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Frédérique Woerther

When the MS BnF Lat. 16097 was discovered in the middle of the nineteenth century, the identity of the text contained therein, known as Didascalia and preserved only in this MS, was the subject of considerable debate. However, today it is recognized that the Didascalia constitute the prologue (in its Latin version) of al-Fārābī’s Great Commentary on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, which itself is otherwise lost. The current contribution is based on a new edition of the text – following the editio princeps of M. Grignaschi in 1971 – by Maroun Aouad and Frédérique Woerther, to appear in the near future with, for the first time, a French translation and commentary. This contribution considers the basis for the identification of the text, and, by examining the content of the Didascalia, pays particular attention to the nature of al-Fārābī’s activity as commentator : 1) al-Fārābī worked with the old and error-filled Arabic translation of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, which is still available today (ed. Malcolm C. Lyons). Al-Fārābī attempted to explain Aristotle’s thought by clarifying the difficulties of the Arabic translation, which sometimes led him to distort Aristotle’s original doctrines ; 2) Following his predecessors and the principle figures of the Alexandrian tradition, al-Fārābī integrated the Rhetoric into the enlarged version of the Organon, which is particular to the oriental tradition ; and he followed the Alexandrian habit of composing prologues, which he adapted to his particular needs ; 3) It is worth noting how al-Fārābī, as a philosopher of the Arabic language, was compelled to adjust Aristotle’s rhetorical doctrines not only to his own epoch and society, which was imbued with Islam, but also to his political philosophy as that was put forward in his treatise on The Attainment of Happiness.


Gaia Celli

In this contribution I outline some of Avicenna’s lexical strategies when dealing with the difficulties posed by the Arabic translation of Aristotle’s Rhetoric that was available to him. That translation was very ancient and close to the text preserved by MS Paris, Parisinus Arabus 2346. My main textual focus will be Kitāb al-Ḫiṭāba from the Book of the Cure.

A salient lexical feature of the Arabic version of the Rhetoric is that its translator did not recognize key Greek words as proper technical terms, and, therefore, did not provide them with a uniform equivalent. Moreover, some of the translator’s lexical choices were at odds with the Peripatetic usage that had become common by Avicenna’s age. Avicenna dealt with these difficulties by having recourse to Arabic translations of other Peripatetic logical texts – such as the Prior Analytics and, possibly, its glossae and commentary material – and by shifting between the lexical standards established by the Islamic Peripatetic tradition and his source text. Avicenna was propelled by keen philological interest. The alternation between the above-named paradigms is related to the specific goals and literary genres that characterize Avicenna’s different rhetorical works, while Farabi’s and Averroes’ strategic choices tend to favour lexical standardization. In Avicenna too conformity to the rhetorical lexicon which had become common within the Peripatetic tradition usually had the upper hand, but this tendency is more apparent in works like Al-Ḥikma al-ʿArudiyya or the Kitāb al-Naǧāt than in the Kitāb al-Šifāʾ, where terms taken from the Arabic translation were sometimes showcased and commented upon. Its conservative and sometimes didactic attitude towards the lexicon of Aristotle’s Rhetoric is yet another reason why we understand the Kitāb al-Ḫiṭāba as partially belonging to the commentary genre.


Jean-Baptiste Gourinat

This concluding chapter describes the distinctive features of the commentaries on Aristotle’s Rhetoric. The tradition starts much later than with other Aristotelian commentaries, since the first Rhetoric commentaries are in Arabic and predate the only surviving Greek commentary, which belongs to the Byzantine period. One of the difficulties the commentators were confronted with is the ambiguous place of the work within the corpus, since Aristotle describes it as an “offshoot” of political science and dialectic. As a consequence, the Rhetoric was at the crossroads of philosophical and rhetorical commentaries and belongs to one or the other tradition along with other political commentaries. The methods that were utilized are also very different : while some commentators try to adapt the Rhetoric to their contemporary readership for practical purposes, some are more historical and philological. The late production of commentaries had further consequences since the treatise belongs originally to the cultural and political world of classical Athens before the development of technical treatises of rhetoric. As a consequence, the commentators undertook considerable effort to adapt their comments to societies that differed with respect to their cultural, religious, political, and judiciary backgrounds, and all of them differed from the original context. They also had considerable difficulties with Aristotle’s language, and some interpretations result from mistranslations into Arabic or Latin as well as from cultural differences. Even in the Byzantine tradition Aristotle’s philosophical Greek may be misunderstood.


