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The Footprint Left by Aristotle and the Peripatos in the Papyri

Final Report Summary - FAPP (The Footprint Left by Aristotle and the Peripatos in the Papyri)

The project traced the footprint left in ancient manuscripts on Greek Papyri of the writings of Aristotle and his school (the'Peripatos'), showing that they can be seen to be transmitted in a continuous, unbroken tradition, from antiquity through the manuscripts of the middle ages to the the printed books of the Renaissance and thence to the modern period. It has significantly increased the number of papyri of Aristotle's works so far known, by editing from the ground up previously unpublished papyri from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri collection in the Sackler Library, University of Oxford, thus giving a fundamental contribution to the knowledge of the Peripatos in relation to its other transmitted texts. The results are set forth in a substantial article Aristotle's direct tradition as found in the papyri already published, first in those containing Aristotle's preserved works, then in those tentatively attributed to him. Some philological contribution was given on the text of the first group, also by collating the most recent editions and studies. As for the second group, the arguments pro and contra the attribution were analysed.

As for the chronology of the direct tradition in the papyri, the most ancient so far published is the famous papyrus of Aristotle's'Athenaion Politeia'(P. Br. Libr. inv. 131 = P. Lit. Lond. 108; CPF I. 1-, 24, no. 7), from the end of the first century. The new papyrus of Aristotle's'Rhetoric'which the project is publishing in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri series is more ancient, likely dating to the first century BC. Anyway, on the basis of this evidence, we could be tempted to trust the story told by Strabo (XIII, 1, 54) and Plutarch (Sull. 26) – and partially also by Poseidonius, in Athenaeus V, 214d – about the disappearance of Aristotle's technical treatises (p?a?µate?a? or the so-called'esoteric'works) during the Hellenistic period and their recovery due to Andronicus'first century BC edition; but we have to consider it, entirely or for the most part, not reliable for other reasons. For example, the fact that Diogenes Laertius'catalogue, probably based on Hermippus, contains titles of works composed by Aristotle in the Peripatos, shows that Hermippus knew Aristotle's treatises before Andronicus'edition and that the Library of Alexandria where Hermippus was based owned them. In D?ring's opinion, part of the so-called'esoteric'works, copied directly from the originals, would have been brought to Alexandria in 307 BC – that is, during Theophrastus'life-when Straton of Lampsacus and Demetrius of Phaleron were invited there by Ptolemy Soter to found a sort of new Peripatos. In particular, D?ring draws attention to the knowledge of Aristotle's zoological works in the Hellenistic period. In this respect, for instance, the Epitome of Aristotle's'History of Animals'by Aristophanes of Byzantium, of which a fragment is preserved in P. Br. Libr. inv. 2242, assigned to the second/third century (CPF I. 1-, 24, no. 36T), is important.

So we have to consider as simply accidental the lack of Aristotle papyri dating to the Ptolemaic age.

Instead, it is noteworthy that the presence of Theophrastus in the papyri goes back to a very ancient period, since P. Hibeh 16 (CPF I. 1--, 103, no. 4)-containing a passage that, because of its subject and its antiquity, can be attributed to De aquis or to other works on a similar topic-is dated to the third century BC.

As for the works preserved, the'Athenaion Politeia'is the most well represented with two papyri, but also the'Nicomachean Ethics', as two more papyri are due to appear in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri series, one belonging to the same roll as P. Oxy. XXIV, 2402, the other being a fragment of papyrus codex. The'Athenaion Politeia'must have been very important at different levels: historical, political, antiquarian; that is why it is one of the most quoted of Aristotle's works in the educated literary discourse in general.

As for the'Nicomachean Ethics', our papyrus is roughly contemporary to Aspasius'commentary on this work, dating to the second century, which is also the age of the revival of commentaries on Aristotle.

We have already pointed out the interest of the Hellenistic period in the zoological works of Aristotle: the'History of Animals', along with the'Politeiai', is the most quoted work in the indirect tradition. In addition to the papyrus of Aristotle's'History of Animals'already published, we have added a new papyrus of'De partibus animalium'papyrus due to appear in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri series.

Given the importance of the'Politeiai', the presence of a papyrus of Aristotle's'Politics'is not surprising. Furthermore, the fragment of'De caelo'witnesses the interest in cosmogony, already represented by the commentary of this work given by Xenarchus of Seleucia (first century BC), but also by that of Alexander of Aegae (first century AD). The'De caelo'and especially the'Categories', commented by the same Alexander of Aegae, were the most important works in the first phase of the commentaries on Aristotle (later first century BC-earlier first century AD).

In this regard, the'Organon'is well represented in the papyri, with two from the'Categories'– and in particular from the'Postpraedicamenta', considered spurious by Andronicus-one from the'Posterior Analytics'and one from the'Topics'. In relation to the fact that the papyrus of Aristotle's'Posterior Analytics'is dated to the fifth century, we know that in late antiquity "Aristotle's works and most of all the'Organon'constituted the core of the philosophical canon as the first and propedeutic stage before studies on the more'divine'philosophy of Plato".

Finally the papyrus of Aristotle's'Protreptic', from the second century, shows that Aristotle's lost works do not disappear immediately after the so-called'Andronicus'edition'but are still read along with the treatises.

As for the type of artefacts in relation to their purposes, firstly there is no copy that can certainly be attributed to the school environment. We should then draw attention to the fact that the famous rolls of the'Athenaion Politeia'likely belonged to the private collection of a well-educated person; the papyrus of A.'s'Politics', which is a deluxe edition, like the Berlin papyrus of the'Athenaion Politeia', with its carefully executed script and wide margins, is to be considered a standard book instead of a school copy. The Nicomachean Ethics papyrus is an informal copy with a good text, like that of the'Categories', P. Oxy. XXIV, 2403. Finally, the only papyrus of a work of Aristotle with annotations is that preserving the'Posterior Analytics', which was probably a working copy. Thus the project was able to show the full range of Aristotle's work in transmission in the papyri, in copies designed for different levels of audiences and readers, from the Hellenistic period to late antiquity.