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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 April 2013

Michael J. Griffin
University of British Columbia
E-mail address:


The principate of Augustus coincided with a surge of interest in the short Aristotelian treatise which we now entitle Categories, contributing to its later installation at the outset of the philosophical curriculum and its traditional function as an introduction to logic. Thanks in part to remarks made by Plutarch (Sulla 26.1–2) and Porphyry (Vita Plotini 24.7), the origin of this interest has often been traced to Andronicus of Rhodes: his catalogue (πίνακɛς) and publication of the Aristotelian corpus began with the Categories and may have drawn fresh attention to a previously obscure treatise. But the later Neoplatonic sources name several other philosophers who also discussed the Categories and played an important role in crafting its interpretation during the first centuries of our era. For example, the Neoplatonist Simplicius discusses the views of Stoics and Platonists who questioned the Categories' value as a treatment of grammar or ontology, while others defended its usefulness as an introduction to logic. These early debates, as these later sources suggest, exercised a lasting influence on the shape of subsequent philosophy and philosophical education within and beyond the Aristotelian tradition.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2013

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This article has benefited from very helpful discussions with Ben Morison and George Boys-Stones, who were generous enough to comment on multiple earlier drafts of this paper, and whose remarks saved me from many slips and sharpened the argument. This note develops an idea initially articulated in my doctoral thesis, ‘The reception of Aristotle's Categories c. 80 bcead 220’ (Diss., Oxford University, 2009). I am grateful to my doctoral supervisor Tobias Reinhardt and to my examiners Richard Sorabji and Peter Adamson for their patient and invaluable guidance, suggestions and corrections. I am, of course, entirely responsible for any remaining errors.


1 On the rapid rise of the Categories as an introduction to Aristotelian philosophy, see recently Sharples, R.W., ‘Habent sua fata libelli: Aristotle's Categories in the first century bc’, AAntHung 48 (2008), 273–87Google Scholar; Gottschalk, H.B., ‘Aristotelian philosophy in the Roman world from the time of Cicero to the end of the second century ad’, ANRW 2.36.2 (1987), 1079–174Google Scholar; and Moraux, P., Der Aristotelismus bei den Griechen von Andronikos bis Alexander von Aphrodisias, vol. 1 (Berlin and New York, 1973)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, in particular pp. 97–112 on the paraphrase of the Categories by Andronicus of Rhodes, 147–63 on Boethus of Sidon's commentary, and pp. 182–5 on Ariston of Alexandria. Moraux's second volume (1984) will also be referenced below. On the origins and organization of the treatise itself, and more specific questions surrounding its current title, coherence and origins, see Frede, M., ‘Title, unity, authenticity’, in id., Essays in Ancient Philosophy (Oxford, 1987)Google Scholar and the introduction to Bodéüs, R., Catégories (Paris, 2001)Google Scholar.

2 On Andronicus see Barnes, J., ‘Roman Aristotle’, in id. and Griffin, M. (edd.), Philosophia Togata II (Oxford, 1997), 170Google Scholar, who persuasively criticizes the story of a formative Roman ‘edition’ of the Aristotelian corpus, and Primavesi, O., ‘Ein Blick in den Stollen von Skepsis: Vier Kapitel zur frühen Überlieferung des Corpus Aristotelicum’, Philologus 151 (2007), 5177CrossRefGoogle Scholar, who offers some reasons to defend the narrative of a Roman edition. I discuss some of the issues surrounding Andronicus at greater length in Griffin, M.J., ‘What does Aristotle categorize?’, in Edwards, M. and Adamson, P. (edd.), The Peripatetic School Through Alexander of Aphrodisias = BICS 52.2 (2011)Google Scholar.

3 e.g. Simplicius at in Cat. 159.32 relates the following list of early (παλαιοί) interpreters of the Categories: Boethus [of Sidon], Ariston [of Alexandria], Andronicus [of Rhodes], Eudorus [of Alexandria] and Athenodorus, with whose identity this note is principally concerned.

4 As Sharples (n. 1), 274 remarks, ‘The attention given to Aristotle's Categories in antiquity had major consequences for the future direction of philosophy. The prominence in subsequent discussion of the problem of universals, and more generally of questions concerning the relation between being, knowledge and language, is due in large part to the Categories coming in antiquity to occupy the place it did at the start of the philosophical curriculum. This has also affected approaches to Aristotle himself’. Trends in Aristotelianism associated with the rise of Categories commentary have recently been treated by M. Rashed in his innovative book Essentialisme: Alexandre d'Aphrodise entre logique, physique et cosmologie (Berlin, 2007). For the Neoplatonist debate on the subject-matter or target (σκοπός) of the work, see P. Hoffmann, ‘Catégories et langage selon Simplicius. La question du skopos du traité aristotélicien des Catégories’, in I. Hadot (ed.) Simplicius, Sa vie, son æuvre, sa survie (Berlin, 1987), 61–90.

5 I rely chiefly upon the review in Goulet, R., Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques (Paris, 2000)Google Scholar, entries 496–8; Moraux (n. 1), 2.592–601; Hijmans, B.L., ‘Athenodorus on the Categories and a pun on Athenodorus’, in Mansfeld, J. and de Rijk, L.M. (edd.), Kephalaion: Studies in Greek Philosophy and its Continuation Offered to Professor C.J. de Vogel (Assen, 1975), 105–14Google Scholar. For further bibliography see DPhA entries 496–8, and especially entry 497 on Calvus.

