Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
21. Eratosthenes and Apollodoros 2. Origin

From Chapter I., The Milesian School

1. Miletus and Lydia
IT was at Miletos that the earliest school of scientific cosmology had its home, and it is not, perhaps, without significance that Miletos is just the place where the continuity of Aegean and Ionian civilisation is most clearly marked.1 The Milesians had come into conflict more than once with the Lydians, whose rulers were bent on extending their dominion to the coast; but, towards the end of the seventh century B.C., the tyrant Thrasyboulos succeeded in making terms with King Alyattes, and an alliance was concluded which secured Miletos against molestation for the future. Even half a century later, when Croesus, resuming his father's forward policy, made war upon and conquered Ephesos, Miletos was able to maintain the old treaty-relation, and never, strictly speaking, became subject to the Lydians at all. The Lydian connexion, moreover, favoured the growth of science at Miletos. What was called at a later date Hellenism seems to have been traditional in the dynasty of the Mermnadai, and Herodotos says that all the "sophists" of the time flocked to the court of Sardeis.2 The tradition which represents Croesus as the "patron" of Greek wisdom was fully developed in the fifth century; and, however unhistorical its details may be, it must clearly have some foundation in fact. Particularly noteworthy is "the common tale among the Greeks," that Thales accompanied Croesus on his luckless campaign against Pteria, apparently in the capacity of military engineer. Herodotos disbelieves the story that he diverted the course of the Halys, but only because he knew there were bridges there already. It is clear that the Ionians were great engineers, and that they were employed as such by the eastern kings.3

It should be added that the Lydian alliance would facilitate intercourse with Babylon and Egypt. Lydia was an advanced post of Babylonian culture, and Croesus was on friendly terms with the kings of Egypt and Babylon. Amasis of Egypt had the same Hellenic sympathies as Croesus, and the Milesians possessed a temple of their own at Naukratis.

Burnet's Notes


1. See Introd. § II. Ephoros said that Old Miletos was colonised from Milatos in Crete at an earlier date than the fortification of the new city by Neleus (Strabo, xiv. p. 634), and recent excavation has shown that the Aegean civilisation passed here by gradual transition into the early Ionic. The dwellings of the old Ionians stand on and among the débris of the "Mycenean" period. There is no "geometrical" interlude.

2. Herod. i. 29. See Radet, La Lydie et le monde grec au temps des Mermnades (Paris, 1893).

3. Herod. i. 75. It is important for a right estimate of Ionian science to remember the high development of engineering in these days. Mandrokles of Samos built the bridge over the Bosporos for King Dareios (Herod. iv. 88), and Harpalos of Tenedos bridged the Hellespont for Xerxes when the Egyptians and Phoenicians had failed in the attempt (Diels, Abh. der Berl. Akad., 1904, p. 8). The tunnel through the hill above Samos described by Herodotos (iii. 60) has been discovered by German excavators. It is about a kilometre long, but the levels are almost accurate. On the whole subject see Diels, "Wissenschaft und Technik bei den Hellenen" (Neue Jahrb. xxxiii. pp. 3, 4). Here, as in other things, the Ionians carried on "Minoan" traditions.

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