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Statue of Theophrastus, Orto botanico di Palermo
Born c. 371 BC
Died c. 287 BC
Era Ancient philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Peripatetic school
Main interests
Botany, ethics, grammar, history, logic, metaphysics, natural history, physics
Notable ideas
Developed the philosophy of Aristotle

Theophrastus (; Greek: Θεόφραστος; c. 371 – c. 287 BC[1]), a Greek native of Eresos in Lesbos, was the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school. He came to Athens at a young age and initially studied in Plato's school. After Plato's death, he attached himself to Aristotle. Aristotle bequeathed to Theophrastus his writings and designated him as his successor at the Lyceum. Theophrastus presided over the Peripatetic school for thirty-six years, during which time the school flourished greatly. He is often considered the "father of botany" for his works on plants. After his death, the Athenians honoured him with a public funeral. His successor as head of the school was Strato of Lampsacus.

The interests of Theophrastus were wide ranging, extending from biology and physics to ethics and metaphysics. His two surviving botanical works, Enquiry into Plants (Historia Plantarum) and On the Causes of Plants, were an important influence on Renaissance science. There are also surviving works On Moral Characters, On Sensation, On Stones, and fragments on Physics and Metaphysics. In philosophy, he studied grammar and language and continued Aristotle's work on logic. He also regarded space as the mere arrangement and position of bodies, time as an accident of motion, and motion as a necessary consequence of all activity. In ethics, he regarded happiness as depending on external influences as well as on virtue and famously said that "life is ruled by fortune, not wisdom."


  • Life 1
  • Writings 2
    • On Plants 2.1
    • Characters 2.2
    • On Sensation 2.3
    • Physics 2.4
    • Metaphysics 2.5
    • On Stones 2.6
  • Philosophy 3
    • Logic 3.1
    • Physics and metaphysics 3.2
    • Ethics 3.3
  • The "portrait" of Theophrastus 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
    • Works by Theophrastus 8.1
    • Works about Theophrastus 8.2
  • External links 9


Most of the biographical information we have of Theophrastus was provided by Diogenes Laërtius' Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, written more than four hundred years after Theophrastus' time.[2] He was a native of Eresos in Lesbos.[3] His given name was Tyrtamus (Τύρταμος), but he later became known by the nickname "Theophrastus," given to him, it is said, by Aristotle to indicate the grace of his conversation (from Ancient Greek Θεός "god" and φράζειν "to phrase", i.e. divine expression).[4]

Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Strato of Lampsacus. Part of a fresco in the portico of the University of Athens painted by Carl Rahl, c. 1888.

After receiving instruction in philosophy in Lesbos from one Alcippus, he moved to Athens, where he may have studied under Plato.[5] He became friends with Aristotle, and when Plato died (348/7 BC) Theophrastus may have joined Aristotle in his self-imposed exile from Athens. When Aristotle moved to Mytilene on Lesbos in 345/4, it is very likely that he did so at the urging of Theophrastus.[6] It seems that it was on Lesbos that Aristotle and Theophrastus began their research into natural science, with Aristotle studying animals and Theophrastus studying plants.[7] Theophrastus probably accompanied Aristotle to Macedonia when Aristotle was appointed tutor to Alexander the Great in 343/2.[6] Around 335 BC, Theophrastus moved with Aristotle to Athens where Aristotle began teaching in the Lyceum. When, after the death of Alexander, anti-Macedonian feeling forced Aristotle to leave Athens, Theophrastus remained behind as head (scholarch) of the Peripatetic school,[6] a position he continued to hold after Aristotle's death in 322/1.

Aristotle in his will made him guardian of his children, including Nicomachus with whom he was close.[8] Aristotle likewise bequeathed to him his library and the originals of his works,[9] and designated him as his successor at the Lyceum.[10] Eudemus of Rhodes also had some claims to this position, and Aristoxenus is said to have resented Aristotle's choice.[11]

Theophrastus presided over the Peripatetic school for thirty-five years,[12] and died at the age of eighty-five according to Diogenes.[13] He is said to have remarked "we die just when we are beginning to live".[14]

Under his guidance the school flourished greatly — there were at one period more than 2000 students, Diogenes affirms,[15] and at his death, according to the terms of his will preserved by Diogenes, he bequeathed to it his garden with house and colonnades as a permanent seat of instruction. The comic poet Menander was among his pupils.[15] His popularity was shown in the regard paid to him by Philip, Cassander, and Ptolemy, and by the complete failure of a charge of impiety brought against him.[16] He was honored with a public funeral, and "the whole population of Athens, honouring him greatly, followed him to the grave."[17] He was succeeded as head of the Lyceum by Strato of Lampsacus.


