A six-page Prologue introduces the commentary on Aristotle’s De Caelo
written by Simplicius after 529 AD. As usual in the exegeses typical of the Neoplatonic schools of late Antiquity, this Prologue addresses a series of preliminary questions that are meant to steer the interpretation in its entirety, as well as to frame the text to be commented upon within the reading canon of the Aristotelian works, which were intended to provide the propaedeutics to the reading canon of Plato’s dialogues. Simplicius addresses the question of the scope of De Caelo
, discussing the interpretations advanced by Alexander of Aphrodisias, Iamblichus, and Syrianus. According to Alexander, this treatise deals with the universe as a whole, as well as with the five simple bodies contained in it. It was with Iamblichus, who advocated the idea that for each Platonic dialogue there was only one σκοπός, that the unity of a philosophical work was raised to the rank of a general rule. According to Iamblichus, the σκοπός of the De Caelo is the divine body of heaven. As a consequence, the primary elements that depend upon the heavens are included in the treatise. Syrianus deepens the theological tendency implied in Iamblichus’ interpretation: for him, the σκοπός of the De Caelo
is primarily the divine body of heaven, and only secondarily the set of sublunar elements. Simplicius treasures the commentary by Alexander; nevertheless, he questions the σκοπός assigned by him: Alexander underestimated the importance of the unity of the treatise, even though his intention to account for each and every question raised by Aristotle was laudable. Contrarily, Syrianus was right in emphasizing the theological vein of the De Caelo
, but focussed only on the section on the divine body of heaven, playing down books III and IV as if they were only ancillary, thus forgetting that the σκοπός must account for the whole of the treatise at hand. Between the two positions, Simplicius advocates the idea of a synthetical σκοπός, following in the footsteps of Iamblichus’ interpretation, but taking systematically into account the best of Alexander’s. The σκοπός of the De Caelo
is the divine heaven, that “communicates” its perfections to the entire universe. Simplicius’ position is revealed to be very different with respect to that of other commentators like Ammonius and Philoponus, who both considered that the title was self-evident and required no special investigation.