THE MILESIAN SCHOOL
I. Miletos and Lysdia
i. IT was at Miletos that the earliest school of scientific cosmology had its home. At the time it arose, the Milesians were in an exceptionally favourable position for scientific as well as commercial pursuits. They had, indeed, come into conflict more than once with the neighbouring Lydians, whose rulers were now bent upon extending their dominion to the coast; but, towards the end of the seventh century B.C., Thrasyboulos, tyrant of Miletos, had succeeded in making terms with King Alyattes, and an alliance was concluded between them, which not only saved Miletos for the present from a disaster like that which befell Smyrna, but secured it against molestation for the future. Even half a century later, when Croesus, resuming his father's forward policy, made war upon and conquered Kphesos, Miletos was still able to maintain the old treaty-relation, and never, strictly speaking, became subject to the Lydians at all. We can hardly doubt that the sense of security which this exceptional position would foster had something to do with the rise of scientific inquiry. Material prosperity is necessary as a foundation for the highest intellectual effort; and at this
38 time Miletos was in possession of all the refinements of life to a degree unknown in continental Hellas.
Nor was it only in this way that the Lydian connexion would favour the growth of science at Miletos. What was called Hellenism at a later date seems to have been traditional in the dynasty of the Mermnadai. There may well be some truth in the statement of Herodotos, that all the " sophists " of the time flocked to the court of Sardeis.1 The tradition which represents Croesus as what we should call the " patron " of Greek wisdom, was fully developed in the fifth century ; and, however unhistorical its details may be, it must clearly have some sort of foundation in fact. Particularly noteworthy is " the common tale among the Greeks," that Thales accompanied him on his luckless campaign against Pteria, apparently in the capacity of military engineer. Herodotos, indeed, disbelieves the story that he diverted the course of the Halys;2 but he does not attack it on the ground of any antecedent improbability, and it is quite clear that those who reported it found no difficulty in accepting the relation which it presupposes between the philosopher and the king.
1 Herod, i. 29. Some other points may be noted in confirmation of what has been said as to the "Hellenism" of the Mermnadai. Alyattes had two wives, one of whom, the mother of Croesus, was a Karian ; the other was an Ionian, and by her lie had a son called by the Greek name Pantaleon (ib. 92). The offerings of Gyges were pointed out in the treasury of Kypselos at Delphoi (ib. 14), and those of Alyattes were one of the " sights " of the place (ib. 25). Croesus also showed great liberality to Delphoi (ib. 50), and to many other Greek shrines (ib. 92). He gave most of the pillars for the great temple at Kphesos. The stories of Miltiadcs (vi. 37) and Alkmeon (ib. 125) should also be mentioned in this connexion.
2 Herod, i. 75. He disbelieves it because he had heard, probably from the Greeks of Sinope, of the great antiquity of the bridge on the royal road between Ankyra and Pteria (Ramsay, Asia Minor, p. 29). Xanthos recorded a tradition that it was Thales who induced Croesus to ascend his pyre when he knew a shower was coming (fr. 19).
39 It should be added that the Lydian alliance would greatly facilitate intercourse with Babylon and Egypt. Lydia was an advanced post of Babylonian culture, and Croesus was on friendly terms with the kings of both Egypt and Babylon. It is noteworthy, too, that Amasis of Egypt had the same Hellenic sympathies as Croesus, and that the Milesians possessed a temple of their own at Naukratis.1
2. There can be no doubt that the founder of the Origin. Milesian school, and therefore the first of the cosmologists, was Thales ;2 but all we can really be said to know of him comes from Herodotos, and the romance of the Seven Wise Men was already in existence when he wrote. He tells us, in the first place, that Thales was of Phoenician descent, a statement which other writers explained by saying he belonged to the Thelidai, a noble house descended from Kadmos and Agenor.3 This is clearly connected with the view of Herodotos that there were " Kadmeians " from Boiotia among the original Ionian colonists, and it is certain that there really were people called Kadmeians in several Ionic cities.4 Whether they were of Semitic origin is, of
1 Milesians at Naukratis, Herod, ii. 178, where Amasis is said to have been φιλέλλην. He subscribed to the rebuilding of the temple at Delphoi after the great fire (ib. I So).
