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Xenarchus (3) of Seleucia, Peripatetic philosopher, c. 30 BCE  

Myrto Hatzimichali

Xenarchus taught at Alexandria, Athens, and Rome, and his acquaintances included the geographer Strabo and the emperor Augustus. He is best known for his critique of Aristotle’s fifth element, which constitutes the material of the heavenly bodies according to the De caelo. Xenarchus targeted in particular Aristotle’s reliance on direct correspondences between simple bodies and simple motions and suggested that the ontologically privileged fire “in its natural place” could perform circular motion and was thus a plausible candidate for the material constituent of the heavens. He made further contributions in physics, psychology, and ethics, but he does not seem to have shown the same interest in the Categories as his Peripatetic contemporaries.

We are able to date Xenarchus’ activity to the 1st century bce, probably towards the latter half, thanks to Strabo’s testimony that he (Strabo) was his pupil (14.5.4). From Strabo we also learn that Xenarchus quickly left his native Seleucia in Cilicia to teach at Alexandria and Athens, and finally at Rome. He was held in great honour thanks to his friendship with Arius of Alexandria, Augustus’ court philosopher and political adviser, as well as with Augustus himself.


poetry, philosophers on  

S. Halliwell

The engagement of philosophers with poetry was a recurrent and vital feature of the intellectual culture of Graeco-Roman antiquity. By around 380 bce, *Plato (1) could already refer to “a long-standing quarrel between philosophy and poetry” ( Resp. 10.607b). Early Greek philosophy, while closely related to poetry (*Xenophanes, *Parmenides, and *Empedocles wrote in verse), set itself to contest and rival the claims of “wisdom,” sophia, made by and on behalf of poets. Xenophanes, repudiating anthropomorphic religion, cast ethical and theological aspersions on the myths of *Homer and *Hesiod (DK 21 B 11–12); Heraclitus expressed caustic doubts about the idea of poets as possessors of deep understanding (DK 22 B 40, 42, 56–57); Democritus, by contrast, despite his materialist physics, seems to have believed in poetic inspiration (DK B 17–18, 21). Philosophy and poetry could be considered competing sources of knowledge and insight. The stage was set for lasting debates about their relationship.


animals, knowledge about  

Pietro Li Causi

The Graeco-Roman zoological discourse comprises various development stages and various methods of observation and research. Traces of popular knowledge on animals are already present in the archaic literature, and several references to animals are found in the excursuses of the ancient ἱστορίαι. Aristotle organizes an autonomous body of philosophical theories on animals, the diffusion of which, among his contemporaries, is confined to the Peripatetic school. Subsequently, Theophrastus and the Hellenistic philosophers increasingly shift the focus of inquiry towards the behaviours and mental capacities of animals. That choice reinforces in turn the interest in marvels and singularities in both paradoxography and Roman natural history.Whereas the notions of “animality” and “humanity” tend to be polarized in almost all modern cultures, this was not the case in Graeco-Roman thought. Alcmaeon of Croton (24 A 5 DK) was the first to fix the border between humans qua rational and non-rational animals. Later on, several major philosophers, including .



Julius Rocca

The heart (καρδία, κῆρ) was one of the most discussed bodily parts in antiquity. This is due, not so much to any assertion that it was the centre of the vascular system, but that it was widely regarded it as the seat of cognition and governor of movement and sensation. From the Hellenistic era onwards, these supposed attributes were set against the counter claim that the brain mediated these functions. This debate remained unsettled, despite Galen’s efforts, and the heart’s association with emotional states persists to this day.Babylonian medicine possessed terms for the irregularity of the pulse, which served as labels for the heart. Egyptian medicine named the heart (ib, haty), and a vessel system (metu), which transported fluids of the body (including blood and air), as well as pathological and waste products. The connection between the heart beat and the peripheral pulse seems to have been recognised. The Iliad provides vivid examples of fatal wounds to the heart.



Douglas Cairns

Thymos (or thumos), cognate with Indo-European words meaning “smoke,” is one of a number of terms in Greek which associate psychological activity with air and breath. In the Homeric poems, thymos is one of a family of terms associated with internal psychological process of thought, emotion, volition, and motivation. Though the range of the term’s applications in Homer is wide, that in itself gives us a sense of the unity of cognitive, affective, and desiderative processes in Homeric psychology. No post-Homeric author can rival that range, but something of the richness of the Homeric conception of thymos as an interrelated set of motivations re-emerges in Plato’s conception of the tripartite soul in the Republic and the Phaedrus. Plato’s thymos represents a pared-down model of human agency typified by one central desire or aim in life but also exhibiting whatever further capacities of persons are necessary to enable it to pursue that aim in interaction with the other elements of the personality. As in Homer, the metaphorical agency of Plato’s thymos does not detract from the notion of the individual as the real centre of agency.



