Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
120. Date 122. Relation to the Ionic School

From Chapter VI., Anaxagoras of Klazomenai

121. Early Life
Anaxagoras was from Klazomenai, and Theophrastos tells us that his father's name was Hegesiboulos.7 The tradition was that he neglected his possessions to follow science.8 It is certain, at any rate, that already in the fourth century he was regarded as the type of the man who leads the "theoretic life."9 Of course the story of his contempt for worldly goods was seized on later by the historical novelist and tricked out with the usual apophthegms. These do not concern us here.

One incident belonging to the early manhood of Anaxagoras is recorded, namely, the fall of a huge meteoric stone into the Aigospotamos in 468-67 B.C.10 Our authorities tell us he predicted this phenomenon, which is plainly absurd. But we shall see reason to believe that it may have occasioned one of his most striking departures from the earlier cosmology, and led to his adoption of the very view for which he was condemned at Athens. At all events, the fall of the stone made a profound impression at the time, and it was still shown to tourists in the days of Pliny and Plutarch.11

Burnet's Notes


7. Phys. Op. fr. 4 (Dox. p. 478), repeated by the doxographers.

8. Plato, Hipp. ma. 283 a, τοὐναντίον γὰρ Ἀναξαγόρᾳ φασὶ συμβῆναι ἢ ὑμῖν· καταλειφθέντων γὰρ αὐτῷ πολλῶν χρημάτων καταμελῆσαι καὶ ἀπολέσαι πάντα· οὕτως αὐτὸν ἀνόητα σοφίζεσθαι. Cf. Plut. Per. 16.

9. Arist. Eth. Nic. K, 9. 1179 a 13. Cf. Eth. Eud. A, 4. 1215 b 6 and 15, 1216 a 10.

10. Diog. ii. 10 (R. P. 149 a). Pliny, N.H. ii. 149, gives the date as OL. LXXVIII. 2; and Eusebios gives it under OL. LXXVIII. 3. But cf. Marm. Par. 57, ἀφ' οὗ ἐν Αἰγὸς ποταμοῖς ὁ λίθος ἔπεσε . . . ἔτη HHII, ἄρχοντος Ἀθήνησι Θεαγενίδου, which is 468-67 B.C. The text of Diog. ii. 11 is corrupt. For suggested restorations, see Jacoby, p. 244, n. 2; and Diels, Vors. 46 A 1.

11. Pliny, loc. cit., "qui lapis etiam nunc ostenditur magnitudine vehis colore adusto." Cf. Plut. Lys. 12, καὶ δείκνυται . . . ἔτι νῦν.

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