Essays and Miscellanies - The Complete Works Volume 3
by Plutarch
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And yet they are never wearied with their brawling and dunning of all persons to take the escape of evil for a good, no longer to repute privation of good for an evil. But they still confess what we have asserted, that death hath in it nothing of either good hope or solace, but that all that is complacent and good is then wholly extinguished; at which time those men look for many amiable, great, and divine things, that conceive the minds of men to be unperishable and immortal, or at least to go about in certain long revolutions of times, being one while upon earth and another while in heaven, until they are at last dissolved with the universe and then, together with the sun and moon, sublimed into an intellective fire. So large a field and one of so great pleasures Epicurus wholly cuts off, when he destroys (as hath been said) the hopes and graces we should derive from the gods, and by that extinguishes both in our speculative capacity the desire of knowledge, and in our active the love of glory, and confines and abases our nature to a poor narrow thing, and that not cleanly neither, to wit, the content the mind receives by the body, as if it were capable of no higher good than the escape of evil.



The resolution which you have taken to enter into the friendship and familiarity of Sorcanus, that by the frequent opportunities of conversing with him you may cultivate and improve a soil which gives such early promises of a plentiful harvest, is an undertaking which will not only oblige his relations and friends, but rebound very much to the advantage of the public; and (notwithstanding the peevish censures of some morose or ignorant people) it is so far from being an argument of an aspiring vainglorious temper, that it shows you to be a lover of virtue and good manners, and a zealous promoter of the common interest of mankind.

They themselves are rather to be accused of an indirect but more vehement sort of ambition, who would not upon any terms be found in the company or so much as be seen to give a civil salute to a person of quality. For how unreasonable would it be to enforce a well-disposed young gentleman, and one who needs the direction of a wise governor, to such complaints as these: "Would that I might become from a Pericles or a Cato to a cobbler like Simon or a grammarian like Dionysius, that I might like them talk with such a man as Socrates, and sit by him."

So far, I am sure, was Aristo of Chios from being of their humor, that when he was censured for exposing and prostituting the dignity of philosophy by his freedom to all comers, he answered, that he could wish that Nature had given understanding to wild beasts, that they too might be capable of being his hearers. Shall we then deny that privilege to men of interest and power, which this good man would have communicated (if it had been possible) to the brute beasts? But these men have taken a false notion of philosophy, they make it much like the art of statuary, whose business it is to carve out a lifeless image in the most exact figure and proportion, and then to raise it upon its pedestal, where it is to continue forever. The true philosophy is of a quite different nature; it is a spring and principle of motion wherever it comes; it makes men active and industrious, it sets every wheel and faculty a-going, it stores our minds with axioms and rules by which to make a sound judgment, it determines the will to the choice of what is honorable and just; and it wings all our faculties to the swiftest prosecution of it. It is accompanied with an elevation and nobleness of mind, joined with a coolness and sweetness of behavior, and backed with a becoming assurance and inflexible resolution. And from this diffusiveness of the nature of good it follows, that the best and most accomplished men are inclined to converse with persons of the highest condition. Indeed a physician if he have any good nature and sense of honor, would be more ready to cure an eye which is to see and to watch for a great many thousands, than that of a private person; how much more then ought a philosopher to form and fashion, to rectify and cure the soul of such a one, who is (if I may so express it) to inform the body politic,—who is to think and understand for so many others, to be in so great measure the rule of reason, the standard of law, and model of behavior, by which all the rest will square and direct their actions? Suppose a man to have a talent at finding out springs and contriving of aqueducts (a piece of skill for which Hercules and other of the ancients are much celebrated in history), surely he could not so satisfactorily employ himself in sinking a well or deriving water to some private seat or contemptible cottage, as in supplying conduits to some fair and populous city, in relieving an army just perishing with thirst, or in refreshing and adorning with fountains and cool streams the beautiful gardens of some glorious monarch. There is a passage of Homer very pertinent to this purpose, in which he calls Minos [Greek text], which, as Plato interprets it, signifies THE DISCIPLE AND COMPANION OF JUPITER. For it were beneath his dignity indeed to teach private men, such as care only for a family or indulge their useless speculations; but kings are scholars worthy the tuition of a god, who, when they are well advised, just, good, and magnanimous, never fail to procure the peace and prosperity of all their subjects. The naturalists tell us that the eryngium hath such a property with it, that if one of the flock do but taste it, all the rest will stand stock still in the same place till the shepherd hath taken it out of its mouth. Such swiftness of action does it have, pervading and inserting itself in everything near it, as if it were fire. The effects of philosophy, however, are different according to the difference of inclinations in men. If indeed it lights on one who loves a dull and inactive sort of life, that makes himself the centre and the little conveniences of life the circumference of all his thoughts, such a one does contract the sphere of her activity, so that having only made easy and comfortable the life of a single person, it fails and dies with him; but when it finds a man of a ruling genius, one fitted for conversation and able to grapple with the difficulties of public business, if it once possess him with principles of honesty, honor, and religion, it takes a compendious method, by doing good to one, to oblige a great part of mankind. Such was the effect of the intercourse of Anaxagoras with Pericles, of Plato with Dion, and of Pythagoras with the principal statesmen of all Italy. Cato himself took a voyage, when he had the concern of an expedition lying upon him, to see and hear Athenodorus; and Scipio sent for Panaetius, when he was commissioned by the senate "to take a survey alike of the habits of men good and bad," ("Odyssey," xvii. 487.) as Posidonius says. Now what a pretty sort of return would it have been in Panaetius to send word back,—"If indeed you were in a private capacity, John a Nokes or John a Stiles, that had a mind to get into some obscure corner or cell, to state cases and resolve syllogisms, I should very gladly have accepted your invitation; but now, because you are the son of Paulus AEmilius who was twice consul, and grandson of that Scipio who was surnamed from his conquest of Hannibal and Africa, I cannot with honor hold any conversation with you!"

The objections which they bring from the two kinds of discourse, one of which is mental, the other like the gift of Mercury expressed in words or interpretative of the former, are so frivolous, that they are best answered by laughter or silence; and we may quote the old saying, "I knew this before Theognis arose." However, thus much shall be added, that the end of them both is friendship,—in the first case with ourselves, in the second with another. For he that hath attained to virtue by the methods of philosophy hath his mind all in tune and good temper; he is not struck with those reproaches of conscience, which cause the acutest sense of pain and are the natural punishments of our follies; but he enjoys (the great prerogative of a good man) to be always easy and in amity with himself.

No factious lusts reason's just power control, Nor kindle civil discord in his soul.

His passion does not stand in defiance to his reason, nor do his reasonings cross and thwart one the other, but he is always consistent with himself. But the very joys of wicked men are tumultuary and confused, like those who dwell in the borders of two great empires at variance, always insecure, and in perpetual alarms; whilst a good man enjoys an uninterrupted peace and serenity of mind, which excels the other not only in duration, but in sense of pleasure too. As for the other sort of converse, that which consists in expression of itself to others, Pindar says very well, that it was not mercenary in old time, nor indeed is it so now; but by the baseness and ambition of a few it is made use of to serve their poor secular interests. For if the poets represent Venus herself as much offended with those who make a trade and traffic of the passion of love, how much more reasonably may we suppose that Urania and Clio and Calliope have an indignation against those who set learning and philosophy to sale? Certainly the gifts and endowments of the Muses should be privileged from such mean considerations.

