previous next
Compare these arguments with theirs, and consider them well. But Chrysippus, believing the air to be the primitive cold, because it is dark, makes mention only of those that say the water lies at farther distance from the sky than the air. And being desirous to give some answer to them, ‘If so,’ says he, ‘we may as well affirm the earth to be primitively cold, because it is the farthest distant from the sky;’ rejecting that, as altogether improbable and absurd. But for my part, I am of opinion that there might be many probable and rational arguments brought for the earth; beginning with that which Chrysippus chiefly makes use of for the air. What is this? First, that it is dark. For if he, assuming these two contrarieties of faculties, believes that the one follows the other of necessity, then there might be produced a thousand oppositions and repugnances of the earth in respect of the sky, which would of necessity follow upon this which we have mentioned. For it is not to be opposed only as heavy to light, or as that which tends downward to that which moves upward, or as slow and stable to swift and full of motion; but as that which is heaviest to that which is most thin, or lastly, as that which is immovable of itself to that which moves spontaneously, and as possessing the middle space to that which is in a perpetual circular motion. Would it not be absurd to aver that the opposition of heat to cold is accompanied with so many and such remarkable contrarieties? But fire is bright, the earth is dark, nay, the very darkest and most void of light of all things. The air first of all participates of light, is soonest altered, and being replenished with radiancy, diffuses the splendor of it far and near, and shows itself a vast body of light. For the sun rising, as one of the dithyrambic authors writes, [p. 325]
Presently doth fill
The spacious house of the air-prancing winds.

From thence the descending air disposes a part of her brightness to the sea and lakes, and the hidden depths of profound rivers laugh and smile so far as the air penetrates into them. Only the earth of all bodies remains without light, and impenetrable to the beams of the sun and moon. But it is cherished and comforted by them, and suffers a small part of it to be warmed and softened by entrance of the heat. But the solidness of it will not admit the brightness of light, only the surface of it is enlightened; but the innermost parts of it are called by the names of Darkness, Chaos, and Hades; and Erebus is nothing else but that same perpetual darkness and horror in the body of the earth. Besides, the mythologists tell us that Night was the daughter of the Earth; and the mathematicians show that it is the shadow of the earth eclipsing the body of the sun. For the air is filled with darkness by the earth, as with light by the sun; and that part of the air which is void of all light is that same length of the night which is caused by the shadow of the earth. And therefore both men and many beasts make use of the exterior air, and ramble in the dark, guided only by some footsteps of light and certain effluxes of a dim twinkling that are scattered through it; but he that keeps house and shuts himself up in his chamber, as being encompassed by the earth, remains altogether blind and without light. Also the hides and horns of beasts will not admit of light by reason of their solidness; but being burnished and shaved, they become transparent, the air being intermixed with them. Moreover, I am of opinion that the earth is everywhere by the poets said to be black, by reason of the darkness of it and want of light. So that the antithesis of light and darkness is much more remarkable in reference to the earth, than in respect of the air.

[p. 326]

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Harold Cherniss and William C. Helmbold, 1957)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: