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ἐκ δὲ τῶν ἄκρων κτλ.: ‘and from the extremities they saw extended the spindle of Necessity, by which all the revolving spheres are turned. The shaft and hook thereof are made of adamant, and the whorl partly of adamant, and partly of other materials.’ With this sentence we pass to the second part of Plato's description, in which he tries to depict the movements of the celestial bodies by a new image—that of Necessity and her spindle. Regarded in itself, this image is tolerably clear and coherent, if we are willing to allow a large admixture of supernatural mechanics; but Plato fails to shew how it is to be reconciled with what has just preceded, and no one has hitherto succeeded in effecting the reconciliation, without doing violence to the Greek. See on 616 D, E and App. VI. The rapid imagination of the writer has already escaped from the earlier picture and fallen under the spell of a new conception, and we shall best apprehend his meaning if we consider what the peculiar nature of that conception demands. The ordinary spindle was shaped somewhat as in figure iii on p. 444, in which a b is the shaft, and c the whorl. (There is no hook in the figure: but its position would of course be at a.) The fibres were attached to the hook and twisted into a thread by the revolutions communicated to the spindle by the finger and thumb: see Blümner Technologie etc. I pp. 109—120, from whom the figure is borrowed. It is essential to the notion of a spindle that the hook should be fastened to the fibres which are to be spun. For this reason Plato finds it necessary, in using the similitude of a spindle, to attach the hook (ἄγκιστρον) to something which may correspond to the fibres; and he accordingly fastens it to the ends of the chains of light depending from the heavens in his previous image, at the point where these ends meet the ends from below, κατὰ μέσον τὸ φῶς. If we treat this construction as a piece of serious mechanics, Plato's device is open to many obvious criticisms. In fastening the spindle to the ἄκρα τῶν δεσμῶν from above, he forgets or ignores the ends from below. It will further be observed that he says nothing about the direction of the spindle: it is merely ‘stretched from the ends’ of the chains. We shall presently see that the shaft of the spindle symbolises the axis of the Universe, so that—if we are to connect the two images in Plato's mind —it is natural to suppose that the spindle extends downwards, following the line of the light. Here again there are difficulties, the most serious of which perhaps is that, as the axis of the Universe must go through the earth, the effect of attaching the spindle ‘at the middle of the light’ will be to depress the earth itself below the centre of the whole. But it should be remembered that Plato's object in this passage is not to furnish a scientific account of the celestial mechanism: see below on 616 D, E, 617 A. We are dealing with a work of literature and not of science, and the machinery of a myth ought not to be rigorously scrutinized from the scientific point of view. Inconsistencies of this kind are found to be inseparable from such poetical representations of the Universe. In the present case they arise chiefly from the juxtaposition of two essentially irreconcileable conceptions—that of a sphere girdled and traversed by light, and that of Necessity and her spindle. See on 616 D, E. For the rest, it should be noted that adamant symbolises τὸ ἀπαθὲς καὶ ἀδάμαστον (cf. Proclus l.c. II 209. 22), and is the appropriate material for the ἠλακάτη, since in Plato's picture the ἠλακάτη stands for the axis of the whole. ἠλακάτη is not elsewhere found in the sense of the shaft of a spindle: ordinarily it means ‘distaff.’ See on 616 D, E below. Plato does not inform us in what way the whorl is μεικτὸν ἔκ τε τούτου (i.e. ἀδάμαντος) καὶ ἄλλων γενῶν: but I think he means that while the outermost circle, which is the circle of ταὐτόν (Tim. 36 C), is composed of adamant, the others, which form collectively the circle of θάτερον, are made, either in whole or in part, of less durable stuff. Herwerden rejects the preposition before ἀδάμαντος, without any reason that I can see. , D 21 τὴν δὲ τοῦ σφονδύλου φύσιν κτλ. The whorl of Necessity's spindle is a composite structure, consisting of eight concentric hemispheres, fitted into one another like a nest of boxes: see below on 616 E. The adverb διαμπερές should be construed with ἐξεγλυμμένῳ.
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