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|Natural philosophy (physics)|
[*]: Generally agreed to be spurious[†]: Authenticity disputed
The Physics (Greek: Φυσικὴ ἀκρόασις Phusike akroasis; Latin: Physica, or Naturales Auscultationes, possibly meaning "lectures on nature") is a named text, written in ancient Greek, collated from a collection of surviving manuscripts known as the Corpus Aristotelicum, attributed to the 4th-century BC philosopher Aristotle.
It is a collection of treatises or lessons that deal with the most general (philosophical) principles of natural or moving things, both living and non-living, rather than physical theories (in the modern sense) or investigations of the particular contents of the universe. The chief purpose of the work is to discover the principles and causes of (and not merely to describe) change, or movement, or motion (κίνησις kinesis), especially that of natural wholes (mostly living things, but also inanimate wholes like the cosmos). In the conventional Andronicean ordering of Aristotle's works, it stands at the head of, as well as being foundational to, the long series of physical, cosmological and biological treatises, whose ancient Greek title, τὰ φυσικά, means "the [writings] on nature" or "natural philosophy".
The Physics is composed of eight books, which are further divided into chapters. This system is of ancient origin, now obscure. In modern languages, books are referenced with Roman numerals, standing for ancient Greek capital letters (the Greeks represented numbers with letters, e.g. A for 1). Chapters are identified by Arabic numerals, but the use of the English word "chapter" is strictly conventional. Ancient "chapters" (capita) are generally very short, often less than a page. Additionally, the Bekker numbers give the page and column (a or b) used in the Prussian Academy of Sciences' edition of Aristotle's works, instigated and managed by Bekker himself. These are evident in the 1831 2-volume edition. Bekker's line numbers may be given. These are often given, but unless the edition is the Academy's, they do match any line counts.
Book I introduces Aristotle's approach to nature, which is to be based on principles, causes, and elements. Before offering his particular views, he engages previous theories, such as those offered by Melissus and Parmenides. Aristotle's own view comes out in Ch. 7 where he identifies three principles: substances, opposites, and privation.
Chapters 3 and 4 are among the most difficult in all of Aristotle's works and involve subtle refutations of the thought of Parmenides, Melissus and Anaxagoras.
In chapter 5, he continues his review of his predecessors, particularly how many first principles there are. Chapter 6 narrows down the number of principles to two or three. He presents his own account of the subject in chapter 7, where he first introduces the word matter (Greek: hyle) to designate fundamental essence (ousia). He defines matter in chapter 9: "For my definition of matter is just this—the primary substratum of each thing, from which it comes to be without qualification, and which persists in the result."
Matter in Aristotle's thought is, however, defined in terms of sensible reality; for example, a horse eats grass: the horse changes the grass into itself; the grass as such does not persist in the horse, but some aspect of it – its matter – does. Matter is not specifically described, but consists of whatever is apart from quality or quantity and that of which something may be predicated. Matter in this understanding does not exist independently (i.e. as a substance), but exists interdependently (i.e. as a "principle") with form and only insofar as it underlies change. Matter and form are analogical terms.
Book II identifies "nature" (physis) as "a source or cause of being moved and of being at rest in that to which it belongs primarily" (1.192b21). Thus, those entities are natural which are capable of starting to move, e.g. growing, acquiring qualities, displacing themselves, and finally being born and dying. Aristotle contrasts natural things with the artificial: artificial things can move also, but they move according to what they are made of, not according to what they are. For example, if a wooden bed were buried and somehow sprouted as a tree, it would be according to what it is made of, not what it is. Aristotle contrasts two senses of nature: nature as matter and nature as form or definition.
By "nature", Aristotle means the natures of particular things and would perhaps be better translated "a nature." In Book II, however, his appeal to "nature" as a source of activities is more typically to the genera of natural kinds (the secondary substance). But, contra Plato, Aristotle attempts to resolve a philosophical quandary that was well understood in the fourth century. The Eudoxian planetary model sufficed for the wandering stars, but no deduction of terrestrial substance would be forthcoming based solely on the mechanical principles of necessity, (ascribed by Aristotle to material causation in chapter 9). In the Enlightenment, centuries before modern science made good on atomist intuitions, a nominal allegiance to mechanistic materialism gained popularity despite harboring Newton's action at distance, and comprising the native habitat of teleological arguments: Machines or artifacts composed of parts lacking any intrinsic relationship to each other with their order imposed from without. Thus, the source of an apparent thing's activities is not the whole itself, but its parts. While Aristotle asserts that the matter (and parts) are a necessary cause of things – the material cause – he says that nature is primarily the essence or formal cause (1.193b6), that is, the information, the whole species itself.
The necessary in nature, then, is plainly what we call by the name of matter, and the changes in it. Both causes must be stated by the physicist, but especially the end; for that is the cause of the matter, not vice versa; and the end is 'that for the sake of which', and the beginning starts from the definition or essence…— Aristotle, Physics II 9
In chapter 3, Aristotle presents his theory of the four causes (material, efficient, formal, and final). Material cause explains what something is made of (for example, the wood of a house), formal cause explains the form which a thing follows to become that thing (the plans of an architect to build a house), efficient cause is the actual source of the change (the physical building of the house), and final cause is the intended purpose of the change (the final product of the house and its purpose as a shelter and home).
Of particular importance is the final cause or purpose (telos). It is a common mistake to conceive of the four causes as additive or alternative forces pushing or pulling; in reality, all four are needed to explain (7.198a22-25). What we typically mean by cause in the modern scientific idiom is only a narrow part of what Aristotle means by efficient cause. He contrasts purpose with the way in which "nature" does not work, chance (or luck), discussed in chapters 4, 5, and 6. (Chance working in the actions of humans is tuche and in unreasoning agents automaton.) Something happens by chance when all the lines of causality converge without that convergence being purposefully chosen, and produce a result similar to the teleologically caused one.
In chapters 7 through 9, Aristotle returns to the discussion of nature. With the enrichment of the preceding four chapters, he concludes that nature acts for an end, and he discusses the way that necessity is present in natural things. For Aristotle, the motion of natural things is determined from within them, while in the modern empirical sciences, motion is determined from without (more properly speaking: there is nothing to have an inside).
In order to understand "nature" as defined in the previous book, one must understand the terms of the definition. To understand motion, book III begins with the definition of change based on Aristotle's notions of potentiality and actuality. Change, he says, is the actualization of a thing's ability insofar as it is able.
