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The philosophers who preceded Socrates (469 - 399 BC), the PreSocratics, were the first recorded individuals to reject mythological explanations for the unknown. Aristotle called the PreSocratics physikoi meaning physicists, after physis, nature, because they sought natural explanations for phenomena, as opposed to the earlier theologoi, theologians, whose philosophical basis was supernatural. The physikoi invented maps, an early time-keeping device in the form of a sun-dial and they were the first to logically argue that the earth was a spherical shape.While most of the physikoi produced significant texts, none of their works have survived in complete form. All that is available are quotations by later philosophers (often biased) and historians, and the occasional textual fragment. Diogenes Laërtius divides them into two groups, Ionian and Italiote, led by Anaximander and Pythagoras, respectively. Other key figures include Thales, Zeno and Parmenides.Stoic Six Pack 9 – The PreSocratics brings together a broad selection of key primary and secondary texts to help shed light on this important early philosophy school.Stoic Six Pack 9 – The PreSocratics Anaximander's Book, the Earliest Known Geographical Treatise by William Arthur Heidel. The School of Miletus: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes and Heraclitus by John Marshall. The Pre-Socratics by George Grote. The Logic of the Pre-Socratic Philosophy by William Arthur Heidel. The Eleatics: Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno and Melissus by John Marshall. The Pre-Socratics by Benjamin Cocker. Includes image gallery.
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Stoic Six Pack 9 – The PreSocratics
William Arthur Heidel
Stoic Six Pack 9 – The PreSocratics
Anaximander's Book | The Earliest Known Geographical Treatise
The School of Miletus: | Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes and Heraclitus
The Eleatics: | Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno and Melissus
PLATONIC REPUBLIC — ABSTRACT.
The Logic of the Pre-Socratic Philosophy | By William Arthur Heidel
The Pre-Socratics | By Benjamin Cocker
Further Reading: Seneca Six Pack
Stoic Six Pack 9 – The PreSocratics
Anaximander's Book, the Earliest Known Geographical Treatise by William Arthur Heidel. First published in 1921.
The School of Miletus: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes and Heraclitus by John Marshall. First published in A Short History of Greek Philosophy by John Marshall in 1891.
The Pre-Socratics by George Grote. First published in Plato and the Other Companions of Sokrates, Volume 4 in 1888.
The Logic of the Pre-Socratic Philosophy by William Arthur Heidel. First published in Studies in Logical Theory 1903.
The Eleatics: Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno and Melissus by John Marshall. First published in A Short History of Greek Philosophy by John Marshall in 1891.
The Pre-Socratics by Benjamin Cocker. First published in Christianity and Greek Philosophy by Cocker in 1870.
Stoic Six Pack 9 – The PreSocratics. Published 2016 by Enhanced Media.
Anaximander of Miletus is admittedly one of the foremost figures in the history of thought, and much has been written about him. He remains, however, somewhat enigmatical, and the obscurity which invests his character involves in some measure the entire line of early Milesian thinkers. When one considers the commonly accepted view regarding Anaximander one can hardly escape the impression that it is somewhat incongruous if not wholly inconsistent.
That he wrote a book is not called in question, though one is not sure whether he or Pherecydes is to be credited with writing the earliest prose treatise in Greek. Anaximander is generally called a 'philosopher' and his book is supposed to be properly described by its traditional title On Nature. No disposition has been shown to doubt that he was sufficiently interested in geography to prepare a map of the earth, which made a deep and lasting impression, insomuch that it may be said to have fixed the type, preserved with successive enlargements, refinements, and modifications, to be sure, but essentially the same, until in the Alexandrian Age various attempts were made to adjust its outlines in conformity with the newer conception of the earth as a spheroid. Duly considered this admitted fact would of itself suggest the questions whether Anaximander was not a geographer rather than a philosopher, and whether he must not be presumed to have written a geography in addition to drawing a map.
When one finds that he is expressly credited with a geographical treatise in the biographical and bibliographical tradition of the Greeks, one asks why this has been called in question. We have, then, first to canvass the evidence regarding his book and his map.
The question regarding Anaximander's book cannot be divorced from that concerning his map. This is not equivalent to saying that the existence of either proves the existence of the other; for maps did exist without accompanying texts, presumably before Anaximander's time; and geographical treatises might, and did in fact, exist without maps. In the case of Anaximander, however, quite apart from general considerations, of which more may be said hereafter, the literary evidence for the geographical treatise is so closely interwoven with that for the chart, that it must all be considered together.
Themistius says that Anaximander was 'the first of the Greeks to our knowledge who ventured to publish a treatise On Nature.' This statement, except so far as it bears witness to Anaximander's authorship, deserves no credence; for it belongs to a class of data peculiarly untrustworthy. From early times the Greeks amused themselves by investigating the historical beginnings of various activities and contrivances. These studies gave rise in time to treatises On Inventions, and undoubtedly contained much information of value; but pronouncements on matters of this sort are obviously relative to the knowledge of the investigator, and, where the author of a dictum and the sources and limitations of his information are alike unknown, we have no right to accept it as truth. In this instance we may at most conclude that Themistius, or rather his unknown source, did not credit Thales with a treatise On Nature.
