The Presocratics were 6th and 5th century BCE Greek thinkers who introduced a new way of inquiring into the world and the place of human beings in it. The history of the texts is complicated; the standard collection of texts for the Presocratics is that by H. Diels revised by W. Kranz (always abbreviated as DK). Good introduction to Presocratic philosophy can be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia.
The following selection of quotes is based on passages in John Burnet’s Early Greek Philosophy. (Burnet, John. 2014. Early Greek Philosophy. Edited by Paul A. Boer Sr. 1 edition. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.)
(1) Anaximander of Miletus, son of Praxiades, a fellow-citizen and associate of Thales, said that the material cause and first element of things was the Infinite, he being the first to introduce this name of the material cause. He says it is neither water nor any other of the so-called elements, but a substance different from them which is infinite, from which arise all the heavens and the worlds within them. (Theophrastus, Phys. Op. fr. 2)
(2) He says that this is ” eternal and ageless,” and that it ” encompasses all the worlds.” (Hippolytus Ref. i. 6)
(3) And into that from which things take their rise they pass away once more, ” as is proper; for they make reparation and satisfaction to one another for their injustice according to the ordering of time,” as he says in these somewhat poetical terms. (Theophrastus Phys. Op. fr. 2)
(4) And besides this, there was an eternal motion, in which was brought about the origin of the worlds. (Hippolytus Ref. i. 6)
(5) He did not ascribe the origin of things to any alteration in matter, but said that the oppositions in the substratum, which was a boundless body, were separated out. (Simplicius Phys. P. 3150, 20)
(6) Further, there cannot be a single, simple body which is infinite, either, as some hold, one distinct from the elements, which they then derive from it, or without this qualification. For there are some who make this (i.e. a body distinct from the elements) the infinite, and not air or water,- in order that the other things may not be destroyed by their infinity. They are in opposition one to another-air is cold, water moist, and fire hot-and therefore, if any one of them were infinite, the rest would have ceased to be by this time. Accordingly they say that what is infinite is something other than the elements, and from it the elements arise. (Aristotle, Phys. 204b 22)
(1) Anaximenes of Miletus, son of Eurystratos, who had been an associate of Anaximander, said, like him, that the underlying substance was one and infinite. He did not, however, say it was indeterminate, like Anaximander, but determinate; for he said it was Air. (Theophrastus, Phys. Op. fr. 2)
(2) From it, he said, the things that are, and have been, and will be, the gods and things divine, took their rise, while other things come from its offspring. (Hippolytus Ref. i. 7)
(3) “Just as,” he said, “our soul, being air, holds us together, so do breath and air encompass the whole world.” (Aet. i. 3, 4)
(4) And the form of the air is as follows. Where it is most even, it is invisible to our sight; but cold and heat, moisture and motion, make it visible. It is always in motion; for, if it were not, it would not change so much as it does. (Hippolytus Ref. i. 7)
(5) It differs in different substances in virtue of its rarefaction and condensation. (Theophrastus, Phys. Op. fr. 2)
(6) When it is dilated so as to be rarer, it becomes fire; while winds, on the other hand, are condensed Air. Cloud is formed from Air by felting; and this, still further condensed, becomes water. Water, condensed still more, turns to earth; and when condensed as much as it can be, to stones. (Hippolytus Ref. i. 7)
(1) Now is the floor clean, and the hands and cups of all; one sets twisted garlands on our heads, another hands us fragrant ointment on a salver. The mixing bowl stands ready, full of gladness, and there is more wine at hand that promises never to leave us in the lurch, soft and smelling of flowers in the jars. In the midst the frankincense sends up its holy scent, and there is cold water, sweet and clean. Brown loaves are set before us and a lordly table laden with cheese and rich honey. The altar in the midst is clustered round with flowers; song and festivity fill the halls.
But first it is proper that people should sing to the god with joy, with holy tales and pure words; then after offerings and prayer made that we may have strength to do right — for that is in truth the first thing to do — no sin is it to drink as much as a person can take and get home without an attendant, so he be not stricken in years. And of all people is he to be praised who after drinking gives considerable proof of himself in the trial of skill, as memory and strength will serve him. Let him not sing of Titans and Giants — those fictions of the people of old — nor of turbulent civil battles in which is no good thing at all; but to give heedful reverence to the gods is always good.
(2) What if a person wins victory in swiftness of foot, or in the pentathlon, at Olympia, where is the region of Zeus by Pisa’s springs, or in wrestling — what if by cruel boxing or that fearful sport people call pankration he become more glorious in the citizens’ eyes, and win a place of honor in the sight of all at the games, his food-at the public cost from the state, and a gift to be an heirloom for him-what if he conquer in the chariot-race — he win not deserve all this for his portion so much as I do. Far better is our art than the strength of men and of horses! These are but thoughtless judgments, nor is it fitting to set strength before considerable art. Even if there arise a mighty boxer among a people, or one great in the pentathlon or at wrestling, or one excelling in swiftness of foot — and that stands in honor before all tasks of people at the games — the city would be none the better governed for that. It is but little joy a city gets of it if a person conquer at the games by Pisa’s banks; it is not this that makes fat the store-houses of a city.
(3) They learnt dainty and unprofitable ways from the Lydians, so long as they were free from hateful tyranny; they went to the market-place with cloaks of purple dye, not less than a thousand of them all told, conceited and proud of their shapely locks of hair, fragrant from salves.
(4) Nor would a person mix wine in a cup by pouring out the wine first, but water first and wine on the top of it.
(5) You did send the thigh-bone of a kid and get for it the fat leg of a fatted bull, a worthy compensation for a person to get, whose glory is to reach every part of Hellas and never to pass away, so long as Greek songs last.
(7) And now I will turn to another tale and point the way. . . . Once they say that he (Pythagoras) was passing by when a dog was being beaten and spoke this word: “Stop! Don’t beat it! For it is the soul of a friend that I recognized when I heard its voice.”
(8) There are by this time threescore years and seven that have tossed my careworn soul up and down the land of Hellas; and there were then five-and-twenty years from my birth, if I can say anything truly about these matters.
(9) Much weaker than an aged person.
(10) Since all at first have learnt according to Homer. . . .
(11) Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all things that are a shame and a disgrace among mortals, stealing and adulteries and deceiving one another.
(12) Since they have uttered many lawless deeds of the gods, stealing and adulteries and deceiving of one another.
(14) But mortals deem that the gods are begotten as they are, and have clothes like theirs, and voice and form.
(15) Yes, and if oxen and horses or lions had hands, and could paint with their hands, and produce works of art as people do, horses would paint the forms of the gods like horses, and oxen like oxen, and make their bodies in the image of their several kinds.
(16) The Ethiopians make their gods black and snub-nosed; the Thracians say theirs have blue eyes and red hair.
(18) The gods have not revealed all things to people from the beginning, but by seeking they find in time what is better.
(23) One god, the greatest among gods and humans, neither in form like unto mortals nor in thought. . . .
(24) He sees all over, thinks all over, and hears all over.
(25) But without toil he sways all things by the thought of his mind.
(26) And he abides ever in the selfsame place, moving not at all; nor does it befit him to go about now here, now there.
(27) all things come from the earth, and in earth all things end.
(28) This limit of the earth above is seen at our feet in contact with the air; below it reaches down without a limit.
(29) All things are earth and water that come into being and grow.
(30) The sea is the source of water and the source of wind; for neither in the clouds (would there be any blasts of wind blowing) from within without the mighty sea, nor rivers’ streams nor rain-water from the sky. The mighty sea is father of clouds and of winds and of rivers.
(31) The sun swinging over the earth and warming it. . . .
(32) She that they call Iris is a cloud likewise, purple, scarlet and green to observe.
(33) For we all are born of earth and water.
(34) There never was nor will be a person who has certain knowledge about the gods and about all the things I speak of. Even if he should chance to say the complete truth, yet he himself knows not that it is so. But all may have their fancy.
(35) Let these be taken as fancies something like the truth.
(36) all of them that are visible for mortals to observe.
