Classics Theophrastus of Eresus
by
Han Baltussen
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0308

Introduction

Theophrastus of Eresus (372/1–282/1 BCE) came from the island of Lesbos (near Turkey) and was originally named Tyrtamos. Like many young men he was drawn to the metropolitan center of philosophical thought, Athens, and he studied briefly with Plato, then an old man (c. 356/5). But he went on to study with Aristotle, who gave him the name Theophrastus, “gifted speaker” (from theo- “divine” and phrazein “to speak”). Eventually they became colleagues and collaborators until Aristotle’s death (322 BCE), at which point he became the next head of the Peripatetic school in Athens (322/1 BCE). Important recent finds in Arabic and Syriac sources and the 1992 edition of the sources for his life and works have given us a better understanding of his ideas, independence of thought, and influence. In addition, new editions of his botanical works and small treatises in natural science also increased our understanding of his approach and thought. His extant works and the fragments show him as a conscientious and wide-ranging scholar and researcher. While incomplete, the evidence still allows us to reconstruct his philosophical activities, for instance, in natural science, biology, psychology, human physiology, logic and rhetoric. He spent much of his time engaged in natural science, a field which had already become very broad under Aristotle. Theophrastus continued to work in several areas but added a considerable number of studies, some on topics of the inanimate world, such as fire, stones, winds and weather signs, as well as on matters of physiology (e.g., sweat, dizziness). He made particular contributions of his own in ethics, botany, and the study of sense perception. A list of his works in Diogenes Laertius 5.42–50 contains some 220 titles, of which we still have his researches into plants, nine short works, one large section of a survey of earlier views, and approximately eight hundred fragments found in later sources. Despite the partial survival of his output he comes across as a productive philosopher and scientist, who managed to safeguard the intellectual inheritance of Aristotle and made his own contributions in logic, metaphysics, natural science, ethics, and the “history” of philosophy.

General Overviews

The past four decades have seen a considerable upsurge in research on Theophrastus, adding many works in English and French to the existing German scholarship. A good place to start your reading on this philosopher is Ierodiakonou 2016 which offers a quick and convenient orientation (online overview). Regenbogen 1940 (in German) gives a magisterial synthesis of the knowledge up to 1940 and is still useful, but primarily for scholars. Sharples 1998 offers a good introduction to his Physics. Schneider 2016 (in French) gives an excellent overview of life and works. Fortenbaugh 1984 is the first modern overview of the sources for ethics. Baltussen 2016 presents a general account of the school in which Theophrastus looms large.

  • Baltussen, H. 2016. The Peripatetics: Aristotle’s heirs 322 BCE–200 CE. London: Routledge.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A general and up-to-date account of the successors of Aristotle and how they developed and maintained Aristotelian thought. The study synthesizes the research on the school of the past four decades and pays special attention to the question of the internal coherence of the school and its relation to other schools.

    Find this resource:

    • Fortenbaugh, W. W. 1984. Quellen zur Ethik Theophrasts. Amsterdam: B.R. Grüner.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The first comprehensive analysis of the ethical fragments in a century.

      Find this resource:

      • Ierodiakonou, K. 2016. Theophrastus. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        General discussion of Theophrastus’ life, ideas, and works.

        Find this resource:

        • Regenbogen, O. 1940. Theophrastos. In Paulys Realenzyklopädie der Antike. Supplement Band 7, cols. 1354–1562. Stuttgart, Germany: Metzler.

          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          A probing and comprehensive synthesis of the scholarly understanding of Theophrastus up to 1940. It is a monographic treatment that has stood the test of time, even though we have learned much since. In German.

          Find this resource:

          • Schneider, J. -P. 2016. Théophraste d’Érèse. Dictionnaire des Philosophes Antiques (CNRS Éditions). Vol. 6. 1034–1120 [+ D. Gutas 1120–1 tradition arabe; J. Lang 1122–3 iconographie]. Paris: CNRS.

            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Most recent overview of his life and work, with a listing of 224 titles in Diog. Laert. (1046–1055) and titles found in later sources (1055–1056), the individual works by subject domains (1059–1118), and commentaries (1118–1120). In French.

            Find this resource:

            • Sharples, R. W. 1998. Introduction. In Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his life, writings, thought and influence. Commentary. Vol. 3.1, Sources on Physics (Texts 137–223). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              A recent and most valuable evaluation of Theophrastus’ work, also in relation to the Aristotle. Commentary on the fragments pertaining to Theophrastus’ natural science. See especially xv-xvii and the Afterword (pp. 227–230). With contributions on the Arabic material by D. Gutas.

              Find this resource:

              Biography

              Most of our knowledge about Theophrastus’ life comes from Diogenes Laertius (Diog. Laert.), a few late sources (Aulus Gellius, Suda, ibn-an-Nadim, Šahrastānī), with some added details inferred from his works (e.g., his whereabouts at various stages of his life). Diogenes Laertius’s account of successions mentions wills, in which succession and handover of materials goods was organized (Diog. Laert. 5.51–57; Gottschalk 1972). The competition for the leadership between Theophrastus and his contemporary Eudemus of Rhodes is described by Aulus Gellius (Attic Nights 13.5.1–12 = fr. 8 FHSG), in which Aristotle is said to have asked for wines from Lesbos and from Rhodes, expressing preference for the former. Though an amusing anecdote it is probably a fabrication. On his deathbed at a ripe old age (cf. Diog. Laert. 5. 40), Theophrastus is said to have complained he was just starting to understand things when nature would not grant him more time, while it did grant a long life to stags and crows (Cicero Tusculanae disputationes 3.69 = fr. 34A FHSG). His will stipulated that his worldly possessions and school grounds go to “friends who wish to study literature and philosophy together,” and his library to his nephew Neleus (Diog. Laert. 5. 52; Gottschalk 1972). Strato became the third head of the school. (See also separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Classics “Greek Philosophy” by A Preus).

              • Diogenes Laertius. 1925. Lives of philosophers book 5. Translated by R. D. Hick. Loeb Classical Series. Cambridge, MA, and London.

                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                Introduction by H. S. Long. The standard biographical source on Greek philosophers (dated to the early third century BCE), organized by Ionic successions (books 2–5), Italic successions (books 6–8), and a group without successions (books 9–10). Theophrastus’ life and works are described in Diog. Laert. 5.36–57 (= fr. 1 FHSG). Reprint 1980. New edition by T. Dorandi (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

                Find this resource:

                • Sollenberger, M. G. 1992. The lives of the Peripatetics: An analysis of the contents and structure of Diogenes Laertius’ Vitae philosophorum Book 5. In Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt, II 36.6. Edited by J. Vogt, H. Temporini, and W. Haase, 3793–3879. Berlin: De Gruyter.

                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  A detailed examination of the Life of Theophrastus in Diog. Laert. 5.

                  Find this resource:

                  • Gottschalk, H. B. 1972. Notes on the wills of the Peripatetic scholarchs. Hermes 100:312–342.