The rest of the book (chapters 4-8) discusses the infinite (apeiron, the unlimited). He distinguishes between the infinite by addition and the infinite by division, and between the actually infinite and potentially infinite. He argues against the actually infinite in any form, including infinite bodies, substances, and voids. Aristotle here says the only type of infinity that exists is the potentially infinite. Aristotle characterizes this as that which serves as "the matter for the completion of a magnitude and is potentially (but not actually) the completed whole" (207a22-23). The infinite, lacking any form, is thereby unknowable. Aristotle writes, "it is not what has nothing outside it that is infinite, but what always has something outside it" (6.206b33-207a1-2).
Book IV discusses the preconditions of motion: place (topos, chapters 1-5), void (kenon, chapters 6-9), and time (khronos, chapters 10-14). The book starts by distinguishing the various ways a thing can "be in" another. He likens place to an immobile container or vessel: "the innermost motionless boundary of what contains" is the primary place of a body (4.212a20). Unlike space, which is a volume co-existent with a body, place is a boundary or surface.
He teaches that, contrary to the Atomists and others, a void is not only unnecessary, but leads to contradictions, e.g., making locomotion impossible.
Time is a constant attribute of movements and, Aristotle thinks, does not exist on its own but is relative to the motions of things. Tony Roark describes Aristotle's view of time as follows:
Aristotle defines time as "a number of motion with respect to the before and after" (Phys. 219b1–2), by which he intends to denote motion’s susceptibility to division into undetached parts of arbitrary length, a property that it possesses both by virtue of its intrinsic nature and also by virtue of the capacities and activities of percipient souls. Motion is intrinsically indeterminate, but perceptually determinable, with respect to its length. Acts of perception function as determiners; the result is determinate units of kinetic length, which is precisely what a temporal unit is.
Books V and VI deal with how motion occurs. Book V classifies four species of movement, depending on where the opposites are located. Movement categories include quantity (e.g. a change in dimensions, from great to small), quality (as for colors: from pale to dark), place (local movements generally go from up downwards and vice versa), or, more controversially, substance. In fact, substances do not have opposites, so it is inappropriate to say that something properly becomes, from not-man, man: generation and corruption are not kinesis in the full sense.
Book VI discusses how a changing thing can reach the opposite state, if it has to pass through infinite intermediate stages. It investigates by rational and logical arguments the notions of continuity and division, establishing that change—and, consequently, time and place—are not divisible into indivisible parts; they are not mathematically discrete but continuous, that is, infinitely divisible (in other words, that you cannot build up a continuum out of discrete or indivisible points or moments). Among other things, this implies that there can be no definite (indivisible) moment when a motion begins. This discussion, together with that of speed and the different behavior of the four different species of motion, eventually helps Aristotle answer the famous paradoxes of Zeno, which purport to show the absurdity of motion's existence.
Book VII briefly deals with the relationship of the moved to his mover, which Aristotle describes in substantial divergence with Plato's theory of the soul as capable of setting itself in motion (Laws book X, Phaedrus, Phaedo). Everything which moves is moved by another. He then tries to correlate the species of motion and their speeds, with the local change (locomotion, phorà) as the most fundamental to which the others can be reduced.
Book VII.1-3 also exist in an alternative version, not included in the Bekker edition.
Book VIII (which occupies almost a fourth of the entire Physics, and probably constituted originally an independent course of lessons) discusses two main topics, though with a wide deployment of arguments: the time limits of the universe, and the existence of a Prime Mover — eternal, indivisible, without parts and without magnitude. Isn't the universe eternal, has it had a beginning, will it ever end? Aristotle's response, as a Greek, could hardly be affirmative, never having been told of a creatio ex nihilo, but he also has philosophical reasons for denying that motion had not always existed, on the grounds of the theory presented in the earlier books of the Physics. Eternity of motion is also confirmed by the existence of a substance which is different from all the others in lacking matter; being pure form, it is also in an eternal actuality, not being imperfect in any respect; hence needing not to move. This is demonstrated by describing the celestial bodies thus: the first things to be moved must undergo an infinite, single and continuous movement, that is, circular. This is not caused by any contact but (integrating the view contained in the Metaphysics, bk. XII) by love and aspiration.
The works of Aristotle are typically considered foundational to Western science and philosophy. The citations below are not given as any sort of final modern judgement on the interpretation and significance of Aristotle, but are only the views of some modern notables.
Martin Heidegger writes:
The Physics is a lecture in which he seeks to determine beings that arise on their own, τὰ φύσει ὄντα, with regard to their being. Aristotelian "physics" is different from what we mean today by this word, not only to the extent that it belongs to antiquity whereas the modern physical sciences belong to modernity, rather above all it is different by virtue of the fact that Aristotle's "physics" is philosophy, whereas modern physics is a positive science that presupposes a philosophy.... This book determines the warp and woof of the whole of Western thinking, even at that place where it, as modern thinking, appears to think at odds with ancient thinking. But opposition is invariably comprised of a decisive, and often even perilous, dependence. Without Aristotle's Physics there would have been no Galileo.
...extremely influential, and dominated science until the time of Galileo ... The historian of philosophy, accordingly, must study them, in spite of the fact that hardly a sentence in either can be accepted in the light of modern science.
According to Diogenes Laertius, The library of the Lyceum at its peak under Aristotle comprised many types of books: works authored by the elders under their names, works authored by elders and young men, signatures uncertain, copies of works written by other authors on research topics, and research results of unspecified form. This same library continues under Theophrastus, acquiring more works of the same type, except that Aristotle is no longer a contributor. On the death of Theophrastus, we are led to believe, the library disappears for 200 years, having been safely abscended by Neleus. Just as suddenly it reappears, having been rescued, cared for by three editors and a powerful aristocrat, to be published in a new recension by Andronicus, and to descend to us this very day as Bekker pages. The paradox is that the recension that descends bears little resemblance to the library at Athens. It contains only books specifically authored by Aristotle with the inclusions of works later shown to be spurious. There are no works of Theophrastus or anyone else and no explanation of what happened to all the other books. The library that was rescued cannot possibly be the one that needed rescuing.[topic note 2]
Recent archaeological discoveries at Athens have verified that there was a school in the park called Lyceum and that one of the foundations fits the shape of a rectangular library. The site had in fact still been a park (or garden), and will remain one, according to the Greek government. Study of the ancient sources reveals that, regardless of its legal status, whether owned, rented, or just occupied, an organization did reside there, which called itself "the friends" (philoi) and the establishment "the school (diatribe) of the friends.". This was its own name, or endonym. It meant that the relationship of belonging to the school was "completely informal." The name peripatetikoi, those who inhabited the walkways, or peripatoi, of the gymnasion in the park, is an exonym.