(37) And in some caves water drips. . . .
(38) If god had not made brown honey, people would think that figs are far sweeter than they do think of about them.
(1) It is wise to listen, not to me, but to my Word, and to confess that all things are one.
(2) Though this word is true always, yet people are as unable to understand it when they hear it for the first time as before they have heard it at all. For, though all things come to pass in accordance with this Word, people seem as if they had no experience of them, when they make trial of words and deeds such as I establish, dividing each thing according to its kind and showing how it truly is. But other people know not what they are doing when awake, even as they forget what they do in sleep.
(3) Fools when they do hear are like the deaf: of them does the saying bear witness that they are absent when present.
(4) Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to people if they have souls that understand not their language.
(5) The many do not take heed of such things as they meet with, nor do they mark them when they are taught, though they think they do.
(6) Knowing not how to listen nor how to speak.
(7) If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it for it is hard to be sought out and difficult.
(8) Those who seek for gold dig up much earth and find a little.
(10) Nature loves to hide.
(11) The lord whose is the oracle at Delphi neither utters nor hides his meaning, but shows it by a sign.
(12) And the Sibyl, with raving lips uttering things mirthless, unadorned, and unperfumed, reaches over a thousand years with her voice, thanks to the god in her.
(13) The things that can be seen, heard, and learned are what I prize the most.
(14) . . . bringing untrustworthy witnesses in support of disputed points.
(15) The eyes are more exact witnesses than the ears.
(16) The learning of many things teaches not understanding, else would it have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, and again Xenophanes and Hekataius.
(17) Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchus, practiced scientific inquiry beyond all other people, and malting a selection of these writings, claimed for his own wisdom what was but a knowledge of many things and an imposture.
(18) Of all whose discussions I have heard, there is not one who attains to understanding that wisdom is apart from all.
(19) Wisdom is one thing. It is to know the thought by which all things are steered through all things.
(20) This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or humans has made; but it was ever, is now, and ever will be an ever-living Fire, with measures of it kindling, and measures going out.
(21) The transformations of Fire are, first of all, sea; and half of the sea is earth, half whirlwind.
(22) all things are an exchange for Fire, and Fire for all things, even as wares for gold and gold for wares.
(23) It becomes liquid sea, and is measured by the same tale as before it became earth.
(24) Fire is want and excess.
(25) Fire lives the death of air, and air lives the death of fire; water lives the death of earth, earth that of water.
(26) Fire in its advance will judge and convict all things.
(27) How can one hide from that which never sets?
(28) It is the thunderbolt that steers the course of all things.
(29) The sun will not overstep his measures; if he does, the Erinyes, the handmaids of justice, will find him out.
(30) The limit of dawn and evening is the Bear; and opposite the Bear is the boundary of bright Zeus.
(31) If there were no sun it would be night, for all the other stars could do.
(32) The sun is new every day.
(33) Thales foretold an eclipse.
(34) . . . the seasons that bring all things.
(35) Hesiod is most people’s teacher. People are sure he knew very many things, a man who did not know day or night! They are one.
(36) God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger; but he takes various shapes, just as fire, when it is mingled with spices, is named according to the taste of each.
(37) If all things were turned to smoke, the nostrils would distinguish them.
(38) Souls smell in Hades.
(39) Cold things become warm, and what is warm cools; what is wet dries, and the parched is moistened.
(40) It scatters and it gathers; it advances and retires. (41, 42) You cannot step twice into the same rivers; for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.
(43) Homer was wrong in saying: “Would that strife might perish from among gods and humans!” He did not see that he was praying for the destruction of the universe; for, if his prayer were heard, all things would pass away. . . .
(44) War is the father of all and the king of all; and some he has made gods and some humans, some bond and some free.
(45) People do not know how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tensions, like that of the bow and the lyre.
(46) It is the opposite which is good for us.
(47) The hidden attunement is better than the open.
(48) Let us not conjecture at random about the greatest things.
(49) People that love wisdom must be acquainted with very many things indeed.
(50) The straight and the crooked path of the fuller’s comb is one and the same.
(51) Asses would rather have straw than gold.
(51a) Oxen are happy when they find bitter vetches to eat.
(52) The sea is the purest and the impurest water. Fish can drink it, and it is good for them; to people it is undrinkable and destructive.
(53) Swine wash in the mire, and barnyard fowls in dust.
(54) . . . to delight in the mire.
(55) Every beast is driven to pasture with blows.
(56) [Same as 45.]
(57) Good and ill are one.
(58) Physicians who cut, bum, stab, and rack the sick, demand a fee for it which they do not deserve to get.
(59) Couples are things whole and things not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and the discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one.
(60) People would not have known the name of justice if these things were not.
(61) To God all things are fair and good and right, but people hold some things wrong and some right.
(62) We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away (?) through strife.
(64) all the things we see when awake are death, even as all we see in slumber are sleep.
(65) The wise is one only. It is unwilling and willing to be called by the name of Zeus.
(66) The bow is called life, but its work is death.
(67) Mortals are immortals and immortals are mortals, the one. Living the others’ death and dying the others’ life.
(68) For it is death to souls to become water, and death to water to become earth. But water comes from earth; and from water, soul.
(69) The way up and the way down is one and the same.
(70) In the circumference of a circle the beginning and end are common.
(71) You will not find the boundaries of soul by traveling in any direction, so deep is the measure of it.”
(72) It is pleasure to souls to become moist.
(73) A person, when he gets drunk, is led by a beardless lad, tripping, knowing not where he steps, having his soul moist.
(74-76) The dry soul is the wisest and best.
(77) People set a light for themselves in the night-time, when they have died but are alive. The sleeper, whose vision has been put out, lights up from the dead; he that is awake lights up from the sleeping.
(78) And it is the same thing in us that is quick and dead, awake and asleep, young and old; the former are shifted and become the latter, and the latter in turn are shifted and become the former.
(79) Time is a child playing checkers, the kingly power is a child’s.
(80) I have sought for myself.
(81) We step and do not step into the same rivers; we are and are not.
(82) It is a weariness to labor for the same masters and be ruled by them.
(83) It rests by changing.
(84) Even the posset separates if it is not stirred.
(85) Corpses are more fit to be cast out than dung.
(86) When they are born, they wish to live and to meet with their dooms — or rather to rest — and they leave children behind them to meet with their dooms in turn.
(87-89) A man may be a grandfather in thirty years.
(90) Those who are asleep are fellow-workers (in what goes on in the world).
(91a) Thought is common to all.
(91b) Those who speak with understanding must hold fast to what is common to all as a city holds fast to its law, and even more strongly. For all human laws are fed by the one divine law. It prevails as much as it will, and suffices for all things with something to spare.
(92) So we must follow the common, yet though my Word is common, the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.
(93) They are estranged from that with which they have most constant intercourse.
(94) It is not proper to act and speak like people asleep.
(95) The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own.
(96) The way of humans has no wisdom, but that of God has.
(97) People are called babies by God, even as a child by a person.
(98, 99) The wisest person is an ape compared to God, just as the most beautiful ape is ugly compared to humans.
(100) The people must fight for its law as for its walls.
(101) Greater deaths win greater portions.
(102) Gods and humans honor those who are slain in battle.
(103) Wantonness needs putting out, even more than a house on fire.
(104) It is not good for people to get all they wish to get. It is sickness that makes health pleasant; evil, good; hunger, plenty; weariness, rest.
(105-107) It is hard to fight with one’s heart’s desire. Whatever it wishes to get, it purchases at the cost of soul.
(108, 109) It is best to hide folly; but it is hard in times of relaxation, over our cups.
(110) And it is law, too, to obey the counsel of one.
(111) For what thought or wisdom have they? They follow the poets and take the crowd as their teacher, knowing not that there are many bad and few good. For even the best of them choose one thing above all others, immortal glory among mortals, while most of them are glutted like beasts.
(112) In Priene lived Bias, son of Teutamas, who is of more account than the rest. (He said, “Most people are bad.”)
(113) One is ten thousand to me, if he be the best.
