Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
184. The "Bankruptcy of Science" 186. Date of Diogenes of Apollonia

From Chapter X., Eclecticism and Reaction


185. Moisture
Hippon of Samos or Kroton or Rhegion belonged to the Italian school of medicine.3 We know very little indeed of him except that he was a contemporary of Perikles. From a scholiast on Aristophanes4 we learn that Kratinos satirised him in his Panoptai; and Aristotle mentions him in the enumeration of early philosophers given in the First Book of the Metaphysics,5 though only to say that the inferiority of his intellect deprives him of all claim to be reckoned among them.

With regard to his views, the most precise statement is that of Alexander, who doubtless follows Theophrastos. It is to the effect that he held the primary substance to be Moisture, without deciding whether it was Water or Air.6 We have the authority of Aristotle7 and Theophrastos, represented by Hippolytos, 8 for saying that this theory was supported by physiological arguments of the kind common at the time, and the arguments tentatively ascribed to Thales by Aristotle are of this kind (§ 10). His other views belong to the history of Medicine.

Till quite recently no fragment of Hippon was known to exist, but a single one has now been recovered from the Geneva Scholia on Homer.9 It is directed against the old assumption that the "waters under the earth" are an independent source of moisture, and runs thus:

The waters we drink are all from the sea; for if wells were deeper than the sea, then it would not, doubtless, be from the sea that we drink, for then the water would not be from the sea, but from some other source. But as it is, the sea is deeper than the waters, so all the waters that are above the sea come from it. R. P. 219 b.

We observe here the universal assumption that water tends to rise from the earth, not to sink into it.

Along with Hippon, Idaios of Himera may just be mentioned. We know nothing of him except from Sextus,10 who says he held air to be the primary substance. The fact that he was a Sicilian is, however, suggestive.

Burnet's Notes


3. Aristoxenos said he was a Samian (R. P. 219 a). In Menon's Iatrika he is called a Krotoniate, while others assign him to Rhegion (Hipp. Ref. i. 16) or Metapontion (Censorinus, De die nat. 5, 2). This variation implies that he belonged originally to the Pythagorean school. The evidence of Aristoxenos is, in that case, all the more valuable. Hippon is mentioned along with Melissos as a Samian in Iamblichos's Catalogue of Pythagoreans (V. Pyth. 267).

4. Schol. on Clouds, 94 sqq.

5. Arist. Met. A, 3. 984 a 3 (R. P. 219 a).

6. Alexander in Met. p. 26, 21 (R. P. 219).

7. Arist. De an. A, 2. 405 b 2 (R. P. 220).

8. Hipp. Ref. i. 16 (R. P. 221).

9. Schol. Genav. p. 197, 19. Cf. Diels in Arch. iv. p. 653. The extract comes from the Ὁμηρικά of Krates of Mallos.

10. Sext. Adv. Math. ix. 360.

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