If indeed some have made fame and reputation one of the ends of their studies, they used it only as an instrument to get friends; since we find by common observation that men only praise those whom they love. If they sought its own praise, they were as much mistaken as Ixion when he embraced a cloud instead of Juno; for there is nothing so fleeting, so changeable, and so inconstant as popular applause; it is but a pompous shadow, and hath no manner of solidity and duration in it. But a wise man, if he design to engage in business and matters of state, will so far aim at fame and popularity as that he may be better enabled to benefit others; for it is a difficult and very unpleasant task to do good to those who are disaffected to our persons. It is the good opinion men have of us which disposes men to give credit to our doctrine. As light is a greater good to those who see others by it than to those who only are seen, so is honor of a greater benefit to those who are sensible of it than to those whose glory is admired. But even one who withdraws himself from the noise of the world, who loves privacy and indulges his own thoughts, will show that respect to the good word of the people which Hippolytus did to Venus,—though he abstain from her mysteries, he will pay his devotions at a distance; (Euripides, "Hippolytus," 102.) but he will not be so cynical and sullen as not to hear with gladness the commendations of virtuous men like himself; he will neither engage himself in a restless pursuit of wealth, interest, or honor, nor will he on the other hand be so rustic and insensible as to refuse them in a moderate degree, when they fairly come in his way; in like manner he will not court and follow handsome and beautiful youth, but will rather choose such as are of a teachable disposition, of a gentle behavior, and lovers of learning. The charms and graces of youth will not make a philosopher shy of their conversation, when the endowments of their minds are answerable to the features of their bodies. The case is the same when greatness of place and fortune concur with a well disposed person; he will not therefore forbear loving and respecting such a one, nor be afraid of the name of a courtier, nor think it a curse that such attendance and dependence should be his fate.

They that try most Dame Venus to despise Do sin as much as they who her most prize. (From the "Veiled Hippolytus" of Euripides, Frag. 431.)

The application is easy to the matter in hand.

A philosopher therefore, if he is of a retired humor, will not avoid such persons; while one who generously designs his studies for the public advantage will cheerfully embrace their advances of friendship, will not bore them to hear him, will lay aside his sophistic terms and distinctions, and will rejoice to discourse and pass his time with them when they are disposed.

I plough the wide Berecynthian fields, Full six days' journey long, (From the "Niobe" of Aechylus, Frag. 153.)

says one boastingly in the poet; the same man, if he were as much a lover of mankind as of husbandry, would much rather bestow his pains on such a farm, the fruits of which would serve a great number, than to be always dressing the olive-yard of some cynical malcontent, which, when all was done, would scarce yield oil enough to dress a salad or to supply his lamp in the long winter evenings. Epicurus himself, who places happiness in the profoundest quiet and sluggish inactivity, as the only secure harbor from the storms of this troublesome world, could not but confess that it is both more noble and delightful to do than to receive a kindness; (Almost the same words with those of our Saviour, It is more blessed to give than to receive. So that a man can scarcely be a true Epicurean without practising some of the maxims of Christianity.) for there is nothing which produces so humane and genuine a sort of pleasure as that of doing good. He who gave the names to the three Graces was intelligent, for they all mean delectation and joy, (Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia.) and these feelings surely are far greater and purer in the giver. This is so evidently true, that we all receive good turns blushing and with some confusion, but we are always gay and well pleased when we are conferring one.

If then it is so pleasant to do good to a few, how are their hearts dilated with joy who are benefactors to whole cities, provinces, and kingdoms? And such benefactors are they who instil good principles into those upon whom so many millions do depend. On the other hand, those who debauch the minds of great men—as sycophants, false informers, and flatterers worse than both, manifestly do—are the centre of all the curses of a nation, as men not only infuse deadly poison into the cistern of a private house, but into the public springs of which so many thousands are to drink. The people therefore laughed at the parasites of Callias, whom, as Eupolis says, neither with fire nor brass nor steel could prevent from supping with him; but as for the favorites of those execrable tyrants Apollodorus, Phalaris, and Dionysius, they racked them, they flayed them alive, they roasted them at slow fires, looked on them as the very pests of society and disgraces of human nature; for to debauch a simple person is indeed an ill thing, but to corrupt a prince is an infinite mischief. In like manner, he who instructs an ordinary man makes him to pass his life decently and with comfort; but he who instructs a prince, by correcting his errors and clearing his understanding, is a philosopher for the public, by rectifying the very mould and model by which whole nations are formed and regulated. It is the custom of all nations to pay a peculiar honor and deference to their priests; and the reason of it is, because they do not only pray for good things for themselves, their own families and friends, but for whole communities, for the whole state of mankind. Yet we are not so fond as to think that the priests make the gods to be givers of good things, or inspire a vein of beneficence into them; but they only make their supplications to a being which of itself is inclinable to answer their requests. But in this a good tutor hath the privilege above the priests,—he effectually renders a prince more disposed to actions of justice, of moderation, and mercy, and therefore hath a greater satisfaction of mind when he reflects upon it.

For my own part, I cannot but think that an ordinary mechanic—for instance, a maker of musical instruments—would be much more attentive and pleased at his work, and if his harp would be touched by the famous Amphion, and in his hand to serve for the builder of Thebes, or if that Thales had bespoke it, who was so great a master by the force of his music he pacified a popular tumult amongst the Lacedaemonians. A good-natured shipwright would ply his work more heartily, if he were constructing the rudder for the admiral galley of Themistocles when he fought for the liberty of Greece, or of Pompey when he went on his expedition against the pirates: what ecstasy of delight then must a philosopher be in, when he reflects that his scholar is a man of authority, a prince or great potentate, that he is employed in so public a work, giving laws to him who is to give laws to a whole nation, who is to punish vice, and to reward the virtuous with riches and honor? The builder of the ARGO certainly would have been mightily pleased, if he had known what noble mariners were to row in his ship, and that at last she should be translated into heaven; and a carpenter would not be half so much pleased to make a chariot or plough, as to cut the tablets on which Solon's laws were to be engraved. In like manner the discourses and rules of philosophy, being once deeply stamped and imprinted on the minds of great personages, will stick so close, that the prince shall seem no other than justice incarnate and animated law. This was the design of Plato's voyage into Sicily,—he hoped that the lectures of his philosophy would serve for laws to Dionysius, and bring his affairs again into a good posture. But the soul of that unfortunate prince was like paper scribbled all over with the characters of vice; its piercing and corroding quality had stained quite through, and sunk into the very substance of his soul. Whereas, such persons must be taken when they are on the run, if they are to absorb useful discourses.




It being our determination to discourse of Natural Philosophy, we judge it necessary, in the first place and chiefly, to divide the body of philosophy into its proper members, so that we may know what is that which is called philosophy, and what part of it is physical, or the explanation of natural things. The Stoics affirm that wisdom is the knowledge of things human and divine; that philosophy is the pursuit of that art which is convenient to this knowledge; that virtue is the sole and sovereign art which is thus convenient; and this distributes itself into three general parts—natural, moral, and logical. By which just reason (they say) philosophy is tripartite; of which one natural, the other moral, the third logical. The natural when our inquiries are concerning the world and all things contained in it; the ethical is the employment of our minds in those things which concern the manners of man's life; the logical (which they also call dialectical) regulates our conversation with others in speaking. Aristotle, Theophrastus, and after them almost all the Peripatetics give the same division of philosophy. It is absolutely requisite that the complete person he contemplator of things which have a being, and the practiser of those thing which are decent; and this easily appears by the following instances. If the question be proposed, whether the sun, which is so conspicuous to us, be informed of a soul or inanimate, he that makes this disquisition is the thinking man; for he proceeds no farther than to consider the nature of that thing which is proposed. Likewise, if the question be propounded, whether the world be infinite, or whether beyond the system of this world there is any real being, all these things are the objects about which the understanding of man is conversant.

But if these be the questions,—what measures must be taken to compose the well-ordered life of man, what are the best methods to govern and educate children, or what are the exact rules whereby sovereigns may command and establish laws,—all these queries are proposed for the sole end of action, and the man skilled therein is the moral and practical man.


Since we have undertaken to make a diligent search into Nature, I cannot but conclude it necessary to declare what Nature is. It is very absurd to attempt a discourse of the essence of natural things, and not to understand what is the power and sphere of Nature. If Aristotle be credited, Nature is the principle of motion and rest, in that thing in which it exists as a principle and not by accident. For all things that are conspicuous to our eyes, which are neither fortuitous nor necessary, nor have a divine original, nor acknowledge any such like cause, are called natural and enjoy their proper nature. Of this sort are earth, fire, water, air, plants, animals; to these may be added all things produced from them, such as showers, hail, thunders, hurricanes, and winds. All these confess they had a beginning, none of these were from eternity, but had something as the origin of them; and likewise animals and plants have a principle whence they are produced. But Nature, which in all these things hath the priority, is not only the principle of motion but of repose; whatsoever enjoys the principle of motion, the same has a possibility to find a dissolution. Therefore on this account it is that Nature is the principle of motion and rest.