The friends lived in a "cooperative" (koinonia). They dined together and together had responsibility for the facilities, including the library and the museum. They paid no one and received no pay from anyone. The expenses for the establishment were assumed by wealthy patrons, one of whom was Aristotle; however, during the time that Alexander the Great was a friend, there were no financial worries. For all these informalities, they were nevertheless considered to be either "young men" (neaniskoi) or "elders" (presbuteroi). Aristotle, moreover, did have some power, beginning with his position, described by English scholars as scholiarch, "ruler of the school."[topic note 3] This rule did not include the day-to-day operation of the school, as he instituted the equivalent of a maritime "watch" to take care of that; i.e., every 10 days he appointed an archon, "master," from the friends.
The business of the friends was not merely education in existing knowledge. As is expressed in the first few paragraphs of Physics, they were interested in discovering the principles, or elements of the knowledge, which was an entirely new goal in Greek education. This research was divided into specific "fields" (methodoi). First they collected written works representing the existing knowledge. Subsequently, they collected field data through interviews and specimen-hunting. Aristotle is the first known scientist to have sent out field workers, and to have sent them with military expeditions. Alexander's ethnic and political intelligence gathering as a friend of the school was certainly of greatest value in his ultimate goal, to create a new, multi-cultural world empire. His was the first known army to feature a military historian unit. He was said to have assigned thousands of men to the task of collecting specimens, presumably in addition to their military duties.
The final step in a research project was analysis of all the information to ascertain "scientific knowledge" (episteme) of the "elements" (stoicheia), the "causes" (aitia), and the "first principles" (archai) of the topic. These were written in a new type of document, which has survived in the corpus. Beginning with a brief survey of the previous views, it launched into the definitions and conclusions in a style similar to a geometric presentation. The papers were then stored in the library. Their authors, analysts, contributors, whether or not they were emended, or corrected, and by whom, remain unknown for certain. Diogenes Laertius called these "notebooks" (hypomnemata) and said that Aristotle wrote "an unusual number."
According to Strabo, Neleus, son of Coriscus, a friend at the Lyceum, "inherited the library (bibliotheke) of Theophrastus, which included that of Aristotle." Theophrastus received Aristotle's library by being bequeathed it along with the school. Theophrastus was the first book collector, as far as Strabo knew. Apparently, the elders owned their own libraries and could dispose of them as they pleased.
The main problems with this view are, first of all, that Aristotle's Will survives credibly in Diogenes Laertius' (D.L.'s) Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers under Aristotle. There is not one word about a library. Moreover, Aristotle, a metic, or foreign resident of Athens, was not allowed to own property or bequeath it, so he could not have either owned the school with its library or have left it to anyone by legal process. Even if he were not a metic, he could not have disposed of the land and buildings, which were municipal property.[topic note 4] None of the other friends could either. According to the laws in effect on the day Aristotle died, no one could own or bequeath the school to anyone. The city owned it. As to whether Aristotle and Theophrastus had additional personal libraries of their own, first, private ownership was not in the spirit of the school, and second, the fate of the school after Theophrastus suggests that the library was in fact the school library.
After the death of Alexander, Athens staged a brief revolt against the Macedonians. Turning their attention to the school, they went after Aristotle, who went into exile to escape the death penalty. He died in exile. Within a few years Athens was again under Macedon ruled by Cassander. Theophrastus returned in triumph to the school under the authority of the new vice-regent of Athens, Demetrius of Phalerum, a friend of the school and former student of Theophrastus. The school became even greater than before, but Demetrius made some changes to the administration. D.L. says only that Theophrastus "is said to have become the owner of a garden of his own after Aristotle's death, through the intervention of his friend, Demetrius of Phalerum." Apparently D.L. does not quite understand his source. The meaning was not "his friend." This was not a personal favor. A "friend" is an associate of the school. There were not two gardens; Theophrastus was not a poor man in need of some property of his own. His extensive will details the disposition of the assets of the school as his own property, including the garden. He names the friends and wants to make sure that they understand the ownership is to be treated as joint. Demetrius had simply instituted the legal convention prevalent at other schools of having the master own the school and its assets.
The very disposition of the property in Theophrastus' will is an attempt to restore the koinonia established by Aristotle. The garden, the walks, and the buildings around the garden are to go to ten named friends,[topic note 5] to be held in common, provided they use the property for the study of literature and philosophy. This is provisional ownership. If the provisions are not met, the property must revert to someone by law, probably the proprietor, or owner, of the school. The total property of Theophrastus as proprietor was much larger. The family estate at Eresus and the Aristotelian property at Stagira went to individual friends. He also owned funds in trust managed by Hipparchus. The latter was enjoined to use them to rebuild the museum and other buildings. He also had slaves in his possession (as had Aristotle). They were either set free or given to friends. He had one freedman client, whom he rewarded richly for four more years of maintaining the buildings.
The will contains one more bequest that is rather peculiar. It has a bearing on the nature of the Corpus, whether it is Aristotle's, Aristotle's and Theophrastus', or of all the friends. There is as yet no solution to the problem of authorship, or rather lack of it. Ancient sources on the topic are inconsistent. There is no general scholarly consensus and no agreed preponderance of evidence.
The will relates in translation "The whole of my library I give to Neleus." The heart of the school was its library, containing all the research results and analytical papers (the notebooks). Without it the friends could not produce current or meaningful lectures about the topics for which the school was known (physics, rhetoric, etc.) All the other school property was being redistributed to the friends in common (except that the foreign estates were given individual owners, probably for their management, while the slaves and the minor received individual guardians), but the heart of the school, without which it could not pump knowledge, was not to be common property, an anomalous approach for the circumstances. No explanation at all is to be found in ancient sources. The moderns almost universally retrieve one explanation, that Neleus was the intended heir of the archonship, although that, strangely, is nowhere suggested. The law still required an archon with property rights over the school.