(114) The Ephesians would do well to hang themselves, every grown person of them, and leave the city to beardless lads; for they have cast out Hermodorus, the best person among them, saying, “We will have none who is best among us; if there be any such, let him be so elsewhere and among others.”
(115) Dogs bark at every one they do not know.
(116) . . . (The wise person) is not known because of people’s want of belief.
(117) The fool is fluttered at every word.
(118) The most esteemed of them knows but fancies, and holds fast to them, yet of a truth justice will overtake the artificers of lies and the false witnesses.
(119) Homer should be turned out of the lists and whipped, and Archilochus likewise.
(120) One day is like any other.
(121) A person’s character is his fate.
(122) There awaits people when they die such things as they look not for nor dream of.
(123) . . . that they rise up and become the wakeful guardians of the quick and dead.
(124) Night-walkers, Magians, Bakchoi, Lenai, and the initiated . . .
(125) The mysteries practiced among people are unholy mysteries.
(126) And they pray to these images, as if one were to talk with a person’s house, knowing not what gods or heroes are.
(127) For if it were not to Dionysus that they made a procession and sang the shameful phallic hymn, they would be acting most shamelessly. But Hades is the same as Dionysus in whose honor they go mad and rave.
(129, 130) They vainly purify themselves by defiling themselves with blood, just as if one who had stepped into the mud were to wash his feet in mud. Any person who marked him doing thus, would deem him mad.
Fragments from On Nature
(1) The car that bears me carried me as far as ever my heart desired, when it had brought me and set me on the renowned way of the goddess, which leads the man who knows through all the towns. On that way was I carried along; for on it the wise steeds carried me, drawing my car, and maidens showed the way. And the axle, glowing in the socket — for it was urged round by the whirling wheels at each end — gave a sound like a pipe, when the daughters of the Sun, to convey me into the light, threw back their veils from off their faces and left the abode of Night.
There are the gates of the ways of Night and Day, fitted above with a lintel and below with a threshold of stone. They themselves, high in the air, are closed by mighty doors, and Avenging justice keeps the keys that fit them. Her did the maidens entreat with gentle words and cunningly persuade to unfasten without demur the bolted bars from the gates. Then, when the doors were thrown back, they disclosed a wide opening, when their brazen posts fitted with rivets and nails swung back one after the other. Straight through them, on the broad way, did the maidens guide the horses and the car, and the goddess greeted me kindly, and took my right hand in hers, and spoke to me these words:
Welcome, O youth, that come to my abode on the car that bears you tended by immortal charioteers! It is no ill chance, but right and justice that has sent you to travel on this way. Far, indeed, does it lie from the beaten track of people! It is proper for you to learn all things, as well the unshaken heart of well-rounded truth, as the opinions of mortals in which is no true belief at all. Yet none the less will you learn these things also, — how passing right through all things one should judge the things that seem to be.
But do you restrain your thought from this way of inquiry, nor let habit by its much experience force you to cast upon this way a wandering eye or sounding ear or tongue; but judge by argument the much disputed proof uttered by me. There is only one way left that can be spoken of …
The Way of Truth
(2) Look steadfastly with your mind at things though afar as if they were at hand. You can not cut off what is from holding fast to what is, neither scattering itself abroad in order nor coming together.
(3) It is all one to me where I begin; for I will come back again there.
(4, 5) Come now, I will tell you — and do you listen to my saying and carry it away — the only two ways of search that can be thought of. The first, namely, that it is, and that it is impossible for it not to be, is the way of belief, for truth is its companion. The other, namely, that it is not, and that it must needs not be,-that, I tell you, is a path that none can learn of at all. For you can not know what is not-that is impossible-nor utter it; for it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be.
(6) It must be that what can be spoken and thought is; for it is possible for it to be, and it is not possible for what is nothing to be. This is what I bid you ponder. I hold you back from this first way of inquiry, and from this other also, upon which mortals knowing nothing wander two-faced; for helplessness guides the wandering thought in their breasts, so that they are carried along stupefied like people deaf and blind. Unreasonable crowds, who hold that it is and is not the same and not the same, all things travel in opposite directions!
(7) For this will never be proved, that the things that are not are; and do you restrain your thought from this way of inquiry.
(8) One path only is left for us to speak of, namely, that it is. In this path are very many tokens that what is is uncreated and indestructible; for it is complete, immovable, and without end. Nor was it ever, nor will it be; for now it is, all at once, a continuous one. For what kind of origin for it will you look for? In what way and from what source could it have drawn its increase? . . . I will not let you say nor think that it came from what is not; for it can neither be thought nor uttered that anything is not. And, if it came from nothing, what need could have made it arise later rather than sooner? Therefore must it either be altogether or be not at all. Nor will the force of truth suffer anything to arise besides itself from that which is not. For this reason, justice does not loose her fetters and let anything come into being or pass away, but holds it fast. Our judgment thereon depends on this: “Is it or is it not?” Surely it is decided, as it must be, that we are to set aside the one way as unthinkable and nameless (for it is no true way), and that the other path is real and true. How, then, can what is be going to be in the future? Or how could it come into being? If it came into being, it is not; nor is it if it is going to be in the future. Thus is becoming extinguished and passing away not to be heard of.
Nor is it divisible, since it is all alike, and there is no more of it in one place than in another, to hinder it from holding together, nor less of it, but everything is full of what is. For this reason it is wholly continuous; for what is, is in contact with what is.
Moreover, it is immovable in the bonds of mighty chains, without beginning and without end; since coming into being and passing away have been driven afar, and true belief has cast them away. It is the same, and it rests in the self-same place, abiding in itself. And thus it remains constant in its place; for hard necessity keeps it in the bonds of the limit that holds it fast on every side. For this reason it is not permitted to what is to be infinite; for it is in need of nothing; while, if it were infinite, it would stand in need of everything.
The thing that can be thought and that for the sake of which the thought exists is the same; for you cannot find thought without something that is, as to which it is uttered. And there is not, and never will be, anything besides what is, since fate has chained it so as to be whole and immovable. For this reason all these things are but names which mortals have given, believing them to be true-coming into being and passing away, being and not being, change of place and alteration of bright color.
Since, then, it has a furthest limit, it is complete on every side, like the mass of a rounded sphere, equally poised from the center in every direction; for it cannot be greater or smaller in one place than in another. For there is no nothing that could keep it from reaching out equally, nor can anything that is be more here and less there than what is, since it is all inviolable. For the point from which it is equal in every direction tends equally to the limits.
The Way of Belief
Here will I close my trustworthy speech and thought about the truth. In the future, learn the beliefs of mortals, giving ear to the deceptive ordering of my words.
Mortals have made up their minds to name two forms, one of which they should not name, and that is where they go astray from the truth. They have distinguished them as opposite in form, and have assigned to them marks distinct from one another. To the one they give out the fire of heaven, gentle, very light, in every direction the same as itself, but not the same as the other. The other is just the opposite to it, dark night, a compact and heavy body. Of these I tell you the whole arrangement as it seems likely; for so no thought of mortals will ever outstrip you.
(9) Now that all things have been named light and night, and the names which belong to the power of each have been assigned to these things and to those, everything is full at once of light and dark night, both equal, since neither has anything to do with the other.
(10, 11) And you will know the substance of the sky, and all the signs in the sky, and the radiant works of the glowing sun’s pure torch, and from where they arose. And you will learn likewise of the wandering deeds of the round-faced moon, and of her substance. You will know, too, the heavens that surround us, from where they arose, and how Necessity took them and bound them to keep the limits of the stars . . . how the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the sky that is common to all, and the Milky Way, and the outermost Olympus, and the burning might of the stars arose.
(12) The narrower bands were filled with unmixed fire, and those next them with night, and in the midst of these rushes their portion of fire. In the midst of these is the divinity that directs the course of all things; for she is the beginner of all painful birth and all propagation, driving the female to the embrace of the male, and the male to that of the female.
(13) First of all the gods she contrived Eros.
(14) Shining by night with borrowed light, wandering round the earth.
