Alexander of Aphrodisias

Alexander of Aphrodisias

Alexander of Aphrodisias was the most celebrated of the Ancient Greek commentators on the writings of Aristotle. He was styled, by way of pre-eminence, "the expositor" (polytonic|ὁ ἐξηγητής).cite encyclopedia | last = Jowett | first = Benjamin | authorlink = Benjamin Jowett | title = Alexander Aphrodisiensis | editor = William Smith | encyclopedia = Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology | volume = 1 | pages = 112-114 | publisher = Little, Brown and Company | location = Boston | year = 1867 | url = ]

Life and career

Alexander was a native of Aphrodisias in Caria and came to Athens towards the end of the second century. He was a student of the two Stoic, [J.P. Lynch, "Aristotle's School", Berkeley, 1972, p. 215. See Sosigenes the Peripatetic.] or possibly Peripatetic, philosophers Sosigenes [See Alexander's Comm. in Arist. "Meteor.", p. 143.13 Hayduck (polytonic|ὁ διδάσκαλος ἡμῶν Σωσιγένης), Themistius, Paraphr. in Arist. "de Anima", p. 61.23 Heinze, Ps.-Ammonius, Comm. in Arist. "Anal. Pr." p. 39.24 Wallies, and Philoponus, Comm. in Arist. "Anal. Pr.", p. 126.20-23 Wallies.] and Herminus, [Simplicius, Comm. in Arist. "de Caelo", p. 430.32 Heiberg, quoting Alexander: polytonic|Ἑρμίνου δέ...ἤκουσα, καθὰ ἦν καὶ ἐν τοῖς Ἀσπασίου φερόμενον, "I heard from Herminus, as was said among Aspasius' students..."] and perhaps of Aristotle of Mytilene. [Pierre Thillet, in his 1984 Budé edition of "On Fate", has argued against Moraux's identification ("Der Aristotelismus im I. und II. Jahrhundert n. Chr.", vol. 2, 1984) of Aristotle of Mytilene as Alexander's teacher, pointing out that the text that has been taken to mean this ("On Fate", "mantissa", [ p. 110.4 Bruns] , polytonic|Ἤκουσα...παρὰ Ἀριστοτέλους) could refer instead to Alexander's learning from the texts of Aristotle the Stagirite. See R.W. Sharples, "Classical Review", n.s., 36 (1986), [ p. 33] . Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Julian" 2.38, may name Aristocles of Messene, but the text edited by Burguière and Évieux ("Sources Chrétiennes" 322, 1985) reads polytonic|Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Ἀριστοτέλους μαθητὴς.] At Athens he became head of the Lyceum and lectured on Peripatetic philosophy. Alexander's dedication of "On Fate" to Septimius Severus and Caracalla, in gratitude for his position at Athens, indicates a date between 198 and 209. A recently published inscription from Aphrodisias confirms that he was head of one of the Schools at Athens and gives his full name as Titus Aurelius Alexander. [A. Chaniotis, 'Epigraphic evidence for the philosopher Alexander of Aphrodisias', in "Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies", ISSN 0076-0730, v.47 (2004) pp. 79-81] His full nomenclature shows that his grandfather or other ancestor was probably given Roman citizenship by the emperor Antoninus Pius, while proconsul of Asia. The inscription honours his father, also called Alexander and also a philosopher. This fact makes it plausible that some of the suspect works that form part of Alexander's corpus should be ascribed to his father [R. Sharples, 'Implications of the new Alexander of Aphrodisias inscription', in "Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies " 48 (2005) pp. 47-56.]



Alexander composed several commentaries on the works of Aristotle, in which he sought to escape a syncretistic tendency and to recover the pure doctrines of Aristotle. His commentaries are still extant on "Prior Analytics" (Book 1), "Topics", "Meteorology", "Sense and Sensibilia", and "Metaphysics" (Books 1-5, together with an abridgment of his commentary on the remaining books).

In April 2007, it was reported that imaging analysis had discovered an early commentary on Aristotle's "Categories" in the Archimedes Palimpsest, and Professor Robert Sharples suggested Alexander as the most likely author. [ [ BBC News] ]

Original treatises

There are also several original writings by Alexander still extant. The most important of these are a work "On Fate", in which he argues against the Stoic doctrine of necessity; and one "On the Soul", in which he contends that the undeveloped reason in man is material ("nous hulikos") and inseparable from the body. He argued strongly against the doctrine of the soul's immortality. He identified the active intellect ("nous poietikos"), through whose agency the potential intellect in man becomes actual, with God.


His commentaries were greatly esteemed among the Arabs, who translated many of them, and is heavily quoted by Maimonides.

In 1210, the Church Council of Paris issued a condemnation, which probably targeted the writings of Alexander among others. [G. Théry, "Autour du décret de 1210: II, Alexandre d'Aphrodise. Aperçu sur l'influence de sa noétique", Kain, Belgium, 1926, pp. 7 ff.]

In the early Renaissance his doctrine of the soul's mortality was adopted by Pietro Pomponazzi (against the Thomists and the Averroists), and by his successor Cesare Cremonini. This school is known as Alexandrists.

Alexander's band, an optical phenomenon, is named after him.

Modern editions

Several of Alexander's works were published in the Aldine edition of Aristotle, Venice, 1495-1498; his "De Fato" and "De Anima" were printed along with the works of Themistius at Venice (1534); the former work, which has been translated into Latin by Grotius and also by Schulthess, was edited by J. C. Orelli, Zürich, 1824; and his commentaries on the Metaphysica by H. Bonitz, Berlin, 1847.



*1911|article=Alexander of Aphrodisias|url=

Further reading

* cite encyclopedia
last = Merlan
first = Philip
title = Alexander of Aphrodisias
encyclopedia = Dictionary of Scientific Biography
volume = 1
pages = 117-120
publisher = Charles Scribner's Sons
location = New York
date = 1970
isbn = 0684101149

External links

* Online Greek texts: " [ Scripta minora] ", ed. Bruns; " [ Commentary on Aristotle's Sense and Sensibilia] ", ed. Wendland

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