'2 Simplicius, indeed, quotes from Theophrastos the statement that Thales had many predecessors (Dox. p. 475, n). This, however, need not trouble us; for the scholiast on Apollonios Rhodios (ii. 1248) tells us that Theophrastos made Prometheus the first philosopher, which is merely an application of Peripatetic literalism to a remark of Plato's (Phileb. 16 c 6). (Jl. Appendix, § 2.
3 Herod, i. 170 (R. P. 9 d.) ; Diog. i. 22 (R. T. 9).
4 Strabo, xiv. pp. 633, 636; 1'ausan. vii. 2, 7. Priene was called Kadme, and the oldest annalist of Miletos bore the name Kadmos. See E. Meyer, Gesch. des Altert. ii. § 158.
40 course, another matter. Herodotos probably mentions the supposed descent of Thales simply because he was believed to have introduced certain improvements in navigation from Phoenicia.1 At any rate, the name Examyes, which his father bore, lends no support to the view that he was a Semite. It is a Karian name, and the Karians had been almost completely assimilated by the lonians. On the monuments, we find Greek and Karian names alternating in the same families, and there is therefore no reason to suppose that Thales was anything else than an ordinary Milesian citizen, though perhaps with Karian blood in his veins.2
3. By far the most remarkable statement that Thales. Herodotos makes about Thales is that he foretold the eclipse of the sun which put an end to the war between the Lydians and the Medes.3 Now, we may be sure that he was quite ignorant of the true cause of eclipses. Anaximander and his successors certainly were so,4 and it is incredible that the right explanation should once have been given and then forgotten so soon. Even supposing, however, Thales had known the cause of eclipses, no one can believe that such scraps of elementary geometry as he picked up in Egypt would enable him to calculate one from the elements of the moon's path. Yet the evidence for the prediction is
1 Diog. i, 23, Καλλίμαχος δ΄ αὐτὸν οἶδεν εὑρετὴν τῆς ἄρκτου τῆς μικρᾶς λέγων ἐν τοῖς Ἰάμβοις οὕτως
καὶ τῆς ἁμάξης ἐλέγετο σταθμήσασθαι
τοὺς ἀστερίσχους, ᾗ πλέουσι Φοίνικες.
2 See Diels, “Thales ein Semite?" (Arch. ii. 165 sqq.), and Immisch, "Zu Thales Abkunft" (ib. p. 515). The name Examyes occurs also in Kolophon (Hermesianax, Leontion, fr. 2, 38 Bgk.), and may be compared with other Karian names such as Cheramyes and Panamyes.
3 Herod, i. 74.
4 For the theories held by Anaximander and Herakleitos, see infra, §§ 19, 71.
41 too strong to be rejected off-hand. The testimony of Herodotos to an event which must have happened about a hundred years before his own birth may, perhaps, be deemed insufficient; but that of Xenophanes is a very different matter, and it is this we have really to deal with.1 According to Theophrastos, Xenophanes was a disciple of Anaximander, and he may quite well have seen and spoken with Thales. In any case, he must have known scores of people who were able to remember what happened, and he had no conceivable interest in misrepresenting it. The prediction of the eclipse is really better attested than any other fact about Thales whatsoever, and the evidence for it is about as strong as for anything that happened in the early part of the sixth century B.C.
Now it is quite possible to predict eclipses without knowing their true cause, and there is no doubt that the Babylonians actually did so. On the basis of their astronomical observations, they had made out a cycle of 223 lunar months, within which eclipses of the sun and moon recurred at equal intervals of time.2 This, it is true, would not enable them to predict eclipses of the sun for a given spot on the earth's surface; for these phenomena are not visible at all places where the sun is above the horizon at the time. We do not occupy a position at the centre of the earth, and what astronomers call the geocentric parallax has to be
1 Diog. i. 23, δοχεῖ δὲ κατά τινας πρῶτος ἀστρολογῆσαι καὶ ἡλιακὰς ἐκλείψεις καὶ τροπὰς προειπεῖν, ὥς φησιν Εὔδημος ἐν τῇ περὶ ἀστρολογουμένων ἱστοριᾳ, ὅθεν αὐτὸν καὶ Ξενοφάνης καὶ Ἡρόδοτος θαυμάζει.