Liba Taub

Greco-Roman meteorology included the study of what we today consider to be atmospheric, astronomical, and seismological phenomena; wind, rain, comets, and earthquakes were subjects of meteorological study, as were many other phenomena. For the most part, those authors and texts that treated meteorology were not concerned with weather prediction but rather with explaining phenomena. Various philosophers, including the Presocratics, Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Epicurus, as well as other philosophically-minded authors such as Lucretius and Seneca, approached the topic from the standpoint of their own interests, including ethics as well as physics. The traditional gods were not wholly absent from philosophical accounts, but they were not thought responsible for weather. Various authors and texts addressed weather prediction, providing lists of weather signs. Ancient Greco-Roman meteorology and weather prediction were both characterized by conservatism and a valorization of tradition, but nevertheless permitted a degree of innovation and originality.

“Meteorology” strictly means “the study of things aloft,” but the term was widely used in antiquity to cover the study of what might now be called meteorological phenomena, as well as comets (today treated as astronomical) and phenomena on and within the earth itself, such as tides and earthquakes (the latter now described as “seismological”). The Homeric and Hesiodic poems describe meteorological phenomena as linked to gods, often as epiphanies. The long-lived authority of the poets on meteorological topics is attested by many quotations and allusions in the writings of later authors, even in prose works on meteorology. Notwithstanding this, later Greek and Roman thinkers offered explanations of meteorological phenomena with no mention of gods.



Maria Michela Sassi

Physiognomy, the art of observing and making inferences from physical features of the body, was practised from c. 1500 bce (when it is mentioned in Mesopotamian handbooks on divination). A focus on personal character (and a reflection on the relation between physical and psychical facts) seems to be a Greek innovation. Aristotle attempted to give an inductive basis to assertions of the interdependence of body and soul (in An. pr. 2.27); the Historia animalium provided empirical evidence that corroborated early ideas about moral types among animals. The first extant treatise on the subject, the Physiognomonica (a Peripatetic work of c. 300 bce long attributed to Aristotle), established a few criteria of comparison with animal, racial, and gender types, as well as with the expressions of emotions. This treatise is the forerunner of a tradition embracing Polemon of Laodicea in the 2nd century ce, an anonymous Latin treatise (Anonymus Latinus) in the 4th, as well as medieval, Renaissance, and modern writers.



Kenneth W. Yu

Over the course of the Hellenistic and Imperial periods, descriptions of wonders and marvels developed into a discrete branch of literature known as paradoxography. Fragments of paradoxographical collections in both Greek and Latin reveal an abiding interest in natural wonders, but marvellous phenomena related to physiology, botany, zoology, and culture also frequently appear. Paradoxography shares thematic concerns with several historiographical, philosophical, and scientific genres, leading classicists of previous generations to spurn these texts as derivative of more serious, especially Aristotelian, scholarship. More recently, however, scholars have begun to appreciate the stylistic and expository features of paradoxography according to its own logic and principles. Nevertheless, how paradoxographical compendia were read and used in antiquity and in what scholarly or popular contexts they circulated remain difficult issues.Paradoxography refers to the stand-alone compilations (denoted by συναγωγή or ἐκλογή in titles), produced from the early Hellenistic period onward, of descriptions of natural, biological, ethnographic, and cultural wonders. .



Simon Geoffrey Pembroke

The term “matriarchy” has, since J. J. Bachofen (Das Mutterrecht, 1861), been used to denote a quite hypothetical and now long discredited phase in the history of human societies when property was transmitted and descent traced through females, not males. There has from the outset been a persistent tendency to confuse the specific phenomenon of matrilineal descent, on the one hand—a system widely attested among contemporary peoples worldwide—with female supremacy in a more general and altogether less clearly defined sense, on the other. The system of descent is stated by Herodotus (1.173) to have been operative as a going concern among the non-Greek people of *Lycia in his own time, but this assertion is flatly contradicted by the conventional family structure reflected in their funeral inscriptions, including well over 150 in the *Lycian language itself, many of which go back to the 4th century bce.The statement of *Aristotle (fr.