Daniel M. Gross

The purpose of this chapter is threefold: 1) to outline what exactly Heidegger found in Aristotle’s Rhetoric just as he was radically reformulating the history of Western metaphysics against his contemporaries in philosophy 2) to indicate how this moment also rewrote – with a debt to Dilthey and also Bultmannʼs sacred rhetoric – the conventional history of rhetoric per se, and 3) to identify our new historiography that foregrounds rhetorical topics Heidegger found interesting around his 1924 lectures on Aristotleʼs Rhetoric: emotion, orientation, and rhetoric as the art of listening. Finally I explain how and why Heidegger later left this material behind, as he took up Weimar politics and consequently lost faith in the analysis of factical life Aristotleʼs Rhetoric made possible.


Iacopo Costa

In this chapter, I propose an historical analysis of John of Jandun’s commentary on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, which was one of the last works he wrote as a master of arts before leaving Paris. According to my interpretation, this work must be read not only as an exegesis of Aristotle’s treatise, but also as an attempt to criticize and somehow to deconstruct the production of knowledge at the University of Paris at the beginning of the 14th century. In this still unedited commentary, John often resorts to irony, paradoxes, and provocations in presenting moral and political theories. Lastly, I try to demonstrate the connections between John’s commentary on the Rhetoric and a rhetorical text that he composed in the same years, namely, the Tractatus de laudibus urbis Parisiorum.


Costantino Marmo

While the logical works of Aristotle had tradition of commentary in the universities of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Aristotle’s Rhetoric was an almost unknown work when Giles of Rome, a young augustinian monk, was asked to write a commentary on it (1272-73). Later he also commented on Sophistical Refutations and Posterior Analytics; but while in these latter cases Giles could rely on previous models and a number of commentaries on these texts, in the case of Aristotle’s Rhetoric he had almost no tools that could help him in the very difficult task of explaining and discussing this text. The method of his commentary, as in all of his Aristotelian commentaries, conforms to the genre of the literal commentary (sententia): he first proposes a division of the text (diuisio textus), which shows its logical structure; he then proceeds to the literal explanation of the text (expositio litterae); finally, he often adds discussions of specific problems, calling them notabilia (short annotations) or declarationes (shorter or longer digressions or examinations of specific problems). These declarationes are occur mainly in the commentary of the first and second Books of Aristotle’s Rhetoric.

In this paper, I show some examples of the kind of work Giles carried out on the text of Aristotle’s Latin translation (made by William de Moerbeke a few years before – about 1269). Giles uses three basic operations for explaining the meaning of the text: terminological elucidation ; clarification of the syntax (through simple transposition or more often by reorganizing whole phrases); correction of the text (often through a comparison with other translations and sometimes with other copies of William’s translation).


Pierre Chiron

After some remarks on the « absence » we are talking about – methodological reflections, details on the period and the culture at stake, elements of comparison – we attempt to establish the facts concerning the lack of interest in Byzantium in regard to Aristotle’s Rhetoric before we attempt to explain it. Among the hypotheses for interpreting this phenomenon, we emphasize less the problems of textual transmission – which is not a cause but a consequence – than the difficulties of the text itself and the ambivalence of a project that is both practical and theoretical. Most importantly, Hermogenian rhetoric and especially the status theory probably supplanted Aristotle’s treatise, insofar as they offer a more systematic and thorough treatment, though they too need exegesis because of their difficulty.


