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The Origin of the Corpus Aristotelicum


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"The difficulty of piercing the screen, sometimes very opaque, which is the Aristotelianism of so many centuries, based substantially on the thinking of a thousand and one more or less faithful "disciples," is doubled by a difficulty probably unique in its kind: the impossibility of always being able to determine exactly the sort of things the writings of the authentic Aristotelian Corpus are. For we suspect that scholars often have to deal with texts whose definitive form owes something to the work of Aristotle's disciples. We remain, on the other hand, powerless to determine always with precision the extent to which the products of their work continue to conform to the master's thinking or proceed, on the contrary, from a new idea. At least I can state very generally that the organization of the CorpusAristotelicum, such as scholars after Andronicus of Rhodes have understood it, depends for them on the firmer and firmer conviction that Aristotle elaborated a philosophical system whose constituent parts are reflected in the arrangement of the different preserved treatises, as if their author had effectively "programmed" them from the perspective of systematic expression. Now, this is the one intention that we may hardly attribute to our philosopher. The project of expounding a genuine system is in fact, as I. During has written,(4) "typically Hellenistic but very un-Aristotelian." Such a claim will perhaps seem today the unavoidable result of Jaeger's explicit attempt to combat "scholastic idolatry,"(5) which regarded the work of the "master of those who know" as a genuine "summa," firmly articulated. But, independently of Jaeger, K. Praechter, for example, assures us that "a secure division of the philosophical disciplines according to a determinate principle does not occur in Aristotle"! (6) And it is obvious that Aristotle was not as concerned as his disciples were to propose a rigid system of sciences and to organize his writings systematically according to it.

This indeterminateness is obviously quite irksome for the interpreter who asks about the occasion for the project of Aristotle to which the texts catalogued under the titles Ethics and Politics correspond, and who finds himself dealing with a Corpus established by people who indeed thought that they could abolish such indeterminateness by recourse to the hypothesis that the philosopher conceived his project as formally expounding a genuine system. Moreover -- and this is a prime consideration whose significance I shall examine at great length -- the originality of Aristotle's project risks being masked by the interpretation or the importance given since antiquity to certain interpretive categories (human philosophy, practical science, ethics, etc.) in accounting for the approach of a series of texts integrated in the Corpus, itself conceived as a philosophical summa. The danger will appear considerable especially as these categories make reference to Aristotelian vocabulary.

To restore to the philosopher that which properly belongs to him is thus an extremely perilous task. Without hiding from ourselves either the difficulty of the undertaking or the limits beyond which everything is no more than a tissue of gratuitous hypotheses, it is important to state in the clearest way the particulars of the problem."

(4) Ingemar Düring - Aristotle in the ancient biographical tradition - Stockholm, Almqvist & Wiksell 1957.

(5) Werner Jaeger - Aristotle. Fundamentals of the history of his development - Oxford, Clarendon Press 1948.

From: Richard Bodéüs - The political dimensions of Aristotle's Ethics - Translated by Jan Edward Garrett - Albany, State University of New York Press, 1993, pp. 9-10 (some notes omitted)


"Reasons for the decline in the Peripatos have often been suggested. Some scholars are content with attributing the decline to a general "failure of nerve" characteristic of the Hellenistic Period.(19) But the difficulty with this kind of explanation is quite obvious. Theophrastus' directorship of the school came in the Hellenistic Period, and two of the schools -- the Stoa and the Garden -- were founded and flourished at the beginning of the age. Not long after the Peripatos declined never to rise again, the Stoa and the Academy were bolstered by their "second founders," Chrysippos and Arkesilaos. The "failure of nerve" thesis fails to account for the fact that the later history of the Peripatos was so different.

The most recent and perhaps most authoritative solution to the problem has been offered by F. Wehrli in his "Rückblick der Peripatos in vorchristlicher Zeit" (Die Schule des Aristoteles, Heft 10 ( Basel, 1959; 2nd ed., 1969 pp. 95-128). Although Wehrli's treatment of the question is very brief, his views are based on an elaborate re-edition, with commentary, of all the fragmentary Peripatetikoi in the pre-Christian era. Wehrli's sketch of the process of decline in the school convincingly demonstrates the prevailing view of the Hellenistic Peripatos after Theophrastus; his explanation for the phenomenon is not, however, equally persuasive.

It is Wehrli's contention that since Aristotle's philosophical outlook changed considerably over the time between his earlier dialogues and his later systematic treatises, the Peripatos failed to develop an orthodoxy which subsequent members of the school could follow. Because it was difficult, Wehrli argues, for the Peripatetics of the third century B.C. to reconcile the teaching of Aristotle's esoteric treatises with that of the exoteric dialogues, the school ended up in confusion and, in an eclectic spirit, turned to sources of clarification outside the confines of the Lyceum. And these sources proved to be influences of the worst sort, such as those tendencies of the age which emphasized the marvelous over the logical. As far as the apparent split between the earlier and later Aristotle was concerned, all later Peripatetics chose one to the exclusion of the other. Most opted for the direction suggested by Aristotle's exoteric writings and addressed themselves to subjects of popular appeal; those who followed the lead of the esoteric writings failed to recognize the importance of keeping larger systems in mind and as a result ended up pursuing a banal empiricism. The result of all these developments was the decline, or -- to use Wehrli's stronger word -- the "disintegration," of the Peripatos until its revival in the time of Andronicus of Rhodes.

Wehrli's interpretation seeks to explain the decline of the school purely on the literary level. That is to say, Wehrli tried only to isolate tendencies in the writings of Aristotle and his successors which, in his opinion, led to disintegration; he did not consider other modes of explanation which might help to account for the phenomenon and which might, in addition, suggest causes for the literary tendencies themselves. In brief, the features which Wehrli points out in the writings of the later Peripatetics seem more symptomatic of degeneration than causal. Furthermore -- and equally important -- the problem of decline in the Peripatetic School is more than a literary problem, just as the school itself was more than a literary phenomenon.


