Mantissa: Essays in Ancient Philosophy IV

This is the fourth (and last) volume of Jonathan Barnes’ collected essays on ancient philosophy. As its title suggests, the twenty-three papers which it contains cover a wide range of topics. The first paper discusses the size of the sun, and the last looks at Plato and Aristotle in Victorian Oxford. In between come pieces on–inter alia–the theory of just war and the definition of comedy, the nature of the soul according to Plato and Aristotle and Zeno and Tertullian, atheism of Protagoras, Timaeus the Sophist (and his Platonic Lexicon) and the early history of Aristotle’s writings, Nietzsche on Diogenes Laertius, the first Christian novel …

One of the pieces is new. The others have all been retouched, and some of them revised. Half a dozen were written in French and have been translated into English. The volume is kitted out with a bibliography and with two rather good indexes.

The papers are, in parts at least, well written, and some of them are mildly diverting: no-one with a nose for ancient philosophy will sniff at them.