Aristotle, Meteorologica

LCL 397: 2-3

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Chapter I


The scope and subject-matter of Meteorology and its place in the system of Natural Philosophy. Natural Philosophy comprises (1) Physics, which deals with first principles and the various kinds of natural motion (the Physics); (2) Astronomy (the De Caelo); (3) the general theory of the elements and their transformation (De Caelo iii, iv, De Generatione et Corruptione); (4) Meteorology, the subject of the present work; (5) Zoology and Botany.

Note.—In section (4), 338 a 26—339 a 5, Aristotle gives a summary of the subjects to be treated in the first three books. It is a preliminary survey, not a table of contents, and we must not look for too precise a correspondence between it and the contents of the work and the order of treatment: thus the milky way, comets and meteors are mentioned here in the reverse order to that in which they are in fact treated, and no specific mention is made of the contents of Book I. ch. 5. But broadly speaking the contents of the first three books do correspond to the summary here given. There are only three passages which cause difficulty.

(1) 338 b 24 ὅσα τε θείημεν ἂν ἀέρος εἶναι κοινὰ πάθη καὶ


Meteorologica, I

Aristotle Meteorologica

Book I

Chapter I

argument (continued)

ὕδατος. These words most naturally refer to Book I. chs. 9–12 (which are summed up as a unit at the end of ch. 12): but they may refer to Book III. chs. 2–6 as the commentators suppose.

(2) 338 b 25 ἔτι δὲ γῆς ὅσα μέρη καὶ εἴδη καὶ πάθη τῶν μερῶν. These words describe not very exactly the contents of Book I. ch. 13-Book II. ch. 3, and it seems best to suppose with the O.T. that it is to them that reference is intended, and to take ἐξ ὧν 338 b 25 as marking sequence only and not causal connexion.

(3) 339 a 4 καὶ τῶν ἄλλων τῶν ἐγκυκλίων, ὅσα διὰ πῆξιν συμβαίνει πάθη τῶν αὐτῶν σωμάτων τούτων. τῶν αὐτῶν . . . τούτων can hardly refer to thunderbolts, etc., and must therefore presumably be taken to refer to air and water, the two elements most recently mentioned (338 b 24, cf. Alex. 3. 25). ἐγκύκλιος is used of any recurrent phenomenon, and though it might more easily be used to describe rain, hail, etc., i.e. Book I. chs. 9–12, it is not impossible to interpret it to refer to haloes, rainbows, etc., described in Book III. chs. 2–6. These are all due to condensation, which is what πῆξις seems to mean here. Cf. W. Capelle, “Das Proömium der Meteorologie,” Hermes xlvii, pp. 514–535.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-meteorlogica.1952