Several events in the early history of the Peripatos as an institution suggest much less subtle and more convincing reasons why Aristotle's school at Athens declined in the third century B.C. An important factor was undoubtedly the loss of the school library, which after Theophrastus' death was taken by Neleus of Skepsis from Athens to the Troad. (20)

Strabo in fact argues that this was the reason why the Peripatos became so insignificant in the period after Theophrastus:

The effect of this [the loss of the library] was that the earlier men from the Peripatos after Theophrastus had no books at all, with few exceptions, mostly exoteric works; hence, instead of studying philosophy effectively, they were able only to spout tedious commonplaces. ( Strabo, XIII, 1.54; cf. Plutarch, Sulla 26)

Modern scholarship, however, has shown that Strabo's view of Peripatetic decline is simplistic for a number of reasons. Later Peripatetics at Athens, although only fragments of their works survive, show knowledge of most esoteric works, as do some other Athenian philosophers in the Hellenistic Period.(21) Despite the implications of Strabo's statement, it is not reasonable to suppose that the library of Neleus contained the only copies of the pragmateiai written under Aristotle and Theophrastus. Other members of the school doubtless had copies of esoteric works which interested them and could have gotten copies of others if they had some incentive to do so. It is known, for example, that when Eudemos left the Peripatos in the time of Theophrastus and went to Rhodes, he had in his possession a copy of Aristotle's Physics, some readings in which he asked Theophrastus by letter to check in the school text (fr. 6, Wehrli ); it is probable that Eudemos also had a copy of the Ethics, a version of which he worked up into a different form, and copies of other treatises as well.(22) Straton, who took over the Peripatos after Neleus' departure, was able to build up and pass on to his successor a library which probably contained personal copies of some of the school literature ( cf. Straton's will in Diogenes Laertius V, 62).

P. Moraux has made a brilliant and plausible case that the catalogue of Aristotle's writings preserved by Diogenes Laertius (V, 22-27) is a copy of the works available in the library of the Peripatos during the time of Ariston of Keos, the second-century B.C. scholar who, Moraux argues, was responsible for drawing up the list as part of his biography of Aristotle.(23) And Diogenes Laertius' catalogue, though full of Aristotle's dialogues and rhetorical works and deficient in the works on natural science, does include a large number of the esoteric treatises.(24) It appears that by the third century B.C. multiple copies of books were increasingly available, and it became common for cities and private individuals like Eratosthenes ( Strabo II, 1.5) to amass considerable libraries of their own.(25) In building up the Alexandrian Library, Ptolemy II Philadelphos reportedly was able to buy from Neleus a complete set of the works of Aristotle and Theophrastus (Athenaeus I, 3a-b) (26)

Why were the members of the Peripatos content to do without works which they did not have? And why did they not build upon those which they are known to have had? The loss of the library was undoubtedly a serious inconvenience and could not help setting back somewhat the workings of a school which aimed to systematize the whole of human knowledge. But that loss alone cannot, as Strabo would have it, completely explain the decline of the Peripatos. A vital philosophical community could have done more than the Peripatetics after Theophrastus did to offset the loss of the systematic collection which Theophrastus willed to Neleus."

See the full analysis of the contents of Diogenes Laertius' list given by P. Moraux (above, n. 21) pp. 27-153.

On city libraries in the third century B.C., see E. A. Parsons, The Alexandrian Library (New York, 1952.) pp. 19-50. The testimonia to private and city libraries are gathered by J. Platthy, Sources on the Earliest Greek Libraries (Amsterdam, 1968). The proliferation of libraries in the third century B.C. implies the existence of multiple copies of books.

Athenaeus' statement is supported by Elias, In Cat. p. 107.11 = T 75p, p. 419, Miring; Philoponos, In Cat. pr. p. 7.16 = T 77c, p. 456, Dining. On the esoteric works available in the Alexandrian Library during the Hellenistic Period, see the article of E. Howald, "Die Schriftenverzeichnisse des Aristoteles and des Theophrast," Hermes 55 (1920) pp. 204-221, which also must be modified by the work of Moraux.

(19) This influential view of the Hellenistic Period was first developed by G. Murray, Four Stages of Greek Religion (New York, 1912); cf. Murray's third edition, Five Stages of Greek Religion (New York, 1951) pp. 119-165.

(20) The story of Aristotle's library has often been recounted and includes many controversial details. The most detailed and readable study is perhaps that of J. Bidez, Un singulier naufrage littéraire dans l'antiquité (Bruxelles, 1943). The ancient evidence is assembled and discussed by During, Aristotle in the ancient biographical tradition. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell 1957, pp. 337-338, 382-384, 392-395, 412-425; E. Zeller V, Aristotle and the Earlier Peripatetics, vol. 1, pp. 137-160; and F. Susemihl, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur in der Alexandrinerzeit II, pp. 296301; cf. also A.-H. Chroust, "The Miraculous Disappearance and Recovery of the CorpusAristotelicum," Classica et Mediaevalia 23 (1962) pp. 50-67 and R. Shute, On the History of the Process by which the Aristotelian Writings Arrived at their Present Form (Oxford, 1888), an excellent essay bringing together and sifting the results of research done in the nineteenth century. For a very illuminating overview of the complicated process by which Aristotle's writings were transmitted to the West, see I. During, "Von Aristoteles bis Leibnitz," Antike and Abendland 4 (1954) 118-154 (reprinted in P. Moraux, ed., Aristoteles in der neueren Forschung [Darmstadt, 1968] pp. 250-313).