(15) Always looking to the beams of the sun.
(16) For just as thought stands at any time to the mixture of its, erring organs, so does it come to people; for that which thinks is the same, namely, the substance of the limbs, in each and every person; for their thought is that of which there is more in them.
(17) On the right boys; on the left girls.
(19) Thus, according to people’s opinions, did things come into being, and thus they are now. In time they will grow up and pass away. To each of these things people have assigned a fixed name.
(1) And do you give ear, Pausanias, son of Anchitus the wise!
(2) For straitened are the powers that are spread over their bodily parts, and many are the woes that burst in on them and blunt the edge of their careful thoughts! They observe but a brief span of a life that is no life, and, doomed to swift death, are taken up and fly off like smoke. Each is convinced of that alone which he had chanced upon as he is hurried every way, and idly boasts he has found the whole. So hardly can these things be seen by the eyes or heard by the ears of people, so hardly grasped by their mind! Nevertheless, you, since you have found your way hither, will learn no more than mortal mind has power.
(3) . . . to keep within your dumb heart.
(4) But, O you gods, turn aside from my tongue the madness of those people. Bless my lips and make a pure stream flow from them I And you, much-wooed, white-armed Virgin Muse, do I urge that I may hear what is lawful for the children of a day I Speed me on my way from the abode of holiness and drive my willing car! You will not lift garlands of glory and honor at the hands of mortals on condition of speaking in your pride beyond that which is lawful and right, and so to gain a seat upon the heights of wisdom.
Go to now, consider with all your powers in what way each thing is clear. Hold not your sight in greater credit as compared with your hearing, nor value your resounding ear above the dear instructions of your tongue; and do not withhold your confidence in any of your other bodily parts by which there is an opening for understanding, but consider everything in the way it is clear.
(5) But it is all too much the way of low minds to disbelieve those better. Do you learn as the sure testimonies of my Muse bid you, when my words have been divided in your heart.
(6) Hear first the four roots of all things: shining Zeus, life-bringing Hera, Aidoneus and Nestis whose tear-drops are a well-spring to mortals.
(7) . . .uncreated.
(8) And I will tell you another thing. There is no substance of any of all the things that die, nor any cessation for them of depraved death. They are only a mingling and interchange of what has been mingled. Substance is but a name given to these things by people.
(9) But they (hold?) that when Light and Air (chance?) to have been mingled in the fashion of a human, or in the fashion of the race of wild beasts or of plants or birds, that that is to be born, and when these things have been separated once more, they call it (wrongly?) woeful death. I follow the custom and call it so myself.
(10) Avenging death.
(11, 12) Fools! for they have no far-reaching thoughts, who deem that what before was not comes into being, or that anything can perish and be utterly destroyed. For it cannot be that anything can arise from what in no way is, and it is impossible and unheard of that what is should perish; for it will always be, wherever one may keep putting it.
(13) And in the all there is nothing empty and nothing too full.
(14) In the all there is nothing empty. From where, then, could anything come to increase it?
(15) A person who is wise in such matters would never surmise in his heart that as long as mortals have what they call their life, so long they are, and suffer good and bad; while before they were formed and after they have been dissolved they are just nothing at all.
(16) For even as they (Strife and Love) were previously, so too they will be; nor ever, methinks, will boundless time be emptied of that pair.
(17) I will tell you a twofold tale. At one time it grew to be one only out of many; at another, it divided up to be many instead of one. There is a double becoming of perishable things and a double passing away. The coming together of all things brings one generation into being and destroys it; the other grows up and is scattered as things become divided. And these things never cease continually changing places, at one time all uniting in one through Love, at another each carried in different directions by the repulsion of Strife. Thus, as far as it is their nature to grow into one out of many, and to become many once more when the one is parted asunder, so far they come into being and their life abides not. But, inasmuch as they never cease changing their places continually, so far they are ever immovable as they go round the circle of existence.
But come, listen to my words, for it is learning that increases wisdom. As I said before, when I declared the heads of my discussion, I will tell you a twofold tale. At one time it grew together to be one only out of many, at another it parted asunder so as to be many instead of one; Fire and Water and Earth and the mighty height of Air; dread Strife, too, apart from these, of equal weight to each, and Love in their midst, equal in length and breadth. Her do you contemplate with your mind, nor sit with dazed eyes. It is she that is known as being implanted in the frame of mortals. It is she that makes them have thoughts of love and work the works of peace. They call her by the names of joy and Aphrodite. Her has no mortal yet marked moving round among them, but do you attend to the undeceitful ordering of my discussion.
For all these are equal and alike in age, yet each has a different prerogative and its own peculiar nature, but they gain the upper hand in turn when the time comes round. And nothing comes into being besides these, nor do they pass away; for, if they had been passing away continually, they would not be now, and what could increase this all and from where could it come? How, too, could it perish, since no place is empty of these things? There are these alone; but, running through one another, they become now this, now that, and like things always.
(19) Clinging love. Love.
(20) This (the contest of Love and Strife) is manifest in the mass of mortal limbs. At one time all the limbs that are the body’s portion are brought together by Love in blooming life’s high Season; at another, severed by cruel Strife, they wander each alone by the breakers of life’s sea. It is the same with plants and the fish that make their homes in the waters, with the beasts that have their lairs on the hills and the seabirds that sail on wings.
(21) Come now, look at the things that bear witness to my earlier discussion, if so be that there was any shortcoming as to their form in the earlier list. Observe the sun, everywhere bright and warm, and all the immortal things that are bathed in heat and bright radiance. Observe the rain, everywhere dark and cold; and from the earth issue things close-pressed and solid. When they are in strife all these are different in form and separated; but they come together in love, and are desired by one another.
For out of these have sprung all things that were and are and will be-trees and men and women, beasts and birds and the fishes that live in the waters, yea, and the gods that live long lives and are highest ranking in honor.
For there are these alone; but, running through one another, they take different shapes — so much does mixture change them.
(22) For all of these — sun, earth, sky, and sea — are at one with all their parts that are cast far and wide from them in mortal things. And even so all things that are more adapted for mixture are like to one another and united in love by Aphrodite. Those things, again, that differ most in origin, mixture and the forms imprinted on each, are most hostile, being altogether unaccustomed to unite and very sorry by the bidding of Strife, since it has wrought their birth.
(23) Just as when painters are elaborating temple-offerings, people whom wisdom has well taught their art, — they, when they have taken pigments of many colors with their hands, mix them in due proportion, more of some and less of others, and from them produce shapes like unto all things, making trees and men and women, beasts and birds and fishes that live in the waters, yea, and gods, that live long lives, and are highest ranking in honor — so don’t let the error prevail over your mind, that there is any other source of all the perishable creatures that appear in countless numbers. Know this for sure, for you have heard the tale from a goddess.
(24) Stepping from summit to summit, not to travel only one path of words to the end. . . .
(25) What is right may well be said even twice.
(26) For they prevail in turn as the circle comes round, and pass into one another, and grow great in their appointed turn.
There are these alone; but, running through one another, they become people and the tribes of beasts. At one time they are all brought together into one order by Love; at another, they are carried each in different directions by the repulsion of Strife, till they grow once more into one and are wholly subdued. Thus in so far as they are wont to grow into one out of many, and again divided become more than one, so far they come into being and their life is not lasting; but in so far as they never cease changing continually, so far are they always, immovable in the circle.
(27) There (1n the sphere) are distinguished neither the swift limbs of the sun, no, nor the shaggy earth in its might, nor the sea, — so fast was the god bound in the close covering of Harmony, spherical and round, rejoicing in his circular solitude.
(27a) There is no discord and no unseemly strife in his limbs.
(28) But he was equal on every side and quite without end, spherical and round, rejoicing in his circular solitude.
(29) Two branches do not spring from his back, he has no feet, no swift knees, no fruitful parts; but he was spherical and equal on every side.
(30, 31) But when Strife was grown great in the limbs of the god and sprang to claim his prerogatives, in the fullness of the alternate time set for them by the mighty oath, . . . for all the limbs of the god in turn quaked.