Whatever the implied expectation, Neleus did not become the scholiarch; instead, Strato of Lampsacus did. Again, there are no details of how or why he acquired the position or any statement of Neleus's feelings about it, inviting speculation.[topic note 6] Strabo then relates what is universally considered an act of perfidy against the school. He was given the library with the understanding that it would be shared as common property. Instead "Neleus took it to Skepsis and bequeathed it to his heirs, ordinary people, who kept the books locked up ...." The result, according to Strabo, was that the school "... had no books at all, with the exception of only a few, ... and were therefore able ... only to talk bombast about commonplace propositions ...." No details or motives are given. Speculations are rife.[topic note 7] Every author has something to say, some judgement to render.[topic note 8] All are conscious of the fact that, were it not for this perfidy, there would be no corpus as it is known today.
Strabo's anecdote is not the sole ancient authority on Neleus' disposition of the books. Athenaeus of Naucratis, in his work Deipnosophistae, "Dinner Sophists," an imaginary portrayal of a series of banquets at which the guests are famous literary figures of the past (over 700), so that the reader is served up menus and snippets of sophistry together, has his main character, the host, Laurentius ("Lawrence") possessing
By the rules of logic (Aristotle's very rules) both accounts may not be received as "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," as the American legal principle for courtroom testimony requires. The easiest solution would be to drop one in favor of the other, and many authors take it. The remaining solution is to accept both as partially true, creating a window of opportunity for speculatory explanation of differences between the Alexandrian and Skepsian traditions.
The tradition best known to moderns is the Corpus Aristotelicum, New Latin for "Aristotelic body," a term not used by Bekker. The Prussian Academy published his 1831 edition under the name Aristoteles Graece, "Aristotle in Greek," where Aristoteles is the nominative case. In most Latin and New Latin book titles the author is in the genitive case, such as Aristotelis Opera, "the works of Aristotle." Individual works are so named by Bekker, but none of this is any sort of corpus.
In the late 19th century the corpus phrase began to appear in the notes of the German historians of philosophy, such as Zeller and Windelband.[topic note 9] By implication they meant Bekker, but even as they wrote a new manuscript was being excavated from the trash-heaps of Egypt about which Bekker knew nothing at all, or anyone else for at least a few thousand years: the Constitution of the Athenians (Aristotle).[topic note 10] It was identified as being one of 158 political studies written by Aristotle and his students no earlier than 330 BC. It is in the "notebook" format. The content differs in that it is not an abstract treatise but is a history stating periods and dates. Not being able to fit it into an idea of the corpus based on Bekker, many rejected it. The date being quite ancient, the majority view is to accept it as of Alexandrian provenience, the only instance of an Aristotelicum from the library and school there.[topic note 11]
The acceptance of the Constitution of the Athenians with the same credibility as the Bekkerian corpus lends a certain ambiguity to the meaning of corpus. If it is to be only the works in Bekker, then such misleading phrases as "the original corpus" are possible, as though the works in Bekker are more authentic than any works out of it. Not even the works in Bekker are authentic beyond any doubt.
The next logical step is to attempt to modify the definition of the term so that it is not to be the Latin word corpus but some special use of it:
The phrase has such authority that it may not be used without meaning Bekker's collection, but it may be used to mean additional Aristotelica. It is often translated as "the works of Aristotle." In that English sense it ought to mean every work ever attributed to Aristotle as well as every fragment. George Grote had said
By "canon" Grote meant "the Berlin edition of Aristotle." He is totally innocent of any Aristotelian corpora. Even if "canon" had survived instead of corpus, such a meaning now would fail to distinguish Bekker. One translational solution is just to name Bekker, as in "Bekker pages." Such an elevation of Bekker as the authority raises the question of the source of this aura of conviction surrounding the name. It seems likely that it was inherent in the sources.
Having determined to print all of Aristotle's authentic works, as far as could be ascertained, Bekker found himself looking back over a voluminous paper trail.[topic note 12] He chose to use the texts found in 102 manuscripts (MSS), routinely identified by library name and access number. For use in the book, he gave each MS a letter code. These appear in the footnotes. The front material of the edition includes a list of MSS. His libraries are relatively few, including the Vatican Library at Rome, the Biblioteca Marciana at Venice, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (formerly the Royal Library of Paris), and the Austrian National Library at Vienna. Typically the Aristotelica are included in famous MSS publishing a number of works.
Bekker did not seek out all possible MSS. The number of MSS still extant remains unknown. Before the invention of the printing press ca. 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg, who combined moveable type with a screw press, book reproduction was performed by copyists. It went on everywhere in institutions that could afford to undertake it.
In the 15th century copying slowed as the MSS were replaced by books. Due to cultural lag, some MSS production continued as late as the 17th century in the form of written books. For the most part the MSS were left where they were. Since Bekker, many previously unconsidered MSS have turned up. Their publication is ongoing.[topic note 13] Based on them, works considered spurious are now believed genuine, and vice versa. The jury is always out, so to speak.
The date of a copy is to be distinguished from the date of its recension. Most Aristotle MSS were copied during centuries 13-15 at various scriptoria in Europe. The sequence of text is the recension, which might be instanced by many copies at diverse locations. The recension is not just the text, but is all the idiosyncrasies, such as a specific set of errors (miscopies, misspellings or variant texts), associated with it. The similarities or differences make possible the reconstruction of a tree of descent by the comparative method defining families of MSS, each designated by a capital letter. A family also is a recension. Its first member is its original. Typically originals are not available now but their existence and date can be predicated from different types of historical and textual evidence.
Excluding anomalous archaeological finds, all the MSS copied most lately date to after 1000. Historical and internal clues point to originals in the last 3 centuries before 1000 and a provenience of the domain of the Byzantine Empire; that is, the Greek-speaking world as it was under the eastern Roman Empire. The crusaders broke the power of its capital city, Constantinople, leaving it helpless before the saracens, in this case the Turkish-language speakers from the plains of Central Asia, who became the Ottoman Turks. They soon colonized Anatolia, occupying the urban centers there and replacing the Greek-speakers, who escaped to Greece. As they were not much interested in copying Greek MSS, the task of transmitting them to posterity passed to Europe. (The Turkish people today have an abiding interest in antiquities). The Arabic-speaking saracens to the south after an initial zealous destruction of antiquities, including starting yet another fire in the library of Alexandria, seemed to be infused with the same magic of Aristotle and Alexander that had captured the Roman conquerors of Anatolia earlier. They began to translate Aristotle into Arabic, now the only source of some Aristotelica.
Hand-written MSS of Aristotle are missing from the 1st half of the 1st millennium. The ongoing sites of Oxyrhynchus and the Villa of the Papyri offer hope of the discovery of fragments outside the corpus tradition. Meanwhile, the commentaries, or explanations of the content of the corpus, supply quotations and paraphrases filling in the gap. These lemmata, or excerpts, are so close to the corpus that they can be assigned Bekker numbers, which is good evidence that corpus has been accepted as the work of Aristotle since the beginning of the Roman Empire. The corpus is universally attributed to a single recension, that of Andronicus of Rhodes, dated to mid-1st-century BC, in the late Roman Republic. The diagnostic of Andronicus' work is the division of the text into treatises, the names of some of the treatises, and the order and grouping of the treatises. Any work that does not conform to that diagnostic is immediately suspected of being "spurious" or non-authentic; that is, not of the corpus and not of Aristotle (rightly or wrongly).
In the story by Strabo, after Neleus has removed the books to Skepsis — many thousands in broad daylight on a caravan of wagons and in a fleet of ships, without objection or notice of any officials at Athens or Skepsis — history knows no more of him, even though he must have had plans for the books. Evidently the plans did not materialize. To take the passage literally, he must have died shortly thereafter, as the relatives received disposition of the property willed to them (the books).
The books arrived at Skepsis and were stored in a large outbuilding at what must have been a country estate, as the space requirements would not have changed any since Athens. The few small rooms of an ordinary dwelling in town would not have been suitable. Perhaps the relatives were not so poor and uneducated as depicted. As one man could not possibly have moved an entire library by himself, Neleus must have had a retinue of servants.
Hearing that Eumenes II, the Attalid king of Pergamon, was hunting books, the Corascid family "hid their books underground in a kind of trench." The king must not even have suspected the presence of a huge underground cache at Skepsis, as kings have methods of investigation and confiscation not available to ordinary citizens. Apparently the king's system of "eyes and ears," so well developed under Alexander, failed totally, that an entire building full of books could have been received and buried without him being informed. Moreover, the event remained a family secret for the next 200 years.
Ordinary people do not keep property and family memory for so long, but the story is the story, and apart from the alternative by Athenaeus, is the only one available. Speculative answers are always possible.[topic note 14] The general view is that Neleus only brought, and his family only hid, a small part of a library that had already otherwise been sold.
For the next event in the creation of the corpus the historical clock must be advanced from the accession of Strato as scholiarch (instead of Neleus) at 286 BC[topic note 15] to the confiscation of the first recension of the re-discovered corpus from the home of the deceased re-discoverer, Apellicon of Teos,[topic note 16] by general Sulla on his return to Athens after his conquest of Anatolia in 84 BC. For that approximately 200 years, Strabo would have us believe, the scholars of the Lyceum were a simple folk, unable to understand, repeat, or reconstruct the work of Aristotle, nor could they add to any of the previous investigations without his guidance. Moreover, when they finally did obtain a glimpse into what they believed were the words of the master, the only scholarly activities of which they were capable were trying to puzzle out what they mean. Whatever this condition might have been, it certainly was not science. Considering the activities of some of the graduates, there has been some grounds for thinking the Lyceum was gone, and the property was being held by greedy charlatans utilizing the name of peripatetic as a mask. Athenaeus tells the story of "Athenion the Peripatetic philosopher" (a contemporary of Apellicon),
The men to whom he refers did not wear ragged cloaks; they were among the richest in Athens, but they were so because they were charlatans, or, as would be said today, "crooks." The school and the society in which it had been placed were different now. The diadochi were gone, or nearly so, including the Attalids. The eastern Mediterranean was divided into provinces of the Roman Republic, except that Mithridates VI of Pontus was successfully contesting Roman rule in Anatolia. The citizenship laws at Athens had changed somewhat. Athenion's mother had been an Egyptian slave owned by his father, and yet based on his father's citizenship he was enrolled as a citizen and inherited his father's estate. Apellicon (not an Athenian name), an immigrant from Teos in Asia MInor, was enrolled as a citizen after his adoption into the family of Aristotle, son of Apolexis.
The fact that the family included two members named Aristotle leads to the suggestion that the adoptive family had connections to the Lyceum and that Apellicon learned of the books through it. Moreover, references in the sources to Apellicon and Athenion as "peripatetics" may well be interpreted as meaning that they both went to the Lyceum, which would explain why they were later comrades-in-arms. The peripatetics never had a predictable philosophy. Both men were skilled orators, which was a specialty of the school at that time. Athenion went on to found a chain of schools for boys, on which account he is called a "sophist" (a teacher of conventional wisdom). Apellicon turned his love for books into something conceded to have been illegal for the times:
As there is no indication that the Apolexidis family were fabulously wealthy or that, being numerous, they had much to leave to their adopted son, Apellicon very likely made his money from the resale of rare documents he acquired for nothing except the cost of stealing them. These were the originals of the decrees, first written on paper and signed before they were carved in stone for public benefit. In describing the ideal library of "Lawrence," Athenaeus points out that even then historians were expected to verify their claims against public documents. In one source Apellicon himself had written a book on Aristotle. Initially he might have yielded to the temptation to walk away with the source rather than return it to display in the temple. Becoming rich through the sale of stolen documents he decided to redeem the old cache, which was said to have been hidden not far from his home town.
Examining the books, and finding that moths and mold had removed portions of the text, Apellicon created another recension, supplying the missing information himself. There is no indication of how much was missing or of what source Apellicon used, if any, or whether the supplied material was grammatical, orthographic, or epigraphic, or included philosophy as well. Subsequent editors judged his recension to have been full of errors, but no ancient source has said what sort of errors, or how they were judged to be errors. These editors made corrections, but the sources of information used for correction remain unknown. In short, the only thing known from ancient sources is that Apellicon made a recension that was later criticised for being erroneus. The contradiction of such a statement is that if they knew enough to correct Apellicon, why would the rediscovery of the books have added anything different to the obviously already known corpus?[topic note 17]
The passage from Athenaeus also provides a rough time table for the recension of Apellicon. It was created toward the end of his years as a successful thief, presumably at his home in Athens. What happened to the damaged originals remains a total mystery. Perhaps they were repasted and sold. How many copies were made if any, and who got them, also is not known. Apellicon probably left town in such a hurry that the books remained in Athens under the care of friends or servants. There is no record that the city moved against his property. Thus in a short time when he returned under the protection of Athenion he took up residence in the same home housing the same library, which was found there by Sulla after Apellicon's death.