(21) E. Zeller (above, n. 20) reexamined the question of knowledge of the esoteric writings during the Hellenistic Period and argued that most of the Aristotelian Corpus must have been available at Athens and Alexandria after Theophrastus' death: "We may sum up the case by saying that of the genuine portions of the extant Corpus, there are only the works on the Parts, Genesis, and Movement of Animals, and the minor anthropological tracts, as to which we cannot show either express proof or high probability that they were in use after the disappearance of Theophrastus' library from Athens. Even as to these we have no reason to doubt it -- only we cannot positively prove it; and that, when we remember the fragmentary character of our knowledge of the philosophic literature of the period in question, is nothing strange' (p. 152). Zeller's discussion and conclusions must be modified somewhat by the work of P. Moraux, Les listes anciennes des ouvrages d'Aristote (Louvain, 1951) especially pp. 312-321 (conclusions). But Moraux's work serves to confirm the general view that despite Strabo's statement to the contrary, a large number of esoteric works were available in the Hellenistic Period (see further below, n. 23 for the Aristotelian works in the library of Ariston of Keos). The esoteric works do not appear to have been studied or used very much, even in the Peripatos; but that is a different problem -- one directly connected with the decline of the school.

(22) It is commonly held that the Eudemian Ethics was so-called because it was a compilation of Aristotle's lectures on ethics by Eudemos, while the Nicomachean Ethics was a version compiled by Nikomachos. For a discussion of various theories about the relation between the two works, see W. Jaeger, Aristotle, pp. 228-258 and I. During, art. "Aristoteles" in Pauly-Wissowa (Suppl. band 11, 1968) cols. 282-287.

(23) P. Moraux, Les listes anciennes des ouvrages d'Aristote, pp. 237-247. I. During has attempted to refute Moraux's thesis in favor of the traditional view that Diogenes Laertius' list reflects the one drawn up by Hermippos and contains the holdings of the second-century B.C. Alexandrian Library ("Ariston or Hermippos?" Classica et Mediaevalia 17 [1956] pp. 11-21). But Moraux's objections to Hermippos as author seem to me to be persuasive (pp. 221-233). Moraux's thesis has been strongly supported against During's objections by J. J. Keaney, "Two Notes on the Tradition of Aristotle's Writings," American Journal of Philology 84 (1963) pp. 52-63.

From: John Patrick Lynch - Aristotle's School. A study of a Greek educational institution. Berkeley: University of California Press 1972. pp. 144-149


"Strabo is the main source. There are supplementary texts, the most important of which is in Plutarch.(1) Here, first, are Strabo and Plutarch.

From Scepsis came the Socratics, Erastus and Coriscus, and also Coriscus' son, Neleus, a man who attended the lectures both of Aristotle and of Theophrastus, and who took over Theophrastus' library, which included Aristotle's. For Aristotle left his own library to Theophrastus, to whom he also entrusted the school. (Aristotle was the first man we know to have collected books, and he taught the kings of Egypt how to put a library together). Theophrastus left it to Neleus, who took it to Scepsis and left it to his successors. They were not philosophers and kept the books locked away and carelessly stored. When they heard that the Attalid kings, by whom their city was ruled, were eagerly searching for books in order to set up the library at Pergamum, they hid them underground in a sort of tunnel, where they were damaged by mildew and worms. Some time later the family sold the books of Aristotle and Theophrastus for a large sum to Apellicon of Teos. Apellicon was a bibliophile rather than a philosopher. That is why he tried to repair the worm-damage by transferring the writings to new manuscripts but did not complete them satisfactorily; and he published the books full of errors.

Thus it was that the older Peripatetics who came after Theophrastus did not possess the books at all -- except for a few, and in particular the exoteric works -- and so were not able to do any serious philosophy but merely declaimed generalities. Their successors -- once these books became available -- were better philosophers and better Aristotelians; yet they were obliged for the most part to speak at haphazard because of the number of mistakes.

Rome too had a considerable hand in this. For immediately after Apellicon's death Sulla, who had captured Athens, took his library and brought it here, where the scholar Tyrannio, who was an amateur of Aristotle, put his hand to it, having buttered up the librarian. And certain booksellers made use of bad scribes and did not check the copies -- something which happens with other books which are copied for sale, both here and at Alexandria. But enough of this. (Strabo, [Geography] 13-1. 54 (608-9))

Sulla reserved for himself the library of Apellicon of Teos, which included most of the works of Aristotle and Theophrastus (which were then not yet familiar to most people). It is said that after the library had been taken to Rome the scholar Tyrannio prepared most of it and that Andronicus of Rhodes obtained copies from him, made them public and drew up the catalogues which are now in circulation. The older Peripatetics were themselves evidently accomplished and scholarly men; but the writings of Aristotle and Theophrastus which they had come across were neither numerous nor accurately written because the estate of Neleus of Scepsis (to whom Theophrastus had left his books) was passed on to men who were unambitious and not philosophers. (Plutarch, Sulla 26 (468 BC)

Strabo does not cite any authority for his story. Elsewhere he says that he heard Tyrannio lecturing (12. 3. 16 (548) ), and also that he 'studied Aristotelian philosophy together with Boethus' of Sidon (16. 2. 24 (757)). He might well have heard the story from Tyrannio or from his Aristotelian lecturer.'(10) Plutarch cites no authority either; but his text is strikingly close to Strabo's, and it is tempting to suppose that either Plutarch copied from Strabo or else the two men drew from a common source.(11) If the two men drew from a common source, then Strabo-whatever he may have heard from his cronies-knew the story in a written form." (pp. 2-3)

(1) The texts are conveniently found in Düring [1966], Gigon [1987], and in Fortenbaugh et al. [Theophrastus 1992] I. 90-4. Of recent discussions the fullest are Düring, [1966] 46-54; id. [1968] cols. 190-203; Moraux [1973] I. 3-94; Blum [1977] 109-34; Gottschalk [1990] 1083-97; Richardson [1994] 7-28; Irigoin [1994] 50-3. Of the older literature, I mention Stahr [1830] 117-34; id. [115] 23-32. The romantic will read L. Canfora, La biblioteca scomparsa (Palermo, 1986), 34-7, 59-66, 181-90.[See the Bibliography on the Rediscovery of Corpus Aristotelicum below for the complete references]


(10) Together with Andronicus and Boethus he [i.e. Strabo] heard Tyrannio, and through Andronicus he became interested in Aristotle's works': Düring [132] 413 -- a garbled invention.(11) See Moraux [76] I. 21-4; below, pp. 9, 19-20.