6 See for example Barnes, Primavesi and Frede (n. 2).

7 In the case of Cornutus, there is only one candidate whose identification is broadly accepted. L. Annaeus Cornutus, whose praenomen is noted in Charisius (Gramm. 162.9), is the tutor of Persius (Satire 5) and instructor of Nero (see Cass. Dio 62.29.2 ff.) On Cornutus' life and work, see the entry of Pedro Pablo Fuentes González in Goulet (n. 5), entry 190.

8 A full and descriptive analysis of the assignment of the biographical ‘Athenodorus’ fragments may be found in Goulet (n. 5), entries 496–8.

9 There is a famous anecdote that he instructed Augustus to recite the alphabet whenever he became angry, before he took any action. Whoever introduced this anecdote may have intended to reflect, and retroactively explain, certain traditions about the historical Augustus' clementia. But the anecdote may also reflect some specific interest on the part of Athenodorus in the Stoic doctrine of ‘first motions’. For discussions of the Stoic ‘pre-emotions’ and ‘first movements’, for example in Seneca, an important source for the theory, see Sorabji, R.R.K., Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (Oxford, 1998)Google Scholar, e.g. ch. 4; Inwood, B., ‘Seneca and psychological dualism’, in Brunschwig, J. and Nussbaum, M., Passions and Perceptions: Studies in Hellenistic Philosophy of Mind (Cambridge, 1993), 164–8Google Scholar; Rist, J., ‘Seneca and Stoic orthodoxy’, ANRW 2.36.3 (1989), 19992003Google Scholar; and on the sources of the theory, Graver, M., ‘Philo of Alexandria and the origin of the Stoic Propatheiai’, Phronesis 44 (1999), 300–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

10 The logician ‘Athenodorus’ mentioned by Diogenes Laertius 7.68 is also mentioned alongside Antipater and Archedemus.

11 On this episode and Cordylion's possible motives see Schofield, M., The Stoic Idea of the City (Cambridge, 1991), 421Google Scholar.

12 Goulet plainly states that he is unlikely to be the Athenodorus of Diog. Laert. 7.68, and he is not even mentioned by Hijmans.

13 Also, whatever facts underlie the (perhaps hostile) tradition that Cordylion tampered with the text of Zeno's Republic (on which see also Schofield [n. 11]), this tradition does imply that Cordylion exercised some kind of criticism upon Athenian philosophical texts during his tenure as librarian at Pergamon. Indeed, it is interesting to compare Strabo's famous narrative that the library of Aristotle, including the text of the Categories that came down to posterity, was hidden away at Scepsis precisely in order to prevent the Peripatetic texts being gathered into the library at Pergamon (Strabo 13.1.54). Perhaps sources hostile (for whatever reason) to Pergamene scholarship were responsible for promoting the story that Pergamon's leading critics never had access to the original texts of Aristotle. Perhaps it was also hostile sources that initially portrayed the critical activity of the librarian Cordylion in a bad light. But the source of Diogenes Laertius' story to this effect, Isidorus, is also himself associated with Pergamon.

14 I am indebted to Dirk Obbink and Ben Morison for helpful guidance on the interpretation of the οἱ πɛρὶ ‘X’ locution in late antiquity. On the locution's force, see Radt, S.L., ‘ΟΙ (ΑΙ etc) ΠΕΡΙ + acc. nominis proprii bei Strabon’, ZPE 71 (1988), 3540Google Scholar.

15 I follow Long, A.A. and Sedley, D., The Hellenistic Philosophers (Cambridge, 1987)Google Scholar, 2.34K in rendering katêgorikon as ‘assertoric’, katêgoreutikon as ‘demonstrative’ and katêgorêma as ‘predicate’. See Long and Sedley's commentary in §§ 34–5 for discussion of simple and non-simple propositions and the wider context of this passage.

16 Reading, with Dillon, xustropoiei for the meaningless xustropôn of the MSS. See Dillon, J., Dexippus: On Aristotle Categories (London, 1990)Google Scholar, 30 n. 20.

17 Following Porph. in Cat. 59.10 and Simpl. in Cat. 18.26. See Dillon (n. 16), ibid. I suspect that L. Annaeus Cornutus should not be included in the ambit of Dexippus' report, as Cornutus himself may have rebutted Athenodorus' claims (see Simpl. in Cat. 62.27–8).

18 Barnes, J., ‘Aristotle and Stoic logic’, in Ierodiakonou, K. (ed.), Topics in Stoic Philosophy (Oxford, 1999), 2353Google Scholar, at 41–2; see also Barnes, J., ‘Peripatetic negations’, in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 4 (1986), 201–14Google Scholar.

19 Barnes (n. 18), 43.

20 Andronicus notoriously doubted the authorship of the De interpretatione (Alexander, in An. pr. 161.1, Ammonius, in Int. 5.28), but it does not necessarily follow from his athetization that the Int. was omitted from his catalogue, or that he did not endorse the curricular progression from terms to propositions to syllogisms to demonstration.

21 Moraux (n. 1) 1.102–3 pieces together the full preamble of Andronicus' paraphrase from Simpl. in Cat. 21.22–4, 26.18–19, 30.3–5 and Dexipp. in Cat. 21.18–19. See also Sharples (n. 1), 280.

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