Historia plantarum, 1549

From the lists of Diogenes Laërtius, giving 227 titles, it appears that the activity of Theophrastus extended over the whole field of contemporary knowledge.[11] His writing probably differed little from Aristotle's treatment of the same themes, though supplementary in details. Like Aristotle, most of his writings are lost works.[11] Thus Theophrastus, like Aristotle, had composed a first and second Analytic (Ἀναλυτικῶν προτέρων and Ἀναλυτικῶν ὑστέρων).[18] He had also written books on Topics (Ἀνηγμένων τόπων, Τοπικῶν and Τὰ πρὸ τῶν τόπων);[19] on the Analysis of Syllogisms (Περὶ ἀναλύσεως συλλογισμῶν and Περὶ συλλογισμῶν λύσεως), on Sophisms (Σοφισμάτων) and On Affirmation and Denial (Περὶ καταφάσεως καὶ ἀποφάσεως)[20] as well as on the Natural Philosophy (Περὶ φύσεως, Περὶ φυσικῶν, Φυσικῶν and others), on Heaven (Περὶ οὐρανοῦ), and on Meteorological Phenomena (Τῆς μεταρσιολεσχίας and Μεταρσιολογικῶν).[21]

Frontispiece to the illustrated 1644 edition of the Enquiry into Plants (Historia Plantarum)

In addition, Theophrastus wrote on the Warm and the Cold (Περὶ θερμοῦ καὶ ψυχροῦ),[22] on Water (Περὶ ὕδατος), Fire (Περὶ πυρὸς),[23] the Sea (Περὶ θαλάττης),[23] on Coagulation and Melting (Περὶ πήξεων καὶ τήξεων), on various phenomena of organic and spiritual life,[23] and on the Soul (Περὶ ψυχῆς), On Experience (Περὶ ἐμπειρίας) and On Sense Perception (also known as On the Senses; Περὶ αἰσθήσεων).[24] Likewise, we find mention of monographs of Theophrastus on the early Greek philosophers Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Archelaus,[25] Diogenes of Apollonia, Democritus,[26] which were made use of by Simplicius; and also on Xenocrates,[27] against the Academics,[28] and a sketch of the political doctrine of Plato.[26]

He studied general history, as we know from Plutarch's lives of Lycurgus, Solon, Aristides, Pericles, Nicias, Alcibiades, Lysander, Agesilaus, and Demosthenes, which were probably borrowed from the work on Lives (Περὶ βίων).[18] But his main efforts were to continue the labours of Aristotle in natural history. This is testified to not only by a number of treatises on individual subjects of zoology, of which, besides the titles, only fragments remain, but also by his books on Stones, his Enquiry into Plants, and On the Causes of Plants (see below), which have come down to us entire. In politics, also, he seems to have trodden in the footsteps of Aristotle. Besides his books on the State (Πολιτικῶν and Πολιτικοῦ), we find quoted various treatises on Education (Περὶ παιδείας βασιλέως and Περὶ παιδείας),[29] on Royalty (Περὶ βασιλείας, Περὶ παιδείας βασιλέως and Πρὸς Κάσανδρον περὶ βασιλείας),[30] on the Best State (Περὶ τῆς ἀρίστης πολιτείας), on Political Morals (Πολιτικῶν ἐθῶν), and particularly his works on the Laws (Νόμων κατὰ στοιχεῖον, Νόμων ἐπιτομῆς and Περὶ νόμων), one of which, containing a recapitulation of the laws of various barbarian as well as Greek states, was intended to be a companion to Aristotle's outline of Politics, and must have been similar to it.[31] He also wrote on oratory and poetry.[32] Theophrastus, without doubt, departed further from Aristotle in his ethical writings,[33] as also in his metaphysical investigations of motion, the soul, and God.[34]

Besides these writings, Theophrastus wrote several collections of problems, out of which some things at least have passed into the Problems that have come down to us under the name of Aristotle,[35] and commentaries,[36] partly dialogues,[37] to which probably belonged the Erotikos (Ἐρωτικός),[38] Megacles (Μεγακλῆς),[27] Callisthenes (Καλλισθένης),[39] and Megarikos (Μεγαρικός),[22] and letters,[40] partly books on mathematical sciences and their history.[41]