From: Jonathan Barnes - Roman Aristotle - in: Jonathan Barnes and Miriam Griffin (eds.) - Philosophia togata II. Plato and Aristotle at Rome - Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1997 pp. 1-69 (some notes omitted)

"The external evidence for the transmission of Aristotle's writings before the edition of Andronicus is meagre. There is also a great difference in opinion as to the essential question. Silently and without entering upon the problem many scholars seem to presuppose that Aristotle's writings, in the form they are handed down to us in the CorpusAristotelicum, were widely circulated during the Hellenistic era and that the edition of Andronicus was nothing but a stage in an otherwise uninterrupted tradition. Other scholars maintain that the scientific pragmateiai known to us through the CorpusAristotelicum on the whole were unknown during the time from the death of Theophrastus to the age of Sulla, when, through Apellicon's famous find, they began to be known again. This opinion is energetically and with great skill defended by Bignone and the Italian school. (1) It is a well-known fact that the Peripatetic School mismanaged their inheritance from Aristotle. It was outside the Peripatos that Aristotle's philosophic tenets, his scientific method, his achievements is various branches of 'science, in brief, his life's work gained most importance. How could this be possible, if we are not to assume widespread and intimate knowledge of his writings, the dialogues as well as the treatises, in the Hellenistic era? More concretely the question might be put thus: which works of Aristotle were known for example to Polybius, Posidonius or Cicero? The crucial point in an inquiry into this problem is that direct and definable quotations from Aristotle are exceedingly rare, particularly quotations which agree with a text known to us in the CorpusAristotelicum. As to quotations from Plato it is, as everybody knows, quite the other way. They are generally in perfect accord with our text. It is not unusual to come upon a statement like this: here we find the earliest quotation from the Metaphysics. A close examination of the passage in question, however, often makes us disappointed. As a rule it turns out that there is a general agreement between the two passages in factual content, but this is not enough." pp. 37-38


In 86 [B.C.] Sulla besieged Athens. The Roman soldiers cut down the grove of Academus and used the trees for their entrenchments. The Peripatos was evacuated, and what eventually was left of books landed in Apellicon's library. When, early next year, Sulla stormed Athens, Apellicon was slain. His library was subsequently sent to Rome.

Another famous Roman also brought books to Rome, namely Lucullus (2) and among them also copies of Aristotle's works. He was a great philhellene, and when at Amisos he captured the learned Tyrannio, he treated him well, after some quarrel with his legate Murena. Tyrannio went with him to Rome in 67 and there became an important person. He took charge of the books taken as war-booty. At the same time as he acted as adviser to Roman noblemen, he gathered a library of his own, comprising 30.000 volumes. It is probable that he acted as counsellor to Atticus in his publishing-house. He was still alive in 26. Cicero mentions his name often, the first time in 59 (3) as literary authority. In 56 he rearranged Cicero's library and fixed appropriate titles on his rolls, offendes designationem Tyrannionis mirificam in librorum miorum bibliotheca; and in another letter from the same year postea vero quam Tyrannio mihi libros disposuit, mens addita videtur meis aedibus. (4) The last time he is mentioned by Cicero is in a letter of 46. (5) It was probably through Tyrannio Cicero for the first time had access to other woks of Aristotle than the dialogues. In earlier work he had spoken of the flumen aureum of Aristotle's style. Aristotle, Theophrastus and Carneades were eloquentes et in dicendo soaves atque ornati.(5) In 45 he writes in his Hortensius (apud Nonium p. 264.15): magna etiam animi contentio adhibenda est explicando Aristoteli si legas, and a year later, in his Topica he confesses that Aristotle ignoratur ab ipsis philosophis praeter paucos. He seems to have accustomed himself to his style, which now is characterized as dicendi incredibilis copia, tum etias suavitas, words that arouse some suspicion in everybody who know Aristotles' Topica.

We must, however remember, that he writes this from memory during a voyage. His judgment is superficial as so often. In Sulla's library Cicero must have had ample opportunities to browse. Sulla's son was killed in Caesar's camp 46, and after this time the library was entirely in Tyrannio's charge. Already in 55 Cicero writes to Atticus (IV 10): ego hic pastor bibliotheca Fausti.

Tyrannnio seems to have advised Atticus to publish works of Aristotle after the manuscripts, bought to Rome by Sulla and Lucullus.

Since we have no exact information about these editions, it can hardly have been more than occasional copies. That Atticus admired Aristotle particularly, is shown by the fact that Cicero mentions a statue of Aristotle in a niche in Atticus' office. (6)

Tyrannio left the task of preparing an edition of Aristotle's works to Andronicus of Rhodes. And here we leave the story to Plutarch, Sulla 26 [see the text cited above] .

From the context in which this notice occurs, (7) it is pretty obvious that it is taken from Strabo's lost work Hypomnemata historika. It is Strabo too, who In his geographical work provides information concerning Apellicon's find and how his library was brought to Rome by Sulla.(8) We can also see the reason why Strabo was so well informed in this matter. He mentions that he together with Boëthos of Sidon listened to lectures in Aristotelian philosophy.(9) Boëthos was the foremost disciple of Andronicus and pursued his work. It is not improbable that Strabo sat together with Boëthos in Rome before Andronicus' professorial chair, or perhaps all together heard Tyrannio.(10) This must have happened circa 30 B.C. Strabo's Hypomnemata historika related events which occurred in 27 and must consequently have been finished some time after this date. His Geography was not finished before 18 B.C. and is probably later.