                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    An examination of the wills in Diogenes Laertius which clarifies the procedure and convention of the genre.

                    Find this resource:

                    • Mejer, J. 1998. A life in fragments: The Vita Theophrasti. In Theophrastus: Reappraising the sources. Edited by J. van Ophuijsen and M. van Raalte, 1–28. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 8. New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Transaction Books.

                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      Useful discussion of the fragments pertaining to Theophrastus’ life.

                      Find this resource:

                      Editions

                      The renewed interest in Theophrastus in the 20th century has also led to a host of new editions and commentaries. The older studies on metaphysics (Ross and Fobes 1929) or on piety (Pötscher 1964) are still useful, though both works have been studied anew (see section on Metaphysics). Initially his smaller work received attention from different quarters, such as the On Stones when Caley and Richards 1956 focused on geological aspects, and Eichholz 1965, whose emphasis was more on the textual problems. The botanical studies followed (editions with translation) in the Loeb series by Einarson 1976 and Einarson and Link 1976, Einarson and Link 1990 (all cited under Botany). But the new two-volume edition of the fragments (Fortenbaugh, et al. 1992) was a momentous occasion, providing a completely new collection, full translation including Arabic and medieval sources. From this edition grew a separate commentary series on the sources for Theophrastus (see section on Commentaries).

                      • Battegazzore, A. 2006. Il Fuoco. Il trattato “De igne.” Sassari, Italy: Edizione Gallizi.

                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        Edition of On Fire with Italian translation and notes.

                        Find this resource:

                        • Caley, E. R., and F. C. Richards, eds. 1956. Theophrastus, On stones (De lapidibus). Columbus: Ohio State Univ.

                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          Text, translation, and commentary of the On Stones, with a special focus on the mineralogical aspects of this work.

                          Find this resource:

                          • Eichholz, D. E., ed. 1965. Theophrastus, De lapidibus. Oxford: Clarendon.

                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                            Another detailed discussion and commentary of On Stones, in which the author offers many useful observations on date, structure, and doctrine in the introduction. It also discusses the relation to Aristotle’s Meteorology 4, a book of disputed authorship. Unlike Caley and Richards (who used the flawed Wimmer text), Eichholz re-examined the manuscripts and established a better text.

                            Find this resource:

                            • Fortenbaugh, W. W., P. M. Huby, R. W. Sharples, and D. Gutas, eds. 1992. Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his life, writings, thought, and influence. 2 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.

                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              The most recent edition of fragmentary remains of Theophrastus’ works (replacing F. Wimmer’s 1866 edition). The two volumes contain texts and translations of sources up to the 14th century.

                              Find this resource:

                              • Hort, A. F., ed. 1926. De odoribus. In Theophrastus: Enquiry into plants (Historia Plantarum) II. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.

                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                Text and translation of the short work on odors, which builds on and expands Aristotelian ideas in this area. See also Eigler and Wöhrle 1993, cited under Studies on Individual Complete Works.

                                Find this resource:

                                • Hort, A. F. 2007. On weather signs. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  First English translation of the short work on weather signs (“meteorology”). New edition by D. Sider and O. Brunschön. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

                                  Find this resource:

                                  • Pötscher, W. 1964. Theophrastos. ΠΕΡΙ ΕΥΣΕΒΕΙΑΣ. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.

                                    DOI: 10.1163/9789004320307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    German translation and commentary on the fragments for περὶ εὐσεβείας, “On Piety” (title in Diog. Laert. 5.50), attempting a reconstruction of the work. The fragments are all preserved in Porphyry’s On Abstinence from Killing Animals (late 3rd/early 4th century CE).

                                    Find this resource:

                                    • Repici, L. 2013. Teofrasto, Metafisica. Rome: Carocci.

                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      Edition and Italian translation.

                                      Find this resource:

                                      • Ross, W. D., and F. H. Fobes. 1929. Theophrastus Metaphysics. Oxford: Clarendon.

                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        English translation and short commentary on this brief work. Ross and Fobes characterize it as an essay about the scope and limits of metaphysics.

                                        Find this resource:

                                        • Sharples, R. W. 1992. On fish. In Theophrastus: His psychological, doxographical and scientific writings. Edited by W. W. Fortenbaugh and D. Gutas, 347–385. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 5. New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Transaction Books.

                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Critical edition, translation, and commentary on this very short work, which Sharples considers more or less complete.

                                          Find this resource:

                                          • Wilson, N. G. 1961. Some manuscripts of Theophrastus. Classical Philology 56.2: 109.

                                            DOI: 10.1086/364569Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            A short note on the nine manuscripts for On Stones, adding to the four listed in the new edition of Caley and Richards 1956.

                                            Find this resource:

                                            • Wilson, N. G. 1979. The manuscripts of Theophrastus. Scriptorium 16.1:96–102.

                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              Based on Richard’s work on Greek manuscripts in Paris (1958) Wilson’s list is the first more systematic gathering of data. It starts with, and goes beyond, the Leipzig edition of the Characters. He basically lists seventy-three manuscripts, a few papyri, and some translations. A further list for “Other Works contains fifty-nine manuscripts, two papyri, and translations in oriental languages.

                                              Find this resource:

                                              Commentaries

                                              A series of commentaries on the sources in Fortenbaugh, et al. 1992 (cited under Editions) is being published by E.J. Brill (twelve planned so far, of which eight have appeared). They provide useful exegesis and context to the sources published in 1992, and will be useful to advanced students and academics. In all volumes Dimitri Gutas is responsible for the comments on Arabic materials. As the list in this section shows, they were not published chronologically by their natural sequence, but if and when a scholar was available. Each volume focuses on a distinctive area according to ancient fields of study: biology (Sharples 1995), physics (Sharples 1998), metaphysics and religion, logic (Huby and Gutas 2007), psychology (Huby 1999), rhetoric (Fortenbaugh 2005), ethics (Fortenbaugh 2011), Discoveries and Beginnings (Fortenbaugh 2014), and doxography.

                                              • Fortenbaugh, W. W. 2005. Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his life, writings, thought and influence. Commentary. Vol. 8, Sources on rhetoric and poetics. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                Commentary on sources relating to Rhetoric and Poetics. With contributions on the Arabic material by Dimitri Gutas.

                                                Find this resource:

                                                • Fortenbaugh, W. W. 2014. Theophrastus of Eresus. Sources for his Life, Writings, Thought and Influence. Commentary. Vol. 9.2, Sources on Discoveries and Beginnings, Proverbs et al. (texts 727–741). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  Commentary on sources relating to a variety of topics under the broader headings Discoveries and Beginnings. Contributions on the Arabic material by Dimitri Gutas.

                                                  Find this resource:

                                                  • Fortenbaugh, W. W. 2011. Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his life, writings, thought and influence. Commentary. Vol. 6.1, Sources on ethics (texts 436–579). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Commentary on the sources relating to ethics. With contributions on the Arabic material by D. Gutas.

