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2004-2005 Visiting Fellows

Katerina Ierodiakonou
University of Athens

During the month I spent in the Reading Room of the Department of Rare Books at the Princeton Library I studied a single manuscript, namely Princeton MS. 173. I did not try to collect information about the physical condition, the owners and the scribes of this manuscript, because this work had been previously done by Prof. Sofia Kotsabassi. I was principally interested in its content. For Princeton MS. 173 is a manuscript preserving most of the logical works of Aristotle's, and my main research interests are in the area of ancient logic and its development in Byzantine times.

More specifically, Princeton MS. 173 contains four logical works by Aristotle: the whole of his treatise On Interpretation (fols. 1r-15v), the Prior Analytics (fols. 15v-78r), the Posterior Analytics (fols. 78r-118r), and only part of the Topics (fols. 118r-164v). The Aristotelian text is not very different from what we find in the standard edition of the Oxford Classical Texts. There are some different readings, but in most cases these are readings which are included in the critical apparatus of the Oxford edition, but the editors have decided not to adopt them. One could, of course, undertake the task to determine the family of manuscripts in which Princeton MS. 173 belongs; but I did not focus on this.

For what I was primarily intrigued by was not the Aristotelian text, which occupies the middle of the folios of this manuscript, but the scholia which we find in the margins and between the lines of Aristotle's text. In fact, Princeton MS. 173 is extremely rich in scholia which originally come from commentaries written by ancient and Byzantine scholars from the 2nd to the 15th century. And there is no doubt that many of these scholia are very important for the study of the history of logic. For instance, Alexander of Aphrodisias' scholia (late 2nd/ early 3rd c.) on the Posterior Analytics, of which only a small portion has survived and has been edited, Michael Psellos' scholia (11th c.) on the Prior Analytics, which are still unedited and can be found only in very few manuscripts, Nikephoros Gregoras' scholia (14th c.) on the On Interpretation, which are not to be found in any other known manuscript.

Since I only had a month to work on this manuscript, I decided to focus on the scholia of the first Aristotelian treatise, especially because the main bulk of the scholia on the On Interpretation are anonymous. Thus, the task I set myself was to investigate who the author of these scholia could be. And from what I studied during the month I spent in the Princeton Library, I came to conclude that there is a good chance that these scholia belong to the lost commentary of the 6th century Aristotelian commentator John Philoponus.

Is there enough evidence to establish the existence of such a commentary? Wartelle who collected in a very useful but not always reliable inventory, published in 1963, all the Greek manuscripts with Aristotelian works and their commentaries mentions six manuscripts which contain comments by Philoponus on Aristotle's On Interpretation. Also, Michael Psellos in his paraphrasis of On Interpretation refers to Philoponus' comments on the same work. Moreover, in his preface of the edition of Ammonius' commentary on the On Interpretation, Busse edits two pages of scholia which he found in a Vienna manuscript and which are most probably attributed to Philoponus. Finally, there is no obvious reason why Philoponus decided not to write a commentary on the On Interpretation, though he undoubtedly wrote commentaries which have since survived on the Categories, the Prior Analytics and the Posterior Analytics, that is to say on th e other three of the four first logical treatises of the Aristotelian Organon.

But even if we accept that these was indeed a commentary by Philoponus on the On Intepretation, do we have enough evidence to prove that the scholia in Princeton MS. 173 are part, if not the whole, of such a commentary? The evidence which I have managed to bring together upto now is, unfortunately, only external, in the sense that it is not derived from the content of the scholia. In other words, I have not yet been able to find in the anonymous scholia on the On Interpretation a philosophical view which is clearly Philoponus' own view; rather, my evidence comes from the way the whole manuscript is organized, i.e. from the way the scribes have produced this particular manuscript. More specifically, there are three reasons which make me think that we have part of Philoponus' commentary in this manuscript:

  1. The main scholia in Princeton MS. 173 on the Prior Analytics as well as the main scholia on the Posterior Analytics are by Philoponus. There is an attribution to Philoponus at the beginning of the Posterior Analytics, and although there is no such attribution at the beginning of the Prior Analytics, I was able to confirm that its author is Philoponus, by transcribing part of the scholia and by simply checking the existing edition of Philoponus' commentary in the Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca series. It seems reasonable to me that, since the main scholia of the Prior and Posterior Analytics are by Philoponus, and thus available to the main scribe of this manuscript, the main scholia on the On Interpretation could also be by the same commentator.
  2. There are in Princeton MS. 173 eight additional scholia on the On Interpretation which are clearly attributed to Philoponus. Hence, a commentary by Philoponus on this logical work of Aristotle's must have been available at the time, and the main scribe could have also used it. Besides, the fact that apart from the amin scholia there are additional scholia by Philoponus, should not be regarded as a difficulty, since the same happens in the case of the commentary on the Posterior Analytics; it could well be that the main scribe did not copy the whole of Philoponus' commentary but only extracts, and later scribes decided to add other extracts from the same commentary.
  3. I closely examined whether the main scholia of this manuscript belong to any of the already known commentaries of the On Interpretatione. Only very few parts of it coincide with Ammonius' commentary and the rest is not to be found in any of them, namely in the commentaries by Stephanus, the Anonymus Taran, Michael Psellos and Leo Magentinos. The fact that there are parts which are found in Ammonius' commentary is not particularly problematic; for it may well be the case, like it actually happens in other commentaries by Philoponus, that in some cases he decided to copy from his teacher Ammonius.

As I have said, I recognize that my evidence is for the time being only external, and thus inconclusive. However, in order to find the internal evidence which can firmly establish that this actually is Philoponus' commentary, I need to closely read the text itself of the anonymous scholia on the On Interpretation. I have already started to transcribe the text, but this will take time. However, I do think that it is worth it, because I am sure that there is plenty to learn from studying Princeton MS. 173. Hence, I do intend to continue working on it, even if I shall not have the pleasure to look at the manuscript itself, but only at a microfilm.

Finally, I would like to thank the Friends of the Princeton University Library and the Program in Hellenic Studies for offering me the Research Grant which made it possible for me to work on this manuscript. Moreover, I want to thank all the Library staff who have been extremely helpful and made my stay in Princeton productive, but also very pleasant.


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