The entry of Suidas runs thus: "Anaximander of Miletus, son of Praxiades, a philosopher; kinsman, disciple and successor to Thales. He first discovered the equinox, the solstices, and dials to tell the hours, and that the earth lies midmost. He introduced the gnomon (sun-dial) and, speaking generally, set forth the essential outlines of geometry. He wrote On Nature, Tour of the Earth, On the Fixed Stars, Sphere, and some other treatises." For the moment we may pass over all but the bibliographical data. The title On Nature we have already met. Tour of the Earth was one of the accepted names for a geographical treatise. On the Fixed Stars and Sphere would be suitable titles for works dealing with astronomy. What account shall we take of this bibliographical index?
In the times of Anaximander and for long thereafter it was not customary for authors to prefix titles to their writings. Such indication as the writer vouchsafed to give of the contents of his book would ordinarily be contained, along with his name, in the introductory sentence, as was done, for example, by Herodotus, more than a century after Anaximander. Ephorus was, apparently the first geographer and historian who divided his work into 'books.' However reasonable the earlier practice may have been for the writer, it was extremely inconvenient for a librarian. The latter required a convenient ticket to attach to the scroll, and hence invented titles where they were not furnished by use and wont. The librarians at Alexandria thus found in current use not only such general titles as Iliad and Odyssey, but also certain sub-titles referring to episodes or distinct divisions of larger wholes. It is obvious that in the catalogues of the Alexandrian libraries these titles recognized by usage and found in the testimonia, particularly regarding rare books or desiderata, were duly listed. Hence it might well happen, and demonstrably did repeatedly happen, that one and the same book was represented in the catalogues by various titles.
Now as regards Anaximander we need not pause at present to inquire whether, assuming the essential truth of the bibliographical data furnished by Suidas, he is to be credited with more than one treatise. The title On Nature, though in no sense original or really authentic, is admitted by all to apply to a genuine work of Anaximander from which, it is assumed, derive in the last resort the reports of his 'philosophical' opinions, excerpted by Theophrastus and preserved in the form of tablets triturate in the doxographic tradition. Even the most superficial knowledge of such things must suffice to justify the application of such a title as On the Fixed Stars to at least a portion of this treatise. As for Sphere, it is true that it is not strictly applicable, because there is no adequate ground for thinking that Anaximander spoke of celestial spheres, the luminaries being according to his teaching annular bodies; but from Aristotle onwards the Pythagorean astronomy and cosmology so established itself that even the best writers spoke of 'spheres' where really 'circles' more accurately described the facts. Hence it would be pressing too far a current expression to object to Sphere as a possible sub-title of the treatise On Nature. Of the Tour of the Earth we need for the movement to remark only that it is included in the list and refers beyond question to a geographical treatise, or in any case to a portion of a work, attributed to Anaximander, supposed to contain matters germane to geography. Whether other evidence of the existence of such a work in antiquity can be discovered elsewhere, we shall have presently to inquire.
Now this bibliographical index has been lightly, perhaps too lightly, set aside as valueless by modern scholars. Generally this is done without even a word of explanation; where anything is said, it is apt to be suggested that there is a mistake or that the titles were read out of references to the map and the celestial globe attributed to Anaximander. As has been already stated, no exception is taken to the datum regarding the title On Nature, though it is now agreed to have been of later origin. To Zeller, apparently, it was the multiplicity of titles that occasioned surprise and doubt. Why it should do so, he did not indicate; but one may surmise that he had in mind the probability that Anaximander was the first prose writer and assumed that all beginnings are modest. We may later recur to the question whether Anaximander may with great probability be regarded as the originator of Greek prose; meanwhile it may suffice to say that this is not so certain as to justify a priori deductions from the hypothesis. To add to the difficulty, apparently, Suidas, after enumerating the four titles already considered, adds that Anaximander wrote 'some other treatises' not specified by name. Now we shall subsequently find another title, not included in the list of Suidas, which may with probability be referred to our Anaximander.
This circumstance might be considered as aggravating the difficulty to the point of rendering what was before an improbability a sheer impossibility. But this also does not necessarily follow; for it may be that we shall have to revise our notions concerning Anaximander and what is possible or probable in regard to him. It so happens that the title elsewhere cited and not specifically mentioned in the list of Suidas is identical with a title cited in reference to Hecataeus of Miletus. Now Hecataeus, as we shall presently see, was only a trifle over a generation younger than his fellow townsman Anaximander, and pursued studies in good part at least identical with his, taking up and perfecting his map and writing a geographical treatise which enjoyed a great and well-deserved reputation. If it should prove that Anaximander was in intention primarily a geographer, the work of these two eminent Milesians would in fact lie quite in the same plane and run in part parallel, though each extended his line in one direction beyond the other's. Of this we shall have to speak more at length presently: what for the moment concerns us is to point out the fact that there is a striking similarity between these almost contemporary authors in regard to the titles ascribed to them.