                                                    Find this resource:

                                                    • Huby, P. M. 1999. Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his life, writings, thought and influence. Commentary. Vol. 4, Sources on psychology (texts 265–327). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      Commentary on the sources related to psychology, which include ideas on self-motion. With contributions on the Arabic material by D. Gutas.

                                                      Find this resource:

                                                      • Huby, P. M., and D. Gutas. 2007. Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his life, writings, thought and influence. Commentary. Vol. 2, Logic (texts 68–136). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Commentary on the sources for logic.

                                                        Find this resource:

                                                        • Sharples, R. W. 1995. Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his life, writings, thought and influence. Commentary. Vol. 5, Sources on biology (texts 328–435). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          Commentary on the sources relating to biology. With contributions on the Arabic material by D. Gutas.

                                                          Find this resource:

                                                          • Sharples, R. W. 1998. Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his life, writings, thought and influence. Commentary. Vol. 3.1, Sources on physics (Texts 137–223). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            Covers the sources related to natural science (excluding biology, which is Vol. 5). With contributions on the Arabic material by D. Gutas.

                                                            Find this resource:

                                                            Studies on Individual Complete Works

                                                            The so-called nine opuscula, “small works,” which are still extant, have received special attention in a number of studies, along with the De sensibus, which became attached to the opuscula in the manuscript tradition at some point: the works may represent Theophrastus’ effort to complement Aristotle’s work, since they cover areas the school founder did not elaborate on or omitted completely (so far as we know). The set of nine concern writings on physiology (Fortenbaugh, et al. 2003), sense perception (Eigler and Wöhrle 1993) and the critical discussion of previous views on sense perception (Stratton 1964, Baltussen 2000), and the methodology in botany (Wöhrle 1985, cited under Botany). This work plays a role in the larger debate about Theophrastus’ contribution to the transmission of pre-Platonic ideas in later centuries. The monographic studies in this section further illustrate the recent revival in Theophrastean studies.

                                                            • Baltussen, H. 2000. Theophrastus against the Presocratics and Plato: Peripatetic dialectic in the De sensibus. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.

                                                              DOI: 10.1163/9789004321113Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              A specialized study of the De sensibus, which contains a chapter on Theophrastus’ life and method and has a complete and up-to-date bibliography on the work (improving on Wehrli’s of 1987). The work also features in the discussion over Theophrastus’ work of importance for the history of philosophy (below History of Philosophy (“Doxography”)).

                                                              Find this resource:

                                                              • Burnikel, W. 1974. Textgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zu Neun Opuscula Theophrasts. Wiesbaden, German: Steiner.

                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                A specialized study of the manuscript transmission of the so-called nine opuscula (small works) of Theophrastus (On Fire, Metaphysics, On Stones, On Sweat, On Vertigo, On Tiredness, On Fish, On Winds, On Odors). This set of works is transmitted as a group in the manuscripts and allows for a number of important insights into the transmission. In German.

                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                • Eigler, U., and G. Wöhrle. 1993. Theophrast, De odoribus. Berlin: De Gruyter.

                                                                  DOI: 10.1515/9783110950465Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  First modern edition, translation, and commentary on the De odoribus, the small tract on nature of basic and mixed odors. The editors take this work as book 8 of CP, due to cross-references. Both Book 8 and the lost Book 7 are mentioned in the list of works by Diogenes Laertius (5.5 and 45).

                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                  • Fortenbaugh, W. W., R. W. Sharples, and M. G. Sollenberger, eds. 2003. Theophrastus of Eresus: On Sweat, On Dizziness, On Fatigue. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.

                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    Edition, translation, and commentary. Commentaries on three of the opuscula dealing with physiological phenomena of the human body. The general interest in human biology and physiology fits the Aristotelian injunction, that a philosopher should also be a physician. Other titles in the list of works confirm this (on epilepsy 5.23, on suffocation 5.44, on paralysis 5.45 [partly preserved in Photius] etc.).

                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                    • McDiarmid, J. B. 1962. The manuscripts of Theophrastus’ “De sensibus.” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 44:1–32.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1515/agph.1962.44.1.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      An examination of all available manuscripts for De sensibus.

                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                      • Stratton, G. M. 1964. Theophrastus and the Greek physiological psychology before Aristotle. Reprint. Amsterdam: E.J. Bonset-P. Schippers N.V.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1037/13839-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Originally published in 1917. The first modern translation of this work into English. Stratton was a psychologist with a keen interest in sensory experiences. His translation was done with the help of A. E. Taylor, the Professor of Greek at the University of Glasgow, which has ensured it is serviceable (the Greek manuscript is notoriously difficult and damaged in places).

                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                        Works and Doctrines

                                                                        Theophrastus’ works are said to have survived together with Aristotle’s when the library went to Neleus, “a man who studied under Aristotle and Theophrastus” (Strabo, Geography 13.1.54 = fr. 37 in Fortenbaugh, et al. 1992 (cited under Editions), hereafter FHSG). A similar story survives in Plutarch (fr. 38 FHSG). Most scholars have taken these reports as unreliable. The full evidence has recently been analyzed by Barnes 1997. In several areas Theophrastus made useful and considered additions to Aristotle’s ideas. His acceptance of many positions of his mentor is clear in the material that survives. But it does not mean that he never critically approached Aristotle’s thought, who despite his systematic ambition had left much unexpressed or unfinished. Theophrastus’ approach of adding and refining the doctrines makes good sense. The difficulty is that Theophrastus does not always articulate corrections or criticism openly, but in the form of questions or possible alternatives. He was not the dogmatic and docile pupil scholars sometimes have claimed. A simple comparison with his teacher would be invidious. It was already recognized in antiquity that his work traded on the presence of the Aristotelian corpus, while expanding where required, and proposing corrections on certain fundamental aspects of Aristotle’s doctrine. This cautious attitude has also been connected to a less optimistic view on securing comprehensive knowledge of the world and the possibility of explanations by way of singular causes (Regenbogen 1940, col. 1554, cited under General Overviews). Theophrastus seems to adopt the larger Aristotelian framework, and intent on filling in the details, adding corrections and presenting a more empirical justification of the over-arching rules. This can lead to adjustments and corrections, although he seldom bluntly proposes a variation, but tends to explore possible alternatives and resolutions of inconsistencies. If we are to believe Diogenes Laertius’s report, he “interpreted all his [Aristotle’s] meaning with an excess of cleverness” (Diog. Laert. 5.39).

                                                                        • Barnes, J. 1997. Aristotle at Rome. In Philosophia Togata II: Aristotle and Plato at Rome. Edited by J. Barnes and M. Griffin, 1–69. Oxford: Clarendon.

                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          An important discussion of the transmission of the Corpus Aristotelicum. Barnes is very skeptical about the stories preserved in Plutarch and Strabo, and provides a long and detailed analysis explaining why so little is certain in these accounts.

