Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
134. Innumerable Worlds 136. Biology

From Chapter VI., Anaxagoras of Klazomenai

135. Cosmology
The cosmology of Anaxagoras is clearly based upon that of Anaximenes, as will be seen from a comparison of the following passage of Hippolytos65 with the quotations given in Chap. I. (§ 29):

(3) The earth is flat in shape, and remains suspended because of its size and because there is no vacuum.66 For this reason the air is very strong, and supports the earth which is borne up by it.

(4.) Of the moisture on the surface of the earth, the sea arose from the waters in the earth (for when these were evaporated the remainder turned salt),67 and from the rivers which flow into it.

(5) Rivers take their being both from the rains and from the waters in the earth; for the earth is hollow and has waters in its cavities. And the Nile rises in summer owing to the water that comes down from the snows in Ethiopia.68

(6) The sun and the moon and all the stars are fiery stones carried round by the rotation of the aether. Under the stars are the sun and moon, and also certain bodies which revolve with them, but are invisible to us.

(7) We do not feel the heat of the stars because of the greatness of their distance from the earth; and, further, they are not so warm as the sun, because they occupy a colder region. The moon is below the sun, and nearer us.

(8) The sun surpasses the Peloponnesos in size. The. moon has not a light of her own, but gets it from the sun. The course of the stars goes under the earth.

(9) The moon is eclipsed by the earth screening the sun's light from it, and sometimes, too, by the bodies below the moon coming before it. The sun is eclipsed at the new moon, when the moon screens it from us. Both the sun and the moon turn back in their courses owing to the repulsion of the air. The moon turns back frequently, because it cannot prevail over the cold.

(10) Anaxagoras was the first to determine what concerns the eclipses and the illumination of the sun and moon. And he said the moon was of earth, and had plains and ravines in it. The Milky Way was the reflexion of the light of the stars that were not illuminated by the sun. Shooting stars were sparks, as it were, which leapt out owing to the motion of the heavenly vault.

(11) Winds arose when the air was rarefied by the sun, and when things were burned and made their way to the vault of heaven and were carried off. Thunder and lightning were produced by heat striking upon clouds.

(12) Earthquakes were caused by the air above striking on that beneath the earth; for the movement of the latter caused the earth which floats on it to rock.

All this confirms the statement of Theophrastos, that Anaxagoras had belonged to the school of Anaximenes. The flat earth floating on the air, the dark bodies below the moon, the explanation of the solstices and the "turnings back" of the moon by the resistance of air, the explanations of wind and of thunder and lightning, are all derived from the Milesian.

As to the moon's light and the cause of eclipses, it was natural that Anaxagoras should be credited at Athens with these discoveries. On the other hand, it seems very unlikely that they were made by a believer in a flat earth, and there is sufficient evidence that they are really Pythagorean.69

Burnet's Notes


65. Ref. i. 8, 3 (Dox. p. 562).

66. This is an addition to the older view occasioned by the Eleatic denial of the void.

67. The text is corrupt here, but the general sense can be got from Aet. iii. 16. 2.

68. The MS. reading is ἐν τοῖς ἄρκτοις, for which Diels adopts Fredrichs' ἐν τοῖς ἀνταρκτικοῖς. I have thought it safer to translate the ἐν τῇ Αἰθιοπίᾳ of Aetios (iv. 1, 3). This view is mentioned by Herodotos (ii. 22). Seneca (N.Q. iv. 2, 17) points out that it was adopted by Aischylos (Suppl. 559, fr. 300, Nauck), Sophokles (fr. 797), and Euripides (Hel. 3, fr. 228), who would naturally take their opinions from Anaxagoras.

69. See p. 177, n. 1.

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