In the pages of Athenaeus, evil men come to a bad end, and the peripatetics are not good men. These were shortly to be tested in the First Mithridatic War with disastrous results.[topic note 18] Bithynia and Pontus were independent kingdoms descending from Persian satrapies on the southern coast of the Black Sea never taken by Alexander. The descendants of the satraps remained as the Nicomedid and Mithridatid dynasties respectively.[topic note 19] Walking a fine diplomatic balance they managed to coexist with the reigning diadochi (Attalids, Seleucids, etc.), but they made war on each other. When the diadochi were replaced by Roman provincial governors, Mithridates VI of Pontus attacked Nicomedes IV of Bithynia, claiming tort at the hands of Nicomedes supported by Rome, and further developing an Anatolian alliance defeated all the Roman commanders, massacring as well the helpless Roman citizens. Rome could not ignore these events.
The rise of Mithridates offered some hope of independence to the cities of Greece. The Athenian people made Athenion the ambassador to Mithridates on the basis of his skill at oratory and experience of the east. Mithridates had other ideas. Winning the ambassador by banquets and promises he sent him back to Athens, where he set up headquarters in front of the Stoa of Attalus. The Roman officers were accustomed to address the people at that location. After a running harangue, voting to declare independence, the Athenians elected Athenion as commander-in-chief of their armed forces. The historians refer to him as a tyrant.
The wealthy made it clear that the vote had not been theirs by attempting to escape the city. Posting a guard on the gates and dispatching cavalry to hunt the escapees Athenion held a sequence of drum-head trials for treason of which the result was always the same: death and confiscation of property. Athenaeus' account of other peripatetic tyrants at this time makes it clear that the issue was ideologic, the redistribution of wealth. Athenaeus, however, portrays it as thievery due to greed. He says that Athenion "collected such a quantity of money as to fill several wells." Furthermore, he was lavish in his expenditures. Whether the motives were ideologic or personal is a difficult question to answer either then or now, but Athenion went to extremes. He took to torture to extort money. A curfew was set. The economy declined from want. Rationing was instituted.
Athenion replaced all the magistrates with his own men. Choosing this moment to return to Athens, Apellicon was welcomed as an old comrade. Athenion sent him to Delos in command of a force with instructions to recapture the Athenian national treasury there and bring the money to Athens. It is peculiar that the force he was given is more of a mob than a detachment of soldiers, and that Apellicon evidences total ignorance of military matters. Landing on the shore at night they encamp without a palisade, fail to set a proper watch, and proceed to drink into the small hours. The commander of the Roman guard, Orobius, leads his soldiers into the camp, slaughters 600 men, takes another 400 captive, and hunts the escapees through the countryside, burning them up in their hiding places. Better at running than fighting, Apellicon manages to escape to Athens, where he disappears from politics, at least in the sources, until the brief notice of his death, apparently not of interest to Sulla until then.
On either side, victory depended on intervention. The Pontians moved first. Accompanying his fleet commander, Archelaus, as admiral Mithridates sails to Rhodes with his entire fleet. Lucius Cassius, Proconsul of Asia, had escaped to the fortified harbor in the city of the same name there with whatever refugees he could locate. All the Italians had been struck on a day pre-arranged by Mithridates. Their property was seized by forfeit under pretext of being for the public good, a motive that Appian, like Athenaeus, tears to shreds. The friends of Mithridates revelled in riches. Their cause was amply funded. Commanding from a state quinquereme, Mithridates throws all his naval resources at Rhodes. Failing to take the place, he retreats to his headquarters at Pergamon, instructing Archelaus to complete the conquest of the Cyclades. Archelaus overwhelms Delos, sending the treasury back to Athens with one Aristion under guard of 2000 men. He then anchors at Piraeus, fortifies Munichia, and uses the place as a headquarters, sending out forays to subdue new islands and new coastal cities. During this time Aristion is tyrant of Athens, and no more is heard of Athenion.
The sources on these two men are again contradictory. They are both tyrants of Athens. Athenaeus uses "Athenion," as did his source, Posidonius, without mention of "Aristion." Pausanias, Appian, and Plutarch refer to "Aristion" without mentioning "Athenion." The main difference is that Athenion is a peripatetic, while Aristion is an epicurean. The scholar, Isaac Casaubon, proposed without further evidence that they were the same man, that, enrolling as a citizen, Athenion changed his name to Aristion (there was one other instance of the practice). The difference continued to be troubling, as the two philosophies were at upposite poles: the Epicureans were atomists following Democritus, while the peripatetics were hylomorphs, following Plato. The sources would have known the difference, even just to be men of letters.
In 1935 fragments of a monument were excavated from the Ancient Agora of Athens, which when joined formed part of a decree (I 2351) establishing a new government at Athens. According to Woodhead,
A first analysis dated the Constitution to 84/83 BC, the time of Sulla's visit after reaching an agreement with Mithridates. On subsequent revision of the text J.H. Oliver noticed that two of the provisions were so close to recommendations in Aristotle's Politics that Bekker numbers could be assigned.[topic note 20] As a peripatetic constitution would not be being restored in 84 BC after the final overthrow of the peripatetics. Oliver redates it to 87/86 BC suggesting that the author was a peripatetic; that is, Athenion with his friends. Furthermore, I 2351 is strong evidence that the recension of Apellicon was in fact close to the corpus Aristotelicum. Antela-Bernardez suggests that after the Delian debacle Mithridates sacked all the peripatetics and elevated his own man, Aristion, to tyrant.
On the Roman side, the Asiatic Vespers (the massacre) resulted in an immediate declaration of war.[topic note 21] Elections were due for the year 88 BC, which began January first. Sulla and Rufus (“red”) stood for consules and won (see List of Roman consuls). Rufus’ son, an officer under Sulla, had asked for Cornelia's (Sulla's eldest daughter's) hand in marriage and won, a marriage which ended tragically. Sulla himself made a marriage with the daughter of the Chief Priest (Pontfex Maximus). The two consules cast lots for the major obligations, as required by law. Sulla won prosecution of the Mithridatic War.
These electoral victories represent a break-away from the political machine of which Gaius Marius was boss. He headed the Populares party; Sulla and Rufus were of the Optimates. Marius had nevertheless until now sponsored the career of Sulla. Born to the aristocratic Cornelii, Sulla was said to have had a way with women. His step-mother left him her fortune. He married into more wealth. His personal name, Sulla, was actually a food dish of white cheese sprinkled over a red sauce (pizza?) giving the same appearance as his face. He had joined a troupe of comedians who sang and danced making a mockery of famous people, leaving that to enter government service under Marius’ sponsorship. His taking for himself a position Marius had hoped to control was an unforgivable betrayal.
