Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.11.10

István Bodnár, William W. Fortenbaugh, Eudemus of Rhodes. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities, XI.   New Brunswick:  Transaction Publishers, 2002.  Pp. x, 383.  ISBN 0-7658-0134-5.  $69.95.  

Reviewed by Robert B. Todd, University of British Columbia
Word count: 878 words

This volume (largely derived from a conference held at Budapest in 1997) is part of a project that aims to provide new editions and studies of the individuals included in Fritz Wehrli's Die Schule des Aristoteles (second edition, 1967-69). Earlier volumes on Demetrius of Phalerum and Dicaearchus of Messana have offered new collections of translated fragments and de facto commentaries in the form of papers.1 Now we have sixteen papers on Eudemus, "the truest of Aristotle's followers" (33); the fragments, particularly extensive in this philosopher's case, will presumably appear separately.

Eudemus was "a worthy professor battling to instill the rudiments of Aristotelian philosophy into an undistinguished group of students" (36). Inevitably, some 350 pages of studies on such a recognisable academic predecessor do not make for exciting reading, but, when like these offerings they are the work of experienced scholars, they result in welcome reexaminations of the relevant evidence on biography, on bibliography, and on philosophy and science and its history in antiquity. Eudemus was not only a pioneer Aristotelian commentator (whose work on physics was still being quoted extensively and respectfully by Simplicius in the sixth century AD, and most of whose fragments come from Aristotelian commentators) but the author of a treatise on the philosophy of language (the subject of a commentary by Galen), and as a historian of philosophy and science an important source for knowledge of his predecessors.

The papers are printed with separate, and often repetitive, bibliographies (surely a general bibliography could have provided a one-time identification of standard works?). The first three (Chs. 1-3) offer overviews: H.B. Gottschalk on "Eudemus and the Peripatos", Tiziano Dorandi on controversial issues in Eudemus' biography, and Dimitri Gutas on evidence from the Arabic tradition. The next eight deal with Eudemus as a Peripatetic who addressed issues in ethics, logic, physics, epistemology and zoology (the latter a simplifying label that covers some fascinating material on animal psychology, splendidly exploited by Stephen White at 227-237),2 while the last five address his contributions to the history of science and in one case to the history of theology.3 There are recurring interpretive and methodological issues: the extent to which Eudemus' works can be reconstructed (fans of Quellenforschung, as well as its sceptical critics, will have plenty to satisfy them); the value, validity and completeness of Wehrli's collection of fragments; Eudemus' interpretations of Aristotle; and the nature of any contributions he may have made to the historiography of philosophy and science. The careful discussions in this volume will now be an essential accompaniment to Wehrli's collection, pending the appearance of the new edition, and their discursive form is perhaps more suitable than scholiastic notes for dealing with an author preserved only in secondary reports.

There is an index locorum, and in the absence of complementary word or subject indices, preliminary abstracts of each paper could have helped busy readers locate material of interest. It will thus not be self-evident that Gábor Betegh's "On Eudemus Fr. 150 (Wehrli)" is a fascinating exploration of "one of our major source for theo-cosmogonies," or that Sylvia Berryman's paper on "continuity and coherence" is a particularly valuable piece of philosophical lexicography on the tricky terms συνεχής and συμφυής. Nor, finally, without going through the papers by Mejer and Zhmud will anyone uncover a dispute between these scholars over whether Geminus of Rhodes was a conduit for the history of geometry that Eudemus may or may not have written (cf. 249-250 and 277-288, especially 282-283).

In a designedly brief notice I cannot comment on specific papers in this collection without going into detail on studies that necessarily deal with incomplete reports, and that often advance tentative theses and reconstructions. So let me just highlight one paper that involves a central issue of principle. In ch. 7 Han Baltussen reviews the most important and most voluminous source for Eudeman source material, Simplicius' commentary on Aristotle's Physics, and discusses the methodology of what he helpfully labels this "source author." He analyses Wehrli's Simplician material, identifies some omitted texts, and protests against this earlier editor's failure to articulate his procedure, notably (142-146) with regard to repetitions of Eudeman material. Baltussen's final remarks (148-149) should be emblazoned on the door lintels of all who collect fragments: "As soon as the thoughts and words of a cited author become deeply embedded in the fabric of the immediate context, we need to be as well informed as we can about the source author" (148). That is, of course, easier said than done, and not all fragment collections (not indeed all the Eudemean fragments) are as dependent on context as the Eudemean material in Simplicius. Hence the importance of Baltussen's final words (149), obvious but true, yet often neglected: "it makes sense for each case to be tested on its own merits." It will be interesting to see what implications this prescription has for the new edition of the fragments; they are potentially far reaching.

In conclusion, anyone interested in Eudemus, the Aristotelian tradition in antiquity, and the transmission of some key evidence on ancient science, must consult this volume. Its content will repay any special efforts needed to uncover its riches. The continuation of this series in the same admirably expeditious fashion will be a considerable boon to students of ancient philosophy and science.


1.   Demetrius of Phalerum: Text, Translation and Discussion (reviewed at BMCR 2002.04.11) and Dicaearchus of Messana: Text, Translation, and Discussion, both edited by William W. Fortenbaugh and Eckart Schütrumph as vols. IX and X of Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities, Transaction Books: New Brunswick and London, 2000 and 2001 respectively.
2.   Chs. 4-11: W.W. Fortenbaugh, "Eudemus' Work On Expression"; Pamela M. Huby, "Did Aristotle Reply to Eudemus and Theophrastus on Some Logical Issues?"; R.W. Sharples, "Eudemus' Physics: Change, Place and Time"; Han Baltussen, "Wehrli's Edition of Eudemus of Rhodes: The Physical Fragments from Simplicius' Commentary On Aristotle'sPhysics"; Sylvia Berryman, "Continuity and Coherence in Early Peripatetic Texts"; István Bodnár, "Eudemus' Unmoved Movers: Fragments 121-123b Wehrli"; Deborah K.W. Modrak, "Phantasia, Thought and Science in Eudemus"; Stephen A. White, "Eudemus the Naturalist".
3.   Chs. 12-16: Jörgen Mejer, "Eudemus and the History of Science"; Leonid Zhmud, "Eudemus' History of Mathematics"; Alan C. Bowen, "Eudemus' History of Early Greek Astronomy: Two Hypotheses"; Dimitri Panchenko, "Eudemus Fr. 145 Wehrli and the Ancient Theories of Lunar Light"; Gábor Betegh, "On Eudemus Fr, 150 (Wehrli)."

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