Aristotle's Poetics was little known in classical times and throughout the
Middle Ages.  For almost two thousand years after its composition, the
work was seldom discussed, and was available only in abridged or
distorted versions.  But the appearance of an adequate Latin
translation in 1498 and a good Greek edition five years later, began to
establish this short study as a decisive text in the Western canon.  Its
influence grew with the passing years, and by the Enlightenment,
Aristotle's ideas on tragedy shaped the work of virtually every leading
dramatist of the period.  Even today, most would agree that no other
philosophical treatise has had greater impact on literary theory and
practice.  Even those who disagree with Aristotle have been forced to
deal with his core concepts:  the importance of mimesis, or imitation, in
poetic writing;  the cathartic power of tragedy;  the unities of place,
time and action as powerful devices in drama.   Writing only a short
while after the death of
Sophocles, Aristotle provides us with many
insights into the inner workings of ancient drama.  But even
post-modern writers continue to grapple with the implications of this
seminal work.  


A searchable on-line version of the text is available here.  

A study guide for the
Poetics has been made available on-line by the
Classics Technology Center.