Many of his surviving works exist only in fragmentary form. "The style of these works, as of the botanical books, suggests that, as in the case of Aristotle, what we possess consists of notes for lectures or notes taken of lectures," his translator Arthur F. Hort remarks.[2] "There is no literary charm; the sentences are mostly compressed and highly elliptical, to the point sometimes of obscurity".[2] The text of these fragments and extracts is often so corrupt that there is a certain plausibility to the well-known story that the works of Aristotle and Theophrastus were allowed to languish in the cellar of Neleus of Scepsis and his descendents.[42]

On Plants

Frankincense trees in Dhufar

The most important of his books are two large botanical treatises, Enquiry into Plants (Περὶ φυτῶν ἱστορία), and On the Causes of Plants (Περὶ φυτῶν αἰτιῶν), which constitute the most important contribution to botanical science during antiquity and the Middle Ages,[11] the first systemization of the botanical world; on the strength of these works some, following Linnaeus, call him the "father of botany."[7]

The Enquiry into Plants was originally ten books, of which nine survive. The work is arranged into a system whereby plants are classified according to their modes of generation, their localities, their sizes, and according to their practical uses such as foods, juices, herbs, etc.[43] The first book deals with the parts of plants; the second book with the reproduction of plants and the times and manner of sowing; the third, fourth, and fifth books are devoted to trees, their types, their locations, and their practical applications; the sixth book deals with shrubs and spiny plants; the seventh book deals with herbs; the eighth book deals with plants that produce edible seeds; and the ninth book deals with plants that produce useful juices, gums, resins, etc.[43]

On the Causes of Plants was originally eight books, of which six survive. It concerns the growth of plants; the influences on their fecundity; the proper times they should be sown and reaped; the methods of preparing the soil, manuring it, and the use of tools; and of the smells, tastes, and properties of many types of plants.[43] The work deals mainly with the economical uses of plants rather than their medicinal uses, although the latter is sometimes mentioned.[43]

Although these works contain many absurd and fabulous statements, they include valuable observations concerning the functions and properties of plants.[43] Theophrastus detected the process of germination and realized the importance of climate and soil to plants. Much of the information on the Greek plants may have come from his own observations, as he is known to have travelled throughout Greece, and to have had a botanical garden of his own; but the works also profit from the reports on plants of Asia brought back from those who followed Alexander the Great:
to the reports of Alexander's followers he owed his accounts of such plants as the cotton-plant, banyan, pepper, cinnamon, myrrh, and frankincense.[2]

Theophrastus' Enquiry into Plants was first published in a Latin translation by Theodore Gaza, at Treviso, 1483;[44] in its original Greek it first appeared from the press of Aldus Manutius at Venice, 1495–98, from a third-rate manuscript, which, like the majority of the manuscripts that were sent to printers' workshops in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, has disappeared.[45] Wimmer identified two manuscripts of first quality, the Codex Urbinas in the Vatican Library, which was not made known to J. G. Schneider, who made the first modern critical edition, 1818–21, and the excerpts in the Codex Parisiensis in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


His book Characters (Ἠθικοὶ χαρακτῆρες), if it is indeed his, deserves a separate mention. The work contains thirty brief, vigorous, and trenchant outlines of moral types, which form a most valuable picture of the life of his time, and in fact of human nature in general.[11] They are the first recorded attempt at systematic Impressions of Theophrastus Such. Writing the "character sketch" as a scholastic exercise also originated in Theophrastus's typology.

On Sensation

A treatise On Sense Perception (Περὶ αἰσθήσεων) and its objects is important for a knowledge of the doctrines of the more ancient Greek philosophers regarding the subject. A paraphrase and commentary on this work was written by Priscian of Lydia in the sixth century.[43] With this type of work we may connect the fragments on Smells, on Fatigue, on Dizziness, on Sweat, on Swooning, on Palsy, and on Honey.[42]


We also possess in fragments a History of Physics (Περὶ φυσικῶν ἱστοριῶν). To this class of work belong the still extant sections on Fire, on the Winds, and on the signs of Waters, Winds, and Storms.[47] Various smaller scientific fragments have been collected in the editions of Johann Gottlob Schneider (1818–21) and Friedrich Wimmer (1842—62) and in Hermann Usener's Analecta Theophrastea.