2 The first to call attention to the Chaklaean cycle in this connexion seems to have been the Rev. George Costard, Fellow of Wadham College. See his Dissertation on the Use of Astronomy in History (London, 1764), p. 17- It is inaccurate to call it the Saras; that was quite another thing (see Ginzel, Klio, i, p. 377).
42 Date of Thales.
taken into account It would only, therefore, be possible to tell by means of the cycle that an eclipse of the sun would be visible somewhere, and that it might be worth while to look out for it Now, if we may judge from a report by a Chaldaean astronomer which has been preserved, this was just the position of the Babylonians. They watched for eclipses at the proper dates ; and, if they did not occur, they announced the fact as a good omen.1 To explain what we are told about Thales no more than this is required. He simply said there would be an eclipse ; and, as good luck would have it, it was visible in Asia Minor, and on a striking occasion.
4. The prediction of the eclipse does not, then, throw much light upon the scientific attainments of Thales; but, if we can fix its date, it will give us a point from which to start in trying to determine the time at which he lived. Modern astronomers have calculated that there was an eclipse of the sun, probably visible in Asia Minor, on May 28 (O.S.), 585 B.C.2, while Pliny gives the date of the eclipse foretold by Thales as Ol. XLVIII. 4 (585/4 B.C.).3 This, it is true, does not
1 See George Smith, Assyrian Discoveries (1875), p. 409. The inscription which follows was found at Kouyunjik :
" To the king my lord, thy servant Abil-Istar.
" Concerning the eclipse of the moon of which the king my lord sent to me ; in the cities of Akkad, Borsippa, and Nipur, observations they made, and then in the city of Akkad, we saw part. . . . The observation was made, and the eclipse took place.
"And when for the eclipse of the sun we made an observation, the observation was made and it did not take place. That which I saw with my eyes to the king my lord I send."
2 For the literature of this subject, see R. P. 8 b, adding Ginzel, Speziellei-Kanon, p. 171. See also Milhaud, Science grecque, p. 62.
3 Pliny, N.H. ii. 53.
43 exactly tally ; for May 585 belongs to the year 586/5 B.C. It is sufficiently near, however, to justify us in identifying the eclipse as that of Thales, and this is confirmed by Apollodoros, who fixed his floruit in the same year.1 The further statement that, according to Demetrios Phalereus, Thales "received the name of wise" in the archonship of Damasias at Athens, agrees very well with this, and is doubtless based on the story of the Delphic tripod ; for the archonship of Damasias is the era of the restoration of the Pythian Games.2
5. The introduction of Egyptian geometry into Thales in Hellas is universally ascribed to Thales, and it is extremely probable that he did visit Egypt ; for he had a theory of the inundations of the Nile. In a well-known passage,3 Herodotos gives three explanations
1 For Apollodoros, see Appendix, § 20. The dates in our text of Diogenes (i. 37 ; R. P. 8) cannot be reconciled with one another. That given for the death of Thales is probably right; for it is the year before the fall of Sardeis in 546/5 B.C., which is one of the regular eras used by Apollodoros. It no doubt seemed natural to make Thales die the year before the " ruin of Ionia" which he foresaw. Seventy-eight years before this brings us to 625/4 B.C. for the birth of Thales, and this gives us 585/4 B.C. for his fortieth year. That is Pliny's date for the eclipse, and Pliny's dates come from Apollodoros through Nepos. For a full discussion of the subject, see Jacoby, pp. 175 sqq.