If the chronology which I have followed here is right, it is impossible to date the beginning of Andronicus activity as editor of Aristotle's works earlier than 40. It would probably be safes to say: between 40 and 20 A. C. This means that Andronicus' edition did not appear until many years after Cicero's death.

Here I am entirely at issue with the general opinion. It is generally believed that Andronicus was scholarch in Athens in the seventies and published his edition there. Practically all information in this matter in current handbooks is based on F. Littig's dissertations. (11) Even K. O. Brink follows Littig in his article Peripatos, (12) although he expresses his doubts. In my opinion Littig's argumentation don not stand confrontation with the ancient evidence. His chief argument is, in fact, his strong belief in his own theory, and this is, as all of us know, a communs malum in our field of study.

To the positive arguments I have set forth in support of my theory, I should like to add a very strong negative argument. Cicero was very interested in the works of Aristotle, particularly during his last years when he wrote his philosophical works. He mentions Lucullus' two companions, Antiochus of Ascalon and Tyrannio, he often speaks of Diodotus, but he never mentions Andronicus. When he was in Athens 78, he heard Philo, the leading Peripatetic, and when, in 45, he sent his son to Athens, he mentioned Cratippus as the foremost Peripatetic. Is it really possible that he could have escaped noticing a man of Andronicus' qualities, and much less, a new edition of Aristotle's works?

Andronicus introduced his edition with a work in five books, containing a biography and catalogue of Aristotle's writings. A comparison between Hermippus' catalogue in Diogenes and Andronicus' (which is handed down to us in Arabic versions) raises a number of problems which cannot be discussed here. I just wish to touch two essential questions. Firstly, is it a catalogue of the writings of Aristotle, known to Andronicus, or a catalogue of his edition? For my part I find the first alternative more probable. It is not very likely that he made new editions of works already known and widely circulated, such as the dialogues, Protrepticus, the polities. It is more probable that our present CorpusAristotelicum on the whole corresponds to his edition.

He is responsible for the editing of the existing treatises. Thus he added the peri lexeos as a third book to the Rhetoric, the independent first book of the Parts of Animals to the existing edition, the likewise independent fourth book to the existing edition of the Meteorologica etc. In his catalogue and in quotations after his time we meet with the title Meta ta phusikà, reflecting the order in which he arranged the treatises. The earliest quotation I have found, which is undoubtedly taken from Andronicus' edition, is Dionysius de compos. c' 25, 198 and ep. ad Arm. 8 en te tite bublo ton technon. These works were written after the year 30 B. C.

Andronicus was also responsible for introducing the distinction between exoteric and esoteric works. The notion in itself is early (13) but we find no signs of this distinction applied to Aristotle's works until after the edition of Andronicus. Andronicus obviously interpreted Aristotle's of oi exoterikoi logoi in a way, which suited the taste of his time. Thus he inspired the creation of the myth of .the two Aristotles, ridiculed in Lucian's Vitarum auctio 566.

The second interesting question is this: did Andronicus use the manuscripts, bought by Apellicon from the family of Neleus in Skepsis, as a basis for his edition? This is not the place for a full discussion of this problem, but I should like to add a few remarks. I think the part played by the manuscripts from Skepsis has been both underrated (14) and overrated. (15) As I have shown, there was in Rome, from the sixties onwards, a continuous influx of books to private libraries. The first public library in Rome was founded in 39 by Asinius Pollio after his triumph over the Parthians. Andronicus must have had to his disposal s comparatively rich collection of Aristotelian works, although certainly not nearly so rich as that in Alexandria.

Sulla brought from Athens not only the manuscripts from Skepsis, but also other books taken from Apellicon's library. An attempt to define more precisely the contents of the collection from Skepsis can only be a mere guess. Thus I do not find it improbable that Metaphysics α, the peri lexeos, the first book of the present Parts of Animals, the fourth book of the Meteorologica and a collection of Aristotle's letters came to Andronicus exclusively through the find in Skepsis. In his catalogue of Aristotle's writings, handed down to us in the Arabic translation of Ptolemaios Chennos, we read under n. 86: " the books found in the library of Apellicon", and under n. 90: "other letters, found by Andronicus ". We shall probably never know, exactly how important the find from Skepsis was for the formation of Andronicus' edition, but it is certain that this edition saved Aristotle's works from the fate that befell the works of Democritus." pp. 65-70

(1) A. Bignone. L'Aristotele perduto, Firenze 1936, Vol. I p. 33. He often stresses that "l'Aristotele che pubblicamente si leggeva e che solo, o quasi solo, si poté conoscere, sopratutto fuori della scuola, particolarmente nel periodo fra la morte di Teofrasto e l'età di Silla ... era l'Aristotele dei dialoghi e degli scritti esoterici, i soli da lui pubblicati."

(1) Isid. or. VI, 5.1 librorum copiam advexit Lucullus a Pontica praeda. (...)

(2) Ad Att. II 6.

(3) Ad Att. IV 4 a and IV 8. See further Usener Kleine Schriften III 153.

(4) Ad Att. XII 2, cf. ad Qu. fr. II 4

(5) De or. I 12, 49

(6) Ad Att. IV 10 from the year 55

(7) He quotes Strabo for a notice concerning Sulla in the same chapter.

(8) Lucian knew the story, probably from Andronicus' own work on Aristotle. ad. ind 4

(9) XVI 2,24

(10) Strabo XII 3,16

(11) Friedrich Littig Andronikos von Rhodos I, Munchen 1890, II, Progr. Erlangen 1894, III, Progr. Erlangen 1895

(12) Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft Suppl. 7, 1940.

(13) See Usener, Epicurea p.. XLII.