The followers of Aristotle and Plato conclude that elements are discriminated from principles. Thales the Milesian supposeth that a principle and the elements are one and the same thing, but it is evident that they vastly differ one from another. For the elements are things compounded; but we do pronounce that principles admit not of a composition, nor are the effects of any other being. Those which we call elements are earth, water, air, and fire. But we call those principles which have nothing prior to them out of which they are produced; for otherwise not these themselves, but rather those things whereof they are produced, would be the principles. Now there are some things which have a pre-existence to earth and water, from which they are begotten; to wit, matter, which is without form or shape; then form, which we call [Greek omitted] (actuality); and lastly, privation. Thales therefore is most in error, by affirming that water is both an element and a principle.


Thales the Milesian doth affirm that water is the principle from whence all things in the universe spring. This person appears to be the first of philosophers; from him the Ionic sect took its denomination, for there are many families and successions amongst philosophers. After he had professed philosophy in Egypt, when he was very old, he returned to Miletus. He pronounced, that all things had their original from water, and into water all things are resolved. His first ground was, that whatsoever was the prolific seed of all animals was a principle, and that is moist; so that it is probable that all things receive their original from humidity. His second reason was, that all plants are nourished and fructified by that thing which is moist, of which being deprived they wither away. Thirdly, that that fire of which the sun and stars are made is nourished by watery exhalations,—yea, and the world itself; which moved Homer to sing that the generation of it was from water:—

The ocean is Of all things the kind genesis. (Iliad, xiv. 246.)

Anaximander, who himself was a Milesian, assigns the principle of all things to the Infinite, from whence all things flow, and into the same are corrupted; hence it is that infinite worlds are framed, and those dissolve again into that whence they have their origin. And thus he farther proceeds, For what other reason is there of an Infinite but this, that there may be nothing deficient as to the generation or subsistence of what is in Nature? There is his error, that he doth not acquaint us what this Infinite is, whether it be air, or water, or earth, or any other such like body. Besides he is mistaken, in that, giving us the material cause, he is silent as to the efficient cause of beings; for this thing which he makes his Infinite can be nothing but matter; but operation cannot come about in the sphere of matter, except an efficient cause be annexed.

Anaximenes his fellow-citizen pronounceth, that air is the principle of all beings; from it all receive their original, and into it all return. He affirms that our soul is nothing but air; it is that which constitutes and preserves; the whole world is invested with spirit and air. For spirit and air are synonymous. This person is in this deficient, in that he concludes that of pure air, which is a simple body and is made of one only form, all animals are composed. It is not possible to think that a single principle should be the matter of all things, from whence they receive their subsistence; besides this there must be an operating cause. Silver (for example) is not of itself sufficient to frame a drinking cup; an operator also is required, which is the silversmith. The like may be applied to vessels made of wood, brass, or any other material.

Anaxagoras the Clazomenian asserted Homoeomeries (or parts similar or homogeneous) to be the original cause of all beings; it seemed to him impossible that anything could arise of nothing or be dissolved into nothing. Let us therefore instance in nourishment, which appears simple and uniform, such as bread which we owe to Ceres and water which we drink. Of this very nutriment, our hair, our veins, our arteries, nerves, bones, and all our other parts are nourished. These things thus being performed, it must be granted that the nourishment which is received by us contains all those things by which these of us are produced. In it there are those particles which are producers of blood, bones, nerves, and all other parts; these particles (he thought) reason discovers for us. For it is not necessary that we should reduce all things under the objects of sense; for bread and water are fitted to the senses, yet in them there are those particles latent which are discoverable only by reason. It being therefore plain that there are particles in the nourishment similar to what is produced by it, he terms these homogeneous parts, averring that they are the principles of beings. Matter is according to him these similar parts, and the efficient cause is a Mind, which orders all things that have an existence. Thus he begins his discourse: "All things were confused one among another; but Mind divided and brought them to order." In this he is to be commended, that he yokes together matter and an intellectual agent.

Archelaus the son of Apollodorus, the Athenian, pronounceth, that the principles of all things have their origin from an infinite air rarefied or condensed. Air rarefied is fire, condensed is water.

These philosophers, the followers of Thales, succeeding one another, made up that sect which takes to itself the denomination of the Ionic.

Pythagoras the Samian, the son of Mnesarchus, from another origin deduces the principles of all things; it was he who first called philosophy by its name. He thought the first principles to be numbers, and those symmetries in them which he styles harmonies; and the composition of both he terms elements, called geometrical. Again, he places unity and the indefinite binary number amongst the principles. One of these principles ends in an efficient and forming cause, which is Mind, and that is God; the other to the passive and material part, and that is the visible world. Moreover, the nature of number (he saith) consists in the ten; for all people, whether Grecians or barbarians, reckon from one to ten, and thence return to one again. Farther he avers the virtue of ten consists in the quaternion; the reason whereof is this,—if any person start from one, and add numbers so as to take in the quaternary, he shall complete the number ten; if he passes the four, he shall go beyond the ten; for one, two, three, and four being added up together make ten. The nature of numbers, therefore, if we regard the units, abideth in the ten; but if we regard its power, in the four. Therefore the Pythagoreans say that their most sacred oath is by that god who delivered to them the quaternary.

By th' founder of the sacred number four, Eternal Nature's font and source, they swore.

Of this number the soul of man is composed; for mind, knowledge, opinion, and sense are the four that complete the soul, from which all sciences, all arts, all rational faculties derive themselves. For what our mind perceives, it perceives after the manner of a thing that is one, the soul itself being a unity; as for instance, a multitude of persons are not the object of our sense nor are comprehended by us, for they are infinite; our understanding gives the general concept of A MAN, in which all individuals agree. The number of individuals is infinite; the generic or specific nature of all being is a unit, or to be apprehended as one only thing; from this one conception we give the genuine measures of all existence, and therefore we affirm that a certain class of beings are rational and discoursive. But when we come to give the nature of a horse, it is that animal which neighs; and this being common to all horses, it is manifest that the understanding, which hath such like conceptions, is in its nature unity. It follows that the number called the infinite binary must be science; in every demonstration or belief belonging to science, and in every syllogism, we draw that conclusion which is in dispute from those propositions which are by all granted, by which means another proposition is obtained from the premises. The comprehension of these we call knowledge; for which reason science is the binary number. But opinion is the ternary; for that rationally follows from comprehension. The objects of opinion are many things, and the ternary number denotes a multitude, as "Thrice happy Grecians"; for which reason Pythagoras admits the ternary. This sect of philosophers is called the Italic, by reason Pythagoras started his school in Italy; his hatred of the tyranny of Polycrates enforced him to abandon his native country Samos.

Heraclitus and Hippasus of Metapontum suppose that fire gives the origination to all beings, that they all flow from fire, and in fire they all conclude; for of fire when first quenched the world was constituted. The first part of the world, being most condensed and contracted within itself, made the earth; but part of that earth being loosened and made thin by fire, water was produced; afterwards this water being exhaled and rarefied into vapors became air; after all this the world itself, and all other corporeal beings, shall be dissolved by fire in the universal conflagration. By them therefore it appears that fire is what gives beginning to all things, and is that in which all things receive their period.

Epicurus the son of Neocles, the Athenian, his philosophical sentiments being the same with those of Democritus, affirms that the principles of all being are bodies which are only perceptible by reason; they admit not of a vacuity, nor of any original, but being of a self-existence are eternal and incorruptible; they are not liable to any diminution, they are indestructible, nor is it possible for them to receive any transformation of parts, or admit of any alterations; of these reason is only the discoverer; they are in a perpetual motion in vacuity, and by means of the empty space; for the vacuum itself is infinite, and the bodies that move in it are infinite. Those bodies acknowledge these three accidents, figure, magnitude, and gravity. Democritus acknowledged but two, magnitude and figure. Epicurus added the third, to wit, gravity; for he pronounced that it is necessary that bodies receive their motion from that impression which springs from gravity, otherwise they could not be moved. The figures of atoms cannot be incomprehensible, but they are not infinite. These figures are neither hooked nor trident-shaped nor ring-shaped, such figures as these being exposed to collision; but the atoms are impassible, impenetrable; they have indeed figures of their own, which are conceived only by reason. It is called an atom, by reason not of its smallness but of its indivisibility; in it no vacuity, no passible affection is to be found. And that there is an atom is perfectly clear; for there are elements which have a perpetual duration, and there are animals which admit of a vacuity, and there is a unity.