2 Diog. i. 22 (R. P. 9). I do not discuss the Pythian era and the date of Damasias here, though it appears to me that the last word has not yet been said upon the subject. Jacoby (pp. 170 sqq.) argues strongly for 582/1, the date now generally accepted. Others favour the Pythian year 586/5 B.C., which is the very year of the eclipse, and this would help to explain how those historians who used Apollodoros came to date it a year too late; for Damasias was archon for two years and two months. It is even possible that they misunderstood the words Δαμασίου τοῦ δευτέρου, which are intended to distinguish him from an earlier archon of the same name, as meaning "in the second year of Damasias." Apollodoros gave only Athenian archons, and the reduction to Olympiads is the work of later writers. Kirchner, adopting the year 582/1 for Damasias, brings the archonship of Solon down to 591/0 (Rh. Mus. liii. pp. 242 sqq.). But the date of Solon's archonship can never have been doubtful. On Kirchner's reckoning, we come to 586/5 B.C., if we keep the traditional date of Solon. See also E. Meyer, Forschungen, ii. pp. 242 sqq.
3 Herod, ii. 20.
44 of the fact that this alone of all rivers rises in summer and falls in winter; but, as his custom is in such cases, he does not name their authors. The first of them, however, that which attributes the floods to the Etesian winds, is ascribed to Thales in the Placita1 and also by many later writers. Now, those statements are derived from a treatise on the Rise of the Nile attributed to Aristotle and known to the Greek commentators, but now extant only in a Latin epitome of the thirteenth century.2 In this work the first of the three theories mentioned by Herodotos is ascribed to Thales, the second to Euthymenes of Massalia, and the third to Anaxagoras. Where did Aristotle, or whoever wrote the book, get these names? We think naturally once more of Hekataios, whom Herodotos so often reproduces without mentioning his name; and this conjecture is much strengthened when we find that Hekataios actually mentioned Euthymenes.3 We may conclude, then, that Thales really was in Egypt; and, perhaps, that Hekataios, in describing the Nile, took account, as was only natural, of his distinguished fellow-citizen's views.
Thales and Geometry.
6. As to the nature and extent of the mathematical knowledge brought back by Thales from Egypt, it seems desirable to point out that many writers have seriously misunderstood the character of the tradition.4 In his commentary on the First Book of Euclid, Proclus enumerates, on the authority of Eudemos,
3 Act. iv. i. i (Dox. p. 384).
2 Dox. pp. 226-229. The Latin epitome will be found in Rose's edition of the Aristotelian fragments.
3 Hekataios, fr. 278 (F.H.G. i. p. 19).
4 See Cantor, Vorlesungen über Geschichte der Mathematik, vol. i. pp. 112 sqq.; Allman, " Greek Geometry from Thales to Euclid " (Hermathena, iii. pp. 164-174).
certain propositions which he says were known to Thales.1 One of the theorems with which he credits him is that two triangles are equal when they have one side and the two adjacent angles equal. This he must have known, said Eudemos, as otherwise he could not have measured the distances of ships at sea from a watch-tower in the way he was said to have done.2 Here we see how all these statements arose. Certain remarkable feats in the way of measurement were traditionally ascribed to Thales, and it was assumed that he must have known all the propositions which these imply. But this is quite an illusory method of inference. Both the measurement of the distance of ships at sea, and that of the height of the pyramids, which is also ascribed to him,3 are easy applications of
1 Proclus, in Eucl. pp. 65, 7; 157, 10; 250, 20; 299, I ; 352, 14; (Friedlein). Eudemos wrote the first histories of astronomy and mathematics, just as Theophrastos wrote the first history of philosophy.
2 Proclus, p. 352, 14, Εὔδημος δὲ ἐν ταῖς γεωμετρικαῖς ἱστορίας εἰς Θαλῆν τοῦτο ἀνάγει τὸ θεώρημα (Eucl. I, 26) τὴν γὰρ τῶν ἐν θαλάττῃ πλοίων ἀπόστασιν δι' οὗ τρόπου φασὶν αὐτὸν δεικνύναι τούτῳ προσχρῆσθαί φησιν ἀναγκαῖον. For the method adopted by Thales, see Tannery, Geomètrie grecque, p. 90, I agree, however, with Dr. Gow (Short History of Greek Mathematics, § 84) that it is very unlikely Thales reproduced and measured on land the enormous triangle which he had constructed in a perpendicular plane over the sea. Such a method would be too cumbrous to be of use. It is much simpler to suppose that he made use of the Egyptian seqt.