                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                          Natural Science

                                                                          While the majority of his researches in natural science have not survived in full, we can still reconstruct many ideas on nature from two major works on botany (see below). In addition, we have nine short tracts which deal with the inanimate (e.g., fire, winds, stones) or physiology (e.g., sweat, dizziness, fatigue), and fragmentary remains pertaining to meteorology, biology, epistemology, ethics, and psychology. Despite his empirical outlook, he consistently deals with issues of a theoretical and fundamental nature (see frr. 142–145 and the section on Metaphysics). He added significantly to the knowledge and scientific methodology developed by Aristotle. In line with Peripatetic doctrine, Theophrastus attributes order and regularity to nature, that is, it “does nothing in vain” (Caus. pl. 1.1.1; 2.1.1; 4.4.2; Metaphysica 10a23 RF), but with certain reservations (see section on Metaphysics). He is also prepared to allow for multiple explanations for physical phenomena (like Epicurus, but in different form), which may signal an awareness that a universal theory is unattainable (Regenbogen 1940, col. 1554, cited under General Overviews; Daiber 1992). A correct explanation should give a reason for puzzling facts (On Winds 59), be coherent (On Smells 64), and should harmonize with the descriptions of the facts (Caus. pl. 1.1; 1.21.4). His views thus adumbrate a principle of falsification. Significant aspects of his epistemology and psychology we can reconstruct from the fragments (frr. 265–327), indirectly from his De sensibus (Baltussen 1998, cited under History of Philosophy (“Doxography”)), and on the basis of mostly late sources, some going back to his own On the Soul Book 2 (apparently Book 5 of his own Physika, fr. 307A.20–1 FHSG). Thirdly, Theophrastus’ works are empirical, advocating that perception is crucial for knowledge (frr. 301B and 143 FHSG), and that self-evidence is a criterion of truth (fr. 301A). He asks pertinent questions about the process of sensation (How does the sense organ become “like” the object? Answer: the organ receives a universal form). His notoriously difficult account of intellect is paraphrased in Themistius (fr. 307A) and the Platonist Priscian (fr. 307B–D). He asks after its nature in relation to matter and puzzles over the manner in which a thinker and their thoughts might affect each other. His views on physiology appear in the context of psychology and plant studies as well as athletics. His particular interest in odors is clear from his De odoribus, his critical assessment of predecessors in De sensibus and CP 6, written perhaps for practical reasons, since his thoughts about odors of plants often touch on their effects on humans (Eigler and Wöhrle 1993, under Studies on Individual Complete Works; Baltussen 2015). In the Problêmata, which reflects school discussions, we find echoes of his views (Mayhew 2015, cited under Collections of Essays). In meteorology Theophrastus seems to have attempted explanations for thunder and lightning, echoes of which we find in Seneca Quaestiones Naturales and an Arabic and Syriac translation (Daiber 1992) We also have several pseudonymous works (Gottschalk 1964, Gottschalk 1968).

                                                                          • Baltussen, H. 2015. Understanding odours in Probl. 12–13: Peripatetic problems concerning the elusive sense of smell. In The Aristotelian Problêmata: Philosophical and scientific investigations. Edited by Robert Mayhew, 172–189. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.

                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Discusses the views on smell and odors in Probl. books 12–13, and their close link to Theophrastus.

                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                            • Daiber, H. 1992. The Meteorology of Theophrastus in Arabic and Syriac translation. In Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his life, writings, thought, and influence. Vol. 1. Edited by W. W. Fortengaugh, P. M. Huby, R. W. Sharples, and D. Gutas, 166–293. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.

                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Contains a translation and interpretation of the meteorology as transmitted via Arabic and Syriac sources.

                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                              • Gaiser, Konrad. 1985. Theophrast in Assos. Zur Entwicklung der Naturwissenschaft zwischen Akademie und Peripatos. Heidelberg, Germany: Winter.

                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Short monograph on Theophrastus’ studies in natural science while working in Assos with Aristotle.

                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                • Gottschalk, H. B. 1964. The De Coloribus and its author. Hermes 92:59–85.

                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  Gottschalk argues persuasively that the work may in fact be by Theophrastus or a close contemporary (but not his successor, Strato).

                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                  • Gottschalk, H. B. 1968. The De Audibilibus and Peripatetic acoustics. Hermes 96.3: 435–460.

                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Authorship for On Things Heard (peri akoustōn) has proved more difficult to establish. Gottschalk argues by careful elimination of candidates that Strato is most likely the author.

                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                    • McDiarmid, J. B. 1940. Theophrastus on the eternity of the world. Transactions of the American Philological Association 71:239–247.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/283126Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Examines the fragment in which Theophrastus is to have polemicized against the Stoic Zeno on the eternity of the world.

                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                      • van Raalte, Marlein. 2010. The nature of fire and its complications: Theophrastus De igne 1–10. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 53:47–97.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-5370.2010.00004.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Extensive discussion of On Fire.

                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                        • Sharples, R. W. 1992. On fish. In Theophrastus: His psychological, doxographical and scientific writings. Edited by W. W. Fortenbaugh and D. Gutas, 347–385. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 5. New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Transaction Books.

                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Commentary volumes on fragments in Fortenbaugh, et al. 1992 (cited under Editions) related to biology and physics. Sharples 1992 is also cited under Editions.

                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                          • Sharples, R. W. 2006. Common to body and soul: Peripatetic approaches after Aristotle. In Common to body and soul: Philosophical approaches to explaining living behaviour in Greco-Roman antiquity. Edited by R. King, 165–186. Berlin: De Gruyter.

                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            In this paper Sharples examines the relation between body and soul among the Peripatetics after Aristotle. He presents a detailed and cautious discussion of extant views, using often neglected texts for Theophrastus and Strato, but also the pseudo-Aristotelian On Breath and the Problemata. He ends the analysis with Alexander of Aphrodisias (and pseudo-Alexander Medical Problems), who did not always follow Aristotle in every detail.

                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                            Botany

                                                                                            Theophrastus’ work in botany was extensive and important. We possess two major works, the Historia Plantarum (HP), Researches into Plants; and the De Causis Plantarum (CP), Explanations of Plants, which have been re-edited recently by Amigues in multiple volumes (Amigues 1988–2006; Amigues 2012–2017). The HP is an investigation into the various plants, the CP aims to offer explanations for their main characteristics (form, location, tastes and smells, medicinal effects). They describe differences between plants, their parts, properties, and the influence of their surroundings and cultivation. The works offer a broad taxonomy which would later impress Linnaeus (see Eriksson 1983 under Reception). They organize the world of plants into different types of shrubs and trees by analyzing their parts, location, and other features (e.g., smell, flavor, and medicinal properties). Theophrastus relied on local knowledge about the searching and collecting for medicinal plants. Theophrastus works from an exemplar (the tree) to establish the categorization and taxonomy of plants (Wöhrle 1985), much like Aristotle did with his biology (human as the exemplar).

                                                                                            • Amigues, S. 1988–2006. Théophraste, Recherches sur les Plantes. Paris: Budé.

                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              Edition of Greek text with French facing translation of HP. Book 1, 1988; Book 2, 2003; Book 3, 1993 (repr. 2003); Book 4, 2003; Book 5, 2006.

