On the Heavens

On the Heavens
Page one of Aristotle's On the Heavens, from an edition published in 1837

On the Heavens (Greek: Περί ουρανού, Latin: De Caelo or De Caelo et Mundo) is Aristotle's chief cosmological treatise: it contains his astronomical theory and his ideas on the concrete workings of the terrestrial world. It should not be confused with the spurious work On the Universe (De mundo, also known as On the Cosmos).

According to Aristotle, the heavenly bodies are the most perfect realities, (or "substances"), whose motions are ruled by principles other than those of bodies in the sublunary sphere. The latter are composed of one or all of the four classical elements (earth, water, air, fire) and are perishable; but the matter the heavens are made of is imperishable aether, so they are not subject to generation and corruption. Hence their motions are eternal and perfect, and the perfect motion is the circular one, which, unlike the earthly up-and down-ward locomotions, can last eternally selfsame. As substances, celestial bodies have matter (aether) and a form: it seems that Aristotle did regard them as living beings with a rational soul as their form (see also Metaphysics, bk. XII)


English Translations

(in reverse chronological order)


  • Alan C. Bowen, Christian Wildberg, New perspectives on Aristotle's De caelo (Brill, 2009).
  • Elders, L., Aristotle’s Cosmology: A Commentary on the De Caelo (Assen, Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1966).

Translations into Other Languages


  • Dalimier, C. and Pellegrin, P. (2004) Aristote. Traité du ciel (Paris).
  • Moraux, P. (1965) Aristote. Du ciel (Paris).
  • Tricot, J. (1949) Aristote. Traité du ciel. Traduction et notes (Paris).


  • Gigon, O. (1950) Vom Himmel, Von der Seele, Von der Dichtkunst (Zurich).
  • Prantl, C. (1857) Aristoteles’ Vier Bücher über das Himmelsgebäude und Zwei Bücher über Entstehen und Vergehen (Leipzig).
  • Prantl, C., (1881) De coelo, et de generatione et corruptione (Leipzig).


  • Jori, A. (1999) Il cielo (Milan).
  • Longo, O. (1961) Aristotele. De caelo (Florence).

See also

External links

  • "On the Heavens" in Greek is found in the 2nd volume of the 11-volume 1837 Bekker edition of Aristotle's Works in Greek (PDF|DJVU)