(14) E.g. by E. Howald, Die Schriftenverzeichnisse des Aristoteles und des Theophrast Hermes, 55, 1920, pp. 204-221

(15) E.g. by J. Bidez, Un singulier Naufrage littéraire dans l'Antiquité, Bruxelles 1943

From: Düring Ingemar, "Notes on the history of the transmission of Aristotle's writings," Acta Universitatis Gotoburgensis: 37-70 (1950).


"Most information on Andronicus in current handbook is based on F. Littig's dissertation Andronicus von Rhodos. I. Das Leben des Andronikos and seine Anordnung der aristotelischen Schriften, München 1890, followed by two additional parts, Erlangen 1894-95. K. O. Brink, in: Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft Suppl. 7, s. v. Peripatos, expresses some doubt as to the validity of Littig's conclusions. As I said in my "Notes on the history of the transmission of Aristotle's writings", Littig's argumentation does not stand confrontation with the ancient evidence. Very useful is M. Plezia, "De Andronici Rhodii studiis Aristotelicis", Polska Ak. Archiwum filologiczne, N. 20, Krakόw 1946. Although I do not agree with some of his conclusions, his treatment of the subject has considerably advanced our knowledge.

There is no ancient evidence that Andronicus ever was head of the Peripatetic school in Athens, apart from T 75 p [Elias In Cat. CIAG (Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca) XVIII, 1, p. 113-117)], which I regard as entirely untrustworthy. Cratippus is mentioned as scholarch in 46 by Cicero; when Cicero was in Athens in 78, he met no Peripatetic philosopher of importance except Antiochus, germanissimus Stoicus, as he mockingly calls him, seeing that he was in fact more of a Stoic than Aristotelian. Neither before nor after Cratippus is there any room for Andronicus as scholarch. To Littig the solution was simple: "Wahrscheinlich dass Andronikos in aller Stille Vorstand der Schule geworden war."

In our evidence there is universal agreement on one point: Andronicus was highly respected as a conscientious scholar. He was educated in Rhodes, an old centre of Aristotelian studies, and it is not unlikely that he preserved the traditions of Eudemus and his school, see T 75 m [Simplicius In Phys. CIAG X, p. 923-927] and Diels in: Abhandlungen Akademie Berlin, 1882, p. 40. It was one of those rare and happy coincidences of history that this scholar, educated in a good Aristotelian tradition, happened to find in Rome a library rich in manuscripts of Aristotle's writings. The find from Scepsis was probably not unimportant, but of much greater importance was the large-scale influx of books to the private libraries in Rome after about 60 B. C. Lucullus, the great philhellene, brought with him from Asia Minor not only Tyrannion and other learned scholars, but books in great quantities, too, bought or taken from old Hellenistic libraries. We are told that Tyrannion collected a library of his own, comprising 30,000 rolls; from Cicero's correspondence we may conclude that he acted as literary adviser to Atticus. Sulla's son was killed in 46, and after this time his library was in Tyrannion's charge. In the circle of men of letters that we get to know through Cicero's correspondence, Aristotle was admired as one of the greatest minds of the past. Atticus had a bust of him in his library, and Orsini believed that the replica he had bought actually was that same bust (see Studniczka Das Bildnis des Aristoteles (1908) p. 17). It is against this background of a general awakening of interest in Aristotle that we should see Andronicus' achievement.

Cicero knows nothing about Andronicus or his edition. The evidence, especially T 66 c [Strabon XIII 1, 54, p. 608], 74 d [Strabon XII, 3,16 p. 548] and 75 b [Strabon XVI 2, 24, p. 757], suggests that Andronicus was younger than Tyrannion and that he came to Rome some time between 50 and 40 B. C. In my "Notes on the history of the transmission of Aristotle's writings" I suggested that his work on Aristotle's writings and his edition of the Οrganon and the other pragmaties were accomplished between 40 and 20 B. C. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De compos. c. 25, 198 and Ep. ad Amm. 8 εν τη τρίτη βυβλώ τών τεχνών are the earliest references to Andronicus' edition known to me. These works were written after 30 B. C. When speaking of his "edition", εκδοσίς, we should take care not to think in modern terms. Horace's poems and literary works of the same kind might have been produced commercially, although we should be on our guard against too exaggerated accounts of ancient book-production. A scholarly work like Andronicus' edition, was produced only for use in the school, anιd certainly only a few copies were made for his collaborators and disciples.

The only work of Andronicus which concerns us in this connexion is his book on Aristotle's writings. We do not know the title, but we know that it served as an introduction to his edition of the scholarly writings of Aristotle; we are entitled to conclude that his work had a somewhat propagandistic tendency. Like all innovators he was full of enthusiasm for his great enterprise, and rightly so. Porphyry mentions his book as Διaίρεσις τών 'Αριστοτελικών συψψραμματων Simplicius as '(Περί) Αριστοτέλονς βιβλίων, Gellius merely says Liber Andronici philosophi. Ptolemy mentions Andronicus' book in title 97, retranslated by Baumstark εν πεμπτω 'Aνδρονίκον Περί πίνακος τών 'Αριστοτέλους σνγγραμμάτων. If we stick to this information, the title of his book must have been On Aristotle's writings, but the exact Greek title cannot be ascertained. It was a work in at least five books; in the third book Andronicus dealt with the physical treatises.

We have three fairly extensive fragments of the text, T 75 m [Simplicius In Phys. CIAG X p. 923-927] and o [Philoponus In de an. CIAG XV, p. 27.21, T 76 f [Aulus Gellius Noct. att. XX 5], and several short indications of the contents, as in T 75 g, j, n and q [Porphyrius Vita Plotini, c. 24; Ammonius In l. De interpr. pr., CIAG IV 5, p. 5.24 -- Schola Brandis, p. 97a 13-20; Philoponus In Cat. pr., CIAG XIII 1, p. 5.16; Boetius In Aristotelis De interpr. II p. 11.16]. According to VM 43 it included the text of Aristotle's Will. We have no evidence whatever that his book contained a biography of Aristotle. The story presented by Gellius T 76 f is an extract from a chapter in which Andronicus developed his ideas about the difference between "exoteric" and "acroatic" writings.