3 The oldest version of this story is given in Diog. i. 27, ὁ δὲ Ἱερώνυμος καὶ ἐχμετρῆσαί φησιν αὐτὸν τὰς πυραμύδας, ἐκ τῆς σχιᾶς παρατηρήσαντα ὅτε ἡμῖν ισομεγέθης ἐστίν. Cf. Pliny, H. Nat. xxxvi. 82, mensuram altitudinis earum deprehendere invenit Thales Milesius umbram metiendo qua hora par esse corpori solet. (Hieronymos of Rhodes was contemporary with Eudemos.). This need imply no more than the simple reflexion that the shadows of all objects will probably be equal to the objects at the same hour. Plutarch (Conv. sept. sap. 147 a) gives a more elaborate method, τὴν βακτηρίαν στήσας ἐπι τῷ πέρατι τῆς σκιᾶς ἣν ἡ πυραμὶς ἐποίει, γενομένων τῇ ἐπαφῇ τῆς ἀκτῖνος δυοῖν πριγώνων, ἔδειξας ὃν ἡ σκιὰ πρὸς τὴν σκιὰν λόγον εἶχε, τὴν πυραμίδα πρὸς τὴν βακτηρίαν ἔχουσαν.
This, as Dr. Gow points out, is only another calculation of seqt, and may very well have been the method of Thales.
46 what Aahmes calls the seqt. These rules of mensuration may well have been brought from Egypt by Thales, but we have no ground for supposing that he knew any more about their rationale than did the author of the Rhind papyrus. Perhaps, indeed, he gave them a wider application than the Egyptians had done. Still, mathematics, properly so called, did not come into existence till some time after Thales.
Thales as a politician
7. Thales appears once more in the pages of Herodotos some time before the fall of the Lydian empire. He is said to have urged the Ionian Greeks to unite in a federal state with its capital at Teos.1 We shall have occasion to notice more than once in the sequel that the early schools of philosophy were in the habit of trying to influence the course of political events; and there are many things, for instance the part played by Hekataios in the Ionian revolt, which point to the conclusion that the scientific men of Miletos took up a very decided position in the stirring times that followed the death of Thales. It is this political action which has gained the founder of the Milesian school his undisputed place among the Seven Wise Men ; and it is owing mainly to his inclusion among those worthies that the numerous anecdotes which were told of him in later days attached themselves to his name.2
Uncertain character of the tradition
8. If Thales ever wrote anything, it soon was lost, and the works which were written in his name did not, as a rule, deceive even the ancients.3 Aristotle
1 Herod, i. 170 (R. P. 9 d).
2 The story of Thales falling into a well (Plato, Tht. 174 a) is nothing but a fable teaching the uselessness of σοφία; the anecdote about the "corner" in oil (Ar. Pol. A, 11. 1259 a 6) is intended to inculcate the opposite lesson.
3 See R. P. 9 c.
professes to know something about the views of Thales ; but he does not pretend to know how they were arrived at, nor the arguments by which they were supported. He does, indeed, make certain suggestions, which are repeated by later writers as statements of fact; but he himself simply gives them for what they are worth.1 There is another difficulty in connexion with the tradition. Many a precise-looking statement in the Placita has no other foundation than the habit of ascribing any doctrine which was, roughly speaking, characteristic of the whole Ionic " Succession " to " Thales and his followers," and so producing the appearance of a definite statement about Thales. But, in spite of all this, we need not doubt that Aristotle was correctly informed with regard to the leading points. We. have seen traces of reference to Thales in Hekataios, and nothing can be more likely than that later writers of the school should have quoted the views of its founder. We may venture, therefore, upon a conjectural restoration of his cosmology, in which we shall be guided by what we know for certain of the subsequent development of the Milesian school; for we should naturally expect to find its characteristic doctrines at least foreshadowed in the teaching of its earliest representative. But all this must be taken for just what it is worth ; speaking strictly, we do not know anything about the teaching of Thales at all.
