image of vultures (Aberdeen Bestiary)

Week 8: Physiologus.

Background | Background Quiz | Starting Assumptions | Resources | Extras
Vocabulary | Etymology | Grammar | Perseus Dictionary | Perseus Tool

Reading Overview | Reading Quiz: English
| Reading Quiz: Latin
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Aberdeen Bestiary

Dragon - Perindens - Ydrus - Phoenix - Vulture - Firestones - Partridge - Ibis - Hoopoe - Pelican

image of vultures (Aberdeen bestiary

The bestiary tradition of the vulture may come as a surprise: in ancient Greek and Roman legend, the female vulture was supposed to conceive and give birth without having sex. Needless to say -- odd as it seems -- this made the vulture a natural symbol of the Virgin Mary giving birth to Christ...

Of the vulture

It is said that vultures do not indulge in copulation and and are not united with the other sex in the conjugal act of marriage; that the females conceive without the male seed and give birth without union with the male; and that their offspring live to a great age, so that the course of their life extends to one hundred years, and that an early death does not readily overtake them. What can they say, those people who are by nature accustomed to mock the mysteries of the Christian faith, when they hear that a virgin gave birth, yet maintain that childbirth is impossible for an unmarried woman, whose virginity is undefiled by intercourse with a man? What they do not deny is possible in vultures, they think is impossible in the mother of God. female bird gives birth without a male and no-one disputes it; but because Mary, betrothed as a virgin, gave birth, they question her chastity. Do we not make them aware that our Lord, from his very nature, affirms the truth?


Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM