Michael of Ephesus (11/12 c. CE) was a Byzantine commentator and teacher of Aristotelian philosophy. He was probably one of the intellectuals who gathered around Anna Komnene after she gave up her attempt to claim her father’s throne. Komnene had asked this group to write commentaries on Aristotle’s works which had not been commented on before (see Browning, “An Unpublished Funeral Oration on Anna Comnena”, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, 8, pp 1-12). Michael took up the request, and he covered a pretty amazing range of topics: the never-before-commented-on animal works (PA, IA, MA, GA), the Parva Naturalia, Metaphysics Ζ-Ν, and Colours (In PN 148.21-149.15). We also have commentaries attributed to him on the Nicomachean Ethics (books 5 & 9-10) and the Sophistical Refutations.
In this passage from his De respiratione commentary (part of the Parva Naturalia commentary), Michael interrupts a discussion about the difference between natural and violent death to talk about Providence’s decision to take away his favourite teacher and his feelings about the people he was left to work with :
[Death is] natural whenever [the origin is] internal and the condition of the part is like what it was originally. (Aristotle, De respiratione 17, 478b27-8)
“In other words, death is also natural if the condition of the lungs [leading to death] arises from a natural origin. For when the lungs have become dry due to old age, they cannot do their work. And since this kind of condition—i.e., a dry one—has a natural origin and cause (for it is ‘from’ old age, i.e., due to old age), then death from it is natural. But whenever the condition comes from ‘some acquired affliction’, like when there is an inflammation of the lungs [sc. peripneumonia] (in these cases, because the lungs are filled with ichor and other such things, they cannot do their work), then this kind of death is violent.
Speaking of inflammation of the lungs, even my renowned and most revered teacher—what a brilliant mind—when he had been ruined by an inflammation of the lungs, he died. He left us lamenting and mourning and totally deprived of the ability to speak to and take care of those eager to learn. I don’t mean to sound divisive and contentious, and I don’t say this with any jealousy towards my colleagues—I swear on my teacher’s soul, which I esteem and worship second only to God. But honestly, speaking from my experience with the other teachers, some of them are completely dumb. They don’t understand at all the actual words written on the page, never mind their deeper meaning. Sure, some of them are slightly more clever and have sporadic thoughts, but they are a ways off from establishing the text correctly, and others just wander at random. I don’t need to get into these things, and besides, I respect them and I am fond of them. Anyway, since Providence thought it was a good idea, my teacher flew away to heaven, while we, with Providence as our guide and helper, ought to get back to the work that lies before us.”
«Κατὰ φύσιν δ' ὅταν [ἡ ἀρχὴ] ἐν αὐτῷ [ᾖ] καὶ ἡ τοῦ μορίου σύστασις ἐξ ἀρχῆς τοιαύτη»
Τουτέστι καὶ ὅταν ἡ τοῦ πνεύμονος σύστασις γένηται ἐκ φυσικῆς ἀρχῆς· ὅταν γὰρ ξηρανθεὶς διὰ γῆρας ὁ πνεύμων οὐ δύνηται τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ἔργον ποιεῖν, ἡ τοιαύτη σύστασις καὶ ξηρότης ἐξ ἀρχῆς καὶ αἰτίας οὖσα φυσικῆς (ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ γήρως καὶ διὰ τοῦ γήρως), τότε ὁ ἐκ τούτου θάνατος φύσει ἐστίν. ὅταν δὲ «ἐπίκτητόν τι πάθος» γένηται, ὥσπερ ἐν ταῖς περιπνευμονίαις (ἐν ταύταις γὰρ πληρούμενος ὑπὸ τῶν ἰχώρων καὶ ἄλλων τοιούτων ὁ πνεύμων οὐ δύναται τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ἔργον ποιεῖν), ὁ τοιοῦτος θάνατος βίαιος.
περιπνευμονίᾳ καὶ ὁ ἐμὸς κλεινότατος καὶ πανσέβαστος διδάσκαλος, αἲ αἴ, ὁ νοῦς ἐκεῖνος, νοῦς ὁ ἐνεργήσας, περιπνευμονίᾳ δὴ ἁλοὺς τὴν ζωὴν κατέλυσεν, καταλιπὼν ἡμᾶς στένοντας καὶ ὀλοφυρομένους καὶ ἐν ἐρημίᾳ παντελεῖ τῶν δυναμένων λέγειν καὶ ὠφελεῖν τοὺς φιλομαθοῦντας. ταῦτα δὲ λέγω οὐ διαφορᾷ ἢ φιλονεικίᾳ ἢ φθόνῳ τῷ πρὸς τοὺς καθ' ἡμᾶς, οὐ μὰ τὴν ἐκείνου ψυχήν, ἣν ἐγὼ μετὰ θεὸν σέβομαί τε καὶ προσκυνῶ, ἀλλ' ἀληθείᾳ καὶ πείρᾳ τῇ πρὸς τούτους μοι γεγονυίᾳ. οἱ μὲν γὰρ αὐτῶν παντελῶς εἰσιν ἄφωνοι μηδὲν ὅλως ἐννοοῦντες, τί ποτ' ἐστὶν ὅλως τὰ ἐν τοῖς βιβλίοις γεγραμμένα καὶ τίς ὁ τούτων νοῦς, τινὲς δὲ τῶν χαριεστέρων τῆς μὲν διανοίας ἐφάπτονται σποράδην, τοῦ δὲ τὴν λέξιν καθιστάνειν πόρρω ποι ἀποπλανῶνται, ἄλλοι δ' ἄλλως· περὶ ὧν οὐ δεῖ με λέγειν. πλὴν καὶ τούτους τιμῶ καὶ ἀσπάζομαι, ἀλλ' ἐκεῖνος μέν, ὡς ἔδοξε τῇ προνοίᾳ, ἡμῶν ἀπέπτη, ἡμεῖς δ' ὑπὸ ταύτης χειραγωγούμενοι καὶ βοηθούμενοι ἐπὶ τὸ προκείμενον ἐπανέλθωμεν.
Michael of Ephesus, In Parva Naturalia commentaria, CAG 22.1, 141,31-142,18 Wendland