(32) The joint binds two things.
(33) Even as when fig juice rivets and binds white milk …
(34) Cementing meal with water …
(35, 36) But now I will retrace my steps over the paths of song that I have traveled before, drawing from my saying a new saying. When Strife was fallen to the lowest depth of the vortex, and Love had reached to the center of the whirl, in it do all things come together so as to be one only; not all at once, but coming together at their will each from different quarters; and, as they mingled, strife began to pass out to the furthest limit. Yet many things remained unmixed, alternating with the things that were being mixed, namely, all that Strife not fallen yet retained; for it had not yet altogether retired perfectly from them to the outermost boundaries of the circle. Some of it still remained within, and some had passed out from the limbs of the All. But in proportion as it kept rushing out, a soft, immortal stream of blameless Love kept running in, and immediately those things became mortal which had been immortal before, those things were mixed that had before been unmixed, each changing its path. And, as they mingled, countless tribes of mortal creatures were scattered abroad endowed with all manner of forms, a wonder to observe.
(37) Earth increases its own mass, and Air swells the bulk of Air.
(38) Come, I will now tell you first of all the beginning of the sun, and the sources from which have sprung all the things we now observe, the earth and the billowy sea, the damp vapor and the Titan air that binds his circle fast round all things.
(39) If the depths of the earth and the vast air were infinite, a foolish saying which has been vainly dropped from the lips of many mortals, though they have seen but a little of the all …
(40) The sharp-darting sun and the gentle moon.
(41) But (the sunlight) is gathered together and circles round the mighty heavens.
(42) And she cuts off his rays as he goes above her, and casts a shadow on as much of the earth as is the breadth of the pale-faced moon.
(43) Even so the sunbeam, having struck the broad and mighty circle of the moon, returns at once, running so as to reach the sky.
(44) It flashes back to Olympus with untroubled appearance.
(45, 46) There circles round the earth a round borrowed light, as the nave of the wheel circles round the furthest (goal).
(47) For she gazes at the sacred circle of the lordly sun opposite.
(48) It is the earth that makes night by coming before the lights.
(49) . . .of solitary, blind-eyed night.
(50) And Iris brings wind or mighty rain from the sea.
(51) (Fire) swiftly rushing upwards . . .
(52) And many fires bum beneath the earth.
(53) For so it (the air) chanced to be running at that time, though often otherwise.
(54) But the air sank down upon the earth with its long roots.
(55) Sea the sweat of the earth.
(56) Salt was solidified by the impact of the sun’s beams.
(57) On it (the earth) many heads sprung up without necks and arms wandered bare and deprived of shoulders. Eyes strayed up and down in want of foreheads.
(58) Solitary limbs wandered seeking for union.
(59) But, as divinity was mingled still further with divinity, these things joined together as each might chance, and many other things besides them continually arose.
(60) Clumsy creatures with countless hands.
(61) Many creatures with faces and breasts looking in different directions were born; some, offspring of oxen with faces of people, while others, again, arose as offspring of people with the heads of oxen, and creatures in whom the nature of women and men was mingled, furnished with sterile parts.
(62) Come now, hear how the Fire as it was separated caused the night-born shoots of men and tearful women to arise; for my tale is not off the point nor uninformed. Whole-natured forms first arose from the earth, having a portion both of water and fire. These did the fire, desirous of reaching its like, send up, showing as yet neither the charming form of the limbs, nor yet the voice and parts that are proper to men.
(63) . . .But the substance of (the child’s) limbs is divided between them, part of it in men’s (and part in women’s body).
(64) And upon him came desire reminding him through sight.
(65) . . .And it was poured out in the purified parts; and when
it met with cold, women arose from it.
(66) The divided meadows of Aphrodite.
(67) For in its warmer part the womb produces males, and that is why men are dark and more manly and shaggy.
(68) On the tenth day of the eighth month it turns to a white putrefaction.”
(69) Double bearing.
(71) But if your assurance of these things was in any way deficient as to how, out of Water an(f Earth and Air and Fire mingled together, arose the forms and colors of all those mortal things that have been fitted together by Aphrodite, and so are now come into being…
(72) How tall trees and the fishes in the sea . . .
(73) And even as at that time Kypris, preparing warmth, after she had moistened the Earth in water, gave it to swift fire to harden it…
(74) Leading the songless tribe of fertile fish.
(75) All of those which are dense within and rare without, having received a weakness of this kind at the hands of Kypris . . . .
(76) This you may see in the heavy-backed shellfish that live in the sea, in sea-snails and the stony-skinned turtles. In them you may see that the earthy part lives on the uppermost surface of the skin.
(77-78) It is moisture that makes evergreen trees flourish with abundance of fruit the whole year round.
(79) And so first of all tall olive trees bear eggs . . . .
(80) For this reason pomegranates are late-born and apples succulent.
(81) Wine is the water from the bark, putrefied in the wood.
(82) Hair and leaves, and thick feathers of birds, and the scales that grow on mighty limbs, are the same thing.
(83) But the hair of hedgehogs is sharp-pointed and bristles on their backs.
(84) And even as when a person thinking to travel through a stormy night, gets him ready a lantern, a flame of blazing fire, fastening to it horn plates to keep out all manner of winds, and they scatter the blast of the winds that blow, but the light leaping out through them, shines across the threshold with unfailing beams, as much of it as is finer; even so did she (Love) then entrap the elemental fire, the round pupil, confined within membranes and delicate tissues, which are pierced through and through with wondrous passages. They keep out the deep water that surrounds the pupil, but they let through the fire, as much of it as is finer.
(85) But the gentle flame (of the eye) has but a scanty portion of earth.
(86) Out of these divine Aphrodite fashioned unwearying eyes.
(87) Aphrodite fitting these together with rivets of love.
(88) One vision is produced by both the eyes.
(89) Know that emanations flow from all things that have come into being.
(90) So sweet lays hold of sweet, and bitter rushes to bitter; acid comes to acid, and warm couples with warm.
(91) Water fits better into wine, but it will not (mingle) with oil.
(92) Copper mixed with tin.
(93) The bloom of scarlet dye mingles with the gray linen.
(94) And the black color at the bottom of a river arises from the shadow. The same is seen in hollow caves.
(95) Since they (the eyes) first grew together in the hands of Kypris.
(96) The kindly earth received in its broad funnels two parts of gleaming Nestis out of the eight, and four of Hephaistus. So arose white bones divinely fitted together by the cement of proportion.
(97) The spine (was broken).
(98) And the earth, anchoring in the perfect harbors of Aphrodite, meets with these in nearly equal proportions, with Hephaistus and Water and gleaming Air-either a little more of it, or less of them and more of it. From these did blood arise and the manifold forms of flesh.
(99) The bell… the fleshy sprout (of the ear).
(100) Thus do all things draw breath and breathe it out again. All have bloodless tubes of flesh extended over the surface of their bodies; and at the mouths of these the outermost surface of the skin is perforated all over with pores closely packed together, so as to keep in the blood while a free passage is cut for the. air to pass through. Then, when the thin blood recedes from these, the bubbling air rushes in with an impetuous surge; and when the blood runs back it is breathed out again. Just as when a girl, playing with a water-clock of shining brass, puts the orifice of the pipe upon her comely hand, and dips the water-clock into the yielding mass of silvery water — the stream does not then flow into the vessel, but the bulk of the air inside, pressing upon the close-packed perforations, keeps it out till she uncovers the compressed stream; but then air escapes and an equal volume of water runs in, — just in the same way, when water occupies the depths of the brazen vessel and the opening and passage is stopped up by the human hand, the air outside, striving to get in, holds the water back at the gates of the ill-sounding neck, pressing upon its surface, till she lets go with her hand. Then, on the contrary, just in the opposite way to what happened before, the wind rushes in and an equal volume of water runs out to make room. Even so, when the thin blood that surges through the limbs rushes backwards to the interior, immediately the stream of air comes in with a rushing swell; but when the blood runs back the air breathes out again in equal quantity.
