Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
6. Thales and Geometry 8. Uncertain Character of the Tradition

From Chapter I., The Milesian School

7. Thales as a Politician
Thales appears once more in Herodotos some time before the fall of the Lydian monarchy. He is said to have urged the Ionian Greeks to unite in a federal state with its capital at Teos.28 We shall have occasion to notice more that once that the early schools of philosophy by no means held aloof from politics; and, there are many things, for instance the part played by Hekataos in the Ionian revolt, which suggest that the scientific men of Miletos took up a very decided position in the stirring times that followed the death of Thales. It is this political action which has gained the founder of the Milesian school his undisputed place among the Seven Wise Men; and it is owing to his inclusion among those worthies that the numerous anecdotes told of him in later days attached themselves to his name.29

Burnet's Notes


28. Herod. i. 170 (R. P. 9 d).

29. The story of Thales falling into a well (Plato, Theaet. 174 a) is nothing but a fable teaching the uselessness of σοφία; the anecdote about the "corner" in oil (Ar. Pol. A, 11. 1259 a 6) is intended to inculcate the opposite lesson.

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