Hecataeus seems to have written one work, or at most two, but the recorded titles are quite numerous. That these bibliographical data derived in part from the catalogues of the Alexandrian libraries admits of no doubt, and is in fact not questioned. Why we should not assume the same source for the bibliography of Anaximander does not appear. We have, therefore, thus far found no good reason for rejecting the testimony of Suidas, subject of course to the limitations which apply to all early titles, including that On Nature. The only apparently good reason will be presently found on closer examination to confirm the record that Anaximander wrote a geographical treatise.
We have seen that Suidas attributes the introduction of the gnomon or sun-dial to Anaximander. Diogenes Laertius reports that "he first invented the gnomon and, according to the Miscellany of Favorinus, set up at Sparta, in the place called the Dial, one that showed the solstices and equinoxes, and contrived a sun-dial to tell the hours. And he first drew an outline of land and sea, and moreover constructed a (celestial) sphere." Critics have taken exception to certain details of this statement. While Suidas, Diogenes Laertius, and Eusebius agree in attributing the invention of the sun-dial to Anaximander, the Greeks, according to Herodotus, learned the use of the dial and the twelve-fold division of the day from the Babylonians. In view of what we said above regarding the ancient reports of inventions we may well concede that Anaximander did not invent, but merely introduced the instrument. Perhaps even the mere introduction was not due to him; for it is quite possible that dials had been brought to Ionia either from Babylon or from Egypt before his time. We have, however, no reason to doubt that Anaximander was one of the earliest known Greeks to make a scientific use of the instrument. The dial which, according to Favorinus, he set up at Sparta, showed the equinoxes and solstices, and, according to Pliny, Anaximander discovered the obliquity of the zodiac, which, together with the beginnings of the seasons as marked by the rising and setting of certain constellations, could be, and at least in later times were actually, marked on the dial, as connected with seasonal changes in the position of the sun. Such observations are manifestly related to astronomy, with which Anaximander is acknowledged to have greatly concerned himself. The heliacal setting of the Pleiades, long before observed, could with the aid of the dial be definitely dated with reference to the autumnal equinox.
But there is evidence that the risings and settings of the sun at the solstices and equinoxes were in early times used for geographical as well as for astronomical purposes. It is significant that there is no certain reference to the height of the sun at midday until the discovery was made in the time of Eratosthenes that the sun at the summer solstice was vertical over Syene.
By that time the mathematical theory of the globe-earth was fully worked out and the value of the observation could be seen and the necessary conclusions drawn from it, which resulted in the geographical location of the tropics and the equator. But long before that we learn of the use of three equatorials, the central one passing through the straits of Gibraltar and defined with reference to the equinoxial rising and setting of the sun, and two other lines related respectively to the summer and to the winter sunrise and sunset, the former running from the Pyrenees to the Caucasus along the course of the Ister, the latter running parallel along the line supposed to be described by the upper course of the Nile from the Atlas Mountains to the upper Cataracts. This scheme, known from Herodotus, is obviously a geographical projection of the lines of a flat disk sun-dial, which originally concerned itself with the positions of the sun, not at the meridian, but at the rising and setting, where its variations were far more conspicuous. Since this geographical scheme is unquestionably derived from the early Ionians, we naturally think of it as going back either to Hecataeus or to Anaximander; and of the two Anaximander surely has the better claim to it.
But it has been said that the sun-dial at Sparta cannot be attributed to Anaximander, since Pliny says that it was Anaximenes, the disciple of Anaximander, who set it up. It is surprising that this objection should have been seriously considered; for in the same breath Pliny attributes the invention of the science of the gnomon to Anaximenes. The latter statement no one accepts, and with good reason; for Anaximenes is in comparison with Anaximander a figure of hardly secondary importance. The natural inference is that in this case Pliny misunderstood a statement in his source, which may well have been superficially ambiguous, since the clause regarding the discovery of the science of the gnomon and the erection of a dial at Sparta, might well have been introduced by a demonstrative susceptible of reference either to Anaximander or to Anaximenes, both of whom were mentioned. In this connection it is well to remark that while there is nothing else in the literary tradition associating Anaximenes with Sparta, it is reported that Anaximander warned the Spartans to abandon their city and houses and live in the open because he anticipated the earthquake which destroyed the entire city. We cannot, unfortunately, rely implicitly on these statements; but if they were true we should have the more reason to suspect that the bronze map of the earth which Aristagoras of Miletus brought to Sparta in his effort to persuade that State to aid the Ionians in over-throwing the Persian power was in fact the map of Anaximander who was commended to the Spartans by personal relations. But whether this map was that made by Anaximander or, as some prefer to think, the revised and perfected map of Hecataeus, who was conspicuously prominent in the Ionian revolt, makes very little difference for our purposes. The presence of a sun-dial at Sparta is as intelligible as that of the map; for both were related to geography, and Anaximander no less than Hecataeus was a geographer. Nor should it cause surprise that Anaximander should thus be supposed to have visited Sparta. It is true that we have no other record of his travels, but in view of the scantiness of the reports regarding him, this is not significant. One can hardly think of a geographer, especially of a pioneer in the field, as confining his studies to his native city and to such information as he could there obtain at second hand. His successor Hecataeus, we are told, had travelled widely.
