The extracts were intended by Stobaeus for his son Septimius, and were preceded by a letter briefly explaining the purpose of the work and giving a summary of the contents. From this summary (preserved in Photius's Bibliotheca) we learn that Stobaeus divided his work into four books and two volumes. In most of our manuscripts the work is divided into three books, of which the first and second are generally called Physical and Moral Extracts, and the third Florilegiuni or Sermones.
The introduction to the whole work, treating of the value of philosophy and of philosophical sects, is lost, with the exception of the concluding portion; the second book is little more than a fragment, and the third and fourth have been amalgamated by altering the original sections. From these and other indications it seems probable that what we have is only an epitome of the original work, made by an anonymous Byzantine writer of much later date.
The didactic aim of Stobaeus's work is apparent throughout. The first book teaches physics--in the wide sense which the Greeks assigned to this term--by means of extracts. It is often untrustworthy: Stobaeus betrays a tendency to confound the dogmas of the early Ionic philosophers, and he occasionally mixes up Platonism with Pythagoreanism. For part of this book and much of book ii. he depended on the works of Aetius, a peripatetic philosopher, and Didymus. The third and fourth books, like the larger part of the second, treat of ethics; the third, of virtues and vices, in pairs; the fourth, of more general ethical and political subjects, frequently citing extracts to illustrate the pros and cons of a question in two successive chapters.
In all, Stobaeus quotes more than five hundred writers, generally beginning with the poets, and then proceeding to the historians, orators, philosophers and physicians. It is to him that we owe many of our most important fragments of the dramatists, particularly of Euripides.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.