According to Diogenes Laertius, Aristotle wrote a work entitled Signs of Storms (
As DS is not that well known, even among scholars of Peripatetic philosophy, let me say something about its nature. It has a Peripatetic (if not typically Aristotelian) opening: “We wrote down the signs of rain, winds, storms, and fair weather as follows to the extent that we were able, some of which we ourselves observed, others of which we took from men of no small repute” (1.4-6). The work can be divided as follows: prologue (sections 1-9), signs of rain (10-25), signs of wind (26-37), signs of storms (38-49), signs of fair weather (50-55), and an addendum on miscellaneous signs (56-57). As Sider and Brunschön (hereafter S & B) note, the prologue seems to promise more than the rest of the text delivers. The signs listed in DS are meteorological warnings of a relatively immediate sort. They are arranged by results, not by signs—e.g. centipedes in large numbers as a sign of rain (19.128-29) occurs in the section on rain, not in a section on animals or animal behavior. It is clear that the author understands that these signs are no guarantee, but are in many cases true (supposedly) for the most part. DS contains virtually no explanations as to why these signs (are supposed to) work. For example, the author writes: “black halos (
S & B’s superb introduction is divided into nine parts: (1) Predicting the weather (pp. 1-3); (2) Writing it down (pp. 3-4); (3) Origins of De Signis (preliminary considerations) (pp. 4-5); (4) Survey of ancient weather literature (pp. 5-29); (5) Structure of De Signis (pp. 30-36); (6) The nature of De Signis (pp. 36-38); (7) How accurate are the signs (pp. 38-39); (8) Authorship reconsidered (pp. 40-43); (9) Textual tradition (pp. 43-56). Limitations of space make it impossible to describe every part, so I restrict my comments to (3) and (8). Part 3 sets out the relevant facts concerning the origins of DS, and lays out five possibilities regarding authorship. Aside from what I mentioned in the opening paragraph (about works on weather signs attributed to Aristotle and Theophrastus, and the authorship attributed to DS in the manuscript tradition), the remaining relevant fact is that every manuscript of DS is found in a Peripatetic collection. S & B conclude on the basis of these facts that, setting aside such issues as style and vocabulary, five possibilities suggest themselves: (i) DS is a collection “gathered at Aristotle’s behest for him to mine while composing his own book on weather signs” (p. 4); (ii) DS was written by Aristotle; (iii) DS was written by Theophrastus; (iv) DS is an abridgement of what either Aristotle or Theophrastus wrote; (v) DS is an abridgement of what both Aristotle and Theophrastus wrote. (Perhaps we should consider adding (iiia) ‘DS was written by some other Peripatetic’, also abridging (iv) and (v) to include what this other Peripatetic wrote.) S & B return to the question of authorship (including its history) in Part 8. The Aldine edition (1497) published DS as anonymous; but every editor since—from Grynaeus (1541) to Hort (Loeb, 1926)—has “attributed it to Theophrastos without question” (p. 40). Nevertheless, doubts about Theophrastus as an author of DS reemerged in the nineteenth century. Böhme (1884) argued that Eudoxus was a common source for both DS and Aratos. Heeger (1889) claimed that DS could not be the work of Theophrastus or even a student of Theophrastus; rather, it was the result of “some later person excerpt[ing] a Peripatetic work on the subject” (p. 41). Maas (1893) argued that DS was the work of Democritus, and Rehm (1941) the work of Euktemon. S & B claim that no view on the authorship of DS can be proven, but here is what they consider a reasonable account of its origins:
(i) Aristotle . . . discusses (at least) short-term weather signs and suggests reasons for their validity, as well as discussing the nature of signs. . . . Directly from Aristotle, and not long afterward, both (ii) Eudoxos and (iii) Theophrastos write their own works on weather signs, the latter basing his work very much on Aristotle. . . . (iv) Aratos versifies Eudoxos’ work (or sections) on the constellations and the weather signs. . . . (v) Someone strips Theophrastos’ work of its causes . . . , leaving a carcass that is essentially De Signis as we have it in the mss. . . . Then, under a kind of Gresham’s law, the bad (the abridged version) drives out the good . . . , becoming the only version maintained in the Lyceum’s library. (pp. 42-43)
S & B’s edition of the Greek text of DS is the first to take into account all of the manuscripts (as well as the important thirteenth century Latin translation of Bartholomew of Messina). (For details, see Part 9 of the introduction.) The text is accompanied by a full apparatus criticus and clearly surpasses all earlier editions. The translation is both accurate and readable, and as it is based on a much more authoritative text it is superior to the other English translations (Wood  and Hort ). I noticed one error worthy of comment: “but the winter is dry” etc. at 24.166-67 should have been rendered “but if (
The commentary is excellent. It thoroughly explains key terminology, provides parallel passages, and discusses variant readings and suggested emendations. I found the parallel passages particularly illuminating. For example, 25.175-76 reads: “whenever sheep or goats copulate, this is a sign of a long winter.” In their entry on 25.175 (
The quality of the production of the book does not match the quality of its content. I counted over forty works cited in the introduction or commentary that were not, but should have been, listed in the bibliography. Further, I spotted nearly fifty typographical and/or other minor errors, for example: p. 32, l. 6, “attention this” should be “attention to this”; p. 81, ll. 10-11, “be” should be cut from “it will be produce rain”; p. 106, ll. 7-8, the line beginning “For whenever the clouds into an obstacle” is missing a verb; p. 121, ll. 14-15: something is wrong with the line containing “if meteors are seen to come from all sides, winds too be many”; p. 199, 4th l. from the bottom, “anscestor” should be “ancestor”. This level of error, though unusual, is more common in books published by presses requiring authors to submit camera-ready copy—which should perhaps not come as a surprise, as a brilliant classicist (for example) is not necessarily a brilliant copy-editor.
Such minor errors aside, this superb volume is an excellent work of scholarship that should be read by anyone interested in Theophrastus and post-Aristotelian Peripatetic thought, and/or in ancient science and particularly ancient meteorology.