The Metaphysics (anachronistic Greek title: Θεοφράστου τῶν μετὰ τὰ φυσικά),[48] in nine chapters (also known as On First Principles), was considered a fragment of a larger work by Usener in his edition (Theophrastos, Metaphysica, Bonn, 1890), but according to Ross and Fobes in their edition (Theophrastus, Metaphysica, Oxford, 1929), the treatise is complete (p. X) and this opinion is now widely accepted. There is no reason for assigning this work to some other author because it is not noticed in Hermippus and Andronicus, especially as Nicolaus of Damascus had already mentioned it.[42]

On Stones

Cut emeralds

In his treatise On Stones (Περὶ λίθων), which was to be used as a source for other lapidaries until at least the Renaissance,[49] Theophrastus classified rocks and gems based on their behavior when heated, further grouping minerals by common properties, such as amber and magnetite, which both have the power of attraction.[50][51][52] He also comments on the effect of heat on minerals and their different hardnesses.

Theophrastus describes different marbles; mentions coal, which he says is used for heating by metal-workers; describes the various metal ores; and knew that pumice-stones had a volcanic origin. He also deals with precious stones, emeralds, amethysts, onyx, jasper, etc., and describes a variety of "sapphire" that was blue with veins of gold, and thus was presumably lapis-lazuli.[50]

He knew that

  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
  • Theophrastus and the Greek physiological psychology before Aristotle, by George Malcolm Stratton, (1917), at the Internet Archive. Contains a translation of On the Senses by Theophrastus.
  • Diogenes Laërtius, Life of Theophrastus, translated by Robert Drew Hicks (1925).
  • Peripatetic Logic: The Work of Eudemus of Rhodes and Theophrastus of Eresus
  • TheophrastusProject (Greek)
  • Online Galleries, University of Oklahoma Libraries

External links

  • Project Theophrastus, edited by William Fortenbaugh et al. Brill.
    • Sources for His Life, Writings, Thought and Influence (two volumes), 1992.
      • I. Life, Writings, Various Reports, Logic, Physics, Metaphysics, Theology, Mathematics.
      • II. Psychology, Human Physiology, Living Creatures, Botany, Ethics, Religion, Politics, Rhetoric and Poetics, Music, Miscellanea.
    • Commentary, 9 volumes planned; published volumes:
      • 2. Logic, by Pamela Huby 15 June 2016; with contributions on the Arabic material by Dimitri Gutas.
      • 3.1. Sources on Physics (Texts 137-223), by R. W. Sharples 15 June 2016.
      • 4. Psychology (Texts 265-327), by Pamela Huby 15 June 2016; with contributions on the Arabic material by Dimitri Gutas.
      • 5. Sources on Biology (Human Physiology, Living Creatures, Botany: Texts 328-435), by R. W. Sharples 15 June 2016.
      • 6.1. Sources on Ethics, by William W. Fortenbaugh; with contributions on the Arabic material by Dimitri Gutas 15 June 2016.
      • 8. Sources on Rhetoric and Poetics (Texts 666-713), by William W. Fortenbaugh 15 June 2016; with contributions on the Arabic material by Dimitri Gutas.
      • 9.2 Sources on Discoveries and Beginnings, Proverbs et al. (Texts 727-741), by William W. Fortenbaugh 15 June 2016.

Works about Theophrastus

  • Metaphysics (=On First Principles).
    • Translated by M. van Raalte, 1993, Brill.
    • On First Principles. Translated by Dimitri Gutas, 2010, Brill.
  • Enquiry into Plants: Books 1-5. Translated by A. F. Hort, 1916. Loeb Classical Library. ISBN 0-674-99077-3 Vol 1 - Vol 2
  • Enquiry into Plants: Books 6-9; Treatise on Odours; Concerning Weather Signs. Translated by A. F. Hort, 1916. Loeb Classical Library. ISBN 0-674-99088-9
  • De Causis Plantarum. Translated by B. Einarson and G. Link, 1989-1990. Loeb Classical Library. 3 volumes: ISBN 0-674-99519-8, ISBN 0-674-99523-6, ISBN 0-674-99524-4.
  • On Characters (Greek)
    • Translated by R.C. Jebb, 1870.
    • Translated by J. M. Edmonds, 1929, with parallel text.
    • Translated by J. Rusten, 2003. Loeb Classical Library. ISBN 0-674-99603-8
  • On Sweat, On Dizziness and On Fatigue. Translated by W. Fortenbaugh, R. Sharples, M. Sollenberger. Brill 2002. ISBN 90-04-12890-5
  • On Weather Signs.
    • Translated by J. G. Wood, G. J. Symons, 1894.
    • Edited by Sider David and Brunschön Carl Wolfram. Brill 2007.
  • On Stones

