Classics Ancient Commentators on Aristotle
John Sellars
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0158


In the 1st century BCE, the previously unknown lecture notes that we now know as Aristotle’s works were rediscovered, and from then until the end of antiquity they received close attention from philosophers. Both committed followers of Aristotle and Platonists who held that Aristotle was broadly in agreement with Plato wrote commentaries on his works. For the later Platonists in particular, writing commentaries on Aristotle (as well as Plato) became an established way of doing philosophy. Although some commentaries are lost and others survive only in fragments, a substantial number of often lengthy commentaries survive, filling twenty-three large volumes in the standard collection of the Greek texts. To these we can add the Latin commentaries of Boethius and more recent discoveries both in Greek and in Arabic translation. The commentaries are valuable for a number of reasons: for their interpretations of the fine details of Aristotle’s texts, for the philosophical contributions they make to the topics they discuss, and for the information they preserve about earlier philosophers whose works are otherwise lost.

General Overviews

For a brief overview aimed at readers completely new to the subject, see Kupreeva 2010. Falcon 2013 offers an overview aimed at academic readers. For a longer, thematically arranged introduction, see Tuominen 2009. More advanced readers might turn directly to Sorabji 1990, a seminal collection of essays with a helpful introduction by Sorabji, along with the more recent collection of essays Adamson, et al. 2004. The latter contains Fazzo 2004, a helpful overview that also discusses recent trends in the scholarship. Hoffmann 2006 offers a rich introduction to the practices of the later Neoplatonic commentators.

  • Adamson, Peter, Han Baltussen, and M. W. F. Stone, eds. 2004. Philosophy, science and exegesis in Greek, Arabic and Latin commentaries. 2 vols. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, Suppl. 83.1–2. London: Institute of Classical Studies.

    NNNA rich collection of papers arising out of a conference in honor of Richard Sorabji. The first volume deals with the ancient commentators.

  • Falcon, Andrea. 2013. Commentators on Aristotle. In The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta.

    NNNA brief overview of the entire subject, covering origins of the commentary tradition, the Peripatetic and Neoplatonic traditions, and Boethius.

  • Fazzo, Silvia. 2004. Aristotelianism as a commentary tradition. In Philosophy, science and exegesis in Greek, Arabic and Latin commentaries. Vol. 1. Edited by Peter Adamson, Han Baltussen, and M. W. F. Stone, 1–19. London: Institute of Classical Studies.

    NNNA helpful survey that among other things examines recent trends in scholarship on the ancient commentators.

  • Hoffmann, Philippe. 2006. What was commentary in late antiquity? The example of the Neoplatonic commentators. In A companion to ancient philosophy. Edited by Mary Louise Gill and Pierre Pellegrin, 597–622. Oxford: Blackwell.

    DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631210610.2006.00036.x

    NNNDiscussing Neoplatonic commentaries on both Aristotle and Plato, this essay is an excellent introduction to the pedagogic context in which the commentaries were written.

  • Kupreeva, Inna. 2010. Aristotle: Commentators on Aristotle. In The Oxford encyclopedia of ancient Greece and Rome. Vol. 1. Edited by Michael Gagarin, 252–265. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acref/9780195170726.001.0001

    NNNA concise and helpful overview aimed at the nonspecialist.

  • Sorabji, Richard, ed. 1990. Aristotle transformed: The ancient commentators and their influence. London: Duckworth.

    NNNA seminal collection of papers (reprinting and sometimes translating into English important studies previously published) that is regularly cited as the standard point of reference for those looking for a comprehensive overview. A revised second edition is currently in preparation.

  • Tuominen, Miira. 2009. The ancient commentators on Plato and Aristotle. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    NNNA book-length introduction that, despite the title, focuses mainly on the commentaries on Aristotle. Suitable for undergraduates.

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