Of the 'sphere' which Anaximander is said to have constructed we cannot say much. Its relation to his astronomical or cosmological studies is sufficiently obvious. It was as natural that he should attempt a graphic or plastic representation of the heavens as of the earth. Whatever its form, it would serve to visualize the obliquity of the zodiac, which he discovered, and to relate the constellations, in their risings and settings, to the seasons and the changing position of the sun. Anaximander presumably never realized how much this attempt was destined to contribute to the final overthrow of his conception of a disk earth and to the eventual revision of his map; for, once the heavens came to be clearly visualized as a sphere, the advance of geometry, which he is said to have cultivated, and the detailed observation of the stars, to which his sun-dial and 'sphere' must have added impetus, led inevitably to the postulate of a spheroidal earth. This postulate, as is well known, came not from geography, but from the study of the heavens. Indeed, long after the newer conception of the earth had sprung from the speculations of the Pythagoreans, who were geometers and not at all practical geographers, the maps of the geographers, though gradually modified, preserved the impress of their Ionian originators and of their conception of the disk earth.
As to Anaximander's map, we do not know through what intermediaries the notice regarding it came to the handbook of Diogenes Laertius. His testimony does not, however, stand alone, but is supported by the geographical tradition. The filiation in detail of the works on geography in which his map is mentioned need not detain us here. Leaving aside several unimportant notices which add nothing to our enlightenment, we may confine ourselves to the statements of Agathemerus and Strabo. The former says "Anaximander of Miletus, who 'heard' Thales, first had the hardihood to depict the inhabited earth on a tablet. After him Hecataeus of Miletus, a man who had travelled widely, refined his work to the point of admiration. Hellanicus of Lesbos, indeed, a man of wide learning, handed down the fruits of his research unaccompanied with a formal representation. Then Damastes of Sige, borrowing chiefly from the works of Hecataeus, wrote a geographical work; in due order Democritus and Ephorus and certain others composed systematic Tours of the Earth and Geographies." Of this statement it need only be said that it contains a selected fist of geographers, whether they prepared maps or not, extending roughly down to the time of Eratosthenes. The list is carelessly drawn and the phrasing is at more than one point ambiguous; but the difficulties which it presents do not specially concern us here.
To Strabo we are indebted for two passages relating to Anaximander as a geographer. Beginning his geographical treatise he says, "Geography, which I have now chosen to consider, I hold as much the pursuit of the philosopher as any other science. That my opinion is sound is clear from many considerations. For not only were the first who boldly essayed the subject men of this sort, — Homer, and Anaximander, and Hecataeus, (as Eratosthenes also says) his townsman, and Democritus also and Eudoxus and Dicaearchus and Ephorus and others more; and besides, after their time, Eratosthenes and Polybius and Posidonius, philosophers all. But, what is more, wide and varied learning, by which alone it is possible to achieve this task, belongs peculiarly to the man who contemplates all things divine and human, the science of which we call philosophy." Here Anaximander is presented as a geographer who, like numerous other worthies, including Homer, is regarded as a philosopher. The two-fold fact that Eratosthenes is cited as authority for the citizenship of Hecataeus and that the list of worthies falls into two groups of which Eratosthenes heads the second, suggests that that eminent geographer had something to do with drawing up the roll of geographers. His contribution does not, of course, extend beyond the first division; and even there we must except Homer, whom Eratosthenes declined to recognize either as a philosopher or as a geographer, insisting that he was to be regarded solely as a poet bent on entertaining his readers.
Nor can we credit Eratosthenes with rating the others as philosophers; for, aside from the vague conception of what constitutes a philosopher, which is characteristic of Strabo's cast of thought, it is to be noted that Hecataeus, for reasons which will engage our attention later on, was never seriously regarded as a philosopher and hence does not figure in the doxographic tradition. The same is true of Ephorus.
The reference of Strabo, however, to the 'wide and varied learning (polymathy)' required of the geographer recalls that Heraclitus rebuked it, saying "Polymathy does not teach one to have understanding, else would it have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, and again Xenophanes and Hecataeus." It was apparently the historical and geographical interest of these men that invited the rebuke of the Ephesian recluse. Such breadth of interest was of course characteristic of the whole line of historians and geographers. Pythagoras alone seems strange in such company. Why he should have been decried as a polymath is not clear; but we must recall that he came from Samos, where he may well have imbibed some of the varied knowledge of the Milesian circle, and that we have no authentic account of the range of his interests. What is commonly attributed to him is for the most part true of his school only. He may have been interested in geography, but neither the nature of the reports to that effect nor the record of his school would warrant one in affirming that he was. Heraclitus is said to have referred to Thales' prediction of the eclipse: in what terms he may have done so, we do not know. There is nothing to show what he may have thought of Anaximander.
But to return to Strabo. A few pages after the passage above quoted he resumes: "Let this suffice to justify the statement that Homer was the first geographer; but those also who succeeded him are known as noteworthy men and of the kindred of philosophy; the first of whom after Homer, Eratosthenes says, were two, Anaximander, an acquaintance and fellow citizen of Thales, and Hecataeus the Milesian; the one, he says, first gave out a geographical tablet (map), the other, Hecataeus, left a treatise attested as his by his other writing." The importance of this statement, coming from Eratosthenes the renowned geographer and chronologist, who served as head of the great library at Alexandria, is at once apparent. Just what it signifies is perhaps not quite so clear. Let us consider it somewhat more at length.
