Sunday, November 10, 2013

Title and Length of the Work

Update (2013 December 16): see below for an informative comment by Professor Harold Tarrant.

We have just posted to a short essay on the title and length of Aristotle's Protrepticus, based on the evidence of the ancient lists of titles of Aristotle's works, and similar titles by other authors. Let us know what you think!

From Harold Tarrant:

Just looked at your brief account of the Protr. length, and I wondered whether this investigation might go on to tell us a little more. One consideration is that a ‘Protreptic’ is going to be addressed to somebody not yet committed to philosophy, which means that a long work of philosophy would be unlikely to retain attention, unless other factors (literary presentation, humor etc.) were involved. Something relatively succinct would have been most effective. One-book Platonic dialogues of an obviously exoteric kind, range from about 1600 words (for the Clitophon, significant?) to around 10000, with the big exception being Gorgias, at over 26000, and there is (as Dodds points out) a papyrus list of philosophic books (associated with the book trade) that makes reference to Against Callicles in 3 books, which may be the Gorgias. Average length of books of Republic = 8880, Laws 8582 words, and a three-book Gorgias would have come in at 8772 (my count separates out hiatus and will vary slightly from others). I reckon that a book intended to circulate widely in one book would originally have been written for some kind of standard length papyrus-roll, coming in at 10000 words or under. I doubt that Protr. would have been much longer. A quick count of my files of the relevant material in Iambl. Protr. 5-12 suggests that we may already have about 5000 words of Aristotle, so I'm guessing  that only another 3500 would have been needed to bring it up to the length of (e.g.) Charmides or a book of the Republic—some of which can be supplied from DCMS. I reckon that if he had written more than 12000 words it would be recorded as two or more books, since 2-3 books are quite common in the lists. It would be gratifying if we did in fact have the bulk of Protr. already!

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