9. The statements of Aristotle may be reduced to Conjectural
,1 account of the
(i) The earth floats on the water.2
1 R. r. ib.
2 Arist. Met. A, 3. 983 1) 21 (R. P. 10); de Caelo, 15, 13. 294 a 28 (R. P. it)- Later writers add that he gave this as an explanation of earthquakes (so Aet. iii. 15, i); but this is probably due to a "Homeric allegorist"
48 EARLY GREEK PHILOSOPHY
(2) Water is the material cause2 of all things.
(3) All things are full of gods. The magnet is alive; for it has the power of moving iron. 3
The first of these statements must be understood in the light of the second, which is expressed in Aristotelian terminology, but would undoubtedly mean that Thales had said water was the fundamental or primary thing, of which all other things were mere transient forms. It was, we shall see, just such a primary substance that the Milesian school as a whole was seeking, and it is unlikely that the earliest answer to the great question of the day should have been the comparatively subtle one given by Anaximander. We are, perhaps, justified in holding that the greatness of Thales consisted in this, that he was the first to ask, not what was the original thing, but what is the primary thing now ; or, more simply still, " What is the world made of? " The answer he gave to this question was : Water. Water. io. Aristotle and Theophratos, followed by Simplicius and the doxographers, suggest several explanations of this answer. By Aristotle these explanations are given as conjectural ; it is only later writers that repeat them as if they were quite certain.3 The most
(Appendix, § n), who wished to explain the epithet Ivvoaiyaios. Cf. Diels, Dox. p. 225.
1 Met. A, 3. 983 b 20 (R. P. io). I have said "material cause," because τῆς τοιαύτης ἀρχῆς (b 9) means τῆς ἐν ὕλης εἴδει ἀρχῆς (b7).
- Arist. de An. A, 5. 411 a 7 (R. P. 13) ; ib. 2. 405 a 19 (R. P. 13 a). Diog. i. 24 (R. P. 16.) adds amber. This comes from Hesychios of Miletos ; for it occurs in the scholium of Par. A on Plato, Kef. 600 a.
2 Met. A, 3. 983 b 22; Act. i. 3, I; Simpl. Phys. p. 36, io (R. P. io, 12, 12 a). The last of the explanations given by Aristotle, namely, that Thales was influenced by early cosmogonical theories about Okeanos and Tethys, has strangely been supposed to be more historical than the rest, whereas it is merely a fancy of Plato's taken literally. Plato says more than once (Hit. 180 (1 2; Crat. 402 b 4) that Herakleitos and his predecessors (οἱ ῥέοντες) derived their philosophy from Homer (//. xiv. 201), and even
THE MILESIAN SCHOOL
probable view of them seems to be that Aristotle simply ascribed to Thales the arguments used at a later date by Hippon of Samos in support of a similar thesis.1 This would account for their physiological character. The rise of scientific medicine had made biological arguments very popular in the fifth century ; but, in the days of Thales, the prevailing interest was not physiological, but rather what we should call meteorological, and it is therefore from this point of view we must try to understand the theory.
Now it is not very hard to see how considerations of a meteorological kind may have led Thales to adopt the view he did. Of all the things we know, water seems to take the most various shapes. It is familiar to us in a solid, a liquid, and a vaporous form, and so Thales may well have thought that he saw the world-process from water and back to water again going on before his very eyes. The phenomenon of evaporation naturally suggests everywhere that the fire of the heavenly bodies is kept up by the moisture which they draw from the sea. Even at the present day, the country people speak of the appearance of sunbeams as " the sun drawing water," Water comes down again in the rain ; and lastly, so the early cosmologists thought,
earlier sources (Orph. frag. 2, Diels, Vors. 1st ed. p. 491). In quoting this suggestion, Aristotle refers it to " some "—a word which often means Plato
—and he calls the originators of the theory παμπαλλαίους, as Plato had done (Met. 983 b 28 ; cf. Tht. 181 b 3). This is a characteristic example of the way in which Aristotle gets history out of Plato. See Appendix, § 2.
