Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
11. Theology 13. Theophrastus on Anaximander's Theory of the Primary Substance

From Chapter I., The Milesian School


12.The Life of Anaximander
Anaximander, son of Praxiades, was also a citizen of Miletos, and Theophrastos described him as an "associate" of Thales.45 We have seen how that expression is to be understood (§ XIV).

According to Apollodoros, Anaximander was sixty-four years old in Ol. LVIII.2 (547/6 B.C.); and this is confirmed by Hippolytos, who says he was born in Ol. XLII. 3 (610/9 B.C.), and by Pliny, who assigns his great discovery of the obliquity of the zodiac to Ol. LVIII.46 We seem to have something more here than a combination of the ordinary type; for, according to all the rules, Anaximander should have "flourished" in 565 B.C., half-way between Thales and Anaximenes, and this would make him sixty, not sixty-four, in 546. Now Apollodoros appears to have said that he had met with the work of Anaximander; and the only reason he can have had for mentioning this must be that he found in it some indication which enabled him to fix its date. Now 547/6 is just the year before the fall of Sardeis, and we may perhaps conjecture that Anaximander mentioned what his age had been at the time of that event. We know from Xenophanes that the question, "How old were you when the Mede appeared?" was considered an interesting one in those days.47 At all events, Anaximander was apparently a generation younger than Thales.48

Like his predecessor, he distinguished himself by certain practical inventions. Some writers credited him with that of the gnomon; but that can hardly be correct. Herodotos tells us this instrument came from Babylon, and Thales must have used it to determine the solstices and equinoxes.49 Anaximander was also the first to construct a map, and Eratosthenes said this was the map elaborated by Hekataios. No doubt it was intended to be of service to Milesian enterprise in the Black Sea. Anaximander himself conducted a colony to Apollonia,50 and his fellow-citizens erected a statue to him.51

Burnet's Notes


45. R. P. 15 d. That the words πολίτης καὶ ἑταῖρος, given by Simplicius, De caelo, p. 615, 13, are from Theophrastos is shown by the agreement of Cic. Acad. ii. 118, popularis et sodalis. The two passages represent independent branches of the tradition. See Note on Sources, §§ 7, 12.

46. Diog. ii. 2 (R. P. 15); Hipp. Ref. i. 6 (Dox. p. 560); Plin. N.H. ii. 31.

47. Xenophanes, fr. 22 (= fr. 17 Karsten; R. P. 95 a).

48. The statement that he "died soon after" (Diog. ii. 2; R. P. 15) seems to mean that Apollodoros made him die in the year of Sardeis (546/5), one of his regular epochs.

49. For the gnomon, see Introd. p. 26, n. 1; and cf. Diog. ii. 1 (R. P. 15); Herod. ii. 109 (R. P. 15 a). Pliny, on the other hand, ascribes the invention of the gnomon to Anaximenes (N.H. ii. 187).

50. Aelian, V.H. iii. 17. Presumably Apollonia on the Pontos is meant.

51. The lower part of a contemporary statue has been discovered at Miletos (Wiegand, Milet, ii. 88), with the inscription ΑΝ]ΑΞΙΜΑΝΔΡΟ. It was not, we may be sure, for his theories of the Boundless that Anaximander received this honour; he was a statesman and an inventor, like Thales and Hekataios.

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