Harvey Yunis

This contribution considers the background, nature, purpose, methods, and effectiveness of the two works on Aristotle’s Rhetoric produced by the Victorian classical scholar and teacher, Edward Meredith Cope (1818-1873): the Introduction (1867) and the three-volume Commentary (1877, published posthumously). The contribution considers the following points: Cope’s education and scholarly career; Cope’s use of the commentary on Aristotle’s Rhetoric by Petrus Victorius (1548, 1579) and the myriad other sources used by Cope; a comparison between Cope’s work on Aristotle and the nearly contemporary commentary by Leonhard Spengel (1867), which Cope knew but cited only infrequently; and most importantly Cope’s exegetical method, which is the chief legacy of his career. Cope’s method of exegesis seeks to explain the difficulties of the text by bringing common sense, paraphrase, and plain language to bear. Cope developed his own methods of exegesis and paraphrase, which rely on the idioms and common beliefs of his day. Several examples of Cope’s exegetical method are presented and discussed in detail. The contribution closes with an assessment of the value of Cope’s commentary today.


Camille Rambourg

This contribution aims to shed light on the longest of the few Greek commentaries on Aristotle’s Rhetoric that have come down to us. The commentary in question is anonymous, but, despite the absence of compelling evidence, the author has sometimes been assumed to be the prolific 12th-century Aristotelian commentator Michael of Ephesus. After a preliminary survey of what we know about the transmission, the date, and the place of composition of the text, the study concentrates on the examples adduced by the author at the beginning of the commentary (on Rhet. I 2) in order to investigate his sources, intentions, and perspectives. This first step shows that the commentary is the product not of a rhetorician influenced by the Corpus rhetoricum, but of a well-read Aristotelian scholar who tries to interpret the Rhetoric along the lines of the Organon and who, more surprisingly, shows a keen interest in Aristotle’s biological treatises and Greek medicine. Such a profile would be consistent with what we know of Michael of Ephesus. The latter part of the contribution examines the parallels between the anonymous commentary and Michael’s genuine commentaries as regards the choice of examples and the overall method of commenting on Aristotle, thus providing further evidence of Michael’s authorship. The anonymous commentary may well have been part of the vast enterprise by Anna Comnena to produce a complete library of commentaries on Aristotle’s works – in other words, it may have been a commission, which in turn could explain both why someone not primarily interested in rhetoric has taken on such a difficult task and other peculiarities of the remainder of the commentary.


Lawrence D. Green

The Renaissance commentary tradition on Aristotle’s Rhetoric was rich and erudite, with massive studies by scholars such as Piero Vettori, Antonio Riccoboni, and Paolo Beni. But these studies tended to focus on details to such an extent that it was difficult for readers to comprehend Aristotle’s treatise as a whole, and from the earliest days of print there was a coordinate commentary tradition that sought to provide overviews of the Rhetoric, often published as complete treatises in their own right. Some overviews appear as epitomes so dense or gnomic that they may have been used only in a classroom where a teacher could expatiate, or served as a memorial of prior organized study. Some overviews were paraphrases of sections or of the entire treatise. And some overviews were synoptic of rhetoric as an entire discipline; their titles usually include a phrase such as ex Aristotele, Cicerone, et Fabio. Classical variations may add Plato or Hermogenes, while contemporary variations add Agricola, Melanchthon, Keckermann, Voss, or Caussin.

These synoptic works attempt to reduce Aristotle’s Rhetoric to a few key concepts that are common among the best rhetoricians, that are timeless and universal, and hence relevant to the present moment. They are published in every corner of Europe, often by the best Renaissance scholars, and for many readers these synoptic works may have been their only encounter with Aristotle’s Rhetoric. There are two broad categories of such commentaries, governed by different intentions. The first focuses on Aristotle himself, either concentrating exclusively on the Rhetoric, or placing the Rhetoric in the context of Aristotle’s other writings. The second places Aristotle in the context of other writers and focuses on the enduring utility of the rhetorical tradition.