Works by Theophrastus


  • "Theophrastus" entry in the George Long, (1842), Volume 24, pp. 332–4
  • Baron Cuvier's Lectures on the Natural Sciences, Edinburgh new philosophical journal, (1830), Volume 18, pp. 76–83
  • Walton, S. A., Theophrastus on Lyngurium: medieval and early modern lore from the classical lapidary tradition, Annals of Science, Oct. 2001, 58(4):357–79, PDF on


  1. ^ Tiziano Dorandi, Chapter 2: Chronology, in Algra et al. (1999), The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy, pp. 52–3. Cambridge.
  2. ^ a b c d
  3. ^ Strabo, xiii.; Diogenes Laërtius, v. 36, etc.
  4. ^ Strabo, xiii.; Diogenes Laërtius, v. 38
  5. ^ "Theophrastus is said to have studied first at Eresus under Alcippus, then at Athens under Plato. The latter report is problematic." "Theophrastus" entry in the Encyclopedia of classical philosophy (1997), page 552. Greenwood
  6. ^ a b c "Theophrastus" entry in the Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy (1997), page 552. Greenwood
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 38: "Aristippus in the fourth book of his treatise On Ancient Luxury asserts that he was enamoured of Aristotle's son Nicomachus" - Robert Drew Hicks translation. Cf. Suda, Nikomakhos, Theophrastos.
  9. ^ "It may we be that we owe to Theophrastus the publication of some at least of his master's voluminous works." (Hort)
  10. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 36; comp. Aulus Gellius, xiii. 5
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Public Domain One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
  12. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 36, 58
  13. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 40; "He is made indeed to say in the probably spurious Preface to the Characters that he is writing in his ninety-ninth year; while St. Jerome's Chronicle asserts that he lived to the age of 107" (Hort)
  14. ^ Cicero, Tusculanae Quaestiones, iii. 28; Jerome, Letter to Nepotian; Diogenes Laërtius, v. 41.
  15. ^ a b Diogenes Laërtius, v. 36, 37.
  16. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 37; comp. Aelian, Varia Historia, iv. 19
  17. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 41
  18. ^ a b Diogenes Laërtius, v. 42
  19. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 42, 45, 50
  20. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 42, 45
  21. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 46, 50, 43, 44
  22. ^ a b c d Diogenes Laërtius, v. 44
  23. ^ a b c Diogenes Laërtius, v. 45
  24. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 42, 46
  25. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 42, 43
  26. ^ a b Diogenes Laërtius, v. 43
  27. ^ a b Diogenes Laërtius, v. 47
  28. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 49
  29. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 42, 50
  30. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 42, 47, 45
  31. ^ Cicero, de Finibus, v. 4.
  32. ^ Cicero, de Invent. i. 35.
  33. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 49, 50
  34. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 48
  35. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 45, 47, 48; comp. Pliny, H.N. xxviii. 6; Aristotle, Probl. xxxiii. 12
  36. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 48, 49; comp. 43
  37. ^ Basil. Magn. Epist. 167
  38. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 43; Athenaeus, xii. 2, xiii. 2
  39. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 44; Cicero, Tusculanae Quaestiones, iii. 10; Alexander of Aphrodisius, de Anima, ii.
  40. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 46, 50
  41. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, v. 42, 46, 48, 50
  42. ^ a b c d e f g  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
  43. ^ a b c d e f "Theophrastus" entry in the Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, edited by George Long, (1842), Volume 24, pp. 332–4