Empedocles the Agrigentine, the son of Meton, affirms that there are four elements, fire, air, earth, and water, and two powers which bear the greatest command in nature, concord and discord, of which one is the union, the other the division of beings. Thus he sings,

Hear first the four roots of all created things:—

Bright shining Jove, Juno that beareth life, Pluto beneath the earth, and Nestis who Doth with her tears water the human fount.

By Jupiter he understands fire and ether, by Juno that gives life he means the air, by Pluto the earth, by Nestis and the spring of all mortals (as it were) seed and water.

Socrates the son of Sophroniscus, and Plato son of Ariston, both natives of Athens, entertain the same opinion concerning the universe; for they suppose three principles, God, matter, and the idea. God is the universal understanding; matter is that which is the first substratum, accommodated for the generation and corruption of beings; the idea is an incorporeal essence, existing in the cogitations and apprehensions of God; for God is the soul and mind of the world.

Aristotle the son of Nichomachus, the Stagirite, constitutes three principles; Entelecheia (which is the same with form), matter, and privation. He acknowledges four elements, and adds a certain fifth body, which is ethereal and not obnoxious to mutation.

Zeno son of Mnaseas, the native of Citium, avers these to be principles, God and matter, the first of which is the efficient cause, the other the passible and receptive. Four more elements he likewise confesses.


The world being broken and confused, after this manner it was reduced into figure and composure as now it is. The insectible bodies or atoms, by a wild and fortuitous motion, without any governing power, incessantly and swiftly were hurried one amongst another, many bodies being jumbled together; upon this account they have a diversity in the figures and magnitude. These therefore being so jumbled together, those bodies which were the greatest and heaviest sank into the lowest place; they that were of a lesser magnitude, being round, smooth, and slippery, these meeting with those heavier bodies were easily broken into pieces, and were carried into higher places. But when that force whereby these variously particles figured particles fought with and struck one another, and forced the lighter upwards, did cease, and there was no farther power left to drive them into superior regions, yet they were wholly hindered from descending downwards, and were compelled to reside in those places capable to receive them; and these were the heavenly spaces, unto which a multitude of these small bodies were hurled, and these being thus shivered fell into coherence and mutual embraces, and by this means the heaven was produced. Then a various and great multitude of atoms enjoying the same nature, as it is before asserted, being hurried aloft, did form the stars. The multitude of these exhaled bodies, having struck and broke the air in shivers, forced a passage through it; this being turned into wind invested the stars, as it moved, and whirled them about, by which means to this present time that circulary motion which these stars have in the heavens is maintained. Much after the same manner the earth was made; for by those little particles whose gravity made them to reside in the lower places the earth was formed. The heaven, fire, and air were constituted of those particles which were carried aloft. But a great deal of matter remaining in the earth, this being condensed by the driving of the winds and the air from the stars, every little part and form of it was compressed, which created the element of water; but this being fluidly disposed did run into those places which were hollow, and these places were those that were capable to receive and protect it; or the water, subsisting by itself, did make the lower places hollow. After this manner the principal parts of the world were constituted.


The Stoics pronounce that the world is one thing, and this they say is the universe and is corporeal.

But Empedocles's opinion is, that the world is one; yet by no means the system of this world must be styled the universe, but that it is a small part of it, and the remainder is inactive matter.

What to Plato seems the truest he thus declares, that there is one world, and that world is the universe; and this he endeavors to evince by three arguments. First, that the world could not be complete and perfect, if it did not within itself include all beings. Secondly, nor could it give the true resemblance of its original and exemplar, if it were not the one only begotten thing. Thirdly, it could not be incorruptible, if there were any being out of its compass to whose power it might be obnoxious. But to Plato it may be thus returned. First, that the world is not complete and perfect, nor doth it contain all things within itself. And if man is a perfect being, yet he doth not encompass all things. Secondly, that there are many exemplars and originals of statues, houses, and pictures. Thirdly, how is the world perfect, if anything beyond it is possible to be moved about it? But the world is not incorruptible, nor can it be so conceived, because it had an original.

To Metrodorus it seems absurd, that in a large field one only stalk should grow, and in an infinite space one only world exist; and that this universe is infinite is manifest by this, that there is an infinity of causes. Now if this world be finite and the causes producing it infinite, it follows that the worlds likewise be infinite; for where all causes concur, there the effects also must appear, let the causes be what they will, either atoms or elements.


The Stoics thus define the essence of a god. It is a spirit intellectual and fiery, which acknowledges no shape, but is continually changed into what it pleases, and assimilates itself to all things. The knowledge of this deity they first received from the pulchritude of those things which so visibly appeared to us; for they concluded that nothing beauteous could casually or fortuitously be formed, but that it was framed from the art of a great understanding that produced the world. That the world is very resplendent is made perspicuous from the figure, the color, the magnitude of it, and likewise from the wonderful variety of those stars which adorn this world. The world is spherical; the orbicular hath the pre-eminence above all other figures, for being round itself it hath its parts like itself. (On this account, according to Plato, the understanding, which is the most sacred part of man, is in the head.) The color of it is most beauteous; for it is painted with blue; which, though little blacker than purple, yet hath such a shining quality, that by reason of the vehement efficacy of its color it cuts through such a space of air; whence it is that at so great a distance the heavens are to be contemplated. And in this very greatness of the world the beauty of it appears. View all things: that which contains the rest carries a beauty with it, as an animal or a tree. Also things which are visible to us accomplish the beauty of the world. The oblique circle called the Zodiac in heaven is with different images painted and distinguished:—

There's Cancer, Leo, Virgo, and the Claws; Scorpio, Arcitenens, and Capricorn; Amphora, Pisces, then the Ram, and Bull; The lovely pair of Brothers next succeed. (From Aratus.)

There are a thousand others that give us the suitable reflections of the beauty of the world. Thus Euripides:—

The starry splendor of the skies, The beautiful and varied work of that wise Creator, Time.

From this the knowledge of a god is conveyed to man; that the sun, the moon, and the rest of the stars, being carried under the earth, rise again in their proper color, magnitude, place, and times. Therefore they who by tradition delivered to us the knowledge and veneration of the gods did it by these three manner of ways:—first, from Nature; secondly, from fables; thirdly, from the testimony supplied by the laws of commonwealths. Philosophers taught the natural way; poets, the fabulous; and the political way is to be had from the constitutions of each commonwealth. All sorts of this learning are distinguished into these seven parts. The first is from things that are conspicuous, and the observation of those bodies which are in places superior to us. To men the heavenly bodies that are so visible did give the knowledge of the deity; when they contemplated that they are the causes of so great an harmony, that they regulate day and night, winter and summer, by their rising and setting, and likewise considered those things which by their influences in the earth do receive a being and do likewise fructify. It was manifest to men that the Heaven was the father of those things, and the Earth the mother; that the Heaven was the father is clear, since from the heavens there is the pouring down of waters, which have their spermatic faculty; the Earth the mother, because she receives them and brings forth. Likewise men considering that the stars are running (Greek omitted) in a perpetual motion, that the sun and moon give us the stimulus to view and contemplate (Greek omitted), they call them all gods (Greek omitted).

In the second and third place, they thus distinguished the deities into those which are beneficial and those that are injurious to mankind. Those which are beneficial they call Jupiter, Juno, Mercury, Ceres; those who are mischievous the Dirae, Furies, and Mars. These, which threaten dangers and violence, men endeavor to appease and conciliate by sacred rites. The fourth and the fifth order of gods they assign to things and passions; to passions, Love, Venus, and Desire; the deities that preside over things, Hope, Justice, and Eunomia.

The sixth order of deities are the ones made by the poets; Hesiod, willing to find out a father for those gods that acknowledge an original, invented their progenitors,—

Hyperion, Coeus, and Iapetus, With Creius: (Hesiod, "Theogony," 134.)

upon which account this is called the fabulous. The seventh rank of the deities added to the rest are those which, by their beneficence to mankind, were honored with a divine worship, though they were born of mortal race; of this sort were Hercules, Castor and Pollux, and Bacchus. These are reputed to be of a human species; for of all beings that which is divine is most excellent, and man amongst all animals is adorned with the greatest beauty, is also the best, being adorned by virtue above the rest because of the gift of intellect: therefore it was thought that those who were admirable for excellence should resemble that which is the best and most beautiful.


Some of the philosophers, such as Diagoras the Melian, Theodorus the Cyrenean, and Euemerus the Tegeatan, did deny unanimously that there were any gods; and Callimachus the Cyrenean discovered his mind concerning Euemerus in these Iambic verses, thus writing:—

To th' ante-mural temple flock apace, Where he that long ago composed of brass Great Jupiter, Thrasonic old bald pate, Now scribbles impious books,—a boastful ass!

meaning books which prove there are no gods. Euripides the tragedian durst not openly declare his sentiment; the court of Areopagus terrified him. Yet he sufficiently manifested his thoughts by this method. He presented in his tragedy Sisyphus, the first and great patron of this opinion, and introduced himself as one agreeing with him:—

Disorder in those days did domineer, And brutal power kept the world in fear.

Afterwards by the sanction of laws wickedness was suppressed; but by reason that laws could prohibit only public villanies, yet could not hinder many persons from acting secret impieties, some wise persons gave this advice, that we ought to blind truth with lying disguises, and persuade men that there is a God:—

There's an eternal God does hear and see And understand every impiety; Though it in dark recess or thought committed be.

But this poetical fable ought to be rejected, he thought, along with Callimachus, who thus saith:—

If you believe a God, it must be meant That you conceive this God omnipotent.

But God cannot do everything; for, if it were so, then a God could make snow black, and the fire cold, and him that is in a posture of sitting to be upright, and so on the contrary. The brave-speaking Plato pronounceth that God formed the world after his own image; but this smells rank of the old dotages, old comic writers would say; for how did God, casting his eye upon himself, frame this universe? Or how can God be spherical, and be inferior to man?

Anaxagoras avers that bodies did consist from all eternity, but the divine intellect did reduce them into their proper orders, and effected the origination of all beings. But Plato did not suppose that the primary bodies had their consistence and repose, but that they were moved confusedly and in disorder; but God, knowing that order was better than confusion, did digest them into the best methods. Both these were equally peccant; for both suppose God to be the great moderator of human affairs and for that cause to have formed this present world; when it is apparent that an immortal and blessed being, replenished with all his glorious excellencies, and not at all obnoxious to any sort of evil, but being wholly occupied with his own felicity and immortality, would not employ himself with the concerns of men; for certainly miserable is the being which, like a laborer or artificer, is molested by the troubles and cares which the forming and governing of this world must give him. Add to this, that the God whom these men profess was either not at all existing before this present world (when bodies were either reposed or in a disordered motion), or that at that time God did either sleep, or else was in a constant watchfulness, or that he did neither of these. Now neither the first nor the second can be entertained, because they suppose God to be eternal; if God from eternity was in a continual sleep, he was in an eternal death,—and what is death but an eternal sleep?—but no sleep can affect a deity, for the immortality of God and alliance to death are vastly different. But if God was in a continual vigilance, either there was something wanting to make him happy, or else his beatitude was perfectly complete; but according to neither of these can God be said to be blessed; not according to the first, for if there be any deficiency there is no perfect bliss; not according to the second, for, if there be nothing wanting to the felicity of God, it must be a needless enterprise for him to busy himself in human affairs. And how can it be supposed that God administers by his own providence human concerns, when to vain and trifling persons prosperous things happen, to great and high adverse? Agamemnon was both

A virtuous prince, for warlike acts renowned, ("Iliad," iii. 179.)

and by an adulterer and adulteress was vanquished and perfidiously slain. Hercules, after he had freed the life of man from many things that were pernicious to it, perished by the witchcraft and poison of Deianira.

Thales said that the intelligence of the world was God.

Anaximander concluded that the stars were heavenly deities.

Democritus said that God, being a globe of fire, is the intelligence and the soul of the world.

Pythagoras says that, of his principles, unity is God; and the good, which is indeed the nature of a unity, is mind itself; but the binary number, which is infinite, is a daemon, and evil,—about which the multitude of material beings and this visible world are related.

Socrates and Plato agree that God is that which is one, hath its original from its own self, is of a singular subsistence, is one only being perfectly good; all these various names signifying goodness do all centre in mind; hence God is to be understood as that mind and intellect, which is a separate idea, that is to say, pure and unmixed of all matter, and not mingled with anything subject to passions.

Aristotle's sentiment is, that God hath his residence in superior regions, and hath placed his throne in the sphere of the universe, and is a separate idea; which sphere is an ethereal body, which is by him styled the fifth essence or quintessence. For there is a division of the universe into spheres, which are contiguous by their nature but appear to reason to be separated; and he concludes that each of the spheres is an animal, composed of a body and soul; the body of them is ethereal, moved orbicularly, the soul is the rational form, which is unmoved, and yet is the cause that the sphere is in motion.

The Stoics affirm that God is a thing more common and obvious, and is a mechanic fire which every way spreads itself to produce the world; it contains in itself all seminal virtues, and by this means all things by a fatal necessity were produced. This spirit, passing through the whole world, received different names from the mutations in the matter through which it ran in its journey. God therefore is the world, the stars, the earth, and (highest of all) the mind in the heavens. In the judgment of Epicurus all the gods are anthropomorphites, or have the shape of men; but they are perceptible only by reason, for their nature admits of no other manner of being apprehended, their parts being so small and fine that they give no corporeal representations. The same Epicurus asserts that there are four other natural beings which are immortal: of this sort are atoms, the vacuum, the infinite, and the similar parts; and these last are called Homoeomeries and likewise elements.


Having treated of the essence of the deities in a just order, it follows that we discourse of daemons and heroes. Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, and the Stoics do conclude that daemons are essences endowed with souls; that the heroes are the souls separated from their bodies, some are good, some are bad; the good are those whose souls are good, the evil those whose souls are wicked. All this is rejected by Epicurus.


Matter is that first being which is substrate for generation, corruption, and all other alterations.

The disciples of Thales and Pythagoras, with the Stoics, are of opinion that matter is changeable, mutable, convertible, and sliding through all things.

The followers of Democritus aver that the vacuum, the atom, and the incorporeal substance are the first beings, and not obnoxious to passions.

Aristotle and Plato affirm that matter is of that species which is corporeal, void of any form, species, figure, and quality, but apt to receive all forms, that she may be the nurse, the mother, and origin of all other beings. But they that do say that water, earth, air, and fire are matter do likewise say that matter cannot be without form, but conclude it is a body; but they that say that individual particles and atoms are matter do say that matter is without form.


An idea is a being incorporeal, not subsisting by itself, but gives figure unto shapeless matter, and becomes the cause of its phenomena.

Socrates and Plato conjecture that these ideas are beings separate from matter, subsisting in the understanding and imagination of the deity, that is, of mind.

Aristotle accepted forms and ideas; but he doth not believe them separated from matter, or patterns of the things God has made.

Those Stoics, that are of the school of Zeno, profess that ideas are nothing else but the conceptions of our own mind.


A cause is that by which anything is produced, or by which anything is effected.

Plato gives this triple division of causes,—the material, the efficient, and the final cause; the principal cause he judges to be the efficient, which is the mind and intellect.

Pythagoras and Aristotle judge the first causes are incorporeal beings, but those that are causes by accident or participation become corporeal substances; by this means the world is corporeal.

The Stoics grant that all causes are corporeal, inasmuch as they are physical.


A body is that being which hath these three dimensions, breadth, depth, and length;—or a bulk which makes a sensible resistance;—or whatsoever of its own nature possesseth a place.