(101) (The dog) with its nostrils tracing out the fragments of the beast’s limbs, and the breath from their feet that they leave in the soft grass.
(102) Thus all things have their share of breath and smell.
(103, 104) Thus have all things thought by fortune’s will. And inasmuch as the rarest things came together in their fall.
(105) (The heart), dwelling in the sea of blood that runs in opposite directions, where chiefly is what people call thought; for the blood round the heart is the thought of people.
(106) For the wisdom of people grows according to what is before them.
(107) For out of these are all things formed and fitted together, and by these do people think and feel pleasure and pain.
(108) And just so far as they grow to be different, so far do different thoughts ever present themselves to their minds (in dreams).
(109) For it is with earth that we see Earth, and Water with water; by air we see bright Air, by fire destroying Fire. By love do we see Love, and Hate by grievous hate.
(110) For if, supported on your steadfast mind, you wilt contemplate these things with good intent and faultless care, then will you have all these things in abundance throughout your life, and you will gain many others from them. For these things grow of themselves into your heart, where is each person’s true nature. But if you strive after things of another kind, as it is the way with people that ten thousand sorry matters blunt their careful thoughts, soon will these things desert you when the time comes round; for they long to return once more to their own kind; for know that all things have wisdom and a share of thought.
And you will learn all the drugs that are a defense against ills and old age; since for you alone will I accomplish all this. You will arrest the violence of the weariless winds that arise to sweep the earth and waste the fields; and again, when you so desire, you will bring back their blasts in return. You will cause for people a seasonable drought after the dark rains, and again you will change the summer drought for streams that feed the trees as they pour down from the sky. You will bring back from Hades the life of a dead person.
(112) Friends, that inhabit the great town looking down on the yellow rock of Akragas, up by the citadel, busy in considerable works, harbors of honor for the stranger, people unskilled in meanness, all hail. I go about among you an immortal god, no mortal now, honored among all as is proper, crowned with decorations and flowery garlands. Immediately, whenever I enter with these in my train, both men and women, into the flourishing towns, is reverence done me; they go after me in countless throngs, asking of me what is the way to gain; some desiring oracles, while some, who for many a weary day have been pierced by the grievous pangs of all manner of sickness, beg to hear from me the word of healing.
(113) But why do I harp on these things, as if it were any great matter that I should surpass mortal, perishable humans?
(114) Friends, I know indeed that truth is, in the words I shall utter, but it is hard for people, and jealous are they of the assault of belief on their souls.
(115) There is an oracle of Necessity, an ancient ordinance of the gods, eternal and sealed fast by broad oaths, that whenever one of the demons, whose portion is length of days, has sinfully polluted his hands with blood, or followed strife and forsworn himself, he must wander thrice ten thousand seasons from the abodes of the blessed, being born throughout the time in all manners of mortal forms, changing one toilsome path of life for another. For the mighty Air drives him into the Sea, and the Sea spews him on the dry Earth; Earth tosses him into the beams of the blazing Sun, and he flings him back to the eddies of Air. One takes him from the other, and all reject him. One of these I now am, an exile and a wanderer from the gods, for that I put my trust in insensate strife.
(116) Charis loathes intolerable Necessity.
(117) For I have been ere now a boy and a girl, a bush and a bird and a dumb fish in the sea.
(118) I wept and I wailed when I saw the unfamiliar land.
(119) From what honor, from what. a height of bliss have I fallen to go about among mortals here on earth.
(120) We have come under this roofed-in cave.
(121) . . . the joyless land, where are Death and Wrath and troops of Dooms besides; and parching plagues and rot and floods roam in darkness over the meadow of Ate.
(122, 123) There were Chthonie and far-sighted Heliope, bloody Discord and gentle-appearanced Harmony, Kallisto and Aischre, Speed and Tarrying, lovely Truth and dark-haired Uncertainty, Birth and Decay, Sleep and waking, Movement and Immobility, crowned Majesty and Meanness, Silence and Voice.
(124) Alas, O wretched race of mortals, sore unblessed: such are the strifes and groanings from which you have been born!
(125) From living creatures he made them dead, changing their forms.
(126) (The goddess) clothing them with a strange garment of flesh.
(127) Among beasts they become lions that make their lair on the hills and their couch on the ground; and laurels among trees with lush foliage.
(128) Nor had they any Ares for a god nor Kydoimos, no nor King Zeus nor Kronus nor Poseidon, but Kypris the Queen. . . . Her did they propitiate with holy gifts, with painted figure and perfumes of cunning fragrance, with offerings of pure myrrh and sweet-smelling frankincense, casting on the ground offerings of brown honey. And the altar did not reek with pure bull’s blood, but this was held in the greatest abomination among people, to cat the considerable limbs after tearing out the life.
(129) And there was among them a person of rare knowledge, most skilled in all manner of wise works, a person who had won the utmost wealth of wisdom; for whenever he strained with all his mind, he easily saw everything of all the things that are, in ten, indeed, twenty lifetimes of people.
(130) For all things were tame and gentle to humans, both beasts and birds, and friendly feelings were kindled everywhere.
(131) If ever, as regards the things of a day, immortal Muse, you did deign to take thought for my endeavor, then stand by me once more as I pray to you, O Kalliopeia, as I utter a pure discussion concerning the blessed gods.
(132) Happy is the person who has gained the riches of divine wisdom; wretched he who has a dim opinion of the gods in his heart.
(133) It is not possible for us to set God before our eyes, or to lay hold of him with our hands, which is the broadest way of persuasion that leads into the heart of people.
(134) For he is not furnished with a human head on his body, two branches do not sprout from his shoulders, he has no feet, no swift knees, nor hairy parts; but he is only a sacred and unutterable mind flashing through the whole world with rapid thoughts.
(135) (This is not lawful for some and unlawful for others;) but the law for all extends everywhere, through the wide-ruling air and the infinite light of heaven.
(136) Will you not cease from this ill-sounding slaughter? See you not that you are devouring one another in the thoughtlessness of your hearts?
(137) And the father lifts up his own son in a changed form and slays him with a prayer. Infatuated fool I And they run up to the sacrificers, begging mercy, while he, deaf to their cries, slaughters them in his halls and gets ready the evil feast. In like manner does the son seize his father, and children their mother, tear out their life and eat the kindred flesh.
(138) Draining their life with bronze.
(139) Ah, woe is me that the pitiless day of death did not destroy me ere ever I wrought evil deeds of devouring with my lips!
(140) Abstain wholly from laurel leaves.
(141) Wretches, utter wretches, keep your hands from beans!
(142) Him will the roofed palace of aigis-bearing Zeus never rejoice, nor yet the house of…
(143) Wash your hands, cutting the water from the five springs in the unyielding bronze
(144) Fast from wickedness!
(145) Therefore are you distraught by grievous wickednesses, and will not unburden your souls of wretched sorrows.
(146, 147) But, at the last, they appear among mortal humans as prophets, song-writers, physicians, and princes; and thence they rise up as gods highest ranking in honor, sharing the hearth of the other gods and the same table, free from human woes, safe from destiny, and incapable of hurt.
(148) . . .Earth that envelops the person.
(1) all things were together, infinite both in number and in smallness; for the small too was infinite. And, when all things were together, none of them could be distinguished for their smallness. For air and aether prevailed over all things, being both of them infinite; for among all things these are the greatest both in quantity and size.
(2) For air and ether are separated off from the mass that surrounds the world, and the surrounding mass is infinite in quantity.
(3) Nor is there a least of what is small, but there is always a smaller; for it cannot be that what is should cease to be by being cut. But there is also always something, greater than what is great, and it is equal to the small in amount, and, compared with itself, each thing is both great and small.
(4) And since these things are so, we must suppose that there are contained many things and of all sorts in the things that are uniting, seeds of all things, with all sorts of shapes and colors and tastes, and that people have been formed in them, and the other animals that have life, and that these people have inhabited cities and cultivated fields as with us; and that they have a sun and a moon and the rest as with us; and that their earth produces for them many things of all kinds of which they gather the best together into their dwellings, and use them. Thus much have I said with regard to separating off, to show that it will not be only with us that things are separated off, but elsewhere too.
