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Aristotle’s Categories in the Early Roman Empire$

Michael J. Griffin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198724735

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198724735.001.0001

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(p.210) (p.211) Appendix 1 Persons and Sources

(p.210) (p.211) Appendix 1 Persons and Sources

Aristotle’s Categories in the Early Roman Empire
Oxford University Press

I. Main Persons Treated

Andronicus of Rhodes (fl. after 43 BCE?). Ch. 3. A first-century BCE Peripatetic, said by some later sources to have been scholarch in Athens, who is widely credited with the publication of Aristotle that reintroduced his esoteric works (the school treatises which we now possess, in contrast to the popular dialogues that Aristotle also published but are now lost) to the contemporary public. Among his works was a seminal catalogue of Aristotle, and a paraphrasis of the Categories. Several unorthodox views of Andronicus about the text have come down to us: for example, his replacement of the categories ‘When’ and ‘Where’ with those of ‘Time’ and ‘Place’.

Eudorus of Alexandria (fl. c.50 BCE?). An ‘Academic’ (on the use of the term here, see Bonazzi 2013) and Neo-Pythagorean who discussed the Categories in the first century BCE, perhaps prior to or contemporary with Andronicus’ paraphrasis. He may have introduced the criticism of the Categories as an inadequate account of being, and specifically ‘intelligible’ being. At the same time, Eudorus may have found in the Categories a congenial analogy for certain aspects of (Neo-Pythagorean) metaphysics. The emphasis of his fragments suggests that Eudorus read the Categories primarily as a work with something to say about the structure of being.

Ariston (fl. c.50 BCE?). A rival of Eudorus in Alexandria, if he is to be identified Ariston of Alexandria, who joined the Peripatos alongside Cratippus of Pergamon. He shared many of Andronicus’ views, for example on the definition of the Relative.

‘Archytas’1 (fl. c.50 BCE?). The name given to the author of certain influential Neo-Pythagorean pseudepigrapha, to signify their authorship by the fourth-century Pythagorean and Academic Archytas of Tarentum; the ‘Pseudo-Archytan’ corpus is strongly influenced by Eudorus. At least three of ‘Archytas’’ texts dealt with the subject matter of the Categories, and the Neoplatonic philosopher Iamblichus (see below) held that his works were written prior to the Categories, and could profitably be employed in order to obtain a higher understanding of the subject matter of the Categories.

(p.212) Philo of Alexandria2 (20 BCE to 50 CE). The great Jewish philosopher, exegete, and polymath is mentioned briefly in ch. 3 and elsewhere, particularly as a follower of Eudorus in some areas of his treatment of the Categories. He is not separately treated as a major subject of this study, although there is much of interest for future research in Philo’s use of the ten categories (although not necessarily of the Categories) throughout his corpus.

Lucius (fl. later first century BCE?). Apparently a Platonizing critic of the Categories, perhaps datable before or contemporary with Boethus of Sidon; Lucius’ fragments survive only from Simplicius On the Categories. He seems to have broadly followed Eudorus, especially in his criticism of the Categories as an inadequate treatment of intelligible being, and set the stage for the discussion in Plotinus, Enn. 6.1. However, as I argue in ch. 4, there is very little evidence for an historical figure Lucius, and the name may serve to represent an entire Platonic–Pythagorean ‘school’ to which Boethus replied under this name.

Boethus of Sidon (fl. first centuries BCE–CE). An especially diligent and influential Peripatetic reader of the Categories and (according to late sources) disciple of Andronicus, who defended the text against the arguments of Lucius, among others. Boethus sought to rebut the allegation that Aristotle had failed to provide an adequate account of intelligible being, and is the first scholar on record to ask instead how the Categories account of ousia can be reconciled with that of the Metaphysics. He also reasserted the canonical views of Aristotle in certain respects against the less orthodox positions of Andronicus, for example, reinstating ‘When’ and ‘Where’ in the roster of ten categories. Boethus’ formulation that the Categories concerns ‘simple verbal expressions significant of beings, insofar as they are significant’ was later adopted by Herminus—perhaps, as I suggest, in response to Athenodorus and Cornutus—and became foundational for Neoplatonic and later semantics. In general, I think that the texts I have attributed to Boethus unambiguously belong to the Peripatetic Sidonian and not to the Stoic of that name.3

Athenodorus [of Tarsus?] (fl. c.50 BCE or earlier?). A Stoic philosopher, perhaps to be identified with the mentor of Octavian, who criticized the Categories as dealing inadequately with the parts of speech.

