AMMONIUS, Alexandrinus Hermiae

AMMONIUS, Alexandrinus Hermiae Aristotelis categorias, et librum de interpretatione

Venice, Vincentium Valgrisium, 1599


FIRST EDITION thus. Folio, ff. [cviii]. Roman letter, text in double numbered column, printer’s device on t-p, historiated initials, woodcut diagrams. Minor waterstain to upper margin in places, a few marginal ink smudges, slight worming to some lower margins and in upper gutter a couple of old spots at end. “1564” on head of t-p. Extensive contemporary ms. ex-libris of Johannes Rolandus on verso of last. A good copy, crisp and clean, in reversed vellum, lower compartment of spine and head cap torn, worn at corners, lacking ties.

First edition of Rasario’s translation. Ammonius Hermiae (435?-517?), Greek philosopher, Hermias’ son and fellow-pupil of Proclus, taught at Alexandria, and had among his students Asclepius, John Philoponus, Damascius and Simpliciu. Ammonius founded the school of Aristotle – interpretation in Alexandria. His method of exegesis of Aristotle and Plato and his lecturing style are all that remain of his reputedly numerous writings. The commentary on Porphyry’s Isagoge may also be his, but it is somewhat corrupt and contains later interpolations. While almost all of Ammonius’ Aristotle commentaries were published by students from his lectures, the large commentary on De Interpretatione was written up by Ammonius himself for publication. These commentaries are largely dependent on the lectures of Proclus and thus indebted to Proclus’ style of Iamblichean Neoplatonism, which demonstrates the harmony of the ancient religious revelations and integrates them in the philosophical tradition of Pythagoras and Plato.

The first part discusses Porphyry’s text, the Isagoge, which is a standard introduction to Aristotle’s writings on logic, much admired by Ammonius. Next are Aristotle’s “In Categorias” and with “De Interpretatione,” they are the first of Aristotle’s treaties on logic of the Organon. It describes the ten Aristotelian categories: substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, attitude, having, doing and undergoing. In his commentary on De Interpretation, Ammonius adds determinist arguments to the famous ‘there will be a sea-battle tomorrow’ argument, where Aristotle debates whether every proposition about the future must be either true or false. Ultimately, all things which are going to happen happen necessarily and not by chance. At the end of his discussion, Ammonius brings together necessary and definite truths, but not clearly enough to resolve all questions about the latter. The translator, Giovanni Battista Rasario (1517-1578), an Italian doctor from the Novara province, taught Greek and rhetoric at Venice for twenty years. He translated several other Greek works to Latin including the Aristotle’s Physic.

Johannes Rolandus was probably an Austrian physician from Schweidnitz / Schlesien. In 1594 he was an itinerant doctor, remaining a short time in Mistelbach and in 1596 moving to Neustadt, with probably a practice in Vienna at the same time. His latin ex-libris warns future readers: I Johannes Bsc. (Baccalaureus Scientiae) Rolandus own this book, who doesn’t enter by the front door is a thief and a bandit.

Graesse, I, p. 106 "Il y a plusieurs éditions des traductions latines des trois différents écrits du philosophe Ammonius. (V. Hoffmann, Lex. Bib. Vol. lp. 121 et suiv.)"; Adams 998; BM STC IT, p.49, Index Aureliensis,1, p. 503.

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