                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                              • Amigues, S. 2012–2017. Théophraste. Les causes des phénomènes végétaux. Paris: Budé.

                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Edition of Greek text with French facing translation of CP. Book 1, 2012; Book 2, 2015; Book 3, 2017.

                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                • Einarson, B. 1976. The manuscripts of Theophrastus’ Historia Plantarum. Classical Philology 71.1: 67–76.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/366234Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  Discussion of the stemma and the ten known manuscripts for the Enquiry into Plants including some of the problems arising from incomplete books (e.g., 9–10), the Latin translation of Theodorus Gaza (1450–1451), as well as the Aldine edition (1496–1497). Also includes evidence for the arrangement of parts of books in Galen and Bessarion, and a number of excerpts. Concludes that U, f, and h are the most authoritative.

                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                  • Einarson, B., and G. K. K. Link, eds. 1976. Theophrastus, De Causis Plantarum. Vols. 1–2. Books 1–2, 3–4. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.

                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Volume 1 (books 1–2) deals with plants and their parts, trees and their parts, concoction and its causes, and cultivation. Volume 2 (books 3–4) deals with wild trees, and plants and trees particular to certain districts.

                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                    • Einarson, B., and G. K. K. Link, eds. 1990. Theophrastus, De Causis Plantarum. Vol. 3. Books 5–6. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.

                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Volume 3 (books 5–6) deals with unnatural occurrences in the plant world, with occasional polemic against other (mostly anonymous) views (Book 5), and an extensive discussion on flavors and odors of plants (Book 6) including criticism of Democritus’s and Plato’s views.

                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                      • Hort, A. F. 1968. Theophrastus, Enquiry into plants (Historia Plantarum) I–II. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.

                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        This edition contains the first two books of Enquiry into Plants (HP) with Greek and English text on facing pages.

                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                        • Wöhrle, G. 1985. Theophrasts Methode in seinen botanischen Schriften. Amsterdam: B. Grüner.

                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          A useful study of the botanical works, which argues persuasively that Theophrastus works along similar principles as Aristotle used in his biological studies of animals.

                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                          Logic and Language

                                                                                                          In language and logic Theophrastus contributed a number of new ideas, although his achievements in logic have generally not impressed scholars (Barnes 1985, Mignucci 1998). Aristotle had worked on a descriptive system of argumentation, the first second-order language of research. This early form of scientific methodology was a mix of logical principles and rhetorical habits, since forms of presentation and manipulation were combined with rules of consistency and rigor. The syllogism is a form of reasoning defined by Aristotle where two given propositions produce a conclusion in which the middle term explains the connection (cause) between the first and third statement. Aristotle distinguished a number of these figures. Theophrastus expanded on the relation between the second and third figures, and he revised Aristotle’s modal logic (Barnes 1985, Barnes 2007), suggesting that in a chain of reasoning the conclusion follows the weaker premise, not the major (a kind of weakest link principle). He also worked on rhetoric and dialectic. For the latter he proposed to change the system of dialectical predication, subsuming the four predicables under definition, perhaps to create “a single universal method,” which Aristotle had considered impossible or unhelpful (Alexander of Aphrodisias agreed, fr. 124A-B FHSG [Fortenbaugh, et al. 1992, cited under Editions]), and he provides us with a definition of the dialectical “topos” (not found in Aristotle) as an argumentative strategy or principle (fr. 122B FHSG). He is said to have introduced a doctrine of hypothetical syllogisms, possibly in collaboration with Eudemus. True to his reputation as a good speaker his comments on language advance grammar and style, and there is a notable emphasis on the use of appropriate language in each field.

                                                                                                          • Barnes, J. 1985. Theophrastus and hypothetical syllogistic. In Theophrastus of Eresos: On his life and work. Edited by W. W. Fortenbaugh, 125–141. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 2. New Brunswick, NJ, and Oxford: Transaction Books.

                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            A useful analysis of the expansion of syllogistic by Theophrastus.

                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                            • Barnes, J. 2007. Peripatetic logic. In Greek and Roman philosophy, 100 BC-200 AD. Edited by R. W. Sharples and R. R. K. Sorabji, 2: 531–546. London: BICS.

                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              Barnes offers a useful analysis of the contributions by Peripatetics after Aristotle on logical problems.

                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                              • Bobzien, S. 2000. Wholly hypothetical syllogisms. Phronesis 45:87–137.

                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Discussion of a specific set of hypothetical syllogisms.

                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                • Huby, P. M. Theophrastus’ logic. In Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his life, writings, thought and influence. Commentary. Edited by P. M.Huby and D. Gutas. Vol. 2, Logic (texts 68–136). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Commentary on the nature and transmission of sources relating to logic.

                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                  • Mignucci, M. 1998. Theophrastus’ logic. In Theophrastus: Reappraising the sources. Edited by J. van Ophuijsen and M. van Raalte, 39–65. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 8. New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Transaction Books.

                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    A critical appraisal of Theophrastus’ logic (includes conversions to modern logical symbols).

                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                    Metaphysics

                                                                                                                    The extant short tract on metaphysics, long regarded as a large fragment (“metaphysical fragment,” Ross and Fobes 1929, x; cf. Regenbogen 1940, col. 1389, cited under General Overviews) is now considered to be a complete work. It is generally regarded as an early work (Most 1988), a position Huby 2015 recently tried to strengthen. Gutas 2010 has offered a new critical edition of the Arabic and Greek texts and presented an evaluation of the work on the basis of his new text. Its attribution to Theophrastus is confirmed by a note added to a manuscript of Aristotle’s metaphysics, to which the work was attached. The work can be seen as a critical evaluation of Aristotle (and others), in particular regarding the “first things” or principles, and the unmoved mover (full summary in Ross and Fobes 1929, xi-xxiv; see also Frede 1971). He presents a range of connected puzzles (aporiai, hence the work is often called “aporetic”) which are not always clearly resolved, in this case perhaps because it is an early work or because it is didactic, or both) and show him preoccupied with the ultimate boundaries of explanation. For instance, the work raises questions about what we can assume to be fundamental principles and asks how many there are, looking at possible options (one, more than one) and associated problems: one principle to make the universe move cannot easily account for diversity, while two or more raises the problem of coherence. The discussion of what kind of principles he envisages presents two options: they are either the ultimate source of things (a foundationalist solution), or else general laws governing everything (i.e., rules of practice). He restricts the number of principles, and the scope of their influence in the physical realm, exploring how they relate to sense objects. He seems to want to keep certain accidental occurrences (e.g., thunder, but also evil) outside the range of events with a final cause. In his botanical works, however, he tries to accommodate anomalies within the Aristotelian framework (e.g., De Causis Plantarum 5). Obviously this complicates the Aristotelian position that “nothing happens in vain” (see Caus.pl. 5.3), but the idea of a limited teleology or purposiveness (Metaphysica 7a19-b9, 10a21–23 RF) is confirmed in Arabic sources (cf. Gutas 2010, 215). Ross and Fobes 1929 suggests that the only original contributions to resolving the important questions under examination reside in two claims, that (1) there is no need to look for an explanation of motion (xxv), and (2) that “many features of the universe are to be explained not from teleology, but as the result of movements of the heavenly bodies.”

