(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

0111200400-Theophrastus.jpg Theophrastus (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.


Theophrastus (thee-oh-FRAS-tuhs) was associated with the great Greek philosopher Aristotle during much of his active life. He appears to have met Aristotle sometime during the 340’s b.c.e., perhaps in Asia Minor. He accompanied Aristotle when the latter moved to Macedonia (342-335 b.c.e.) and stayed with him when Aristotle returned to Athens. He succeeded Aristotle as the leader of the collection of scholars teaching philosophy in Athens in the late fourth and early third centuries b.c.e.


Although most of Theophrastus’s writings have not survived, he carried on the philosophical speculations of Aristotle, though not without some criticism of Aristotle’s conclusions. Of the few works that have survived, the most significant are his study of fire (in which he expressed some disagreement with Aristotle’s views) and his account of plants of the eastern Mediterranean, particularly its trees. He believed in close observation followed by rational evaluation of possible explanations of the observed phenomena. His study of plants laid the methodological foundations of modern botany, particularly through his descriptions of the methods of reproduction used by the different plants.

Further Reading:

Baltussen, H. Theophrastus Against the Presocratics and Plato: Peripatetic Dialectic in the “De sensibus.” Boston: Brill Academic, 2000. Interprets and offers insights into Theophrastus’s De sensibus and criticizes the methods of the...

(The entire section is 631 words.)