Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
17. The Innumerable Worlds 19. Origin of the Heavenly Bodies

From Chapter I., The Milesian School

18. "Eternal Motion" and the Dinê
The doxographers say it was the "eternal motion" that brought into being "all the heavens and all the worlds within them." We have seen (§ VIII.) that this is probably only the Aristotelian way of putting the thing, and that we must not identify the primordial motion of the Boundless with any purely mundane movement such as the diurnal revolution. That would be quite inconsistent, moreover, with the doctrine of innumerable worlds, each of which has, presumably, its own centre and its own diurnal revolution. As to the true nature of this motion, we have no definite statement, but the term "separating off" (ἀπόκρισις) rather suggests some process of shaking and sifting as in a riddle or sieve. That is given in Plato's Timaeus as the Pythagorean doctrine,81 and the Pythagoreans followed Anaximander pretty closely in their cosmology (§ 54). The school of Abdera, as will be shown (§ 179), attributed a motion of the same kind to their atoms, and they too were mainly dependent on the Milesians for the details of their system. This, however, must remain a conjecture in the absence of express testimony.

When, however, we come to the motion of the world once it has been "separated off," we are on safer ground. It is certain that one of the chief features of early cosmology is the part. played in it by the analogy of an eddy in water or in wind, a δίνη (or δῖνος),82 and there seems to be little doubt that we are entitled to regard this as the doctrine of Anaximander and Anaximenes.83 It would arise very naturally in the minds of thinkers who started with water as the primary substance and ended with "air," and it would account admirably for the position of earth and water in the centre and fire at the circumference, with "air" between them. Heavy things tend to the centre of a vortex and light things are forced out to the periphery. It is to be observed that there is no question of a sphere in revolution at this date; what we have to picture is rotary motion in a plane or planes more or less inclined to the earth's surface.84 It is in favour of the conjecture given above as to the nature of the primordial motion that it provides a satisfactory dynamical explanation of the formation of the δίνη, and we shall find once more (§180) that the Atomists held precisely this view of its origin.

Burnet's Notes


81. Plato, Tim. 52 e. There the elemental figures (which have taken the place of the "opposites") "being thus stirred (by the irregular motion of the τιθήνη), are carried in different directions and separated, just as by sieves and instruments for winnowing corn the grain is shaken and sifted; and the dense and heavy parts go one way, while the rare and light are carried to a different place and settle there.

82. Aristophanes, referring to the Ionian cosmology, says (Clouds, 828) Δῖνος βασιλεύει τὸν Δι' ἐξεληλακώς, which is nearer the truth than the modern theory of its religious origin.

83. I gratefully accept the view propounded by Prof. W. A. Heidel ("The δίνη in Anaximenes and Anaximander," Class. Phil. i. 279), so far as the cosmical motion goes, though I cannot identify that with the "eternal motion." I had already done what I could to show that the "spheres" of Eudoxos and Aristotle must not be imported into Pythagoreanism, and it strengthens the position considerably if we ascribe a rotary motion in a plane to Anaximander's world.

84. This is the plain meaning of Aet. ii. 2, 4, οἱ δὲ τροχοῦ δίκην περιδινεῖσθαι τὸν κόσμον, which is referred to Anaximander by Diels (Dox. p. 46). Zeller's objections to the ascription of the δίνη to Anaximander are mainly based on an inadmissible rendering of the word τροπαί (p. 63 n. 2). Of course, the rotations are not all in the same plane; the ecliptic, for instance, is inclined to the equator, and the Milky Way to both.

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