                                                                                                                    • Frede, D. 1971. Theophrasts Kritik am unbewegten Beweger des Aristoteles. Phronesis 16.1: 65–79.

                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      Discusses the scholarly debate on Aristotle’s cosmology and how Theophrastus’ Metaphysics may inform us about the so-called final and highest level of Being found in Aristotle, Metaphysics Λ.8 (unmoved mover).

                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                      • Gutas, D. 2010. Theophrastus On First Principles (known as his Metaphysics). Greek Text and Medieval Arabic Translation, Edited and Translated with Introduction, Commentaries and Glossaries, as Well as the Medieval Latin Translation, and with an Excursus on Graeco-Arabic Editorial Technique. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.

                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        An important (and technical) analysis of the Arabic and Latin versions of Theophrastus’ On First Principles, and how these impact on our understanding of the Greek text (which is also revised here). The Introduction sets out the scholarship and specific issues for the Arabic version in a readable fashion.

                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                        • Henrich, J. 2000. Die Metaphysik Theophrasts. Edition - Kommentar – Interpretation. Munich and Leipzig: Saur.

                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          A recent edition and commentary on the text.

                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                          • Huby, P. M. 2015. When was Theophrastus’ Metaphysics written? In La Métaphysique de Théophraste. Principes et Apories. Edited by A. Jaulin and D. Lefebvre, 5–15. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Peeters.

                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Short essay speculating on the date of the work.

                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                            • Laks, A. 2007. Les Fragments 142–144 FHS&G de Théophraste. In Histoire, Doxographie, Vérité. Etudes sur Aristote, Théophraste et la Philosophie Présocratique. Edited by A. Laks, 134–157. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Peeters [= Laks 1998 in Ophuijsen and van Raalte].

                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              A detailed analysis of texts 142–44 FHSG (Fortenbaugh, et al. 1992, cited under Editions), which deal with the first principles in physics.

                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                              • Laks, A., and G. Most, eds. 1993. Théophraste, Métaphysique. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                Greek text and French translation with added contribution on the Arabic version of the metaphysics.

                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                • Lennox, J. G. 1985. Theophrastus on the limits of teleology. In Theophrastus of Eresus: On his life and work. Edited by W. W. Fortenbaugh, P. M. Huby, and A. A. Long, 143–163. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.

                                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  Explores the question of how Theophrastus aims to limit teleology, which implies a subtle criticism of Aristotle.

                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                  • Most, G. W. 1988. The relative date of Theophrastus’ Metaphysics. In Theophrastean studies: On Natural Science, Physics and Metaphysics, Ethics, Religion, and Rhetoric. Edited by W. W. Fortenbaugh and R. W. Sharples, 224–248. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 3. New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Transaction Books.

                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Discussion of four passages in Aristotle’s biological works to show that he resolved some of the problems raised in Theophrastus’ Metaphysics, which proves an early date for the latter.

                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                    • Repici, L. 1990. Limits of teleology in Theophrastus’ Metaphysics. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 72:182–213.

                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Analyzes Theophrastus’ discussion of teleology and how he imposes stronger limits on it.

                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                      • Ross, W. D., and F. H. Fobes, eds. 1929. Theophrastus’ Metaphysics. Oxford: Clarendon.

                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        For much of the 20th century the standard discussion of the work which tackles in brief a number of issues and problems.

                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                        • Van Raalte, M. 1993. Theophrastus’ Metaphysics. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.

                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          A recent and detailed commentary on the Greek text.

                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                          Ethics

                                                                                                                                          Our material for Theophrastus’ views in ethics survives mostly as fragmentary texts, except for the famous Characters (Diggle 2004), which scholars link to Aristotle’s ethics. The topics found in the source collection (FHSG; Fortenbaugh, et al. 1992, cited under Editions) are quite varied, ranging from comments on marriage to the natural kinship between animals and humans to character and virtue to religion (Fortenbaugh 2011). Of special interest are the excerpts in Porphyry’s work On Abstention from Eating Animals (c. 300 CE) which discuss forms of sacrifice and lists reasons for vegetarianism (Pötscher 1970, Obbink 1988, Sorabji 1993). A (lost) work on friendship was quite influential, and Theophrastus seems to have presented new ideas on emotions (frr. 438–448). Rusten 2002 describes the character sketches (Characters) as a kind of psychological profile in the style of contemporary comedy depicting men with a serious flaw, and argues that they may fit the general doctrine of character found in Aristotle’s ethics. Their main features, an analysis of types (cf. Nicomachean Ethics 2) and the doctrine of the mean, a middle between virtue and vice, help to understand the flaws as concrete examples of these abstract extremes. Certain fragments support such a connection (Rusten 2002, 19; compare Volt 2010). A new study of the work, including links to comedy and ethics, is Pertsinidis 2018. Theophrastus differs at least from Aristotle in focusing on faults and in adopting the strategy of moral instruction in an anecdotal style. The Characters were very popular in antiquity due to their lively and life-like characterization (Baldwin 1977, MacLeod 1974; see also section on Reception).

                                                                                                                                          • Baldwin, B. 1977. Lucian and Theophrastus. Mnemosyne 30:174–176.

                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Short article on Lucian’s knowledge of Theophrastus’ work.

                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                            • Diggle, J. 2004. Theophrastus, Characters. Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries 43. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Detailed philological commentary on the Characters (requires knowledge of ancient Greek).

                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                              • Fortenbaugh, W. W. 2011. Theophrastus of Eresus. Commentary. Vol. 6.1, Commentary on Ethics. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.

                                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                An extensive new commentary on the sources for ethics (based on FHSG), which does not fully displace Fortenbaugh 1984 (listed under General Overviews). With contributions on the Arabic material by Dimitri Gutas.

                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                • MacLeod, M. D. 1974. Lucian’s knowledge of Theophrastus. Mnemosyne 27:75–76.

                                                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Short article on Lucian’s knowledge of Theophrastus’ work.

                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                  • Obbink, D. 1988. The origin of Greek sacrifice: Theophrastus on religion and cultural history. Paper presented at a conference held at the Institute of Classical Studies in the University of London from the 25th to the 27th of June, 1985. In Theophrastean studies: On natural science, physics and metaphysics, ethics, religion, and rhetoric. Edited byWilliam W. Fortenbaugh and Robert W. Sharples, 272–295. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 3. New Brunswick, NJ, and Oxford: Transaction Books.

                                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Considers the contributions on religion and sacrifice.

                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                    • Pertsinidis, S. 2018. Theophrastus’ Characters: A new introduction. London: Routledge.

                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      A new accessible introduction to the Characters with special attention to the interesting links with etiquette of the theater and physiognomy, rhetoric and ethics.

