WHEN THE POETICS OF ARISTOTLE WAS ACTUALLY WRITTEN?

Th e chronology of the Aristotelian works fails to be supported by their proximity to or hostility towards Plato’s philosophy. In fact, only two means of maintaining the chronological order are reliable, i. e. the cross-references (provided they are authentic) and the historical data mentioned. The notorious question of diff erent chronological strata underlying Aristotelian treatises we try to put aside admitting that, although he may have worked lifelong on the similar topics, the remaining versions are most close to publishable. The final author’s revision of a given work should thus be considered as its actual creation. Th e cross references necessarily bring to the conclusion that the Poetics was created aft er the Politics and before the Rhetoric: the famous catharsis reference in the Politics is in future tense (which also seems to prove its authenticity); all six Rhetoric references are retrospective; the Poetics reference in ch. XIX, 1456 a 33: τὰ μὲν οὖν περὶ τὴν διάνοιαν ἐν τοῖς περὶ ῥητορικῆς κείσθω is either prospective or non-Aristotelian (παρείσθω 1456 b 19, is definitely late and the other references to the Rhetoric elsewhere are missing; for additional evidence concerning relative chronology cf. Poet. 1454 b 17–18 and 1460 b 13–1). The absolute chronology comfortably coincides with this: the Politics displays expectations pertaining to Alexan der’s reforms and conquests, and to prove that Rhetoric is late one only has to trace the dramatic political events of the early 30-ies hinted at. The Poetics is poor in external evidence of that kind. However, the high esteem of Theodectes and the absence of recommendations regarding satyrs as well as trilogies point at the second Athenian period оf Aristotle. The philosopher could have derived inspiration from the impressive theatrical reform program of Lycurgus (reconstruction of the theatre of Dionysus, the edition of the three great tragedians). He may have even been involved in it and most certainly cherished hopes of reviving the art of tragedy which he saw in decline. Th e position of Düring, Burkert and others who argue that the Poetics and the Rhetoric (or their basic strata) were completed by Aristotle in the years of Academy should be abandoned. The early date of the Poetics tells nothing new about it, whereas the late date is not only better supported by the evidence, but also explains one of the most puzzling features of this treatise, that is, its prescriptive character.

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