Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
132. Nous 134. Innumerable Worlds

From Chapter VI., Anaxagoras of Klazomenai

133. Formation of the Worlds
The formation of a world starts with a rotatory motion which Nous imparts to a portion of the mixed mass in which "all things are together " (fr. 13), and this rotatory motion gradually extends over a wider and wider space. Its rapidity (fr. 9) produced a separation of the rare and the dense, the cold and the hot, the dark and the light, the moist and the dry (fr. 15). This separation produces two great masses, the one consisting mostly of the rare, hot, light, and dry, called the "Aether"; the other, in which the opposite qualities predominate, called "Air" (fr. 1). Of these the Aether or Fire60 took the outside while the Air occupied the centre (fr. 15).

The next stage is the separation of the air into clouds, water, earth, and stones (fr. 16). In this Anaxagoras follows Anaximenes closely. In his account of the origin of the heavenly bodies, however, he showed himself more original. We read at the end of fr. 16 that stones "rush outwards more than water," and we learn from the doxographers that the heavenly bodies were explained as stones torn from the earth by the rapidity of its rotation and made red-hot by the speed of their own motion.61 Perhaps the fall of the meteoric stone at Aigospotamoi had something to do with the origin of this theory. It will also be observed that it necessarily implies the rotation of the flat earth along with the "eddy " (δίνη).



Burnet's Notes

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60. Note that Anaxagoras says "air" where Empedokles said "aether," and that "aether" is with him equivalent to fire. Cf. Arist. De caelo, Γ, 3. 302 b 4, τὸ γὰρ πῦρ καὶ τὸν αἰθέρα προσαγορεύει ταὐτό and ib. A, 3. 270 b 24, Ἀναξαγόρας δὲ καταχρῆται τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ οὐ καλῶς· ὀνομάζει γὰρ αἰθέρα ἀντὶ πυρός..

61. Aet. ii. 13, 3 (Dox. p. 341 ; R. P. 157 c).




















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