This passage bears out the conclusion we reached above in regard to the list of geographers drawn up by Eratosthenes. It was not for their supposed connection with philosophy, but solely as geographers that he mentioned Anaximander and Hecataeus, and Homer was not entered in the roll of honor. As regards the contribution of these pioneers of the science it hardly needs to be said that the testimony of so great an authority as Eratosthenes to the fact of Anaximander drawing a map has been accepted as conclusive evidence by all modern scholars. This conclusion is justified, however, not because Eratosthenes made no mistakes in regard to the authenticity of works, but rather by the circumstances, (1) that we cannot in this instance go farther and check his conclusion by better evidence from other sources, and (2) that in this case his decision is positive and not negative. The first of these principles must always hold in historical inquiries when there is no sufficient reason for impugning the testimony of a generally trustworthy and competent witness. The second is of importance in relation to the judgments of the Alexandrian librarians, because they assumed a critical attitude and erred in general, when they erred, in refusing to admit rather than in affirming the genuineness of works entered in their catalogues. For us, therefore, there remains no alternative but to accept the map as an historical fact.
But what of the geographical treatise attributed to Anaximander? It will perhaps be urged that the statement of Eratosthenes reproduced by Strabo confirms the judgment of those who would reject the report of Suidas, to the effect that Anaximander wrote a Tour of the Earth. If this be true, we are on dangerous ground when we refer the list of his works preserved by Suidas to the catalogues of the Alexandrian libraries. But what is affirmed, and what is implied, in the statement of Eratosthenes? The genuineness of Anaximander's map and of Hecataeus' geographical treatise is unquestionably affirmed. One may, if one will, insist that the word 'first' be taken with both statements, so that Eratosthenes shall be made to affirm not only that Anaximander first gave out a map but that Hecataeus first left a geographical treatise. Though possible, the construction is extremely improbable and forced. Yet, even if so much were granted, what is implied in the sentence as a whole? It is not stated that a geographical treatise attributed to Anaximander did not exist or had not existed; rather the affirmation that the claims of such a treatise, attributed to Hecataeus, to be regarded as genuine were confirmed by his other writing, when considered in relation to the sentence as a whole, would seem to imply that Eratosthenes had knowledge of a treatise attributed to Anaximander, which, however, was not so or otherwise sufficiently authenticated. If this exegesis be sound, and I believe it is, we discover in the very text which, "superficially viewed, seems to discredit the bibliography of Suidas, a confirmation of our thesis that the geographical treatise of Anaximander was entered in the Alexandrian catalogues. We may, however, infer from the statement of Eratosthenes that in his time, at least, it was noted as subject to question.
We must now inquire how much weight we should assign to the doubt of Eratosthenes regarding the genuineness of the work attributed to Anaximander. At first sight it would appear that he was as competent a judge in such matters as one could readily find; for one recalls that he was alike eminent as a geographer and as a student of chronology, the former interest seeming to qualify him in a special way to speak with authority on matters connected with the history of geography and in particular with geographical literature, the latter bespeaking for him uncommon credit in regard to the moot questions concerning 'inventions.' But upon closer examination one discovers that these pretensions vanish in thin air. Eratosthenes was, indeed, a geographer and a chronologist of deservedly high repute; but in both fields it was not the antiquarian details, but the scientific principles involved, that chiefly engaged his attention and owed to his efforts a noteworthy contribution. It might well happen, in consequence, that he should err in judgment in regard to matters which lay outside his proper field of study and less invited his interest. We should not be surprised, therefore, if others more directly interested and in such matters more competent should prove to have abandoned his doubts regarding the geographical treatise of Anaximander. That such was in fact the case we shall now try to show with such degree of certainty as is possible in such matters. As is generally the case in historical questions where a conclusive text is not to be produced, the evidence in this instance must be cumulative and must be presented piecemeal with a running commentary. The judicial reader will follow and weigh the arguments in detail, suspending sentence until the whole case has been presented.
We may sum up the conclusions which we have thus far reached in the following propositions, (a) Anaximander wrote a treatise, current in antiquity and accepted as genuine, which was commonly entitled On Nature, (b) There were recorded in the catalogues of the Alexandrian libraries certain other titles purporting to belong to him, such as Tour of the Earth, On the Fixed Stars, Sphere, and others not specified, (c) These titles were one and all of later origin, and, being quite possibly at least in part subtitles, indicate at most the scope of his writing without in any way revealing his predominant interest or creating a reasonable presumption in regard to the number of treatises, one or more, which he may be thought to have written, (d) He was credited with the invention or introduction of the sun-dial, which he employed for scientific purposes, certainly as regards cosmology or astronomy, probably in the interest of geography, (e) He drew a map of the earth, which was believed to be the first of its kind and to entitle him to be considered the first scientific geographer, (f) He is credibly reported to have constructed a 'sphere' or representation of the heavens, (g) Eratosthenes had knowledge of a geographical treatise attributed to Anaximander, which he did not consider sufficiently authenticated to justify him in crediting the father of scientific geography with more than the drawing of a map.