Littig, Baumstark and Plezia take for granted that Andronicus' work contained a biography of Aristotle. Baumstark's and Plezia's reconstruction of the work is interesting. Plezia thinks that the first book was devoted to the biography, including the Will; the second dealt with the dialogues, the third (cited by Simplicius) with the σὑταγματικα, the fourth with the ύπομνήματα, the fifth finally with the ψπευδεπίγραφα (this he infers from the note in Ptolemy's catalogue). He then reconstructs Andronicus' biography by picking out from the Vita Marciana and the Arabic tradition all objective information on Aristotle and excluding all those small details which are so characteristic of Ptolemy's Vita. The result is, as he himself says, "rigida atque ieiuna de vita philosophi narratio."

Quite consistently he concludes that such a biography is entirely different from the anecdotic Vita of Hermippus and the neoplatonic eulogy of Ptolemy, and consequently must have been written by a scholar who seriously tried to apply the principles stated by Dionysius, De Dinarcho 2. This is all very attractive, but Plezia has finally to admit that not a single fragment of this Life of Aristotle has reached us; no ancient writer mentions the name of Andronicus in connexion with a single biographic detail, apart from the Will. With this the whole structure falls to the ground. Until new evidence is produced, I think we must rest content with what we really know, namely that Ptolemy relied on Andronicus for his Index librorum and for the text of the Will.

In his work on Aristotle's writings Andronicus was inspired by some typically Hellenistic but very un-aristotelian ideas. He believed that Aristotle had written his scholarly treatises as part of a philosophic system; he tried to arrange the writings according to this idea. The arrangement was based on his ideas of the subject-matter treated; rather artificially he created a department of knowledge which he called "metaphysics", corresponding to Aristotle's Πρώτη φιλοσοφία. The chemical treatise was collocated as the fourth book of the Meteorology, the treatise On diction and style as the third book of the Rhetoric. He paid no respect to the chronology of the various treatises; the whole corpus was to him a closed system of knowledge. He accepted and developed further the idea that Aristotle had expounded certain advanced doctrines in his lectures and pragmaties which differed from the opinions set forth in the dialogues and other popular writings. He identified "exoteric" with the popular writings, and held that the "acroatic" writings were more important and in reality the only true expression of Aristotle's philosophy. His third idea is perhaps not entirely un-aristotelian, but mentioned only in passing by Aristotle, namely that logic and dialectics are the instruments of philosophy. Andronicus was so impressed by this idea that he built a system on it and arranged all the logical writings in a corpus to which he gave the title Organon. Finally, he had a high opinion of himself: as a result of his work on Aristotle and his investigations, he arrived at the conviction (which certainly was true), that he and the circle of scholars around him were fellow actors in a great revival of Aristotelian studies. He believed that he was following up the great tradition from Theophrastus and Eudemus, whereas the Peripatetics of the third and second century had degenerated (see T 66 b, 66 d and 76 b [Strabon XIII 1, 54 p. 609; Boetius De divisione, Migne 64, p. 892 b; Cicero De fin. V 4.10 (45 B.C.)]). His book as a whole was a vigorous plea for a new approach to Aristotelian studies.

None of his basic ideas was in itself new; no doubt Antiochus of Ascalon has a great share in propagating them (T 76 b [Cicero De fin. V 4.10 (45 B.C.)]). But it was Andronicus who fused these ideas into a kind of philosophy and soon became celebrated as the man who had given new impetus to Aristotelian studies. He gave rise to a school of commentators whose main activity aimed at making the learned writings of Aristotle more intelligible by means of paraphrases and commentaries: among them may be mentioned his contemporary Ariston of Alexandria, disciple of Antiochus; his own collaborator Boethus of Sidon; Eudorus, Xenarchus, Athenodorus and, most famous of these early commentators, Nicolaus of Damascus.

Plezia believed that the first book of his work contained a biography of Aristotle; I am more inclined to believe that it was a general introduction, developing the ideas which I have outlined here. It is understandable that his introduction should have aimed at arousing great interest in his edition; the extract preserved by Gellius is a good example of his style in this introduction. It is interesting to see that he did not abstain from using spurious letters as evidence; I have offered a possible explanation in my note on T 76 f. [Aulus Gellius Noct. att. XX 5] From Ptolemy's catalogue we can gather that he included Artemon's collection of letters in his "catalogue raisonné" and that he himself had collected no less than twenty books of letters. His interest in this kind of literature is thus well attested. In his introduction he also made as much as he could of the find from Scepsis.

The Will is a special problem. To Littig, Baumstark and Plezia the solution was simple: it formed part of his biography. But if he did not include a biography, why did he find it appropriate to present the text of the Will, which was well known through Hermippus? In my notes on Ptolemy, p. 239, I have offered a possible explanation. He might have found in the papers from Scepsis a better text than that given by Hermippus and added it as an appendix to his Index librorum.

His catalogue was a thoroughly revised edition of the old Alexandrian Πίναξ, transmitted by Hermippus; in this he included his own rearrangement of the scholarly treatises. In Ptolemy's catalogue we possess a transcript of his index which gives us a fairly good idea of the original. The reconstructions made by Littig, Baumstark and Plezia are interesting but seem to me too sophisticated and speculative. We have not the slightest evidence that Andronicus divided the dialogues in tetralogies. Much more interesting is that we know a good deal about his methods in discussing the titles; the extract in T 75 m [Simplicius In Phys. CIAG X, p. 923-927] is especially valuable. Plezia rightly says: "Ex hoc fragmento facile colligi potest Andronicum imprimis Aristotelis ipsius testimoniis colligendis operam dedisse, quibus usus scripta eius in ordinem quendam redigeret, qui ipsius auctoris consiliis ei respondere videretur. Quibus ut hunc ad modum uti liceat, probandum est Arius Aristotelem omnia opera sua uno eodemque examinato consilio conscripsisse; nobis id parum probabile videtur, sed Andronicus rem ita se habere certe persuasum habuit." -- "At in solis locis non acquievit, qui in ipsis Aristotelis scriptis haererent, sed etiam extrinsecus testimonia quaerebat.

