Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
18. "Eternal Motion" and the Dinê 20. Earth and Sea

From Chapter I., The Milesian School

19. Origin of the Heavenly Bodies
The doxographers also give us some indications of the process by which the different parts of the world arose from the Boundless. The following statement comes ultimately from Theophrastos:

He says that something capable of begetting hot and cold out of the eternal was separated off at the origin of this world. From this arose a sphere of flame which fitted close round the air surrounding the earth as the bark round a tree. When this had been torn off and shut up in certain rings, the sun, moon and stars came into existence.—Ps.-Plut. Strom. fr. 2 (R. P. 19).85

We see from this that, when a portion of the Boundless was separated off from the rest to form a world, it first differentiated itself into the two opposites, hot and cold. The hot appears as flame surrounding the cold; the cold, as earth with air surrounding it. We are not told here how the cold was differentiated into earth, water and air, but there is a passage in Aristotle's Meteorology which throws some light on the question. After discussing the views of the "theologians" regarding the sea, he says:

But those who are wiser in the wisdom of men give an origin for the sea. At first, they say, all the terrestrial region was moist; and, as it was dried up by the sun, the portion of it that evaporated produced the winds and the turnings back of the sun and moon,86 while the portion left behind was the sea. So they think the sea is becoming smaller by being dried up, and that at last it will all be dry. Meteor, B, 1. 353 b 5.

And the same absurdity arises for those who say the earth too was at first moist, and that, when the region of the world about the earth was heated by the sun, air was produced and the whole heavens were increased, and that it (the air) produced winds and caused its (the sun's) turnings back.87Ib. 2. 355 a 21 (R. P. 20 a).

In his commentary on the passage, Alexander says this was the view of Anaximander and Diogenes, and cites Theophrastos as his authority for the statement. This is confirmed by Anaximander's theory of the sea as given by the doxographers (§ 20). We conclude, then, that after the first separation of the hot and the cold by the δίνη, the heat of the flame turned part of the moist, cold interior of the world into air or vapour—it is all one at this date—and that the expansion of this mist broke up the flame itself into rings. We shall come back to these rings presently, but we must look first at what we are told of the earth.

Burnet's Notes


85. This passage has been discussed by Heidel (Proceedings of the American Academy, xlviii. 686). I agree that ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀπείρου must be supplied with ἀποκριθῆναι, and I formerly thought that ἐκ τοῦ αἰδίου might be equivalent to that, and might have been displaced if the order of words was too harsh. I cannot believe that it means "from eternity," as Heidel thinks. On the other hand, he is clearly right in his interpretation of περιφυῆναι and ἀπορραγείσης. He also points out correctly that "the sphere of flame" is an inaccuracy. The comparison to the bark of a tree distinctly suggests something annular.

86. Zeller (p. 223, n. 5) asks what can be meant by τροπαὶ τῆς σελήνης, but his difficulty is an imaginary one. The moon has certainly a movement in declination and therefore τροπαί. In other words, the moon does not always rise at the same point of the horizon any more than the sun. This is admitted by Sir T. L. Heath (Aristarchus, p. 33, n. 3), though he has unfortunately followed Zeller in supposing that τροπαί here means "revolutions." This seems to me impossible; for τρέπεσθαι means "to turn back" or "to turn aside," never "to turn round," which is στρέφεσθαι. It is conceivable, indeed, that τροπαὶ ἠελίοιο in Od. xv. 404 means the place where the sun sets and turns back from west to east, though it is not very likely, as Hesiod already uses τροπαὶ ἠελίοιο of the winter and summer solstices (O.D. 479, 564, 663). Zeller's statement (repeated by Heath) that Aristotle speaks of τροπαί of the fixed stars in De caelo, B, 14. 296 b 4, is erroneous. What Aristotle does say is that, if the earth is in motion, there ought to be πάροδοι (movements in 1atitude) and τροπαί of the fixed stars, which there are not. The passage is correctly rendered by Sir T. L. Heath himself in a subsequent chapter (p. 241). For the other passages referred to, see p. 64, n. 1, and p. 76, n. 3.

87. From the whole context it is plain that τὰς τροπὰς αὐτοῦ means τὰς τοῦ ἡλίου τροπάς, and not τὰς τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, as Zeller and Heath say. The "air" in this passage answers to "the portion that evaporated" (τὸ διατμίσαν) in that previously quoted, and τοῦτον must therefore refer to it. Cf. the paraphrase of Alexander (p. 67, 3 from Theophrastos, Dox. p. 494). τὸ μέν τι τῆς ὑγρότητος ὑπὸ τοῦ ἡλίου ἐξατμίζεσθαι καὶ γίνεσθαι πνεύματά τε ἐξ αὐτοῦ καὶ τροπὰς ἡλίου τε καὶ σελήνης (see last note). In this chapter of the Meteorology, Aristotle is discussing the doctrine that the sun is "fed" by moisture and the relation of that doctrine to its τροπαί at the solstices, and we must interpret accordingly.

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