Plato saith that it is neither heavy nor light in its own nature, when it exists in its own place; but being in the place where another should be, then it has an inclination by which it tends to gravity or levity.

Aristotle saith that, if we simply consider things in their own nature, the earth only is to be judged heavy, and fire light; but air and water are on occasions heavy and at other times light.

The Stoics think that of the four elements two are light, fire and air; two ponderous, earth and water; that which is naturally light doth by its own nature, not by any inclination, recede from its own centre; but that which is heavy doth by its own nature tend to its centre; for the centre is not a heavy thing in itself.

Epicurus thinks that bodies are not limited; but the first bodies, which are simple bodies, and all those composed of them, all acknowledge gravity; that all atoms are moved, some perpendicularly, some obliquely; some are carried aloft either by immediate impulse or with vibrations.


Empedocles, before the four elements, introduceth the most minute bodies which resemble elements; but they did exist before the elements, having similar parts and orbicular.

Heraclitus brings in the smallest fragments, and those indivisible.


A figure is the exterior appearance, the circumscription, and the boundary of a body.

The Pythagoreans say that the bodies of the four elements are spherical, fire being in the supremest place only excepted, whose figure is conical.


Color is the visible quality of a body.

The Pythagoreans called color the external appearance of a body. Empedocles, that which is consentaneous to the passages of the eye. Plato, that they are fires emitted from bodies, which have parts harmonious for the sight. Zeno the Stoic, that colors are the first figurations of matter. The Pythagoreans, that colors are of four sorts, white and black, red and pale; and they derive the variety of colors from the mixtures of the elements, and that seen in animals also from the variety of food and the air.


The disciples of Thales and Pythagoras grant that all bodies are passible and divisible into infinity. Others hold that atoms and indivisible parts are there fixed, and admit not of a division into infinity. Aristotle, that all bodies are potentially but not actually divisible into infinity.


The ancient philosophers held that the mixture of elements proceeded from the alteration of qualities; but the disciples of Anaxagoras and Democritus say it is done by apposition. Empedocles composes the elements of still minuter bulks, those which are the most minute and may be termed the element of elements. Plato assigns three bodies (but he will not allow these to be elements, nor properly so called), air, fire, and water, which are mutable into one another; but the earth is mutable into none of these.


All the natural philosophers from Thales to Plato rejected a vacuum. Empedocles says that there is nothing of a vacuity in Nature, nor anything superabundant. Leucippus, Democritus, Demetrius, Metrodorus, Epicurus, that the atoms are in number infinite; and that a vacuum is infinite in magnitude. The Stoics, that within the compass of the world there is no vacuum, but beyond it the vacuum is infinite. Aristotle, that the vacuum beyond the world is so great that the heaven has liberty to breathe into it, for the heaven is fiery.


Plato, to define place, calls it that thing which in its own bosom receives forms and ideas; by which metaphor he denotes matter, being (as it were) a nurse or receptacle of beings. Aristotle, that it is the ultimate superficies of the circumambient body, contiguous to that which it doth encompass.


The Stoics and Epicureans make a place, a vacuum, and space to differ. A vacuum is that which is void of anything that may be called a body; place is that which is possessed by a body; a space that which is partly filled with a body, as a cask with wine.


In the sense of Pythagoras, time is that sphere which encompasses the world. Plato says that it is a movable image of eternity, or the interval of the world's motion.

Eratosthenes, that it is the solar motion.


Plato says that the heavenly motion is time. Most of the Stoics that motion is time. Most philosophers think that time had no commencement; Plato, that time had only in intelligence a beginning.


Plato and Pythagoras say that motion is a difference and alteration in matter. Aristotle, that it is the actual operation of that which may be moved. Democritus, that there is but one sort of motion, and it is that which is vibratory. Epicurus, that there are two species of motion, one perpendicular, and the other oblique. Herophilus, that one species of motion is obvious only to reason, the other to sense. Heraclitus utterly denies that there is anything of quiet or repose in nature; for that is the state of the dead; one sort of motion is eternal, which he assigns to beings eternal, the other perishable, to those things which are perishable.


Parmenides Melissus, and Zeno deny that there are any such things as generation and corruption, for they suppose that the universe is unmovable. Empedocles, Epicurus, and other philosophers that combine in this, that the world is framed of small corporeal particles meeting together, affirm that corruption and generation are not so properly to be accepted; but there are conjunctions and separations, which do not consist in any distinction according to their qualities, but are made according to quantity by coalition or disjunction. Pythagoras, and all those who take for granted that matter is subject to mutation, say that generation and corruption are to be accepted in their proper sense, and that they are accomplished by the alteration, mutation, and dissolution of elements.


Thales says that necessity is omnipotent, and that it exerciseth an empire over everything. Pythagoras, that the world is invested by necessity. Parmenides and Democritus, that there is nothing in the world but what is necessary, and that this same necessity is otherwise called fate, justice, providence, and the architect of the world.


But Plato distinguisheth and refers some things to Providence, others to necessity. Empedocles makes the nature of necessity to be that cause which employs principles and elements. Democritus makes it to be a resistance, impulse, and force of matter. Plato sometimes says that necessity is matter; at other times, that it is the habitude or respect of the efficient cause towards matter.


Heraclitus, who attributes all things to fate, makes necessity to be the same thing with it. Plato admits of a necessity in the minds and the acts of men, but yet he introduceth a cause which flows from ourselves. The Stoics, in this agreeing with Plato, say that necessity is a cause invincible and violent; that fate is the ordered complication of causes, in which there is an intexture of those things which proceed from our own determination, so that certain things are to be attributed to fate, others not.


According to Heraclitus, the essence of fate is a certain reason which penetrates the substance of all being; and this is an ethereal body, containing in itself that seminal faculty which gives an original to every being in the universe. Plato affirms that it is the eternal reason and the eternal law of the nature of the world. Chrysippus, that it is a spiritual faculty, which in due order doth manage and rule the universe. Again, in his book styled the "Definitions," that fate is the reason of the world, or that it is that law whereby Providence rules and administers everything that is in the world; or it is that reason by which all things have been, all things are, and all things will be produced. The Stoics say that it is a chain of causes, that is, it is an order and connection of causes which cannot be resisted. Posidonius, that it is a being the third in degree from Jupiter; the first of beings is Jupiter, the second Nature, and the third Fate.


Plato says, that it is an accidental cause and a casual consequence in things which proceed from the election and counsel of men. Aristotle, that it is an accidental cause in those things done by an impulse for a certain end; and this cause is uncertain and unstable: there is a great deal of difference betwixt that which flows from chance and that which falls out by Fortune; for that which is fortuitous allows also chance, and belongs to things practical; but what is by chance cannot be also by Fortune, for it belongs to things without action: Fortune, moreover, pertains to rational beings, but chance to rational and irrational beings alike, and even to inanimate things. Epicurus, that it is a cause not always consistent, but various as to persons, times, and manners. Anaxagoras and the Stoics, that it is that cause which human reason cannot comprehend; for there are some things which proceed from necessity, some things from Fate, some from choice and free-will, some from Fortune, some from chance.


Empedocles affirms that Nature is nothing else but the mixture and separation of the elements; for thus he writes in the first book of his natural philosophy:—

Nature gives neither life nor death, Mutation makes us die or breathe. The elements first are mixed, then each Do part: this Nature is in mortal speech.

Anaxagoras is of the same opinion, that Nature is coalition and separation, that is, generation and corruption.


Having finished my dissertation concerning principles and elements and those things which chiefly appertain to them, I will turn my pen to discourse of those things which are produced by them, and will take my beginning from the world, which contains and encompasseth all beings.


Pythagoras was the first philosopher that called the world [Greek omitted], from the order and beauty of it; for so that word signifies. Thales and his followers say the world is one. Democritus, Epicurus, and their scholar Metrodorus affirm that there are infinite worlds in an infinite space, for that infinite vacuum in its whole extent contains them. Empedocles, that the circle which the sun makes in its motion circumscribes the world, and that circle is the utmost bound of the world. Seleucus, that the world knows no limits. Diogenes, that the universe is infinite, but this world is finite. The Stoics make a difference between that which is called the universe, and that which is called the whole world;—the universe is the infinite space considered with the vacuum, the vacuity being removed gives the right conception of the world; so that the universe and the world are not the same thing.