But before, they were separated off, when all things were together, not even was any color distinguishable. For the mixture of all things prevented it — of the moist and the dry, and the warm and the cold, and the light and the dark, and of much earth that was in it, and of a multitude of innumerable seeds in no way like each other. For none of the other things either is like any other. And these things being so, we must hold that all things are in the whole.
(5) And those things having been thus decided, we must know that all of them are neither more nor less; for it is not possible for them to be more than all, and all are always equal.
(6) And since the portions of the great and of the small are equal in amount, for this reason, too, all things will be in everything; nor is it possible for them to be apart, but all things have a portion of everything. Since it is impossible for there to be a least thing, they cannot be separated, nor come to be by themselves; but they must be now, just as they were in the beginning, all together. And in all things many things are contained, and an equal number both in the greater and in the smaller of the things that are separated off.
(7) . . . So that we cannot know the number of the things that are separated off, either in word or deed.
(8) The things that are in one world are not divided nor cut off from one another with a hatchet, neither the warm from the cold nor the cold from the warm.
(9) . . . as these things revolve and are separated off by the force and swiftness. And the swiftness makes the force. Their swiftness is not like the swiftness of any of the things that are now among people, but in every way many times as swift.
(10) How can hair come from what is not hair, or flesh from what is not flesh?
(11) In everything there is a portion of everything except Nous, and there are some things in which there is Nous also.
(12) All other things partake in a portion of everything, while Nous is infinite and self-ruled, and is mixed with nothing, but is alone, itself by itself. For if it were not by itself, but were mixed with anything else, it would partake in all things if it were mixed with any; for in everything there is a portion of everything, as has been said by me in what goes before, and the things mixed with it would hinder it, so that it would have power over nothing in the same way that it has now being alone by itself. For it is the thinnest of all things and the purest, and it has all knowledge about everything and the greatest strength; and Nous has power over all things, both greater and smaller, that have life. And Nous had power over the whole revolution, so that it began to revolve in the beginning. And it began to revolve first from a small beginning; but the revolution now extends over a larger space, and will extend over a larger still. And all the things that are mingled together and separated off and distinguished are all known by Nous. And Nous set in order all things that were to be, and all things that were and are not now and that are, and this revolution in which now revolve the stars and the sun and the moon, and the air and the aether that are separated off. And this revolution caused the separating off, and the rare is separated off from the dense, the warm from the cold, the light from the dark, and the dry from the moist. And there are many portions in many things. But no thing is altogether separated off nor distinguished from anything else except Nous. And all Nous is alike, both the greater and the smaller; while nothing else is like anything else, but each single thing is and was most manifestly those things of which it has most in it.
(13) And when Nous began to move things, separating off took place from all that was moved, and so much as Nous set in motion was all separated. And as things were set in motion and separated, the revolution caused them to be separated much more.
(14) And Nous, which ever is, is certainly there, where everything else is, in the surrounding mass, and in what has been united with it and separated off from it.
(15) The dense and the moist and the cold and the dark came together where the earth is now, while the rare and the warm and the dry (and the bright) went out towards the further part of the aether.
(16) From these as they are separated off earth is solidified for from mists water is separated off, and from water earth. From the earth stones are solidified by the cold, and these rush outwards more than water.
(17) The Hellenes follow a wrong usage in speaking of coming into being and passing away; for nothing comes into being or passes away, but there is mingling and separation of things that are. So they would be right to call coming into being mixture, and passing away separation.
(18) It is the sun that puts brightness into the moon.
(19) We call rainbow the reflection of the sun in the clouds. Now it is a sign of storm; for the water that flows round the cloud causes wind or pours down in rain.
(20) With the rise of the Dogstar (?) people begin the harvest with its setting they begin to till the fields. It is hidden for forty days and nights.
(21) From the weakness of our senses we are not able to judge the truth.
(21a) What appears is a vision of the unseen.
(21b) (We can make use of the lower animals) because we use our own experience and memory and wisdom and art.
(22) What is called “birds’ milk” is the white of the egg.
But Anaxagoras says that perception is produced by opposites; for like things cannot be effected by like. He attempts to give, a detailed enumeration of the particular senses. We see by means of the image in the pupil; but no image is cast upon what is of the same color, but only on what is different. With most living creatures things are of a different color to the pupil by day, though with some this is so by night, and these are accordingly keen-sighted at that time. Speaking generally, however, night is more of the same color with the eyes than day. And an image is cast on the pupil by day, because light is a concomitant cause of the image, and because the prevailing color casts an image more readily upon its opposite.
It is in the same way that touch and taste discern their objects. That which is just as warm or just as cold as we are neither warms us nor cools us by its contact; and, in the same way, we do not apprehend the sweet and the sour by means of themselves. We know cold by warm, fresh by salt, and sweet by sour, in virtue of our deficiency in each; for all these are in us to begin with. And we smell and hear in the same manner; the former by means of the accompanying respiration, the latter by the sound penetrating to the brain, for the bone which surrounds this is hollow, and it is upon it that the sound falls.
And an sensation implies pain, a view which would seem to be the consequence of the first assumption, for all unlike things produce pain by their contact. And this pain is made perceptible by the long continuance or by the excess of a sensation. Brilliant colors and excessive noises produce pain, and we cannot live long on the same things. The larger animals are the more sensitive, and, generally, sensation is proportionate to the size of the organs of sense. Those animals which have large, pure, and bright eyes, see large objects and from a great distance, and contrariwise.
And it is the same with hearing. Large animals can hear great and distant sounds, while less sounds pass unperceived; small animals perceive small sounds and those near at hand. It is the same too with smell. Rarefied air has more smell; for, when air is heated and rarefied, it smells. A large animal when it breathes draws in the condensed air along with the rarefied, while a small one draws in the rarefied by itself; so the large one perceives more. For smell is better perceived when it is near than when it is far by reason of its being more condensed, while when dispersed it is weak. But, roughly speaking, large animals do not perceive a rarefied smell, nor small animals a condensed one.
(1) If what is had no magnitude, it would not even be… But, if it is, each one must have a certain magnitude and a certain thickness, and must be at a certain distance from another, and the same may be said of what is in front of it; for it, too, will have magnitude, and something will be in front of it. It is all the same to say this once and to say it always; for no such part of it will be the last, nor will one thing not be as compared with another. So if things are a many, they must be both small and great, so small as not to have any magnitude at all, and so great as to be infinite.
(2) For if it were added to any other thing it would not make it any larger; for nothing can gain in magnitude by the addition of what has no magnitude, and thus it follows at once that what was added was nothing. But if, when this is taken away from another thing, that thing is no less; and again, if, when it is added to another thing, that does not increase, it is plain that what was added was nothing, and what was taken away was nothing.
(3) If things are a many, they must be just as many as they are, and neither more nor less. Now, if they are as many as they are, they will be finite in number.
If things are a many, they will be infinite in number;, for there will always be other things between them, and others again between these. And so things are infinite in number.
Testimonial (paraphrased from Aristotle)
(1) You cannot cross a race-course. You cannot traverse an infinite number of points in a finite time. You must traverse the half of any given distance before you traverse the whole, and the half of that again before you can traverse it. This goes on ad infinitum, so that there are an infinite number of points in any given space, and you cannot touch an infinite number one by one in a finite time.
(2) Achilles will never overtake the tortoise. He must first reach the place from which the tortoise started. By that time the tortoise will have got some way ahead. Achilles must then make up that, and again the tortoise will be ahead. He is always coming nearer, but he never makes up to it.
(3) The arrow in flight is at rest. For, if everything is at rest when it occupies a space equal to itself, and what is in flight at any given moment always occupies a space equal to itself, it cannot move.
(1a) If nothing is, what can be said of it as of something real?
(1) What was was ever, and ever will be. For, if it had come into being, it needs must have been nothing before it came into being. Now, if it were nothing, in no wise could anything have arisen out of nothing.
