Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
31. Influence of Anaximenes 33. The Delian Religion

From Chapter II., Science and Religion

32. Ionia and the West
THE spirit of the Ionians in Asia was, as we have seen, thoroughly secular; and, so far as we can judge, the Milesians wholly ignored traditional beliefs. Their use of the term "god" for the primary substance and the innumerable worlds had no religious significance.1 It was different in the Aegean islands, which had been the home of the Ionians long before the Anatolian coasts were open to colonisation, and where there were many memories of a remote past. These seem to have centred round the sanctuary of Delos, and the fragments of Pherekydes, who belonged to the neighbouring island of Syros, read like belated utterances of an earlier age.2 No doubt it was also different in the Chalkidian and Ionian colonies of the West, which were founded at a time when Hesiod and his followers still held unchallenged authority.

Now Pythagoras and Xenophanes, the most striking figures of the generation that saw the Greek cities in Asia become subject to Persia, were both Ionians, but both spent the greater part of their lives in the West. There it was no longer possible to ignore religion, especially when reinforced by the revival that now swept over the Greek world. Henceforth the leaders of enlightenment must either seek to reform and deepen traditional religion, like Pythagoras, or oppose it openly, like Xenophanes.

Burnet's Notes


1. See p. 14.

2. See p. 3.

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