Georgia L. Irby

The Mediterranean Basin is prone to earthquakes, and ancient thinkers sought to explain their causes either through myth (Poseidon’s wrath) or natural philosophy (dry and wet exhalations, trapped subterranean winds). Notable theorists include Thales, Anaxagoras, Aristotle, Epicurus, Posidonius, Lucretius, and Seneca the Younger. Historians and geographers (including Thucydides, Strabo, Pliny the Elder, and Pausanias) described severe earthquakes and their effects on geology (diverting bodies of water or causing bodies of water and/or land masses to appear or disappear, such as Atlantis), populations, and infrastructure (e.g., the complete annihilation of Helice and Boura). Among particularly noteworthy seismic events are those that occurred in Laconia in 464 bce, along the Malian Gulf in 426 bce, at Rhodes in 227/6 bce (toppling the famous Colossus of Helios), one extending from the Levant to Euboea (of unknown date), the quake affecting Campania (especially Pompeii and Herculaneum) in 63/63 ce, and at Smyrna in 178 ce.


poetic unity, Greek  

Richard Hunter

Greek discussion of unified organic form, as both a biological principle and a literary virtue, has been very influential in Western criticism. What survives before late antiquity of that Greek tradition as applied to literature is, however, relatively sparse; crucial above all are the Homeric poems and ancient discussion of them, together with some passages of Plato and Aristotle. The fact that the bulk of later surviving criticism derives from rhetorical teaching, heavily indebted to the Isocratean tradition, means that much greater prominence is given to the closely related ideas of variety (poikilia) and the avoidance of monotony over the course of a long work, and to the arrangement and ordering (taxis) of narrative than to “unity”; there is no standard term for “unity” in Greek criticism.Homer announces the subject of the Iliad as the wrath of Achilles, which wrought terrible destruction upon the Greeks, but, however dominant the story of the wrath and its consequences, the scope of the poem is clearly not limited to that subject. Reflection upon the Iliad stands at the beginning and the heart of ancient discussion of unity, and it is the Iliad that shows why “unity” and “variety” are entirely compatible in ancient criticism.


Hellenic Philosophy, Arabic and Syriac reception of  

Dimitri Gutas

Hellenic philosophy died a lingering death even before Islam appeared. The Christianization of the Roman empire, and the increasing self-identification by the Greek-speaking population as Romans in the so-called Byzantine age, rendered Hellenic philosophy the object of scorn. By the end of the 6th century, philosophy was neither practised nor taught, nor were philosophical texts copied. In addition, all Greek texts, and not only the philosophical ones, went through two periods of sifting in their physical transmission—from papyrus rolls to codices (3rd–4th centuries) and from uncial writing to minuscule script (8th–9th centuries)—at the end of which only a small fraction survived.

By late antiquity the Hellenic philosophical and scientific corpus had been organized into a potent curriculum, based on the classification of the sciences originally introduced by Aristotle, which represented the sum total of human knowledge. It was received as such by the Hellenized peoples of the Near East, who had been participating in the philosophical enterprise in Greek. As the practice of philosophy attenuated in the Greek-speaking world, Persians in the Sasanian empire, and Arameans, now Christianized into the churches of the East, began translating selectively parts of the philosophical curriculum into Middle Persian and Syriac, respectively. With the emergence of Islam in the 7th century and the subsequent development of scholarship in Arabic, political, social, and cultural exigencies required that the rulers of the new empire participate, own, and promote the high Hellenic culture cultivated amid the Persian- and Syriac-speaking subjects. As a result there was launched a far-flung translation movement into Arabic, from Sanskrit, Middle Persian, Syriac, and especially from Greek, of all sciences and philosophy. The philosophical texts that passed into Arabic were primarily the Aristotelian corpus, the near-totality of which was translated with some notable omissions, and the long list of commentators from Alexander of Aphrodisias to the last Neoplatonists of Alexandria. The Platonic tradition was not favoured, Platonism having been proscribed in Greek, and to a lesser degree in Syriac, Christianity. Not a single complete dialogue was translated into Arabic; what was available of Plato was various selections from the dialogues, Galen’s summaries of the dialogues, biographies, and sayings. Selections from Plotinus and Proclus were available in paraphrastic and interpolated versions that were attributed to Aristotle. The remaining schools of Hellenic philosophy, already extinct long before the rise of Islam, were known primarily through quotations among the translated authors like Aristotle and Galen.


Anonymus Londiniensis  

Daniela Manetti

An anonymous work, preserved in a manuscript of the 1st century ce from Egypt, about several medical issues (definition of basic concepts, medical historiography on the causes of disease, physiology of digestion), Anonymus Londiniensis represents a rare example of an autograph from antiquity. An important source for peripatetic doxography and the reception of Hellenistic medicine.The papyrus P. Lit. Lond. 165, now held in the British Library as inv. 137 (P. Brit. Libr. inv. 137), was published first in 1893 by Hermann Diels, who learned of it through Fridericus G. Kenyon’s first notice.1 Diels set immediately to work, with the help of Kenyon, and produced the edition after a very short time. The papyrus, as reconstructed by Kenyon (with some later additions in 1901), is a roll around 3.5 metres long. Thirty-nine columns, almost complete, are preserved: one or two columns are missing at the beginning, as is at least one between columns IX and X. The text breaks off abruptly halfway down col. XXXIX. The handwriting suggests a date around the later part of the 1st century .