The animosity between them had begun previously when the ambitious Sulla ran for Praetor, lost, ran again, bought some votes and won, to be ridiculed for it by Julius Caesar. Sent to Asia without troops he brought about peace using the troops of his allies there. On his return the Populares impeached him for extorting an ally but the case was dropped. At the outbreak of the Social War (91–88 BC) both parties put their differences aside until victory was achieved and the Italians were restored to Roman rule. Sulla, leading troops recruited at Rome itself, had acquired “the name of a great commander,” but the aging Marius accomplished nothing of note.
Wasting no time, Marius subverted one of the Tribuni plebis, “Tribunes of the People,” Publius Sulpicius Rufus, a feared politician with a private army of 3000 men, to pass an ordinance giving conduct of the war to Marius. Sulpicius had changed allegiance from the optimates to the populares to qualify for the magistracy. As blandishment, Marius promised the relief of Sulpicius’ ruinous debt. Declaring a preventative cessation of business, the two consuls were attacked by Sulpicius’ men in assembly. Rufus escaped somehow. His son was killed. Marius offered shelter to Sulla for old time's sake and in exchange for withdrawal of the cessation.
The tribunes sent to take command of the army at Nola (near Naples) were stoned to death by it. Sulla had gotten there first. Marius began to murder Sulla's partisans and confiscate their property. Sulla marched on Rome with six legions. He was met by emissaries from the Senate, who would, they assured him, make things right. Sulla agreed but lied, following the emissaries back to Rome to capture the gate. Halted there by a mob, he set fire to Rome.[topic note 22]
Marius fled for his life. Sulla passed a death sentence in absentia (later rescinded). Sulpicius was executed. The elections for 87 were upon them. Rufus had been killed in a mutiny. Knowing he could not win, Sulla did not run. He did control who did win, making it possible for them to perform their duties or preventing them. His choices were Gnaeus Octavius (consul 87 BC), an optimate (although he disliked Sulla) and Lucius Cornelius Cinna, a popular. The price for Sulla's support was that they swear a personal oath to leave Sulla in his command, now as Proconsul. Cinna broke it immediately, suborning a low-level tribune to trump up an accusation (not known what) on the basis of which he began impeachment proceedings against Sulla.
Over a year had passed since the hapless Romans in Asia had sent urgent appeals for assistance. Mithridates had established sovereignty over nearly all of Greece. The Roman government seemed paralyzed by incidents of partisan contention. Meanwhile, Bruttius Sura, a Legate of one Gaius Sentius, Praetor of Macedonia, was conducting small-unit operations quasi-autonomously against the Pontians in Boeotia with minimal success. Boeotia though anti-Pontian was being compelled to submit. In the autumn of 88 BC Sulla's Quaestor (chief supply officer), one Lucullus (undoubtedly the same as Lucius Licinius Lucullus, written about by Plutarch), arrived to order Sura back to Macedonia and to make supply arrangements with Boeotia and the states of central Greece. In the spring of 87, Sulla abandoned the suite of impeachment and the Civil War to strike suddenly across the Adriatic into central Greece with 5 legions and some cavalry, in very round numbers, about 30,000 men, mainly veterans of the Social War, many no doubt from his prior command.
Implied by the sudden strike story is the paradox of the ships. During the siege of Athens, lacking ships to conduct an amphibious assault on Piraeus, Sulla sends Lucullus to Egypt by night in disguised vessels to beg ships from Ptolemy IX Lathyros. Denied and redirected to Cyprus, Lucullus avoids an ambush there and collects a motley fleet from the islands. Meanwhile, Sulla has no ships, it is said. When history last saw Sulla's five legions they had been sent back to the camp at Nola. Either Sulla acquired ships there and sailed around the south of Italy or they marched overland to Brindisi, the preferred port of embarcation for voyages to Greece. The sources give no clue.
The ships have appeared in this scenario (one cannot sail without them) but the march is unnecessarily laborious. There is no need to disembark at all: one enters the Gulf of Corinth, which is 81 miles long, and no more than a few days later arrives off the shores of Attica and Boeotia. If the ships are allowed, there is no necessity to have any “landing” or any “march” at all.
The current solution implied or expressed by the scholars is that by “ships” the sources mean warships capable of defeating Archelaus’ warships, which would otherwise ram and sink any troop transports. Sulla's quaestorial organization would have acquired sufficient transports for the crossing in Italy. They did not sail to Athens with them as the seas were ruled by Archelaus. The only other route is through the Gulf of Corinth. It requires that either the ships be dragged across the Isthmus of Corinth on an overland route through enemy territory or be left behind in the Gulf.
What the army did do depended on the disposition of the states on the east side of the Gulf and the moot question of supply. Mommsen and Long (and many others) speculate that the troops arrived in Epirus with empty larders, so to speak. On the contrary, as the master of Rome, Sulla would have had no trouble commandeering whatever initial supplies and ships he needed. His was not a poverty-stricken army. Armies on the move, however, require supply lines, which is what the Civil War would deny Sulla. As soon as he had departed his enemies assumed power, and they had no intention of supplying his army. He was on his own.
Appian gives the most detail:
There is no mention of any land campaign. Aetolia was on the north shore of the Gulf. Thessaly was far to the north on the east coast of central Greece. This distance is the basis for Mommsen's land campaign, as though Thessaly required one. Thessaly, however, was still pro-Roman. One does not devastate the country of an ally to acquire supplies. Apparently, Sulla landed in Aetolia to receive the assistance promised by both states to Lucullus the previous year.
Supplied and augmented by Aetolians Sulla's force marched through the adjoining country of Boeotia. As a symbol of Roman presence it was immensely successful. Every city of Boeotia, including the recalcitrant Thebes, rallied to the Roman cause. His flank now covered, Sulla entered Megaris, which had thrown in its lot with Boeotia. It was an important land link between Attica and the Gulf of Corinth. It had a fortified port, Aigosthena, on the Alkyonides Gulf. Arriving in the vicinity of Athens, Sulla constructed a larger castra (base) at Eleusis to support siege operations, supply operations,[topic note 23] and winter quarters for the men should that become necessary (it did).
