The history of Aristotle's works from the time of his death until the 1st century BC is obscure. Legend has it that Aristotle's personal library, including the manuscripts of his works, was left to his successor Theophrastus and was later hidden to avoid confiscation or destruction; finally, the manuscripts were rediscovered in 70 BC. Andronicus of Rhodes then edited and published the works. In the interim, however, the works could hardly have been forgotten, since Aristotle's school, the Lyceum, was in operation the whole time.

The majority of Aristotle's work has been lost, some since Classical times. There is a glimpse of what we have lost in the praise given by Cicero to the eloquence of Aristotle's dialogues. The surviving works are known and respected for a plain and unadorned (though not easy) style; not one is a dialogue. Some lost works of Aristotle may have survived in hard-to-restore carbonised form at the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, currently under excavation.

In late antiquity Aristotle fell nearly out of sight. Early Christian writers such as Tertullian rejected philosophy altogether as a pagan study that was made obsolete by the Gospels. In the 5th century Saint Augustine used Platonic and Neo-Platonic philosophy in his theology, but had no use for Aristotle. At the end of the century, however, Boethius undertook to translate the works of Aristotle and other Greeks into Latin, as the teaching of Greek was being lost in the West; his translations and commentaries were nearly all that was known of Greek philosophy in the West for several centuries. They were little missed, as the hostility of early Christianity to pagan philosophy continued.

Aristotle's works were read during the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates, however, and the Islamic philosopher Averroes commented extensively on it and attempted to fuse it with Islamic theology. Maimonides also tried this with Judaism. By the 12th century there was a great revival of interest in Aristotle in Christian Europe, and the great translator William of Moerbeke worked from both Greek and Arabic manuscripts to produce Latin translations. Aristotle's works were commented on by Thomas Aquinas and became the standard philosophical approach of the high and later middle ages. Aristotle's works were held in such esteem that he was known as The Philosopher. Dante calls Aristotle the “master knower” and places him in Limbo with the Good Pagans such as Socrates and Plato in the Divine Comedy (Canto IV).

Indeed, the views of Aristotle became the dogma of scholastic philosophy. It was this dogma that was rejected by the philosophers of the early modern period, such as Galileo and Descartes.

Aristotle's theories about drama, in particular the idea of the dramatic unities, also influenced later playwrights, especially in France. He claimed to be describing the Greek theater, but his work was taken as prescriptive. In more recent times there has been a new revival of interest in Aristotle. His ethical views in particular remain influential.

The article Aristotelian logic discusses the influence of Aristotle's Organon. See also the article Term Logic that outlines the system of traditional logic based on the Organon, that survived until the twentieth century.