  44. ^ Theodore Gaza, a refugee from Thessalonika, was working from a lost Greek manuscript that was different from any others (Hort).
  45. ^ It was carefully copied in a printing at Basel, 1541.
  46. ^
  47. ^ Probably out of the fourth book of the Meteorology ("ἐν τετάρτῃ περὶ μεταρσίων") of Theophrastus: see Plutarch, Quaest. Gr. vii.
  48. ^ Dimitri Gutas (ed.), Theophrastus – On First Principles: known as His Metaphysics, Brill, 2010, p. 10.
  49. ^ Walton, 359–364
  50. ^ a b c d Georges Cuvier, "Lecture Ninth - Theophrastus" in Baron Cuvier's Lectures on the Natural Sciences, Edinburgh new philosophical journal, (1830), Volume 18, pp. 76–83
  51. ^
  52. ^ Googlebooks - Theophrastus On Stones
  53. ^ John F. Healy, (1999) Pliny the Elder on Science and Technology, pp. 17–7. Oxford University Press
  54. ^ Walton, abstract & throughout
  55. ^ Simplicius, in Categ. 8
  56. ^ Ammonius, de Interpr. 53; Schol. in Arist. p. 108, 27
  57. ^ Alexander of Aphrodisias, in Anal. Pr. f. 128, 124; Schol. in Arist. p. 184. 24. 183, b. 2; Boethius, de Interpr.
  58. ^ Ammonius, in Arist. de Interpr. 128; Schol. in Arist. p. 121. 18
  59. ^ Alexander of Aphrodisias, in Anal. Pr. f. 12. 6; Schol. in Arist. p. 149. 44
  60. ^ Alexander of Aphrodisias, in Anal. Pr. 14, 72, 73, 82. 22, b, 35; Boethius, de Syll. categ. ii. 594. 5, f. 603, 615
  61. ^ Alexander of Aphrodisias, in Anal. Pr. 39, b
  62. ^ Alexander of Aphrodisias, in Anal. Pr. 39, b. etc. 40, 42, 56, b. 82, 64, b. 51; John Phil. xxxii, b. etc.
  63. ^ Alexander of Aphrodisias, in Anal. Pr. 115
  64. ^ Alexander of Aphrodisias, in Arist. Anal. Pr. 109, b. etc. 131, b.; John Phil. lx. etc. lxxv.; Boethius, de Syll. hypoth.
  65. ^ Galen, de Hippocr. et Plat. Dogm. ii. 2.
  66. ^ Simplicius, in Categ. f. 5; Schol. p. 89. 15; comp. Alexander of Aphrodisias, in Metaph. p. 342. 30
  67. ^ Alexander of Aphrodisias, in Top. 5, 68, 72, 25, 31.
  68. ^ Alexander of Aphrodisias, in Top. 83, 189
  69. ^ Simplicius, in Phys. f. 1, 6
  70. ^ Simplicius, in Phys. f. 5, 6
  71. ^ Simplicius, in Phys. 149, b. 141
  72. ^ Simplicius, in Phys. f. 87, b; John Phil. 213. 4.
  73. ^ Theophrastus, On Fire, 1
  74. ^ Simplicius, in Categ.; comp. Simplicius, in Phys. 94, 201, 202, 1.
  75. ^ Simplicius, l. c. and f. 94, 1.
  76. ^
  77. ^ Simplicius, in Categ.
  78. ^ Simplicius, in Phys. 225
  79. ^ Themistius, in Arist. de An. 89, b. 91, b.
  80. ^
  81. ^ Clement of Alexandria, Protrept.; Cicero, de Natura Deorum, i. 13
  82. ^ Cicero, Academica, i. 10, Tusculanae Quaestiones, v. 9
  83. ^ Aulus Gellius, i. 3. § 23
  84. ^ Cicero, Tusculanae Quaestiones, iii. 10; comp. Alexander of Aphrodisias, de Anima, ii.
  85. ^ Cicero, ad Atticus, ii. 16
  86. ^ Jerome, Adversus Jovinianum, i, 189
  87. ^ Taylor, Angus. Animals and Ethics. Broadview Press, p. 35.
  88. ^ "Since 'unknown portraits' were not valued highly, identifying inscriptions were often added to classical portraits by antiquaries and collectors before modern scholarship condemned the practice", notes Eugene Dwyer, "André Thevet and Fulvio Orsini: The Beginnings of the Modern Tradition of Classical Portrait Iconography", The Art Bulletin 75.3 (September 1993: 467–480) p 478 note 65..
  89. ^ Dwyer notes Statius pl. xiii; Galle pl. 143; Bellori pl. 38; Gronovius, vol. II p. 92; Visconti, 180–3 pl. xxi, 1–2.
  90. ^ Thevet, ch. 31; Eugene Dwyer ("André Thevet and Fulvio Orsini: The Beginnings of the Modern Tradition of Classical Portrait Iconography", The Art Bulletin 75.3 (September 1993: 467–480) pp 476) notes that it had been illustrated by Fulvio Orsini in his Imagines et elogia virorum illustrium (Rome, 1569), "the first critical collection of ancient portraiture" (p. 468).
  91. ^ Noted by Eugene Dwyer, "André Thevet and Fulvio Orsini: The Beginnings of the Modern Tradition of Classical Portrait Iconography", The Art Bulletin 75.3 (September 1993: 467–480) pp. 476f and p. 478, figs 15 and 16.