After constructing their castra — a Roman legion was prepared to throw up one of those in a single late afternoon, although a permanent camp may have taken longer — the Romans moved to the siege of Athens on the north side. If Sulla had faced the full weight of the Athenian army as it had been, he would perhaps simply have been cleared out of Attica. As it was, Aristion and his Mithridatic ally, Archelaus, were to demonstrate an astounding incompetence (the sources were astounded) against Roman veteran troops; nevertheless, they put up a strong resistance, Archelaus most of all.
The Athenians had created two fortified defensive communities: the city itself with the Acropolis and the Marketplace (agora), and the port, Piraeus, with a defensible elevation. The path between them was protected by two parallel “Long Walls.” Thinking them unimportant, the defenders allowed these walls to be taken and demolished, thus splitting their forces in two. Archelaus defending Piraeus could be resupplied and reinforced by sea. Aristion in Athens itself could not. Sulla threw the entire weight of his attack against Aristion.
The defenders did have a defense strategy, plotted between Mithridates and Archelaus, who were in relatively rapid communication by swift vessel. Mithridates dispatched a strike force of 120,000 men under his son, Arcathias (or Ariathes). He took Macedonia and Thessaly but the force was delayed by the natural death of the son. Had he succeeded in reaching Attica in a timely manner Sulla would have been pinned between three forces. This remedy offers some explanation for Aristion's strange behavior: he sang and danced on the walls of Athens, mocking Sulla by recalling his early career as an entertainer. One source proposes that he was just a fool who liked to entertain the men of his command. Another informs us that he was trying to anger Sulla to keep him on the attack, which also would be a strange thing to do if he did not expect a relieving force. He succeeded all too well, but the timing went wrong.
Sulla sent for some siege engines from Thebes. It was at this time that he crossed paths unkowingly with Aristotle and also made the originally honest decisions that would lead to the plundering of Greek objects d’art. A mere agreement with the allies to provide supplies in kind was grossly insufficient. Cash was needed to pay the men and to buy the goods and services needed for the siege, such as thousands of working mules, drivers and wagons. Just after he was assigned the Mithridatic War, the Senate voted to:
That money was gone and Sulla was cut off from Rome, but there were plenty of temples in Greece, each of which served as a repository of wealth. He and Lucullus made the decision to tax these temples for their valuable objects. Letters of appropriation were sent forthwith, delivered by revenue agents in wagons and ships.
The sources concentrate on the three most famous temples: the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the Asclepeion at Epidaurus, and the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, which latter yielded “a vast fortune” according to Diodorus Siculus These were not the only temples taxed; there is evidence that the tax might have been on all temples. Pausanias mentions the removal of the statue of Athena from a temple in Haliartus, Boeotia. At this time Sulla was still arguing national security as a motive. After the war he compensated at least some of the temples by giving them confiscated farmland for a yearly income.
Sulla was primarily interested in currency. He could obtain it either by resale of the art objects or by melting them and issuing coin. We are told he founded a mint in the Peloponnesus and that he issued gold and silver coins of greater than standard weight for “purchasing the services of their soldiers with lavish sums.” This money was subsequently called “Lucullian,” according to Plutarch. The coin discoveries from the region are consistent with this view, although not conclusive. A gold aureus and a silver denarius believed from the times are overweight and bear an image of Venus, Sulla's patron goddess, on one side with a double cornucopia and the letter Q for Quaestor on the other. Minting was not the only disposition of the antiques; Sulla was aware of the high resale value of such objects. He took many objects not of precious metal, such as the antique shields of the Greeks who had stopped Brennus (3rd century BC) at Thermopylae. These must have been sold to the highest bidder.
The Lykeion was located outside the city walls because as a metic (non-Athenian, 'immigrant') Aristotle was not allowed to own property in the city of Athens.On the contrary, the only thing the location got him was a beautiful park, a spring, a ready-made gymnasion, and a place to put a zoo and botanical garden, as the walls were a recent military defense and not any sort of border. The Academics used the park quite a lot. A recent study of the status of metics based on Athenian orations and passages from historians may be found in Kears, Matthew John (2013). Metics and Identity in Democratic Athens (PDF) (PhD thesis). Birmingham, GB: University of Birminham. According to Kears, the ancient requirement for citizenship was being autochthonous, "of the land," which was Attica and not some small area defined by wall. The citizens were registered in demes, or districts, throughout it. The law required both parents to be autochthonous.
Perhaps he wanted to found a school himself ... That was of course a loss ... but not a catastrophe, because the members ... certainly had copies.To the contrary, no school was ever founded, and Blum is suggesting a duplicate library concept, which is in no way stated or implied by any source. It seems logical that some friends had copies of individual books in which they were interested, but a number of sources indicate a library in the thousands of books, which leads to the legitimate question of whether Neleus removed the entire library.
But, to shew that the fate of Aristotle’s writings did not entirely depend on the fortunes of the library buried in the vault at Scépsis, we have abundant proof of some of them being familiar to the philosophic world during the interval in which his library itself was lost to view; and it is probable that many of them, including those of more general interest, were at an early date transcribed at Athens and thence transmitted to the great library at Alexandria.
It is much more probable, in my opinion, ... that the second collection of Aristotle's books (the corpus) never left Athens, but was neglected by later peripatetics ....
Aristotle's Physics is the hidden, and therefore never adequately studied, foundational book of Western philosophy.(Emphasis in original).
A recension is a selection of a specific text for publication. The manuscripts on a given work attributed to Aristotle offer textual variants. One recension makes a selection of one continuous text, but typically gives notes stating the alternative sections of text. Determining which text is to be presented as "original" is a detailed scholarly investigation. The recension is often known by its scholar's name.
In reverse chronological order:
A commentary differs from a note in being a distinct work analyzing the language and subsumed concepts of some other work classically notable. A note appears within the annotated work on the same page or in a separate list. Commentaries are typically arranged by lemmas, or quotes from the notable work, followed by an analysis of the author of the commentary.
The commentaries on every work of Aristotle are a vast and mainly unpublished topic. They extend continuously from the death of the philosopher, representing the entire history of Graeco-Roman philosophy. There are thousands of commentators and commentaries known wholly or more typically in fragments of manuscripts. The latter especially occupy the vaults of institutions formerly responsible for copying them, such as monasteries. The process of publishing them is slow and ongoing.
Below is a brief representative bibliography of published commentaries on Aristotle's Physics available on or through the Internet. Like the topic itself, they are perforce multi-cultural, but English has been favored, as well as the original languages, ancient Greek and Latin.
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