                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                      • Pötscher, R. 1970. Strukturprobleme der aristotelischen und theophrasteischen Gottesvorstellung. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

                                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Analysis of the theological views of Aristotle and Theophrastus.

                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                        • Rusten, Jeffrey, ed. 2002. Theophrastus. Characters (with Herodas Mimes; Sophron Mime fragments by I.C. Cunningham). 3d ed. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          Recent edition and brief introduction to the Characters.

                                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                          • Sorabji, R. R. K. 1993. Animal minds and human morals. London: Duckworth.

                                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            Discusses the criticism of animal sacrifice and eating meat ascribed to Theophrastus.

                                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                            • Szegedy-Maszak, A. 1981. The “nomoi” of Theophrastus. New York: Arno.

                                                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Monograph discussing the work on laws, showing how Theophrastus broadly adopted Aristotle’s principles.

                                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                              • Volt, I. 2010. Not valuing others: Reflections of social cohesion in the Characters of Theophrastus. In Valuing others in classical antiquity. Edited by R. Rosen and I. Sluiter, 303–322. Leiden, The Netherlands: EJ Brill.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004189218.i-476.101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Examines the characters for evidence on social cohesion in various contexts, including the assembly, legal (law courts), and other social contexts (family, theater, religious practice).

                                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                History of Philosophy (“Doxography”)

                                                                                                                                                                While Aristotle and Theophrastus were not historians in the modern sense, they both offer useful materials to reconstruct the views and affiliations of philosophers before their own time. In this sense their discussion of predecessors offers the first historiographical reports of early Greek philosophy. Theophrastus seems to have written a work that surveyed the views in natural philosophy up to and including Plato. We might call such a work a “history” of philosophy, as long as we keep certain qualifiers in mind: Theophrastus did not write this survey to provide us as modern readers with a history of the field, but created this kind of overview for the practical reason of establishing the facts and opinions of this domain following the applied method of dialectical evaluation (especially on first principles, Wiesner 1989, McDiarmid 1953). Aristotle also started many of his works with a brief review of earlier views on the subject. Further evidence for Theophrastus’ critical evaluations of earlier philosophers (Presocratics, Platonists) can be found in short passages of his opuscula and the treatise On Sensation (Mansfeld 1996, Baltussen 1998). The latter is believed to be part of a larger work. Speculations about which larger work have suggested two possibilities: it either belonged to his Reply to Physical Philosophers—if it is an actual title—(see Diogenes Laertius (Diog. Laert.) 5.46 and fr. 241A = Taurus ap. Philoponus, Against Proclus, On the Eternity of the Universe 6.8 [BT p. 145.20–4 Rabe]) or to his Physical Opinions (see Diog. Laert. 5.48). His appraisals inform us about important aspects of his methodology and influence on the (early) history of philosophy. Not only do these critical evaluations show an increased awareness of the philosophical enterprise as a continuous discourse by methodical preservation and assessment of past achievements, but they also illustrate, through his criticisms and convenient organization of materials, the reason for his impact on following ages. Although its dissemination cannot be traced in every detail, it has links to the so-called Placita by an otherwise unknown Aëtius, a collection of philosophical views (doxai, placita) organized by thematic sections (Mansfeld 1990). His work in this area enhanced the consolidation and preservation of philosophical views in the debates among Hellenistic schools and found further use in the early Christian era in polemical works aiming to counter pagan ideologies (Mansfeld 1990). The matter is too complex to give a full account here. See also the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Classics “Ancient Doxography.”

                                                                                                                                                                • Baltussen, H. 1998. The purpose of Theophrastus’ De sensibus reconsidered. Apeiron 31:167–200.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1515/APEIRON.1998.31.2.167Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Discusses the various positions implicit in the criticism of his predecessors and relates these to the views found in the fragments (esp. Priscian) in order to assess whether these critical evaluations fit the dialectical preliminaries as found in many of Aristotle’s studies.

                                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                  • Diels, H. 1879. Doxographi Graeci. Berlin: Reimer.

                                                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    The epoch-making account of the complex pathway of Greek philosophical views from Theophrastus through to the late Platonists. Diels coined the phrase doxographi (“writers of views”), which generated the modern term doxography.

                                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                    • Gottschalk, H.B. 1967. Review of Steinmetz 1964. Gnomon 39:17–26.

                                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      A thorough and critical review of Steinmetz 1964, with special attention to the overall coherence of Theophrastus’ natural philosophy and an Appendix on its relation to the doxographical work De sensibus and the work on opinions in physics, Physikai doxai.

                                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                      • Mansfeld, J. 1990. Doxography and dialectic. The Sitz im Leben of the Placita. Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt II 36.4: 3056–3229.

                                                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        The most elaborate account of the transmission of philosophical views from Theophrastus down to Aëtius. The article presents a variety of mechanisms as to how views became organized and preserved in thematic clusters. An illustrative exemplar of this kind of “handbook” is the collection of views (doxai, placita) by one Aëtius, dated to the early Roman empire.

                                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                        • Mansfeld, J. 1996. Aristote et la Structure du De sensibus de Théophraste. Phronesis 41.2: 158–187.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1163/156852896321051701Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          Offers a clear structural analysis of Theophrastus’ De sensibus and its relation to Aristotle.

                                                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                          • Mansfeld, J. 2005. Doxography of Ancient Philosophy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University.

                                                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            An accessible account of the meaning and scope of the (modern) term “doxography,” which is used to describe a special kind of transmission of philosophical views. It also contains further literature for those who really want to go into detail on this complex area of historiography of ancient philosophy.

                                                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                            • McDiarmid, J. B. 1953. Theophrastus on the Presocratic causes. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 61:85–156.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/310774Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              A discussion of the way in which Theophrastus analyzed the archai (“first principles”) in physics. McDiarmid’s argument that Theophrastus follows Aristotle has been challenged by Mansfeld 1996 and Baltussen 2000 (cited under Studies on Individual Complete Works), both expanding on Steinmetz 1964.

                                                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                              • Steinmetz, P. 1964. Die Physik des Theophrastos von Eresos. Berlin and Zurich: Verlag Dr. Max Gehlen.

                                                                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                A thorough discussion of all works in natural philosophy which also clarifies many details of individual works. The attempt to resolve the puzzle over the multiple titles in the list of Diogenes Laertius, although skillful and stimulating, has been criticized (in his review H.B. Gottschalk, Gnomon [1967] also tackles the problem surrounding Theophrastus’ doxographical work (335ff.), while arguing (controversially) that the various titles of individual works also fit into the larger work listed in 16 or 18 books (Diog. Laert. 5.46, 48).