So far, then, as the geographical treatise is concerned, down to the time of Eratosthenes the verdict must be non liquet, though the admitted interest of Anaximander in the science of geography may be said to favor the presumption that he did not in his book, the existence of which is acknowledged, forego treating a subject so certainly in his thoughts. But Eratosthenes does not mark the close of scientific and antiquarian studies at the Alexandrian libraries in the fields of geography and chronology. The later advances in the science of geography do not concern us here; but it is necessary to direct attention to another scholar whose chosen pursuits especially qualified him to carry forward and revise in detail the historical studies of Eratosthenes. Apollodorus of Athens, the most illustrious disciple of the great Alexandrian critic Aristarchus, devoted himself with zeal and learning especially to the antiquarian aspects of geography and chronology. Attentively reading a vast number of books he published the results of his historical studies chiefly in two works, — his versified Chronicles, in which the dates of writers were as precisely as possible fixed, and The Catalogue of Ships, in which he gathered about the Homeric Catalogue the fruits of his researches in geography. Connected with this learned commentary was his work On the Earth, like the Chronicles, versified. He wrote, besides, on mythology, prompted by an interest in literary history. Apollodorus is, therefore, of all ancient critics the one whose testimony regarding the book of Anaximander we should most wish to learn.
By a singular good fortune we are in fact in a position to ascertain at least in part what Apollodorus knew of Anaximander's writings. Diogenes Laertius says that Anaximander "gave a summary exposition of his opinions, on which Apollodorus of Athens somewhere chanced, who in his Chronicles reports that he was sixty-four years of age in the second year of the fifty-eighth Olympiad and died shortly thereafter." In the light of our foregoing discussion, this most interesting statement deserves somewhat fuller consideration than it has hitherto received.
Whence Diogenes derived this datum is not certain; but one may conjecture from the phraseology that it came mediately or immediately from the late doxographic document which Diels has called the Posidonian Areskonta. It is known that Posidonius followed closely in the footsteps of Apollodorus, whose geographical studies he took up and prosecuted to the best of his ability. But in any case Apollodorus made the statement in question in his Chronicles. By 'opinions' Diogenes of course means 'philosophical' opinions, and therefore, though Apollodorus does not seem to have cited the title of the 'summary exposition,' it is commonly assumed that it was the treatise appropriately called On Nature to which he referred.
Diels has cited as a parallel the chronological datum given by Democritus in his Brief Cosmology, and suggests that the year designated was that of the publication of the treatise, which contained autobiographical references capable of astronomical determination.
This is of course conceivable; but, it must be pointed out, this hypothesis, while possibly accounting for the given year, fails to explain the further statement of Apollodorus that Anaximander died shortly afterwards. If, as we are bound to do, we confine ourselves to such information as Apollodorus might derive from the book he had met with, without assuming either data from other sources or unwarranted inferences on the part of the chronologist, we must frame a better theory. Such an hypothesis is in fact not far to seek, and has indeed been already in part suggested by Professor Burnet.
Diogenes dates Anaximander by the second year of the fifty-eighth Olympiad. This statement does not derive directly from Apollodorus, who used the year of the Athenian Archon Eponymus instead of the Olympiad. But the chronological practice of Apollodorus suggests not only that the datum really comes from his work but also that it was based upon information of a peculiarly definite sort.
Ordinarily Apollodorus contented himself (perforce, no doubt) with determining the floruit of a man, taken as forty years of age, with reference to some epoch or the beginning of a king's reign, if a relation could be established. One sees at once the exceptional character of the datum regarding Anaximander; for the age is not forty, but sixty-four, and the year (B.C. 547/6) is not one of his regular epochs. The following year, however (546/5), is one of the important epochs of Apollodorus, being that of the fall of Sardis. The preceding year, moreover, though not marking an epoch for Apollodorus, was one of fateful consequences to the Ionians of Miletus, among whom Anaximander was a man of great prominence; for the march of the Persians under Cyrus against Croesus, whose subject allies the Milesians were, and the defeat of Croesus at the Halys, must have filled Anaximander with dismay. Nothing would be more natural than for him to mention these events, if he dealt at all with geographical or historical matters; for they were obviously of great potential significance from either point of view. If he was personally active in this campaign, as he may well have been, he might properly give his age.
Thus we should have a reasonable hypothesis to account for the report of Apollodorus regarding his age in this precise year. The additional statement that he died not long thereafter would be adequately explained if Anaximander's book made no mention of the fall of Sardis, which soon followed.
It will be seen that this hypothesis carries us beyond the natural scope of a cosmological treatise, such as would necessarily be entitled On Nature, into a field more closely connected with history or geography. It may be said, however, that, while this assumption would meet the necessary conditions, others equally as good might be made to fit the requirements. Granted that an hypothesis, however satisfactory, is not to be accepted as proof, we are justified in saying that this particular hypothesis has more probability in its favor than any other that has been proposed, and is at least in a measure supported by the evidence of Anaximander's interest in geography.