The Stoics say that the figure of the world is spherical, others that it is conical, others oval. Epicurus, that the figure of the world may be globular, or that it may admit of other shapes.


Democritus, Epicurus, and those philosophers who introduced atoms and a vacuum, affirm that the world is not an animal, nor governed by any wise Providence, but that it is managed by a nature which is void of reason. All the other philosophers affirm that the world is informed with a soul, and governed by reason and Providence. Aristotle is excepted, who is somewhat different; he is of opinion, that the whole world is not acted by a soul in every part of it, nor hath it any sensitive, rational, or intellectual faculties, nor is it directed by reason and Providence in every part of it; of all which the heavenly bodies are made partakers, for the circumambient spheres are animated and are living beings; but those things which are about the earth are void of those endowments; and though those terrestrial bodies are of an orderly disposition, yet that is casual and not primogenial.


Pythagoras [and Plato], agreeing with the Stoics, affirm that the world was framed by God, and being corporeal is obvious to the senses, and in its own nature is obnoxious to destruction; but it shall never perish, it being preserved by the providence of God. Epicurus, that the world had a beginning, and so shall have an end, as plants and animals have. Xenophanes, that the world never had a beginning, is eternal and incorruptible. Aristotle, that the part of the world which is sublunary is subject to change, and there terrestrial beings find a decay.


Aristotle says that, if the world be nourished, it will likewise be dissolved; but it requires no aliment, and will therefore be eternal. Plato, that this very world prepares for itself a nutriment, by the alteration of those things which are corruptible in it. Philolaus affirms that a destruction happens to the world in two ways; either by fire failing from heaven, or by the sublunary water being poured down through the whirling of the air; and the exhalations proceeding from thence are aliment of the world.


The natural philosophers pronounce that the forming of this world took its original from the earth, it being its centre, for the centre is the principal part of the globe. Pythagoras, from the fire and the fifth element. Empedocles determines, that the first and principal element distinct from the rest was the aether, then fire, after that the earth, which earth being strongly compacted by the force of a potent revolution, water springs from it, the exhalations of which water produce the air; the heaven took its origin from the aether, and fire gave a being to the sun; those things nearest to the earth are condensed from the remainders. Plato, that the visible world was framed after the exemplar of the intellectual world; the soul of the visible world was first produced, then the corporeal figure, first that which proceeded from fire and earth, then that which came from air and water. Pythagoras, that the world was formed of five solid figures which are called mathematical; the earth was produced by the cube, the fire by the pyramid, the air by the octahedron, the water by the icosahedron, and the globe of the universe by the dodecahedron. In all these Plato hath the same sentiments with Pythagoras.


Parmenides maintains that there are small coronets alternately twisted one within another, some made up of a thin, others of a condensed, matter; and there are others between mixed mutually together of light and of darkness, and around them all there is a solid substance, which like a firm wall surrounds these coronets. Leucippus and Democritus cover the world round about, as with a garment and membrane. Epicurus says that that which abounds some worlds is thin, and that which limits others is gross and condensed; and of these spheres some are in motion, others are fixed. Plato, that fire takes the first place in the world, the second the aether, after that the air, under that the water; the last place the earth possesseth: sometimes he puts the aether and the fire in the same place. Aristotle gives the first place to the aether, as that which is impassible, it being a kind of a fifth body after which he placeth those that are passible, fire, air, and water, and last of all the earth. To those bodies that are accounted celestial he assigns a motion that is circular, but to those that are seated under them, if they be light bodies, an ascending, if heavy, a descending motion. Empedocles, that the places of the elements are not always fixed and determined, but they all succeed one another in their respective stations.


Diogenes and Anaxagoras state that, after the world was composed and had produced living creatures, the world out of its own propensity made an inclination toward the south. Perhaps this may be attributed to a wise Providence (they affirm), that thereby some parts of the world may be habitable, others uninhabitable, according as the various climates are affected with a rigorous cold, or a scorching heat, or a just temperament of cold and heat. Empedocles, that the air yielding to the impetuous force of the solar rays, the poles received an inclination; whereby the northern parts were exalted and the southern depressed, by which means the whole world received its inclination.


Pythagoras and his followers say that beyond the world there is a vacuum, into which and out of which the world hath its respiration. The Stoics, that there is a vacuum into which infinite space by a conflagration shall be dissolved. Posidonius, not an infinite vacuum, but as much as suffices for the dissolution of the world; and this he asserts in his first book concerning the Vacuum. Aristotle affirms, that a vacuum does not exist. Plato concludes that neither within nor without the world there is any vacuum.


Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle declare that the eastern parts of the world, from whence motion commences, are of the right, those of the western are of the left hand of the world. Empedocles, that those that are of the right hand face the summer solstice, those of the left the winter solstice.


Anaximenes affirms that the circumference of heaven makes the limit of the earth's revolution. Empedocles, that the heaven is a solid substance, and hath the form and hardness of crystal, it being composed of the air compacted by fire, and that in both hemispheres it invests the elements of air and fire. Aristotle, that it is formed by the fifth body, and by the mixture of extreme heat and cold.


Thales, Pythagoras, and the followers of Pythagoras do distribute the universal globe of heaven into five circles, which they denominate zones; one of which is called the arctic circle, which is always conspicuous to us, another is the summer tropic, another is the solstice, another is the winter tropic, another is the antarctic circle, which is always out of sight. The circle called the zodiac is placed under the three that are in the midst, and is oblique, gently touching them all. Likewise, they are all divided in right angles by the meridian, which goes from pole to pole. It is supposed that Pythagoras made the first discovery of the obliquity of the zodiac, but one Oenopides of Chios challenges to himself the invention of it.


Thales affirms that they are globes of earth set on fire. Empedocles, that they are fiery bodies arising from that fire which the aether embraced within itself, and did shatter in pieces when the elements were first separated one from another. Anaxagoras, that the circumambient aether is of a fiery substance, which, by a vehement force in its whirling about, did tear stones from the earth, and by its own power set them on fire, and establish them as stars in the heavens. Diogenes thinks they resemble pumice stones, and that they are the breathings of the world; again he supposeth that there are some invisible stones, which fall sometimes from heaven upon the earth, and are there quenched; as it happened at Aegos-potami, where a stony star resembling fire did fall. Empedocles, that the fixed stars fastened to the crystal, but the planets are loosened. Plato, that the stars for the most part are of a fiery nature, but they are made partakers of another element, with they are mixed after the resemblance of glue. Zenophanes, that they are composed of inflamed clouds, which in the daytime are quenched, and in the night are kindled again. The like we see in coals; for the rising and setting of the stars is nothing else but the quenching and kindling of them. Heraclitus and the Pythagoreans, that every star is a world in an infinite aether, and encompasseth air, earth, and aether; this opinion is current among the disciples of Orpheus, for they suppose that each of the stars does make a world. Epicurus condemns none of these opinions, for he embraces anything that is possible.


The Stoics say that the stars are of a circular form, like as the sun, the moon, and the world. Cleanthes, that they are of a conical figure. Anaximenes, that they are fastened as nails in the crystalline firmament; some others, that they are fiery plates of gold, resembling pictures.


Xenocrates says that the stars are moved in one and the same superficies. The other Stoics say that they are moved in various superficies, some being superior, others inferior. Democritus, that the fixed stars are in the highest place; after those the planets; after these the sun, Venus, and the moon, in order. Plato, that the first after the fixed stars that makes its appearance is Phaenon, the star of Saturn; the second Phaeton, the star of Jupiter; the third the fiery, which is the star of Mars; the fourth the morning star, which is the star of Venus; the fifth the shining star, and that is the star of Mercury; in the sixth place is the sun, in the seventh the moon. Plato and some of the mathematicians conspire in the same opinion; others place the sun as the centre of the planets. Anaximander, Metrodorus of Chios, and Crates assign to the sun the superior place, after him the moon, after them the fixed stars and planets.


