‘FROM ATHENS TO STAGIRA, FROM STAGIRA TO ATHENS’: ON ONE SENTENCE FROM ARISTOTLE’S LOST LETTER (Demetrius, De elocut. 29; 154 = Arist. fr. 669 Rose)

The mysterious sentence from Aristotle’s lost epistle, cited twice by Demetrius, the author of On Style, and praised by him for its beauty, ἐγὼ ἐκ μὲν Ἀθηνῶν εἰς Στάγειρα ἦλθον διὰ τὸν βασιλέα τὸν μέγαν, ἐκ δὲ Σταγείρων εἰς Ἀθήνας διά τὸν χειμῶνα τὸν μέγαν, ‘I came from Athens to Stagira because of the Great King, and from Stagira to Athens because of the great storm’ (or ‘because of the great cold’) — (Demetrius, De elocut. 29; 154 = Arist. fr. 669 Rose) has not received until now a plausible explanation. This is mainly because the travels mentioned do not square well with Aristotle’s itinerary as attested by Apollodorus, and because the role of the Great (viz. the Persian) king in Aristotle’s life is a puzzle. In the paper it is proposed that Aristotle hints at the 341 BC arrest and (the somewhat later) execution by the Persians of his patron and friend, Hermias of Atarneus, an alleged ally of Philip II of Macedon. Th ese events arguably made Aristotle persona non grata in Athens and caused his move from Mieza, where his duties as a tutor of Alexander ended presumably soon aft er 340 BC, to his native town, instead of returning to Athens. Th e second part of the sentence hints not at the cold climate of Stagira, as it is usually believed, but rather, in accordance with the normal meaning of the μέγας χειμών, at the ‘great storm’, to be taken metaphorically. Th e most plausible candidate for this storm is the revolt of Greeks against Alexander and their defeat, aft er which the obstacles for Aristotle’s return disappeared and he came to Athens in 335/334 BC. Aristotle thus omits the intermediate stations and depicts his travels as the way from Athens to Stagira and from Stagira back to Athens.

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