L. Annaeus Cornutus (fl. c.60 CE). Cornutus is chiefly known to the historical tradition as the tutor of the silver-age poet Persius and as an associate or instructor of the emperor Nero. Among other subjects, he (p.213) wrote extensively on grammar and Stoic allegory (the latter work is extant), and he composed a work of commentary that challenged both Athenodorus and Aristotle on the Categories. Cornutus may, as I suggest, have defended the Categories against the attacks of Athenodorus by pointing out that it should be viewed as a contribution to the second ‘part’ of Stoic dialectic, rather than the first (linguistic) part; this defence was then taken up by Herminus and combined with Boethus’ formulation of the skopos.

Plutarch of Chaeronea (46 to c.122 CE). The prodigious writer Plutarch is a helpful philosophical source for Eudorus of Alexandria (in Proc. An., discussed by Dillon 1977: 226 and by Karamanolis 2006: 124-5) and as an historical source for Andronicus of Rhodes. A remarkable passage in his Generation of the Soul in the Timaeus, which refers to Eudorus frequently, suggests that Plato anticipated the full doctrine of Categories in the Timaeus, and in fact has a more complete and accurate picture of it than does Aristotle; this is also the view taken by Eudorus and (implicitly) ‘Archytas’, but it survives explicitly in Plutarch.

Nicostratus (early second century CE). Like Lucius, whose views he endorses, the fragments of Nicostratus survive solely in Simplicius On the Categories. Praechter identifies him persuasively with the Nicostratus honoured in an inscription at Delphi (Sylloge II3 Nr. 868). He shares Lucius’ concern with the adequacy of the Categories as an account of intelligible being, and it is likely that Plotinus found these difficulties expressed in Nicostratus, directly or indirectly. But Nicostratus also demonstrates (either through his own interests or through the accidents of preservation) a stronger interest in the rhetorical coherence and internal consistency of the Categories, and appears to be equally concerned with these problems as he is with matters of doctrine.

Achaïcus and Sotion (later first to early second century CE?): see Moraux 1984: 211. Not dealt with in a separate chapter. Scattered comments on the Categories are ascribed to each, although we do not know the form that their treatments took. According to Simplicius, both A. and S. held that we should only speak of ‘relatives’ in the plural, never in the singular (in Cat. 159,25); notably, they criticize ‘the ancient commentators’, namely ‘Boethus, Ariston, Andronicus, Eudorus, and Athenodorus’, for failing to make the distinction. Later, Achaïchus also appears to respond to Andronicus and Boethus regarding the definition of the Relative (203,1). Other comments of Achaïchus and Sotion are noted by Simplicius. Their treatment of earlier sources might suggest that A. and S. played some role in conveying the views of the ‘ancient’ commentators; see also Porphyry in Cat. 111,22 and Ammonius in Cat. 66,14. Both A. and S. are only briefly treated here, and are not considered in our discussion of the skopos of the text.

(p.214) Alcinous4 (second century CE). The author of the Didaskalikos follows the earlier Platonizing tradition of claiming the categories for Plato—that is, Plato anticipated Aristotle in his account of the ten categories. This syncretizing and Platonizing attitude is common to this text as well as Eudorus, ‘Archytas’, and Plutarch.

Atticus (later second century CE). By contrast, the Platonist Atticus wrote a polemical tract ‘Against those who interpret Plato’s philosophy by means of Aristotle’, some of which is preserved by Eusebius (Praep. Ev. bks 11 and 15). In taking this line, Atticus appears to follow L. Calvinius Taurus (second quarter of the second century), who wrote ‘on the doctrinal differences’ of Plato and Aristotle (Suda T 166, v. iv p. 509.12 Adler).5 Both mark a more polemical stance toward Aristotle.

Aspasius (early second century CE). Aspasius—who taught Herminus, who in turn lectured to Alexander of Aphrodisias—authored a series of commentaries, on the Categories, De Int., Physics, De Caelo, Metaphysics, and Nicomachean Ethics. Of these, just the last is (in significant portions) extant today. For our purposes, he is a key source for the ‘pathology’ of Andronicus and Boethus, for which see the discussion in their chapters above.

Adrastus of Aphrodisias (early second century CE). We know from Galen (De libr. propr. 42,20–43,1) that Adrastus wrote a commentary on the Categories, and from Simplicius (in Phys. 122,33) that he wrote a commentary on the Physics. An important position associated with Adrastus is the decision to place the Topics immediately after the Categories at the head of the Aristotelian corpus; he appears to have defined their relationship in a work entitled ‘Concerning the Order of Aristotle’s Treatises’ (Simplic. in Cat. 16,1–4). He also revived the title ‘Before the Topics’ for the Categories—this may suggest that he was responding to Andronicus, who explicitly rejected the placement of the Categories (with the post-praedicamenta) before the Topics, and with it, the title Ta pro tôn topôn. Adrastus notably discussed a second version of the Categories, which the later commentators, following Porphyry, dismiss.6 Aside from his work on the Organon, Adrastus also did work in astronomy (cf. Sorabji in Sorabji and Sharples 2007: 579–80).

