Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
19. Origin of the Heavenly Bodies 21. The Heavenly Bodies

From Chapter I., The Milesian School

20. Earth and Sea
The origin of earth and sea from the moist, cold matter which was "separated off" in the beginning is thus described:

The sea is what is left of the original moisture. The fire has dried up most of it and turned the rest salt by scorching it. - Aet. iii. 16, 1 (R. P. 20 a).
He says that the earth is cylindrical in form, and that its depth is as a third part of its breadth.—Ps.-Plut. Strom fr. 2 (R. P. ib.).
The earth swings free, held in its place by nothing. It stays where it is because of its equal distance from everything. Its shape is hollow and round, and like a stone pillar. We are on one of the surfaces, and the other is on the opposite side.88—Hipp. Ref. i. 6 (R. P. 20).

Adopting for a moment the popular theory of "elements," we see that Anaximander put fire on one side as the hot and dry, and all the rest on the other as the cold, which is also moist. This may explain how Aristotle came to speak of the Boundless as intermediate between fire and water. And we have seen also that the moist element was partly turned into "air" or vapour by the fire, which explains how Aristotle could say the Boundless was something between fire and air, or between air and water.89

The moist, cold interior of the world is not, in fact, water. It is always called "the moist" or "the moist state." That is because it has to be still further differentiated under the influence of heat into earth, water, and vapour. The gradual drying up of the water by the fire is a good example of what Anaximander meant by "injustice."

Thales had said that the earth floated on the water, but Anaximander realised that it was freely suspended in space (μετέωρος) and did not require any support. Aristotle has preserved the argument he used. The earth is equally distant from the circumference of the vortex in every direction, and there is no reason for it to move up or down or sideways.90 The doctrine of innumerable worlds was inconsistent with the existence of an absolute up and down in the universe, so the argument is quite sound. The central position of the earth is due to the δίνη; for the greater masses tend to the centre of an eddy.91 There is good evidence that Anaximander made the earth share in the rotary movement.92 It is not, however, a sphere, so we must not speak of an axial revolution. The shape given to the earth by Anaximander is easily explained if we adopt the view that the world is a system of rotating rings. It is just a solid ring in the middle of the vortex.

Burnet's Notes


88. The MSS. of Hippolytos have ὑγρὸν στρογγύλον, and so has Cedrenus, a writer of the eleventh century who made extracts from him. Roeper read γυρὸν [στρογγύλον], supposing the second word to be a gloss on the first. Diels (Dox. p. 218) holds that the first applies to the surface of the earth; while the second refers to its circuit. Professor A. E. Taylor has pointed out to me, however, the great improbability of the view that γυρόν means convex. The Ionians down to Archelaos (§ 192) and Demokritos (Aet. iii. 10, 5, κοίλην τῷ μέσῳ) regularly regarded the surface of the earth as concave, and γυρός can just as well mean that. The next words are also of doubtful meaning. The MSS. of Hippolytos have χίονι λίθῳ, while Aetios (iii. 10, 2) has λίθῳ κίονι. Diels doubtfully conjectures λίθῳ κίονι, which he suggests might represent an original λιθέῃ κίονι (Dox. p. 219). In any case the pillar seems genuine, and the general sense is guaranteed by the Plutarchean Stromateis (loc. cit.), ὑπάρχειν . . . τῷ μὲν σχήματι τὴν γῆν κυλινδροειδῆ.

89. See above, p. 55, n. 4.

90. Arist. De caelo, B, 13. 295 b 10 εἰσὶ δέ τινες οἳ διὰ τὴν ὁμοιότητά φασιν αὐτὴν (τὴν γῆν) μένειν, ὥσπερ τῶν ἀρχαίων Ἀναξίμανδρος· μᾶλλον μὲν γὰρ οὐθὲν ἄνω ἢ κάτω ἢ εἰς τὰ πλάγια φέρεσθαι προσήκειν τὸ ἐπὶ τοῦ μέσου ἱδρυμένον καὶ ὁμοίως πρὸς τὰ ἔσχατα ἔχον. One point of the δίνη is no more "down" than another. Apparently, the Pythagoreans adopted this reasoning; for Plato makes Sokrates in the Phaedo say (108 e) [Perseus 109a] ἰσόρροπον γὰρ πρᾶγμα ὁμοίου τινὸς ἐν μέσῳ τεθὲν οὐχ ἕξει μᾶλλον οὐδὲ ἧττον οὐδαμόσε κλιθῆναι. From this it appears that ὁμοιότης means something like "indifference." There is nothing to differentiate one radius of a circle from another.

91. Arist. De caelo, B, 13. 295 a 9 (ἡ γῆ) συνῆλθεν ἐπὶ τὸ μέσον φερομένη διὰ τὴν δίνησιν· ταύτην γὰρ τὴν αἰτίαν πάντες λέγουσιν ἐκ τῶν ἐν τοῖς ὑγροῖς καὶ περὶ τὸν ἀέρα συμβαινόντων· ἐν τούτοις γὰρ ἀεὶ φέρεται τὰ μείζω καὶ τὰ βαρύτερα πρὸς τὸ μέσον τῆς δίνης. διὸ δὴ καὶ τὴν γῆν πάντες ὅσοι τὸν οὐρανὸν γεννῶσιν ἐπὶ τὸ μέσον συνελθεῖν φασιν.

92. This was expressly stated by Eudemos (ap. Theon. Smyrn. p. 198, Ἀναξίμανδρος δὲ ὅτι ἐστὶν ἡ γῆ μετέωρος καὶ κινεῖται περὶ τὸ μέσον. Anaxagoras held the same view (§ 133).

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