly for his work’s vast store of curious information.