Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
93. The Stephanae 95. Physiology

From Chapter IV., Parmenides of Elea

94. The Goddess
"In the middle of those," says Parmenides, "is the goddess who steers the course of all things." Aetios explains this to mean in the middle of the "mixed bands," while Simplicius declares that it means in the middle of all the bands, that is to say, in the centre of the world.56 It is not likely that either of them had anything better to go upon than the words of Parmenides himself, and these are ambiguous. Simplicius, as is clear from the language he uses, identified this goddess with the Pythagorean Hestia or central fire, while Theophrastos could not do that, because he knew and stated that Parmenides described the earth as round and in the centre of the world.57 In this very passage we are told that what is in the middle of all the bands is solid. The data furnished by Theophrastos, in fact, exclude the identification of the goddess with the central fire altogether. We cannot say that what is in the middle of all the bands is solid, and that under it there is again a fiery band.58 Nor does it seem fitting to relegate a goddess to the middle of a solid spherical earth.

We are further told by Aetios that this goddess was called Ananke and the "Holder of Lots."59 We know already that she "steers the course of all things," that is, that she regulates the motions of the celestial bands. Simplicius adds, unfortunately without quoting the actual words, that she sends souls at one time from the light to the unseen world, at another from the unseen world to the light.60 It would be difficult to describe more exactly what the goddess does in the Myth of Er, and so here once more we seem to be on Pythagorean ground. It is to be noticed further that in fr. 10 we read how Ananke took the heavens and compelled [/191] them to hold fast the fixed courses of the stars, and that in fr. 12 we are told that she is the beginner of all pairing and birth. Lastly, in fr. 13 we hear that she created Eros first of all the gods. So we shall find that in Empedokles it is an ancient oracle or decree of Ananke that causes the gods to fall and become incarnate in a cycle of births.61

We should be more certain of the place this goddess occupies in the universe if we could be sure where Ananke is in the Myth of Er. Without, however, raising that vexed question, we may lay down with some confidence that, according to Theophrastos, she occupied a position midway between the earth and the heavens. Whether we believe in the "mixed bands" or not makes no difference in this respect; for the statement of Aetios that she was in the middle of the mixed bands undoubtedly implies that she was between earth and heaven. Now she is identified with one of the bands in a somewhat confused passage of Cicero,62 and the whole theory of wheels or bands was probably suggested by the Milky Way. It seems to me, therefore, that we must think of the Milky Way as a band intermediate between those of the Sun and the Moon, and this agrees very well with the prominent way in which it is mentioned in fr. 11. It is better not to be too positive about the other details, though it is interesting to notice that according to some it was Pythagoras, and according to others Parmenides, who discovered the identity of the evening and morning star.63

Besides all this, it is certain that Parmenides went on to describe how the other gods were born and how they fell, an idea which we know to be Orphic, and which may well have been Pythagorean. We shall come to it again in Empedokles. In Plato's Symposium, Agathon couples Parmenides with Hesiod as a narrator of ancient deeds of violence committed by the gods.64 If Parmenides was expounding the Pythagorean theology, this is just what we should expect; but it seems hopeless to explain it on any of the other theories which have been advanced on the purpose of the Way of Belief.65 Such things belong to theological speculation, and not to the beliefs of "the many." Still less can we think it probable that Parmenides made up these stories himself to show what the popular view of the world really implied if properly formulated. We must ask, I think, that any theory shall account for what was evidently no inconsiderable portion of the poem.

Burnet's Notes


56. Simpl. Phys. p. 34, 14 (R. P. 125 b).

57. Diog. ix. 21, πρῶτος δ' αὐτὸς τὴν γῆν ἀπέφηνε σφαιροειδῆ καὶ ἐν μέσῳ κεῖσθαι. Cf. viii, 48 (of Pythagoras), ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ τὸν οὐρανὸν πρῶτον ὀνομάσαι κόσμον καὶ τὴν γῆν στρογγύλην. (cf. Plato, Phaed. 97 d), ὡς δὲ Θεόφραστος, Παρμενίδην. This appears to justify us in ascribing the doctrine of a spherical earth to Pythagoras (cf. p. 111).

58. I do not discuss the interpretation of περὶ ὃ πάλιν πυρώδης which Diels gave in Parmenides Lehrgedicht, p. 104, and which is adopted in R. P. 162 a, as it is now virtually retracted. In the later editions of his Vorsokratiker (18 A 37) he reads καὶ τὸ μεσαίτατον πασῶν (sc. τῶν στεφανῶν) στερεόν, <ὑφ' ᾧ> πάλιν πυρώδης (sc. στεφάνη). That is a flat contradiction.

59. R. P. 126, where Fülleborn's ingenious emendation κλῃδοῦχον for κληροῦχον is tacitly adopted. This is based upon the view that Aetios (or Theophrastos) was thinking of the goddess that keeps the keys in the Proem (fr. 1, 14). I now think that the κλῆροι of the Myth of Er give the true explanation.

60. Simpl. Phys. p. 39, 19, καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς πέμπειν ποτὲ μὲν ἐκ τοῦ ἐμφανοῦς εἰς τὸ ἀειδές (i.e. ἀιδές), ποτὲ δὲ ἀνάπαλίν φησιν. We should probably connect this with the statement of Diog. ix. 22 (R. P. 127) that men arose from the sun (reading ἡλίου with the MSS. for the conjecture ἰλύος).

61. Empedokles, fr. 115.

62. Cicero, De nat. d. i. II, 28: "Nam Parmenides quidem commenticium quiddam coronae simile efficit (στεφάνην appellat), continente ardore lucis orbem, qui cingat caelum, quem appellat deum." We may connect with this the statement of Aetios, ii. 20, 8, τὸν ἥλιον καὶ τὴν σελήνην ἐκ τοῦ γαλαξίου κύκλου ἀποκριθῆναι.

63. Diog. ix. 23, καὶ δοκεῖ Παρμενίδης πρῶτος πεφωρακέναι τὸν αὐτὸν εἶναι Ἕσπερον καὶ Φωσφόρον, ὥς φησι Φαβωρῖνος ἐν πέμπτῳ Ἀπομνημονευμάτων· οἱ δὲ Πυθαγόραν. Cf. viii. 14 (of Pythagoras), πρῶτόν τε Ἕσπερον καὶ Φωσφόρον τὸν αὐτὸν εἰπεῖν, ὥς φησι Παρμενίδης. So Diels now reads with all the MSS. (the vulgate οἱ δέ φασι Παρμενίδην is due to Casaubon). It is not necessary to suppose that Parmenides made this statement explicitly in his poem; there may have been an unmistakable allusion, as in Empedokles, fr. 129. In that case, we should have a remarkable confirmation of the view that the Δόξα of Parmenides was Pythagorean. If, as Achilles says, the poet Ibykos of Rhegion had anticipated Parmenides in announcing this discovery, that is to be explained by the fact that Rhegion became for a time, as we shall see, the chief seat of the Pythagorean school.

64. Plato, Symp. 195 c 1. It is implied that these παλαιὰ πράγματα were πολλὰ καὶ βίαια, including ἐκτομαί and δεσμοί. The Epicurean criticism of this is partially preserved in Philodemos, De pietate, p. 68, Gomperz; and Cicero, De nat. d. i. 28 (Dox. p. 534 ; R. P. 126 b).

65. For these theories, see § 90.

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