A world is named Theophrastus in the 2014 Firefly graphic novel Serenity: Leaves on the Wind. Perhaps alluding to his skill at botany, it appears to be a green and pleasant world.

In popular culture

The marble herm figure with the bearded head of philosopher type, bearing the explicit inscription, must be taken as purely conventional. Unidentified portrait heads did not find a ready market in post-Renaissance Rome.[88] This bust was formerly in the collection of marchese Pietro Massimi at Palazzo Massimi and belonged to marchese L. Massimi at the time the engraving was made. It is now in the Villa Albani, Rome (inv. 1034). The inscribed bust has often been illustrated in engravings[89] and photographs: a photograph of it forms the frontispiece to the Loeb Classical Library Theophrastus: Enquiry into Plants vol. I, 1916. André Thevet illustrated[90] in his iconographic compendium, Les vraies Pourtrats et vies des Hommes Illustres (Paris, 1584), an alleged portrait plagiarized from the bust, supporting his fraud with the invented tale that he had obtained it from the library of a Greek in Cyprus and that he had seen a confirming bust in the ruins of Antioch.[91]

The "portrait" of Theophrastus

Theophrastus was opposed to eating meat on the grounds that it robbed animals of life and was therefore unjust. Non-human animals, he said, can reason, sense, and feel just as human beings do.[87]

Theophrastus did not allow a happiness resting merely upon virtue,[82] or, consequently, to hold fast by the unconditional value of morality. He subordinated moral requirements to the advantage at least of a friend,[83] and had allowed in prosperity the existence of an influence injurious to them. In later times, fault was found with his expression in the Callisthenes, "life is ruled by fortune, not wisdom" (vitam regit fortuna non sapientia).[84] That in the definition of pleasure, likewise, he did not coincide with Aristotle, seems to be indicated by the titles of two of his writings, one of which dealt with pleasure generally, the other with pleasure as Aristotle had defined it.[22] Although, like his teacher, he preferred contemplative (theoretical), to active (practical) life,[85] he preferred to set the latter free from the restraints of family life, etc. in a manner of which Aristotle would not have approved.[86]

The bust inscribed "Θεόφραστος Μελάντα Ἐρέσιος (Theophrastos Melanta Eresios)"


He did not follow the incessant attempts by Aristotle to refer phenomena to their ultimate foundations, or his attempts to unfold the internal connections between the latter, and between them and phenomena.[42] In antiquity, it was a subject of complaint that Theophrastus had not expressed himself with precision and consistency respecting God, and had understood it at one time as Heaven, at another an (enlivening) breath (pneuma).[81]

, 10a.22–24, 11a.1–3 Metaphysics- Theophrastus,

Theophrastus seems, generally speaking, where the investigation overstepped the limits of experience, to have preferred to develop the difficulties rather than solve them, as is especially apparent in his Metaphysics.[42] He was doubtful of Aristotle's teleology and recommended that such ideas be used with caution:

in Aristotelian doctrine. naturalism, developed further this Strato, and especially Aristoxenus, Dicaearchus Other Peripatetics, like [79] and so referred all activities of the [77] He recognised no activity without motion,

, 10a.16-29 Metaphysics— Theophrastus,

He departed more widely from Aristotle in his doctrine of motion, since on the one hand he extended it over all categories, and did not limit it to those laid down by Aristotle.[74] He viewed motion, with Aristotle, as an activity, not carrying its own goal in itself (ateles), of that which only potentially exists,[75] but he opposed Aristotle's view that motion required a special explanation, and he regarded it as something proper both to nature in general and the celestial system in particular:

Theophrastus introduced his Physics with the proof that all natural existence, being corporeal and composite, requires principles,[69] and first and foremost, motion, as the basis of all change.[70] Denying the substance of space, he seems to have regarded it, in opposition to Aristotle, as the mere arrangement and position (taxis and thesis) of bodies.[71] Time he called an accident of motion, without, it seems, viewing it, with Aristotle, as the numerical determinant of motion.[72] He attacked the doctrine of the four classical elements and challenged whether fire could be called a primary element when it appears to be compound, requiring, as it does, another material for its own nutriment.[73]

Physics and metaphysics

He wrote at length on the unity of judgment,[57] on the different kinds of negation,[58] and on the difference between unconditional and conditional necessity.[59] In his doctrine of syllogisms he brought forward the proof for the conversion of universal affirmative judgments, differed from Aristotle here and there in the laying down and arranging the modi of the syllogisms,[60] partly in the proof of them,[61] partly in the doctrine of mixture, i.e. of the influence of the modality of the premises upon the modality of the conclusion.[62] Then, in two separate works, he dealt with the reduction of arguments to the syllogistic form and on the resolution of them;[63] and further, with hypothetical conclusions.[64] For the doctrine of proof, Galen quotes the second Analytic of Theophrastus, in conjunction with that of Aristotle, as the best treatises on that doctrine.[65] In different monographs he seems to have tried to expand it into a general theory of science. To this, too, may have belonged the proposition quoted from his Topics, that the principles of opposites are themselves opposed, and cannot be deduced from one and the same higher genus.[66] For the rest, some minor deviations from the Aristotelian definitions are quoted from the Topica of Theophrastus.[67] Closely connected with this treatise was that upon ambiguous words or ideas,[68] which, without doubt, corresponded to book Ε of Aristotle's Metaphysics.[42]

Theophrastus seems to have carried out still further the grammatical foundation of logic and rhetoric, since in his book on the elements of speech, he distinguished the main parts of speech from the subordinate parts, and also direct expressions (κυρία λέξις kuria lexis) from metaphorical expressions, and dealt with the emotions (πάθη pathe) of speech.[55] He further distinguished a twofold reference of speech (σχίσις schisis) to things (πράγματα pragmata) and to the hearers, and referred poetry and rhetoric to the latter.[56]


The extent to which Theophrastus followed Aristotle's doctrines, or defined them more accurately, or conceived them in a different form, and what additional structures of thought he placed upon them, can only be partially determined because of the loss of so many of his writings.[42] Many of his opinions have to be reconstructed from the works of later writers such as Alexander of Aphrodisias and Simplicius.

Theophrastus, depicted as a medieval scholar in the Nuremberg Chronicle


Pliny the Elder makes clear references to his use of On Stones in his Naturalis Historia of 77 AD, while updating and making much new information available on minerals himself. Although Pliny's treatment of the subject is more extensive, Theophrastus is more systematic and his work is comparatively free from fable and magic,[53] although he did describe lyngurium, a gemstone supposedly formed of the solidified urine of the lynx (the best ones coming from wild males), which was included in many lapidiaries until it gradually disappeared from view in the 17th century.[54] From both of these early texts was to emerge the science of mineralogy, and ultimately geology. Pliny is especially observant on crystal habit and mineral hardness, for example.

Many of the rarer minerals were found in mines, and he mentions the famous copper mines of Cyprus and the even more famous silver mines, presumably of Laurium near Athens, and upon which the wealth of the city was based, as well as referring to gold mines. The Laurium silver mines, which were the property of the state, were usually leased for a fixed sum and a percentage on the working. Towards the end of the fifth century the output fell, partly owing to the Spartan occupation of Decelea. But the mines continued to be worked, though Strabo records that in his time the tailings were being worked over, and Pausanias speaks of the mines as a thing of the past. The ancient workings, consisting of shafts and galleries for excavating the ore, and washing tables for extracting the metal, may still be seen. Theophrastus wrote a separate work On Mining,[22] which like most of his writings is a lost work.

to resolve in quantitative detail when he was asked to investigate the suspected debasement of a crown a few years later. Archimedes gold and gold alloys, an important property which would require the genius of assaying for touchstone He discusses the use of the [50].plaster; and for the manufacture of ochre becomes charged when heated. He also considers the practical uses of various stones, such as the minerals necessary for the manufacture of glass; for the production of various pigments of paint such as tourmaline, noting that the mineral pyroelectricity Theophrastus made the first known reference to the phenomenon of [50]

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