Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
63. Life of Herakleitos 65. The Fragments

From Chapter III., Herakleitos of Ephesos

64. His Book
We do not know the title of the work of Herakleitos.8—if, indeed, it had one—and it is not easy to form a clear idea of its contents. We are told that it was divided into three discourses: one dealing with the universe, one political, and one theological.9 It is not to be supposed that this division is due to Herakleitos himself; all we can infer is that the work fell naturally into these three parts when the Stoic commentators took their editions of it in hand.

The style of Herakleitos is proverbially obscure, and, at a later date, got him the nickname of "the Dark."10 Now the fragments about the Delphic god and the Sibyl (frs. 11 and 12) seem to show that he was conscious of writing an oracular style, and we have to ask why he did so. In the first place, it was the manner of the time.11 The stirring events of the age, and the influence of the religious revival, gave something of a prophetic tone to all the leaders of thought. Pindar and Aischylos have it too. It was also an age of great individualities, and these are apt to be solitary and disdainful. Herakleitos at least was so. If men cared to dig for the gold they might find it (fr. 8); if not, they must be content with straw (fr. 51). This seems to have been the view taken by Theophrastos, who said the headstrong temperament of Herakleitos sometimes led him into incompleteness and inconsistencies of statement.12

Burnet's Notes


8. The variety of titles enumerated in Diog. ix. 12 (R.P. 30 b) seems to show that none was authentically known. That of "Muses" comes from Plato, Soph. 242 d 7. The others are mere "mottoes" (Schuster) prefixed by Stoic editors (Diog. ix. 15; R.P. 30 c),

9. Diog. ix. 5 (R.P. 30). Bywater followed this hint in his arrangement of the fragments. The three sections are 1-90., 91-97, 98-130.

10. R.P. 30 a. The epithet ὁ σκοτεινός is of later date, but Timon of Phleious already called him αἰνικτής (fr. 43, Diels).

11. See the valuable observations of Diels in the Introduction to his Herakleitos von Ephesos, pp. iv. sqq.

12. Cf. Diog. ix. 6 (R.P. 31).

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