But we have not yet exhausted the possible sources of information regarding Anaximander's book. Aside from a fragment preserved by Simplicius, to which we shall later return, there are mentioned certain opinions and passages attributed in our sources to 'Anaximander.' Their status, however, is uncertain, because we hear of another Anaximander of Miletus, to whom they have generally been referred. We are bound, therefore, to consider the new claimant and the validity of his claims.
What we may be said to know about the other Anaximander is little enough, being contained in two brief notices. Diogenes Laertius reports that "there was also another Anaximander, an historian, he too being a Milesian, who wrote in Ionic." The entry of Suidas regarding him runs thus: "Anaximander the Younger, son of Anaximander, of Miletus — historian. He lived in the time of Artaxerxes Mnemon; wrote Interpretation of Pythagorean Symbols, e.g. ' not to step over a cross-bar,' ' not to poke the fire with a poniard,' ' not to eat from a whole loaf,' and the rest." The first gives nothing omitted in the second notice except that be wrote in Ionic, which was natural if he wrote before Attic became the recognized medium for prose, as it did in the fourth century B.C. As Artaxerxes Mnemon reigned 405-359 B.C., and the chronological datum ' he lived in the time of such and such a king' regularly refers to the date of the king's accession (405), this information was not material. Suidas, then, alone gives us significant data.
We gather, then, that Anaximander was a fairly frequent name at Miletus, as this notice acquaints us with two, father and son. If they were not related to the great Anaximander, his fame may account for the perpetuation of the name in his city. Anaximander the Younger is called an historian, which might be significant if we were not immediately informed what sort of history he wrote without getting the least intimation that he produced anything beyond the Interpretation of Pythagorean Symbols.
Though Suidas gives us no specimen of his interpretations and we have no evidence in regard to them from other sources, we fortunately are not without instructive examples of the same literary kind from other hands. At their best they are reports of an antiquarian character regarding curious practices in Greece or foreign lands; at their worst they are stupid attempts at symbolical interpretation. They cannot predispose us to think of Anaximander the Younger as a serious rival of his great eponym; and in any case the fact that he is called an historian, with such a work and such only to his credit, offers no justification for assigning to him every fragment or notice which would be appropriate to an historian.
Having seen what manner of man Anaximander the Younger was according to the only certain information we have regarding him, we must now canvass the data which Greek tradition attributes simply to 'Anaximander' and modern scholars commonly credit to the account of the author of the Interpretation of Pythagorean Symbols. A scholium on Dionysius Thrax reports, "Ephorus among others in his second book says that Cadmus was the inventor of the alphabet; others say that he was not the inventor but the transmitter to us of the invention of the Phoenicians, as Herodotus also in his History and Aristotle report, for they say that Phoenicians invented the alphabet and Cadmus brought it to Greece. Pythodorus, however, in his treatise On the Alphabet and Phillis of Delos, in his treatise On Chronology, say that before the time of Cadmus Danaus imported it; and they are confirmed by the Milesian writers Anaximander and Dionysius and Hecataeus, who are cited in this connection by Apollodorus also in his treatise On the Catalogue of Ships." The word vaguely rendered 'writers' in the foregoing version should probably be translated 'historians,' its usual meaning in later Greek. Possibly it was this consideration that prevailed with modern scholars, leading them to assign this datum to Anaximander the Younger. Diels alone, apparently, has latterly had misgivings; for after ignoring this passage in the first two editions of his invaluable Vorsokratiker he included it in the third, but marked it as dubious under the heading of the elder Anaximander.
Intrinsically there can be no valid objection to the assumption that the early Milesians Anaximander, Dionysius and Hecataeus concerned themselves with the question regarding the source of the Greek alphabet. The absurd notions regarding the late beginnings of literature in Greece, based on a few ignorant utterances of late Greeks and fostered by the incomprehensible influence of Wolf's Prolegomena might account for the hesitation of some modern scholars to credit such a report, which obviously implies that to the Ionians of the time of Pisistratus writing was so familiar a fact that they must seek its origins in the distant mythical past; but, apart from such preconceptions, there is no ground for calling it in question. It is rather just what the intelligent student should have expected, not only from a reading of the Homeric poems, whose literary perfection and contents are incomprehensible except on the supposition of long literary practice, but also from a critical reading of the extant remains of early Greek historical writings. Herodotus, whose dependence on early Ionian, especially Milesian, writers is unquestionable, has no doubt of the derivation of all higher elements of Greek civilization from Egypt, and constantly presupposes two lines of transmission, one direct, mediated by Danaus, from Egypt to Argos, the other indirect, in which the Phoenicians play the role of intermediaries. In the latter line Cadmus, who is supposed to have come from Tyre to Thebes, is not the only link. It is not necessary here to go into details. Suffice it to say that on the ground of intrinsic probability no objection can be urged against the assumption that Anaximander, the contemporary of Croesus, held the opinion that Danaus brought the alphabet direct from Egypt.
Nor can there be a reasonable doubt that the elder, and not the younger, Anaximander is intended. The datum furnished by the scholiast is referred to Apollodorus of Athens', who had cited 'the Milesian historians Anaximander, Dionysius and Hecataeus' for the opinion in question, in his great historico-geographical treatise On the Catalogue of Ships. He it was, we recall, who somewhere met with Anaximander' s book, from which he must have derived the information enabling him to date the old Milesian with such singular precision. The character of that information, as we have pointed out, was presumably historical and geographical. The datum regarding the origin of the Greek alphabet, being of the same character, naturally found its way into a work belonging to the same line of tradition.