Herminus (later second century CE). Herminus is perhaps best known today as a lecturer to Alexander of Aphrodisias. He has not attracted the most charitable reviews from modern scholars; already Prantl (1855) judged him an ‘offenbar höchst bornierter Mensch’, and Moraux (1983: 363–4) finds (p.215) him almost wholly derivative of Boethus. I tried (2009) to suggest that Herminus’ importance for the tradition on the Categories has been underestimated. He is the first on record to claim that the Categories should come first in the Aristotelian curriculum for pedagogical reasons. He is, as I suggest, the forefather of Porphyry’s influential theory of ‘double imposition’; he moulds the ‘narrative’ of the historical dialogue regarding the Categories that has come down to us, pitting Boethus of Sidon against the partisans of the Categories as concerning ‘being’, and the partisans of the Categories as concerning ‘language’. In so doing, he succeeds in revitalizing Boethus’ formulation of the subject matter of the work, and offers a theory of signification (although we can only reconstruct bits and pieces of this) which deploys a Stoic or Epicurean concept of ‘natural’ significance to displace the mediating role of concepts (noêmata) found in the opening lines of the De Int., which he broadly rejects. I also suggested that Herminus left (so far as we can tell) no written works to posterity, and that Porphyry was reliant on Alexander’s lost in Cat. for Herminus’ views. In connection with this, I proposed (Griffin 2009: ch. 6) that there is some cause to reconsider the identification of the Peripatetic Herminus with a Stoic Herminus mentioned by Longinus (preserved by Porphyry, Vita Plotini).

Sosigenes7 (later second century CE). Sosigenes, who also lectured to Alexander, raised an important question for the Categories, inquiring what is meant by ‘what is said’ (to legomenon): ‘word’ (phônê), ‘thought’ (noêma), or ‘object’ (pragma) (cf. Simplic. in Cat. 7,4–9,24; Dexippus 7,4). His ‘tripartite’ approach contrasts with the ‘bipartite’ approach of Herminus (who considers only ‘words’ and ‘objects’). As we shall find, in the discussion of ch. 1 and broadly in ch. 7, this inquiry would have a far-reaching influence. Sosigenes himself did not choose between the three arguments (Dexipp. 7,4; cf. Moraux, Hermes 95 (1967), 169 on Alexander).

Aristoteles (later second century CE). Perhaps teacher of Alexander of Aphrodisias, as argued for by Moraux8 (but see now Opsomer and Sharples, 2000); he is mentioned by Galen as ‘a man preeminent in Peripatetic philosophy’; Syrianus also mentions him as ‘the younger Aristotle, interpreter of Aristotle the philosopher’ (Galen Peri eth. 11,4 Müller; Syrianus in Met. 100,6).

Alexander of Aigai. On one occasion Simplicius ascribes to this Alexander the same view as Alexander of Aphrodisias about the skopos of the Categories (in Cat. 10,19–20), and at in Cat. 13,11–18 again refers to the view of ‘the Alexanders’ (cf. Moraux II, 222). Simplicius at in de Cael. 430,32 states (p.216) that the Aphrodisian Alexander cited Alexander of Aigai on Aristotle’s argument at de Cael. 2.6, 288b22; see Moraux II, 223–5.

II. Main Sources

A much more comprehensive bibliography on the later ancient commentators may now be found in the Sourcebook produced by Richard Sorabji (2005a–c, three volumes), and in Sellars (2004); likewise, a more comprehensive discussion of philosophers active during the first centuries BCE may be found in Sorabji and Sharples (2007). Most of the figures mentioned here are also discussed in detail in Sorabji (ed.), Aristotle Transformed (1990).

Alexander of Aphrodisias (late second to third centuries CE). While Alexander himself, the exemplary ‘commentator’ on Aristotle, is not systematically treated in the course of this study (with some exceptions, e.g. ch. 1 and 5), a number of his commentaries serve as sources. Unfortunately, Alexander’s own commentary On the Categories is lost to us; but I suggest in ch. 1 that some aspects of his discussion of the skopos, including his criticism and development of his teachers Herminus and Sosigenes, may be identified in the later sources. Several other works of Alexander are used in the chapter on Boethus, in discussing the status of universals.

