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, E 27 κύκλους κτλ.: lit. ‘shewing their rims as circles above’ (“so dass sie ihre Ränder oben als Kreise zeigen” Schneider). Cf. 616 E τὸν τοῦ χείλους κύκλον. The translation “each concentric circle shewing its rim above the next outer” (D. and V.) betrays a complete misapprehension of the whole passage. Donaldson (l.c.) gives the sense correctly: “shewing their rims on the surface like so many circles.” The words νῶτονἐληλάσθαι mean ‘forming a single whorl, with a continuous surface, round the shaft, which is driven right through the middle of the eighth,’ not “and on their lower side all together form one continuous whorl” (Jowett). νῶτον is regularly thus used of the upper surface of an object: cf. for example Phaedr. 247 B ἔξω πορευθεῖσαι ἔστησαν ἐπὶ τῷ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ νώτῳ. It is important to observe that there is no interval between the different lips: cf. Proclus l.c. II 216. 15 ff. συνέχεια τῆς ἐναρμόσεως διὰ τὸ μὴ παρεμπίπτειν κενὸν συνεχὲς ποιεῖ τὸ ἐκ πάντων νώτων ἐννοούμενον νῶτον ἀπὸ κυρτῆς εἰς κυρτὴν διῆκον, ἀπὸ τῆς ἐσχάτης ἐπὶ τὴν πρωτίστην, and see on 616 E below. On ἠλακάτην Proclus remarks εἰ δὲ διαμπερὲς ἐληλάσθαι διὰ πάντων φησὶν τὴν ἠλακάτην, συντόμως καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν ἐξέφηνεν, δἰ ἣν ἠλακάτην τὸν ἀξονα προσείρηκεν, καὶ ὅτι παρὰ τὸ ἐληλάσθαι (l.c. p. 214. 26 ff.). As the usual meaning of ἠλακάτη is ‘distaff’ and not the shaft of a spindle, I think it not unlikely that Proclus is right in this suggestion. For other verbal plays in the myth cf. 620 E note

In the rims of the different whorls are set the fixed stars and planets in the following order, beginning from the outside (see figure iv on p. 444):—

In the first. The fixed stars.

In the second. Saturn.

In the third. Jupiter.

In the fourth. Mars.

In the fifth. Mercury.

In the sixth. Venus.

In the seventh. The Sun.

In the eighth. The Moon.

Cf. Tim. 38 C f., where also, as here, Plato is following the Pythagorean order of planets: see Zeller^{5} I pp. 426 f. and (on the whole subject of ancient arrangements of the planets) Hultsch in PaulyWissowa, art. Astronomie and Schaubach Gr. Astron. pp. 398 ff. Some later authorities make Plato place Venus before Mercury (see for example Diels Doxogr. Gr. p. 345), but the order which I have given is in accord with [Epin.] 986 C— 987 C, and with the views represented by Proclus l.c. p. 219. 3 ff.

This conception of close-fitting concentric whorls, carrying the heavenly bodies in their rims or ‘lips,’ appears to be unique in ancient astronomy. How was Plato led to devise so original an idea? Possibly in this way. It would seem that the Pythagoreans had already developed the astronomical doctrine of Anaximander into a theory of celestial spheres, maintaining that the stars were “fastened in transparent circles or spheres, and turned round by the revolution of these circles on their axes” (Zeller^{5} I p. 415). In order to suit his image of the spindle and whorl, Plato apparently takes these Pythagorean spheres, and cuts them in half, producing a series of hemispheric cups or whorls, in the circular ‘lips’ of which the celestial bodies are fastened or bound (ἐνδεδεμένα, says Theo 150. 14 Hiller: cf. also Proclus l.c. 219. 24).

So far as the Sun, Moon and Planets are concerned, the resulting picture is clear and intelligible, but it is impossible to conceive of the fixed stars as occupying the ‘lip’ of one of the hemispherical whorls in the way in which the Sun for example may be supposed to do so. Whatever view we hold of the rest of the picture, it is likely that in this particular at least Plato himself did not think his comparison adequate to exhibit the phenomena: for in C above he has already represented the outermost heavens, in which dwell the fixed stars, not as the lip of a hemispherical shell or hollow, but as an actual sphere (πᾶσαν συνέχον τὴν περιφοράν). (The inconsistency is noteworthy as shewing that the two images employed by Plato are fundamentally irreconcileable. See on 616 C.) By this and other indications we may be led to suspect that the whole theory of hemispherical whorls is only a device rendered necessary by Plato's similitude. If he had any opinion on the subject at all, he may have accepted the Pythagorean doctrine of spheres; but no conclusion on this matter can be drawn from the Republic. Cf. 617 A note

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    • Plato, Phaedrus, 247b
    • Plato, Timaeus, 38c
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