But the date of Anaximander was, as we have seen, properly given in Apollodorus' Chronicles. Since he was especially interested in chronology, we should expect Apollodorus to give the names in chronological order. In the versified Chronicles he might for metrical reasons depart from this natural order, but not in his prose treatise On the Catalogue of Ships. He observed, therefore, the order — right or wrong — in which these writers appeared in his Chronicles, barring metrical difficulties not likely to occur except in the event that they had to be mentioned in the same clause.
Now it happens that the names Anaximander, Dionysius, Hecataeus actually follow one another in alphabetical order. In the case of Anaximander, acknowledged to be older than the other members of the group, nobody would deny that chronological considerations might nevertheless have determined his position at the head of the list; but in regard to the other two question will at once arise, because Dionysius is commonly considered junior to Hecataeus. We have then to canvass the question of their chronology, especially in so far as Apollodorus may be supposed to have been concerned in fixing it.
The datum unquestionably from his treatise On the Catalogue of Ships we have seen, as well as the reasons for regarding his list as arranged in chronological order. Aside from this we have several other statements. Heraclitus, as we have observed, names his polymaths in the following sequence: Hesiod, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Hecataeus. That this order is roughly chronological will not be denied, though a question might arise regarding the relative ages of Pythagoras and Xenophanes. They were in any case roughly contemporary, and Xenophanes referred to Pythagoras. Hence we may disregard this nice question of chronology, which cannot be settled. Hecataeus, at all events, was younger than both and earlier than Heraclitus. We have, moreover, the evidence of Herodotus, who represents Hecataeus as prominent in the councils of Miletus in the Ionian Revolt (499 and 497/6). The role which he plays in these events proves that he was an 'elder statesman.' In the article of Suidas about Hellanicus there is clearly a confusion, which others have sought to correct. In view of this corruption of the text, one cannot of course adduce it in evidence. Even worse is the entry of Suidas in regard to Dionysius. "Dionysius of Miletus, historian: Events after Darius in five books, Geography, Persian History in the Ionic dialect, Trojan History in three books, Mythical History, Historic Cycle in seven books." Here, as all acknowledge, we have a hopeless jumble arising from the confusion of an indeterminate number of the almost innumerable writers who bore the name of Dionysius. This being so, we must clearly rule out this datum also as incapable of yielding a date; for the only item in this bibliographical farrago possibly serviceable for chronological purposes, the Events after Darius, not only shares the general doubt attaching to the list as a whole, but is in itself ambiguous. That Dionysius of Miletus was an historian we must grant, and that he wrote on Persian history in the time of Cambyses and Darius I is exceedingly probable. Beyond that we have thus far been unable to go.
There is, however, another chronological datum to be found in the entry of Suidas regarding Hecataeus: "Hecataeus, son of Hegesimander, of Miletus; he lived in the time of Darius who was king after Cambyses, when Dionysius of Miletus also lived, in the sixty-fifth Olympiad: a writer of history." This chronological notice, obviously derived from some chronicle, was it would seem, somewhat awkwardly combined with a bibliography, which has in consequence been lost. It admits of no doubt, however, that the chronologist was himself quite clear in regard to the Milesian writers and their date; and I do not entertain the least doubt that the chronological datum comes ultimately from Apollodorus. In form it agrees perfectly with numerous others derived from his Chronicles: it is obviously intended to fix the floruit of Hecataeus and Dionysius at the year 520 B.C., the year in which Darius, the last Persian king with whom the chronologist could establish a connection, became King of Babylon. Apollodorus no doubt dated by the Athenian Archon Eponymus, but some later author converted the date, using the corresponding Olympiad. We thus see that Apollodorus might perfectly well name the two Milesian historians in either order, Dionysius and Hecataeus, or Hecataeus and Dionysius, since he fixed their floruit in the same year. The two statements therefore complement and confirm one another. Regarding Hecataeus, at any rate, the date, which would make him over sixty years of age at the time of the Ionian Revolt, cannot be far wrong: and respecting Dionysius we have no information that in the least justifies us in questioning the correctness of Apollodorus' calculation.
Having disposed of the objections to the acceptance of the statement attributed to Apollodorus and having justified our reference of it to the elder Anaximander, it remains for us to signalize the importance of the fact reported as evidence of the character and contents of his book. So much at least we may confidently affirm: that it did not confine itself to cosmological and other cognate matters which might justify the title On Nature to the exclusion of such a title as Tour of the Earth; for a glance at the list of authorities whom the scholiast on Dionysius Thrax cites in regard to the origin of the Greek alphabet, as well as a consideration of the logical context of such an inquiry, must suggest that the book of Anaximander, like those of Hecataeus, Dionysius, and Herodotus, belonged at least in part to the historico-geographical line of tradition. Regarding Hecataeus and Dionysius there can be no question; but Anaximander also is classed with these admittedly 'historical' writers.
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