Galen (late second to third centuries CE). Like Alexander, the work of Galen himself falls outside the scope of the current study. However, his texts are cited in several places in this treatment.

Plotinus (c.204-70 CE), especially Enneads 6.1–3. The founder of the philosophical tradition that we regard as Neoplatonism, Plotinus is here chiefly referenced in the discussion of Lucius and Nicostratus, although he does not cite them directly, and their fragments are drawn exclusively from Simplicius.

Porphyry of Tyre (c.233–309 CE). Later sources rely mainly on Porphyry’s lost commentary Ad Gedalium for their account of the Categories and its earlier critics and defenders (cf. Smith 1993, Hadot 1990b, Chase 2003), although Iamblichus also introduced other sources not used by Porphyry, such as ‘Archytas’. A portion of Porphyry’s lost commentary may now have been recovered in the Archimedes Palimpsest: see Chiaradonna et al. 2013. (For Porphyry’s alleged ‘debate’ with Plotinus regarding the status of the Categories, see my chapter on Lucius and Nicostratus, with recent bibliography.) Porphyry’s lesser ‘introductory’ commentary in Cat. is used throughout this study (text in CAG; translation and commentary in Strange, 1992), as is his Isagoge (see the excellent introduction and detailed commentary in Barnes, 2003). With respect to Porphyry’s logical influence, I have made heavy use of Lloyd (1990) and several treatments by Sten Ebbesen (see bibliography).

(p.217) Iamblichus (c.242-325 CE) According to Simplicius in Cat., Iamblichus took over Porphyry’s commentary Ad Gedalium and (i) added an exegetical approach called noêra theôria, a ‘higher criticism’ which reinterpreted the Categories in the mould of Neoplatonic metaphysics (see my ch. 1 and Dillon 1997); (ii) adduced ‘Archytas’ for Neo-Pythagorean metaphysics, supporting (i). The interpretation of the Categories as a text with something to say about Platonic or Pythagorean metaphysics may be traced all the way back to Eudorus (ch. 3.1), and Iamblichus evidently followed ‘Archytas’ in adopting a similar view of the work. However, the earlier Neo-Pythagoreans such as Eudorus and ‘Archytas’ (cf. 22,31 and 31,5 Thesleff) held that the Categories concerned the sensible world only; Iamblichus seeks to show, as in several examples discussed above, that the text can also lead the reader ‘upward’ to the noetic realm. Iamblichus’ own commentary on the Categories is now lost, but was heavily used by Dexippus (as Simplicius informs us), by Simplicius himself, and by Olympiodorus.

Dexippus (mid-fourth century CE). A pupil of Iamblichus, Dexippus’ brief surviving commentary in Cat. (text: CAG; translation and commentary in Dillon, 1990) combines some of the defences of the Categories found in either or both of Porphyry and Iamblichus (as Simplicius informs us). Dexippus does not name names of sources as consistently as Simplicius, but he can be a very useful guide and occasionally provides a fuller discussion of the arguments used to refute a criticism. A prime example is his fuller discussion of the views of Athenodorus and Cornutus (see ch. 6); although he does not name them explicitly, the answering passage of Simplicius gives us their identity, and Dexippus provides more detail. Dexippus can also be useful to us for identifying where Iamblichus has added something to Porphyry’s basic account.

Ammonius (c.435/45–517/26 CE). A disciple of Proclus of Lycia, the towering Athenian Platonist of late antiquity (412–85 CE), Ammonius taught the last great generation of Neoplatonist commentators—including Simplicius, Olympiodorus, and Philoponus, among others. He was an influential holder of a chair in pagan philosophy at Alexandria at a time when such a position was rather controversial (cf. Westerink 1990). One commentary in De Int. is known to survive from his pen; a commentary in Cat. constitutes a student’s notes, as does the commentary On Prior Analytics I. I have made some use of all of these commentaries in the following chapters. See Hadot (1991) on the Alexandrian introductions to Aristotle, and see Westerink (1990) and Wildberg (1990) on Ammonius.

Boethius (c.480–524/5 CE). Boethius followed Marius Victorinus in translating Greek philosophers into Latin. I have made considerable use of his De Divisione in discussion of Andronicus (see ch. 2, where I discuss the likelihood that the proem and conclusion are ‘Andronican’), and I have also made (p.218) use of his commentaries Peri Hermeneias and in Cat. (and to a lesser extent his commentary on the Isagoge), particularly in ch. 1.