1 Compare Arist. de An. A, 2. 405 b 2 (R. P. 220) with the passages referred to in the last note. The same suggestion is made in Zeller's fifth edition (p. 188, n, i), which I had not seen when the above was written. Döring, "Thales" (Zschr.f. Philos. 1896, pp. 179 sq.), takes the same view. We now know that, though Aristotle declines to consider Hippon as a philosopher (Met. A, 3. 984 a 3 ; R. P. 219 a), he was discussed in the history
of medicine known as Menon's Iatrika. See Diels in Hermes, xxviii. p. 420.
50 EARLY GREEK PHILOSOPHY
it turns to earth. This seems strange to us, but it may have seemed natural enough to men who were familiar with the river of Egypt which had formed the Delta, and with the torrents of Asia Minor, which bring down unusually large alluvial deposits. At the present day the Gulf of Latmos, on which Miletos used to stand, is completely filled up. Lastly, they thought, earth turns once more to water—an idea derived from the observation of dew, night-mists, and subterranean springs. For these last were not in early times supposed to have anything at all to do with the rain. The " waters under the earth " were regarded as an entirely independent source of moisture.1
Theology. II. The third of the statements mentioned above is supposed by Aristotle himself to imply that Thales believed in a " soul of the world," though he is careful to mark this as no more than an inference.2 The doctrine of the world-soul is then attributed quite positively to Thales by Aetios, who gives it in the Stoic phraseology which he found in his immediate source, and identifies the world-intellect with God.3 Cicero found a similar account of the matter in the Epicurean manual which he followed, but he goes a step further. Eliminating the Stoic pantheism, he turns the world-intellect into a Platonic demiourgos, and says that Thales held there was a divine mind which formed all things out of water.4 All this is derived
1 The view here taken most resembles that of the " Homeric allegorist " Herakleitos (R. P. 12 a). That, however, is also a conjecture, probably of Stoic, as the others are of Peripatetic, origin.
2 Arist. de An. A, 5. 411 a 7 (R. P. 13).
3 Act. i. 7, n=Stob. i. 56 (R. P. 14). On the sources here referred to, see Appendix, §§ n, 12.
4 Cicero, de Nat. D. i. 25 (R. P. 13 b). On Cicero's source, see Dox. pp. 125, 128. The Herculanean papyrus of Philodemos is, unfortunately,
THE MILESIAN SCHOOL 51
from the cautious statement of Aristotle, and can have no greater authority than its source. We need not enter, then, upon the old controversy whether Thales was an atheist or not. It is really irrelevant. If we may judge from his successors, he may very possibly have called water divine ; but, if he had any religious beliefs at all, we may be sure they were quite unconnected with his cosmological theory.
Nor must we make too much of the saying itself that " all things are full of gods." It is often supposed to mean that Thales attributed a "plastic life" to matter, or that he was a "hylozoist." We have seen already how misleading this way of speaking is apt to be,1 and we shall do well to avoid it. It is not safe to regard such an apophthegm as evidence for anything; the chances are that it belongs to Thales as
one of the Seven Wise Men, rather than as founder of the Milesian school. Further, such sayings are, as a rule, anonymous to begin with, and are attributed now to one sage and now to another.2 On the other hand, it is extremely probable that Thales did say that the magnet and amber had souls. That is no apophthegm, but something more on the level of the statement that the earth floats on the water. It is, in fact, just the sort of thing we should expect Hekataios to record about Thales. It would be wrong, however, to draw any inferences from it as to his view of the world ; for defective just at this point, but it is not likely that the Epicurean manual anticipated Cicero's mistake.
1 See Introd. § VIII.
2 Plato refers to the saying πάντα πλήρη θεῶν in Laws, 899 b 9 (R. P. 14 b), without mentioning Thales. That ascribed to Herakleitos in the de part. An. A, 5, 645 a 1, seems to be a mere variation on it. So in Diog. ix. 7 (R. P. 46 d) Herakleitos is credited with the saying : πάντα ψυχῶν εἶναι καὶ δαιμόνων πλήρη.
to say that the magnet and amber are alive is to imply, if anything, that other things are not.1