" His methods were thus in principle the same as those followed by modern scholars before W. Jaeger. His systematic discussion was a "catalogue raisonné" in which he applied the leading ideas which I have outlined; scraps of the discussion concerning the composition, arrangement and authenticity of individual writings are found in great number in Simplicius (see Plezia, pp. 7-10) and other commentators; in this connexion he also made observations on philosophic questions. He had an open mind and did not hesitate to criticize Aristotle. Owing to the immense influence of his edition and its leading idea that all the writings contained in it are parts of a closed philosophic system he has been called "the first school-man", but this is quite inappropriate. He was a fine scholar and in certain respects an innovator; a good example of Hellenistic erudition and scholarship, with the imperfections and merits of his age."

From: Ingemar Düring - Aristotle in the ancient biographical tradition. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell 1957 pp. 420-425.


Demetrius of Phalerum was a disciple of Theophrastus (the successor of Aristotle at the head of Peripatos).

"His influence on later letters may in fact have been far more profound than is usually suspected and than I have thus far suggested. (I am aware that I am entering onto very slippery ground, but proceed any­way.) The account in the letter of Aristeas that made Demetrius head of the library charged with collecting all the books in the world, even with translating books from the Hebrew,(58) is certainly late -- ca. 100 B.C. -- ­and fundamentally wrong on some important points.(59) To take but the most obvious -- however much the first Ptolemy may have laid the groundwork for it, the library as an actual institution did not apparently come into being until the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphos. By then Demetrius was out of favor at court; he could not, therefore, have been head of the library. Surely, however, Demetrius was active in some way in the efforts of the first Ptolemy to create a collection. The letter could well, therefore, preserve in exaggerated form a real memory of Demetrius' activities. He no doubt put together at least part of the collection that later became the great library.(60) And he certainly saw to it that his own books and his own scholarly work found a place in the new collection. More importantly, it is prima facie extremely probable that he acquired ca. 295 B.C. or earlier copies of many of the works of Aristotle and Theophrastos. As a distinguished member of the Peripatos, he was unusually well-positioned to do exactly this.

If this is correct (and it must remain an hypothesis), the early history of Aristotle's works must be seen in a different light than heretofore. Previous discussion has tended to focus on the activities of one Neleus of Skepsis to whom Theophrastos left all his books at his death ca. 287 B.C.(61) It is reported, I assume correctly, that the books of Aristotle were among Theophrastos' books.(62) The ancient sources preserve two conflicting accounts about Neleus' handling of his legacy. One was that he took the books to Skepsis where after his death they lay moldering in a cellar until Apellikon of Teos brought them back to Athens early in the first century B.C.(63) The other was that he sold them to Ptolemy II Philadelphos for the library at Alexandria.(64) Whatever Neleus' exact role was, (65) it is significantly diminished in importance if we believe that, thanks to the activities of Demetrius of Phalerum, copies of many of the major Aristotelian treatises were already in Alexandria before the death of Theophrastos.(66) They were thus well-known in the Hellenistic period and some of them formed the basis for the work of the scholars of the library.

In conclusion, Demetrius surely deserves a better press than he has received -- first, for his enlightened rule of Athens where he accomplished much that was positive and did the best he could for his fellow citizens in the difficult circumstances he faced; second, for his very important scholarly contributions, particularly his efforts to further, as well as preserve, the work of the Peripatos; finally, for his creation of the collection that formed the basis of the library at Alexandria." pp. 343-345

(58) The letter of Aristeas to Philokrates (Felix Jacoby's Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1954, 228 T6e).

(59) Beginning with this sentence most of this paragraph and the next have been taken with slight alterations from my Athenian Democracy in Transition, Berkeley: University of California Press 1995 50-51.

(60) P. M. Fraser Ptolemaic Alexandria I (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1972), 314-15.

(61) D.L. 5.52. Theophrastos died either in the year 288/7 or 287/6.

(62) The report occurs in Athenaios 1.3A-B and in Strabo 13.1.54. The will of Aristotle preserved in Diogenes Laertios (5.11-17) makes no provision for his books. There are two possible reasons: either the will is incomplete or the books had already been en­trusted to Theophrastos.

(63) Strabo 13.1.54, Plutarch Sulla 26.1-2.

(64) Athenaios 1.3A-B.

(65) On Neleus' activities, see H. B. Gottschalk, "Notes on the Wills of the Peripatetic Scholarchs," Hermes 100 (1972) 335-42 and C. Lord, "On the Early History of the Aristotelian Corpus," American Journal of Philology 107 (1986) 137-61, esp. 138-45.

(66) Indeed, their presence may have acted as a catalyst to spur the agents of Ptolemy II to assemble in the library at Alexandria as complete a collection as possible of the works of Aristotle. Neleus may indeed have been approached by them and sold to them much of what he had. Thus it is quite possible that the very efforts of Demetrius to preserve the writings of his great master and his school brought it about that they were concentrated in the library at the time of the great fire and thus many works, including his own, were lost to posterity.

From: Stephen V. Tracy - Demetrius of Phalerum: who was He and who was He not? - in: William W. Fortenbaugh, Eckart Schütrumpf (eds.) - Demetrius of Phalerum. Text, translation and discussion - New Brunswick, Transaction Publishers, 2000, pp. 331-345.



See the Catalogue of Titles of Works Attributed to Aristotle (PDF) compiled by Monte Ransome Johnson for the Greek text and an English translation.