Simplicius of Cilicia (c.490–c.560 CE). As his commentary in Phys. is invaluable for the recovery of Presocratic fragments, the commentary in Cat. by the Neoplatonist Simplicius is the single most valuable source for the earlier tradition on the Categories that reaches him from Porphyry and Iamblichus. As we found above, he even informs us of the process that he uses in comparing and reporting earlier commentaries now lost to us, which is a great aid in evaluating his sources. And unlike many of the other later commentators, such as Ammonius, Simplicius explores and reports the views of earlier figures in detail, often with their names attached. We are entirely reliant on Simplicius for the supposed existence, let alone the positions, of some of the commentators who appear in his pages. The CAG text of Simplicius in Cat. has been translated into English and annotated in four volumes in the Ancient Commentators on Aristotle series (1–4 in Chase 2003; 5–6 in Fleet 2001; 7–8 in Fleet 2002; 9–15 in Gaskin 2000). I have found the most recent introductory material and notes in Chase (2003) especially exemplary and useful. The Categories commentary has also been closely studied and translated into French by Hoffman and Hadot (1990), with valuable comments on the problem of the skopos. The study given in the next chapter surveys an example of the ‘stratigraphy’ in Simplicius’ text.

Olympiodorus of Alexandria (c.495–570 CE). A student of Ammonius, Olympiodorus the Younger was among the last pagan philosophers to teach at the Alexandrian school in the sixth century CE; he may, in fact, have been the last pagan philosopher to hold the chair. Wildberg (2008b) and Westerink (1990) are both useful introductions to Olympiodorus’ life and times, with bibliography. His Prolegomena to Aristotle’s Logic and Commentary on Aristotle’s Categories (Busse’s text in CAG) are used extensively in my discussion of the skopos of the treatise. Again, see Hadot (1991) on the Alexandrian introductions to Aristotle in general. I have translated some excerpts of Olympiodorus in Cat. in ch. 1.

John Philoponus (c.490–570 CE). Philoponus was also a pupil of Ammonius—although, unlike Olympiodorus, he did not succeed Ammonius in a chair. A Christian philosopher who brought innovation to the commentary form elsewhere, his commentary in Cat. was relatively orthodox (cf. Hadot 1991); I have made several references to it, but my case studies of the Alexandrians following Ammonius have chiefly focused on Olympiodorus.

David (Elias) (later sixth century CE). The writings on the Categories ascribed to ‘David’ mention Olympiodorus several times, and their author may have been his student. They may have been written during Olympiodorus’ life, or later (cf. Westerink 1990; Wildberg 1990; Wildberg 2008b).


(1) See the introduction to T. A. Szlezák (1972) and M. Frede in Der Neue Pauly, as well as Dörrie, Platonica minora, 300. I have also found the synopsis in Dillon (1977/1996) and Bonazzi (2007) useful, with other literature given in chs. 3 and 3.1.

(2) On Philo of Alexandria, see Runia in Der Neue Pauly [I 12], with extensive bibliography. On his use of Peripatetic material, see Gottschalk, 1141 and 1145–6.

(3) In my original approach to Boethus (Griffin 2009: ch. 5), I exclude 10 of the 11 fragments in SVF under the name of Boethus Stoicus, which clearly stand apart from the fragments collected above as representative of Boethus Peripateticus. An ambiguous passage is Boethus Stoicus fr. 11 = Simplic. in De An. 247,24.

(4) See Dörrie and Baltes (III, 2002), 341; Dillon (1993); Whittaker in ANRW II 36 1; and bibliography in Der Neue Pauly for Albinus and Alcinous.

(5) See Dillon (1977: 237 ff.), Dorrie and Baltes, 310–23, and Praechter 101 ff.

(6) On A. cf. Simplic. in Phys. 4.11, 6.4 ff; in Cat. 15.36, 18.16 ff.; Anon Prol in Cat. 32b36 Brandis; cf. Zeller III 1, 809 n. 3; Moraux Listes 58 ff. See recently Sorabji (2007b).

(7) On him see Zeller III 1, 813; Rehm RE III A 1, and Moraux.

(8) He is apparently mentioned in Simplicius in de cael. 153,16; Alex. De an. II (Mantissa) 110,4; Moraux discusses him in ‘Aristoteles, der Lehrer des Al. v. Aphr.’, Arch. Gesch. Philos. 49 (1967), 169–82. See also P. Accattino, ‘Alessandro di Afrodisia e Aristotele di Mitelene’, Elenchos 6 (1985), 67–74, who suggests (73) that Alex in Met. 166,19–67,1 follows one of Aristoteles’ lost discussions.