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79. Aristotle's will. Athens, 4th cent. B.C. (Diogenes Laertius 5.11-16, 3rd cent. A.D. G)

This will is recorded by Diogenes along with the wills of several members of his School; the provisions for his substantial estate reflect Aristotle's notions of women's limitations (cf. no. 72), but at the same time shows his affection for them and concern for their welfare. In the will Aristotle himself is the speaker; he makes provisions for his concubine Herpyllis and their son Nicomachus, but directs that the bones of his wife Pythias be moved to his grave. In several respects the will seems characteristic of Aristotle's Athenian contemporaries: words for death are avoided, the names of respectable females are avoided, childlessness is regarded as a misfortune, husband and wife are buried together, [10] and due honour is given to the gods.

All will be well. But if something happens, Aristotle has made the following dispositions. Antipater is to be executor in all respects and in general. (12) But until Nicanor [Aristotle's adopted son] takes over, Aristomenes, Timarchus, Hipparchus, Dioteles, and Theophrastus (if he is willing and it is possible for him) are to take care of the children and Herpyllis and the their inheritance.

Provisions for his children

When my daughter is grown up, she should be given to Nicanor in marriage. If anything happens to my daughter (may this not happen; it shall not be) before she marries, or after she marries, before she has children, Nicanor is to be kyrios for my child and is to see to everything else in a manner worthy both of himself and of us. Nicanor is to care for my daughter and for my son Nicomachus, [11] as he judges best for them, as if he were both their father and their brother. If anything should happen to Nicanor (may it not happen) before he marries my daughter, or before they have children, whatever arrangements he has made shall apply. (13) If [in the case of Nicanor's death] Theophrastus wishes to live with my daughter, the same arrangements shall apply as for Nicanor. If he does not so desire, the executors in consultation with Antipater shall see to the affairs of my daughter and my son as they judge best.

Provisions for his concubine Herpyllis

The executors and Nicander, keeping me in mind and Herpyllis, who has been good to me, should take care also of the other matters [concerning her], and if she wishes to marry, to give her to someone worthy of me. In addition to the other gifts that she has received previously they should give her a talent of silver, from the estate, and three female slaves, if she wishes, and the female slave that she has at present, and the slave Pyrrhaeus. (14) And if she wishes to live in Chalcis, she is to have the guest-cottage by the garden. If she wishes to live at Stagira, she is to have my father's house. Whichever of the two she chooses, the executors are to equip it with furniture that seems to them suitable and that Herpyllis approves.

Provisions for slaves

Nicanor shall see that the slave Myrmex shall be returned to his family in a manner worthy of me with the property that we got from him. Ambracis also is to be freed, and when my daughter marries, she shall be given 500 drachmas and the female slave she has at present. Thale shall receive in addition to the female slave she now has and has bought 2000 drachmas and a female slave. (15) And for Simo, aside from the money previously given him for another slave, either a slave shall be bought or money given [for the purchase]. When my daughter is married, Tacho shall be freed, and also Philo, and Olympios, and his son. The executors are not to sell any of the slaves who looked after me, but to employ them. When they reach the appropriate age, they should set them free as they deserve.

Provisions for commemorative statues

The executors are to see that the images Gryllion has been commissioned to make are set up when they are finished: these are of Nicanor and of Proxenus, which I had meant to have commissioned, and of Nicanor's mother and the image of Arimnestos that has been completed, as a memorial to him, since he died childless. (16) They should dedicate my mother's statue of Demeter at Nemea, or wherever they think best. Wherever they put my tomb, they should collect and place the bones of Pythias, as she herself requested. Because Nicanor returned safely, he should put up stone statues 4 cubits high in Stagira to Zeus the Preserver and Athena the Preserver, in fulfilment of my vow.


10.Cf. esp. Lacey 1968, 148-9; Humphreys 1983, 106.

11.Aristotle dedicated the Nicomachean Ethics to this son, who was named for Aristotle's father.