Anaxagoras, Democritus, and Cleanthes say that all the stars have their motion from east to west. Alcmaeon and the mathematicians, that the planets have a contrary motion to the fixed stars, and in opposition to them are carried from the west to the east. Anaximander, that they are carried by those circles and spheres on which they are placed. Anaximenes, that they are turned under and about the earth. Plato and the mathematicians, that the sun, Venus, and Mercury hold equal measures in their motions.


Metrodorus says that all the fixed stars derive their light from the sun. Heraclitus and the Stoics, that earthly exhalations are those by which the stars are nourished. Aristotle, that the heavenly bodies require no nutriment, for they being eternal cannot be obnoxious to corruption. Plato and the Stoics, that the whole world and the stars are fed by the same things.


Xenophanes says that those which appear as stars in the tops of ships are little clouds brilliant by their peculiar motion. Metrodorus, that the eyes of frighted and astonished people emit those lights which are called the Twins.


Plato says that the summer and winter indications proceed from the rising and setting of the stars, that is, from the rising and setting of the sun, the moon, and the fixed stars. Anaximenes, that the rest in this are not at all concerned, but that it is wholly performed by the sun. Eudoxus and Aratus assign it in common to all the stars, for thus Aratus says:—

Thund'ring Jove stars in heaven hath fixed, And them in such beauteous order mixed, Which yearly future things predict.


Anaximander says, that the sun is a circle eight and twenty times bigger than the earth, and has a circumference very much like that of a chariot-wheel, which is hollow and full of fire; the fire of which appears to us through its mouth, as by an aperture in a pipe; and this is the sun. Xenophanes, that the sun is constituted of small bodies of fire compacted together and raised from a moist exhalation, which condensed make the body of the sun; or that it is a cloud enfired. The Stoics, that it is an intelligent flame proceeding from the sea. Plato, that it is composed of abundance of fire. Anaxagoras, Democritus, and Metrodorus, that it is an enfired stone, or a burning body. Aristotle, that it is a sphere formed out of the fifth body. Philolaus the Pythagorean, that the sun shines as crystal, which receives its splendor from the fire of the world and so reflecteth its light upon us; so that first, the body of fire which is celestial is in the sun; and secondly, the fiery reflection that comes from it, in the form of a mirror; and lastly, the rays spread upon us by way of reflection from that mirror; and this last we call the sun, which is (as it were) an image of an image. Empedocles, that there are two suns; the one the prototype, which is a fire placed in the other hemisphere, which it totally fills, and is always ordered in a direct opposition to the reflection of its own light; and the sun which is visible to us, formed by the reflection of that splendor in the other hemisphere (which is filled with air mixed with heat), the light reflected from the circular sun in the opposite hemisphere falling upon the crystalline sun; and this reflection is borne round with the motion of the fiery sun. To give briefly the full sense, the sun is nothing else but the light and brightness of that fire which encompasseth the earth. Epicurus, that it is an earthy bulk well compacted, with ores like a pumice-stone or a sponge, kindled by fire.


Anaximander says, that the sun itself in greatness is equal to the earth, but that the circle from whence it receives its respiration and in which it is moved is seven and twenty times larger than the earth. Anaxagoras, that it is far greater than Peloponnesus. Heraclitus, that it is no broader than a man's foot. Epicurus, that he equally embraceth all the foresaid opinions,—that the sun may be of magnitude as it appears, or it may be somewhat greater or somewhat less.


Anaximenes affirms that in its dilatation it resembles a leaf. Heraclitus, that it hath the shape of a boat, and is somewhat crooked. The Stoics, that it is spherical, and it is of the same figure with the world and the stars. Epicurus, that the recited dogmas may be defended.


Anaximenes believes that the stars are forced by a condensed and resisting air. Anaxagoras, by the repelling force of the northern air, which is violently pushed on by the sun, and thus rendered more condensed and powerful. Empedocles, that the sun is hindered from a continual direct course by its spherical vehicle and by the two circular tropics. Diogenes, that the sun, when it comes to its utmost declination, is extinguished, a rigorous cold damping the heat. The Stoics, that the sun maintains its course only through that space in which its sustenance is seated, let it be the ocean or the earth; by the exhalations proceeding from these it is nourished. Plato, Pythagoras, and Aristotle, that the sun receives a transverse motion from the obliquity of the zodiac, which is guarded by the tropics; all these the globe clearly manifests.


Thales was the first who affirmed that the eclipse of the sun was caused by the moon's running in a perpendicular line between it and the world; for the moon in its own nature is terrestrial. And by mirrors it is made perspicuous that, when the sun is eclipsed, the moon is in a direct line below it. Anaximander, that the sun is eclipsed when the fiery mouth of it is stopped and hindered from respiration. Heraclitus, that it is after the manner of the turning of a boat, when the concave seems uppermost to our sight, and the convex nethermost. Xenophanes, that the sun is eclipsed when it is extinguished; and that a new sun is created and rises in the east. He gives a farther account of an eclipse of the sun which remained for a whole month, and again of an eclipse which changed the day into night. Some declare that the cause of an eclipse is the invisible concourse of condensed clouds which cover the orb of the sun. Aristarchus placeth the sun amongst the fixed stars, and believeth that the earth [the moon?] is moved about the sun, and that by its inclination and vergency it intercepts its light and shadows its orb. Xenophanes, that there are many suns and many moons, according as the earth is distinguished by climates, circles, and zones. At some certain times the orb of the sun, falling upon some part of the world which is untenanted, wanders in a vacuum and becomes eclipsed. The same person affirms that the sun proceeding in its motion in the infinite space, appears to us to move orbicularly, taking that representation from its infinite distance from us.


Anaximander affirms that the circle of the moon is nineteen times bigger than the earth, and resembles the sun, its orb being full of fire; and it suffers an eclipse when the wheel makes a revolution,—which he describes by the divers turnings of a chariot-wheel, in the midst of it there being a hollow nave replenished with fire, which hath but one way of expiration. Xenophanes, that it is a condensed cloud. The Stoics, that it is mixed of fire and air. Plato, that it is a body of the greatest part fiery. Anaxagoras and Democritus, that it is a solid, condensed, and fiery body, in which there are flat countries, mountains, and valleys. Heraclitus, that it is an earth covered with a bright cloud. Pythagoras, that the body of the moon was of a nature resembling a mirror.


The Stoics declare, that in magnitude it exceeds the earth, just as the sun itself doth. Parmenides, that it is equal to the sun, from whom it receives its light.


The Stoics believe that it is of the same figure with the sun, spherical. Empedocles, that the figure of it resembles a quoit. Heraclitus, a boat. Others, a cylinder.


Anaximander thinks that she gives light to herself, but it is very slender and faint. Antiphon, that the moon shines by its own proper light; but when it absconds itself, the solar beams darting on it obscure it. Thus it naturally happens, that a more vehement light puts out a weaker; the same is seen in other stars. Thales and his followers, that the moon borrows all her light of the sun. Heraclitus, that the sun and moon are after the same manner affected; in their configurations both are shaped like boats, and are made conspicuous to us by receiving their light from moist exhalations. The sun appears to us more refulgent, by reason it is moved in a clearer and purer air; the moon appears more duskish, it being carried in an air more troubled and gross.


Anaximenes believes that the mouth of the wheel, about which the moon is turned, being stopped is the cause of an eclipse. Berasus, that it proceeds from the turning of the dark side of the lunar orb towards us. Heraclitus, that it is performed just after the manner of a boat turned upside downwards. Some of the Pythagoreans say, that the splendor arises from the earth, its obstruction from the Antichthon (or counter-earth). Some of the later philosophers, that there is such a distribution of the lunar flame, that it gradually and in a just order burns until it be full moon; in like manner, that this fire decays by degrees, until its conjunction with the sun totally extinguisheth it. Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and all the mathematicians agree, that the obscurity with which the moon is every month affected ariseth from a conjunction with the sun, by whose more resplendent beams she is darkened; and the moon is then eclipsed when she falls upon the shadow of the earth, the earth interposing between the sun and moon, or (to speak more properly) the earth intercepting the light of the moon.

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