                                                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                • Wiesner, J. 1989. Theophrast und der Beginn des Archereferats von Simplikios’ Physikkommentar. Hermes 117.3: 288–303.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  A useful discussion of the opening section of Simplicius which is regarded as partly based on Theophrastus’ discussion of the early Greek philosophers. Wiesner pays special attention to the divisions of principles in Aristotle, and how Simplicius gives more elaborate versions of these. In German.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                  Collections of Essays

                                                                                                                                                                                  Apart from new editions, translations, and monographs, many collections of essays have been published. Many of these relate to the so-called Project Theophrastus which has held biennial conferences since 1985, resulting in proceedings with collections of papers as well as new editions of fragments of all the Peripatetics after Theophrastus. These editions are often combined with helpful explanatory essays, many published in the series RUSCH (Rutgers Studies in the Classical Humanities, published by Transaction Books, until 2016, and which will be continued by Routledge from 2018). The volumes on Theophrastus and related works are cited in this section.

                                                                                                                                                                                  • Fortenbaugh, W. W., ed. 1985. Theophrastus of Eresos: On his life and work. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 2. New Brunswick, NJ, and Oxford: Transaction Books.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    The second volume of the series, this collection of essays covers a broad range of topics, including Theophrastus’ vita in Diogenes Laertius, and his ideas, including topics such as teleology, emotion, logic, and style.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Fortenbaugh, W. W., ed. 1988. Theophrastean studies: On natural science, physics and metaphysics, ethics, religion, and rhetoric. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 3. New Brunswick, NJ, and Oxford: Transaction Books.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      This collection focuses on the main philosophical areas as defined by Aristotle: physics, metaphysics, ethics, religion and rhetoric.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                      • Fortenbaugh, W. W., and D. Gutas, eds. 1992. Theophrastus: His psychological, doxographical and scientific writings. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 5. New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Transaction Books.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        This collection focuses on the areas which are less traditional in every respect, but still contribute to further insight into Theophrastus’ ideas in the areas of sense perception, thought, mind, and knowledge.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Fortenbaugh, W. W., and G. Wöhrle, eds. 2002. On the opuscula of Theophrastus. Stuttgart: F. Steiner Verlag.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          This collection has a more mixed character with essays on the titles of his works, sense perception, the reception of his De sensibus, and smaller works and fragments which are sometimes spurious.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Jaulin, A., and D. Lefebvre, eds. 2015. La Métaphysique de Théophraste. Principes et Apories. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Peeters.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            A very recent set of essays on the date of the work, and important issues such as the first mover, principles, how and to what extent we can know them.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Mayhew, R., ed. 2015. The Aristotelian Problêmata: Philosophical and scientific investigations. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              Papers on the so-called Problemata, which are not by Aristotle or Theophrastus, but which can inform us about the ideas of the school, because they often represent early Peripatetic doctrine. They consist of questions and possible answers (problêma is a technical term for the bifurcated question, e.g., Is the kosmos created or not?) about a whole range of topics in natural philosophy. Doctrinal content exhibits overlap with some aspects of Aristotle’s, Theophrastus’, and Strato’s works.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Ophuijsen, J. van, and M. van Raalte, eds. 1998. Theophrastus: Reappraising the sources. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 8. New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Transaction Books.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                Collection of essays which discuss a range of issues concerning the nature of the sources and the transmission.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                Reception

                                                                                                                                                                                                The reception of Theophrastus’ works can be traced in several directions. It concerns, in the first instance, the physical transmission of the manuscripts and later readers of his works. The wide range of sources in the fragment collection (FHSG; Fortenbaugh, et al. 1992, cited under Editions) shows us the interest in Theophrastus during later ages. But it is not always possible to retrace his influence because his works became attached to those of Aristotle, resulting in some confusion about authorship. In the case of his Metaphysics, the short tract was attached to the Metaphysics of Aristotle and a scribal note informs us that it was his work. Apart from these technical issues, a second trajectory of the interest in Theophrastus comes from a broad readership in various later authors, both directly or indirectly. Thus, Pliny the Elder, Plutarch, Athenaeus, and several Platonists of the 2nd to the 6th centuries CE offer a glimpse of their special interest in his views (although it remains unclear whether they had direct access to his works). A very important source for his Physics and possibly the Physikai doxai is the Platonist Simplicius (c. 480–c. 540 CE), who offers many useful and quite reliable comments and (near-)quotations from these works. No less than twelve of the thirty fragments for the Physical Opinions (frr. 225–245 FHSG) come from Simplicius. In medieval reporting on ancient authors names could become abbreviated and lead to some confusion (“Th.” might refer to Theophrastus or Themistius). For his biography we rely on a range of ancient and some medieval sources. Authors like Cicero, Strabo, Boethius, Plutarch, Aulus Gellius, and of course Diogenes Laertius provide us with details about his name, origin, students, succession, and will. This points to a general interest during the period of the late Republic and the early Roman empire. A further concentration of interested parties is found in the 3rd to 5th centuries CE, when the Platonists comment on his views while they are trying to comment on Aristotle’s thought (Baltussen 2002). In logic, ethics, and metaphysics his views are cited in Greek, Latin, and Arabic sources, especially in the commentary traditions of the Greek Platonists and Arabic philosophers. From Boethius to Themistius, the most striking impact on later ages is in taxonomy as seen in his plant studies. In biological terms the fundamental essentialism means that species were considered unchanging entities. The famous Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (b. 1707–d. 1778) was inspired by the ambitious plan of Theophrastus’ botanic studies (Eriksson 1983, 106), but then went on to build his own taxonomic system (Parterlini 2007).

                                                                                                                                                                                                • Baltussen, H. 2002. Theophrastean echoes? Theophrastus’ De sensibus in the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition (Alcinous, Alexander, Plotinus). In On the opuscula of Theophrastus. Edited by W. W. Fortenbaugh and G. Wöhrle, 39–58. Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Discusses the traces of the De sensibus in later writers, in particular with regard to individual views, arguing that the Platonists regarded Theophrastus a useful aid to interpreting Aristotle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Baltussen, H. 2003. Early reactions to Plato’s Timaeus. Polemic and exegesis in Theophrastus and Epicurus. In Ancient approaches to Plato’s “Timaeus.” Edited by R. W. Sharples and A. Sheppard, 49–71. BICS Suppl. 78. London: University of London.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    A detailed study of Theophrastus’ analysis of Plato’s Timaeus by considering the late Platonists’ use of Theophrastus in their exegesis of Plato.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Baltussen, H. 2008. Philosophy and exegesis in Simplicius: The methodology of a commentator. London: Duckworth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Monograph about the methodology of this author whose importance for the history of Greek philosophy is unrivaled. His direct access to pre-Socratic writings, to Aristotle and Theophrastus and later sources up to his own time (6th century CE) make him a crucial witness to the transmission of philosophical views.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Eriksson, G. 1983. Linnaeus the botanist. In Linnaeus: The man and his work. Edited by Tore Frängsmyr. Berkeley and London: Univ. of California Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Essay on Linnaeus, the “father of modern botany.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Parterlini, M. 2007. There shall be order. The legacy of Linnaeus in the age of molecular biology. EMBO Reports 8.9: 814–816.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1038/sj.embor.7401061Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Short article on Linnaeus’s work and impact.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                                                          back to top

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Article

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Up

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Down