(2) Since, then, it has not come into being, and since it is, was ever, and ever shall be, it has no beginning or end, but is without limit. For, if it had come into being, it would have had a beginning (for it would have begun to come into being at some time or other) and an end (for it would have ceased to come into being at some time or other); but, if it neither began nor ended, and ever was and ever will be, it has no beginning or end; for it is not possible for anything to be ever without all being.
(3) Further, just as it ever is, so it must ever be infinite in magnitude.
(4) But nothing which has a beginning or end is either eternal or infinite.
(5) If it were not one, it would be bounded by something else.
(6) For if it is (infinite), it must be one; for if it were two, it could not be infinite; for then they would be bounded by one another.
(6a) (And, since it is one, it is alike throughout; for if it were unlike, it would be many and not one.)
(7) So then it is eternal and infinite and one and all alike. And it cannot perish nor become greater, nor does it suffer pain or grief. For, if any of these things happened to it, it would no longer be one. For if it is altered, then the real must needs not be all alike, but what was before must pass away, and what was not must come into being. Now, if it changed by so much as a single hair in ten thousand years, it would all perish in the whole of time.
Further, it is not possible either that its order should be changed; for the order which it had before does not perish, nor does that which was not come into being. But, since nothing is either added to it or passes away or is altered, how can any real thing have had its order changed? For if anything became different, that would amount to a change in its order.
Nor does it suffer pain; for a thing in pain could not all be. For a thing in pain could not be ever, nor has it the same power as what is whole. Nor would it be alike, if it were in pain; for it is only from the addition or subtraction of something that it could feel pain, and then it would no longer be alike. Nor could what is whole feel pain; for then what was whole and what was real would pass away, and what was not would, come into being. And the same argument applies to grief as to pain.
Nor is anything empty. For what is empty is nothing. What is nothing cannot be.
Nor does it move; for it has nowhere bring itself to, but is full. For if there were anything empty, it would bring itself to the empty. But, since there is nothing empty, it has nowhere to bring itself to.
And it cannot be dense and rare; for it is not possible for what is rare to be as full as what is dense, but what is rare is at once emptier than what is dense.
This is the way in which we must distinguish between what is full and what is not full. If a thing has room for anything else, and takes it in, it is not full; but if it has no room for anything and does not take it in, it is full.
Now, it must needs be full if there is nothing empty, and if it is full, it-does not move.
(8) This argument, then, is the greatest proof that it is one alone; but the following are proofs of it also. If there were a many, these would have to be of the same kind as I say that the one is. For if there is earth and water, and air and iron, and gold and fire, and if one thing is living and another dead, and if things are black and white and all that people say they really are,-if that is so, and if we see and hear aright, each one of these must be such as we first decided, and they cannot be changed or altered, but each must be just as it is. But, as it is, we say that we see and hear and understand aright, and yet we believe that what is warm becomes cold, and what is cold warm; that what is hard turns soft, and what is soft hard; that what is living dies, and that things are born from what lives not; and that all those things are changed, and that what they were and what they are now are in no way alike. We think that iron, which is hard, is rubbed away by contact with the finger; and so with gold and stone and everything which we fancy to be strong, and that earth and stone are made out of water; so that it turns out that we neither see nor know realities. Now these things do not agree with one another. We said that there were many things that were eternal and had forms and strength of their own, and yet we fancy that they all suffer alteration, and that they change from what we see each time. It is clear, then, that we did not see aright after all, nor are we right in believing that all these things are many. They would not change if they were real, but each thing would be just what we believed it to be; for nothing is stronger than true reality. But if it has changed, what was has passed away, and what was not is come into being. So then, if there were many things, they would have to be just of the same nature as the one.
(9) Now, if it were to exist, it must needs be one; but if it is one, it cannot have body; for, if it had body it would have parts, and would no longer be one.
(10) If what is real is divided, it moves; but if it moves, it cannot be.
DIOGENES OF APOLLONIA
(1) In the beginning any discussion, it seems to me that one should make one’s starting-point something indisputable, and one’s expression simple and dignified.
(2) My view is, to sum it all up, that all things are differentiations of the same thing, and are the same thing. And this is obvious; for, if the things which are now in this world-earth, and water, and air and fire, and the other things which we see existing in this world-if any one of these things, I say, were different from any other, different, that is, by having a substance peculiar to itself; and if it were not the same thing that is often changed and differentiated ‘ then things could not in any way mix with one another, nor could- they do one another good or harm. Neither could a plant grow out of the earth, nor any animal nor anything else come into being unless things were composed in such a way as to be the same. But all these things arise from the same thing; they are differentiated and take different forms at different times, and return again to the same thing.
(3) For it would not be possible for it without intelligence to be so divided, as to keep the measures of all things, of winter and summer, of day and night, of rains and winds and fair weather. And any one who cares to reflect will find that everything else is disposed in the best possible manner. R. P. 210.
(4) And, further, there are still the following great proofs. Humans and all other animals live upon air by breathing it, and this is their soul and their intelligence, as will be clearly shown in this work; while, when this is taken away, they die, and their intelligence fails.
(5) And my view is, that that which has intelligence is what people call air, and that all things have their course steered by it, and that it has power over all things. For this very thing I hold to be a god,” and to reach everywhere, and to dispose everything, and to be in everything; and there is not anything which does not partake in it. Yet no single thing partakes in it just in the same way as another; but there are many modes both of air and of intelligence. For it undergoes many transformations, warmer and colder, drier and moister, more stable and in swifter motion, and it has many other differentiations in it, and an infinite number of colors and tastes. And the soul of all living things is the same, namely, air warmer than that outside us and in which we are, but much colder than that near the sun. And this warmth is not alike in any two kinds of living creatures, nor, for the matter of that, in any two people; but it does not differ much, only so far as is compatible with their being alike. At the same time, it is not possible for any of the things which are differentiated to be exactly like one another till they all once more become the same.
(6) Since, then, differentiation is multiform, living creatures are multiform and many, and they are like one another neither in appearance nor in intelligence, because of the multitude of differentiations. At the same time, they all live, and see, and hear by the same thing, and they all have their intelligence from the same source.
(7) And this itself is an eternal and undying body, but of those things I some come into being and some pass away.
(8) But this, too, appears to me to be obvious, that it is both great, and mighty, and eternal, and undying, and of great knowledge.
Testimonial by Hippolitus
Archelaus was by birth an Athenian, and the son of Apollodorus. He spoke of the mixture of matter in a similar way to Anaxagoras, and of the first principles likewise. He held, however, that there was a certain mixture immanent even in Nous. And he held that there were two efficient causes which were separated off from one another, namely, the warm and the cold. The former was in motion, the latter at rest. When the water was liquefied it flowed to the center, and there being burnt up it turned to earth and air, the latter of which was carried upwards, while the former took up its position below. These, then, are the reasons why the earth is at rest, and why it came into being. It lies in the center, being practically no appreciable part of the universe. (But the air rules over all things), being produced by the burning of the fire, and from its original combustion comes the substance of the heavenly bodies. Of these the sun is the largest, and the moon second; the rest are of various sizes. He says that the heavens were inclined, and that then the sun made fight upon the earth, made the air transparent, and the earth dry; for it was originally a pond, being high at the circumference and hollow in the center. He adduces as a proof of this hollowness that the sun does not rise and set at the same time for all peoples, as it ought to do if the earth were level. As to animals, he says that when the earth was first being warm in the lower part where the warm and the cold were mingled together, many living creatures appeared, and especially people, all having the same manner of life, and deriving their sustenance from the slime; they did not live long, and later on generation from one another began. And people were distinguished from the rest, and set up leaders, and laws, and arts, and cities, and so forth. And he says that Nous is implanted in all animals alike; for each of the animals, as well as humans, makes use of Nous, but some quicker and some slower.
Presocratic Fragments and Testimonials, ed. James Fieser (Internet Release, 1996). Editorial Conventions: Letters within angled brackets (e.g., Hume) designate italics. Note references are contained within square brackets (e.g., ). Bracketed comments within the end notes are the editor’s.