Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
28. The World Breathes 30. Innumerable Worlds

From Chapter I., The Milesian School

29. The Parts of the World
We turn now to the doxographical tradition concerning the formation of the world and its parts:

He says that, as the air was felted, the earth first came into being. It is very broad and is accordingly supported by the air.— Ps.-Plut. Strom. fr. 3 (R. P. 25).
In the same way the sun and the moon and the other heavenly bodies, which are of a fiery nature, are supported by the air because of their breadth. The heavenly bodies were produced from the earth by moisture rising from it. When this is rarefied, fire comes into being, and the stars are composed of the fire thus raised aloft. There were also bodies of earthy substance in the region of the stars, revolving along with them. And he says that the heavenly bodies do not move under the earth, as others suppose, but round it, as a cap turns round our head. The sun is hidden from sight, not because it goes under the earth, but because it is concealed by the higher parts of the earth, and because its distance from us becomes greater. The stars give no heat because of the greatness of their distance.—Hipp. Ref. i. 7, 4-6 (R. P. 28).
Winds are produced when air is condensed and rushes along under propulsion; but when it is concentrated and thickened still more, clouds are generated; and, lastly, it turns to water.117 -Hipp. Ref. i. 7, 7 (Dox. p. 561).
The stars [are fixed like nails in the crystalline vault of the heavens, but some say they] are fiery leaves, like paintings.118—Aet. ii. 14, 3 (Dox. p. 344).
They do not go under the earth, but turn round it.—Ib. 16, 6 (Dox. p. 348).
The sun is fiery.—Ib. 20, 2 (Dox. p. 348).
It is broad like a leaf.—Ib. 22, 1 (Dox. p. 352).
The heavenly bodies turn back in their courses119 owing to the resistance of compressed air.—Ib. 23, 1 (Dox. p. 352).
The moon is of fire.—Ib. 25, 2 (Dox. p. 356).
Anaximenes explained lightning like Anaximander, adding as an illustration what happens in the case of the sea, which flashes when divided by the oars—Ib. iii. 3, 2 (Dox. p. 368).
Hail is produced when water freezes in falling; snow, when there is some air imprisoned in the water.—Aet. iii. 4, 1 (Dox. p. 370).
The rainbow is produced when the beams of the sun fall on thick condensed air. Hence the anterior part of it seems red, being burnt by the sun's rays, while the other part is dark, owing to the predominance of moisture. And he says that a rainbow is produced at night by the moon, but not often, because there is not constantly a full moon, and because the moon's light is weaker than that of the sun.—Schol,. Arat.120 (Dox. p. 231).
The earth was like a table in shape.—Aet. iii. 10, 3 (Dox. p. 377).
The cause of earthquakes was the dryness and moisture of the earth, occasioned by droughts and heavy rains respectively. —Ib. 15, 3 (Dox. p. 379).

We have seen that Anaximenes was justified in going back to Thales in regard to the nature of primary substance; but the effect upon the details of his cosmology was unfortunate. The earth is once more imagined as a table-like disc floating on the air. The sun, moon, and stars are also fiery discs which float on the air "like leaves"; an idea naturally suggested by the "eddy" (δίνη). It follows that the heavenly bodies cannot go under the earth at night, as Anaximander must have held, but only round it laterally like a cap or a millstone.121 This view is also mentioned in Aristotle's Meteorology,122 where the elevation of the northern parts of the earth, which makes it possible for the heavenly bodies to be hidden from sight, is referred to. This is only meant to explain why the stars outside the Arctic circle appear to rise and set, and the explanation is fairly adequate if we remember that the world is regarded as rotating in a plane. It is quite inconsistent with the theory of a celestial sphere.123

The earthy bodies, which circulate among the planets, are doubtless intended to account for eclipses and the phases of the moon.124

Burnet's Notes


117. The text is very corrupt here. I retain ἐκπεπυκνωμένος, because we are told above that winds are condensed air.

118. See below, p. 77, n. 4.

119. This can only refer to the τροπαί of the sun, though it is loosely stated of τὰ ἄστρα generally. It occurs in the chapter Περὶ τροπῶν ἡλίου, and we cannot interpret it as if it were a detached statement.

120. The source of this is Poseidonios, who used Theophrastos. Dox. p. 231.

121. Theodoret (iv. 16) speaks of those who believe in a revolution like that of a millstone, as contrasted with one like that of a wheel. Diels (Dox. p. 46) refers these similes to Anaximenes and Anaximander respectively. They come, of course, from Aetios (Note on Sources, § 10), though they are given neither by Stobaios nor in the Placita.

122. B, 1. 354 a 28 (R. P. 28 c).

123. For this reason, I now reject the statement of Aetios, ii. 14, 3 (p. 76), Ἀναξιμένης ἥλων δίκην καταπεπηγέναι τῷ κρυσταλλοειδεῖ. That there is some confusion of names here is strongly suggested by the words which immediately follow, ἔνιοι δὲ πέταλα εἶναι πύρινα ὥσπερ τὰ ζωγραφήματα, which is surely the genuine doctrine of Anaximenes. I understand ζωγραφήματα of the constellations (cf. Plato, Tim. 55c). To regard the stars as fixed to a crystalline sphere is quite inconsistent with the far better attested doctrine that they do not go under the earth.

124. See Tannery, Science hellène, p. 153. For the precisely similar bodies assumed by Anaxagoras, see below, Chap. VI. § 135. See further Chap. VII. § 151.

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