Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Theophrastus

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THEOPHRASTUS, the successor of Aristotle in the Peripatetic school, was a native of Eresus, in Lesbos. The date of his birth is a matter of inference, and has been fixed between 373 and 368 B.C. It is said that his original name was Tyrtamus, and that the name Theo phrastus was given him by Aristotle on account of his eloquence, but this story is quite as likely to be an after thought suggested by the name at a later date. After receiving his first introduction to philosophy in Lesbos from one Leucippus or Alcippus, he proceeded to Athens, and became a member of the Platonic circle. After Plato's death he attached himself to Aristotle, and in all probability accompanied him to Stagira. The intimate friendship of Theophrastus with Callisthenes, the fellowpupil of Alexander the Great, the mention made in his will of an estate belonging to him at Stagira, and the repeated notices of the town and its museum in the History of Plants are facts which point to this conclusion. Aristotle's affectionate confidence in his pupil and friend is proved by his making Theophrastus guardian of his children in his will, and designating him as his philosophic successor at the Lyceum on his own removal to Chalcis. Eudemus of Rhodes was not without claims to this posi tion, but the master, according to the well-known story, delicately indicated his preference by the remark that the wines of Lesbos and Rhodes were both excellent, but the Lesbian was the sweeter. Aristotle also bequeathed to Theophrastus his library and the originals of his own works. Theophrastus presided over the Peripatetic school for thirty-five years, and died in 288 B.C. Under his guidance the school nourished greatly in point of numbers, and at his death he bequeathed to it his garden with house and colonnades as a permanent seat of instruction. His popularity was also shown in the regard paid to him by Cassander and Ptolemy and by the complete failure of a charge of impiety brought against him. He was honoured with a public funeral, in which the whole people took part.

Theophrastus's philosophical relation to Aristotle and his place in the development of Peripatetic doctrine have been sketched under the head Peripatetics. It remains to say a few words about his works From the lists of the ancients it appears that the activity of Theophrastus extended over the whole lield of con temporary knowledge. Logical, physical, biological, psychological, ethical, political, rhetorical, and metaphysical treatises are men tioned, most of which probably differed little from the Aristotelian treatment of the same themes, though supplementary in details. On the whole, Theophrastus seems to have developed by preference the observational and scientific side of his master, and of this character are the books and fragments that have come down to us. The most important of these are two large botanical treatises, On the History of Plants (irepl <pvr<av Itrropias], in nine books (originally ten), and On the Causes of Plants (irepl tf>vTcav al-nuv), in six books (originally eight). These constitute the most important contribu tion to botanical science till we come to modern times, and furnish proof of the author's extensive and careful observation combined with a considerable critical sagacity. We also possess fragments of a History of Physics, a fragmentary treatise On Stones, a work On Sensation (irtpl alffdrffftais) in the same condition, certain meta physical airopiai, which probably once formed part of a systematic treatise, and the well-known Ethical Characters (jiOtnol xopaxr^pe^), containing a delineation of moral types, probably an extract or compilation by a later hand from a larger ethical work of Theo phrastus. Various smaller scientific fragments have been collected in the editions of J. G. Schneider (1818-21) and F. Wimmer(1886) and in Usener's Analecta Theophrastea.