There were some who declared that the Dioscuri1
appeared as twin stars on either side of Lysander's ship just as he was sailing out of the harbor against the enemy, and shone out over the rudder-sweeps. And some say also that the falling of the stone was a portent of this disaster; for according to the common belief, a stone of vast size had fallen from heaven at Aegospotami,2
and it is shown to this day by the dwellers in the Chersonese, who hold it in reverence. Anaxagoras is said to have predicted that if the heavenly bodies should be loosened by some slip or shake, one of them might be torn away, and might plunge and fall down to earth; and he said that none of the stars was in its original position; for being of stone, and heavy, their shining light is caused by friction with the revolving aether, and they are forced along in fixed orbits by the whirling impulse which gave them their circular motion, and this was what prevented them from falling to our earth in the first place, when cold and heavy bodies were separated from universal matter.
But there is a more plausible opinion than this, and its advocates hold that shooting stars are not a flow or emanation of aetherial fire, which the lower air quenches at the very moment of its kindling, nor are they an ignition and blazing up of a quantity of lower air which has made its escape into the upper regions; but they are plunging and falling heavenly bodies, carried out of their course by some relaxation in the tension of their circular motion, and falling, not upon the inhabited region of the earth, but for the most part outside of it and into the great sea; and this is the reason why they are not noticed.
But Daimachus, in his treatise
‘On Religion,’ supports the view of Anaxagoras. He says that before the stone fell, for seventy-five days continually, there was seen in the heavens a fiery body of vast size, as if it had been a flaming cloud, not resting in one place, but moving along with intricate and irregular motions, so that fiery fragments, broken from it by its plunging and erratic course, were carried in all directions and flashed fire, just as shooting stars do.
But when it had fallen in that part of the earth, and the inhabitants, after recovering from their fear and amazement, were assembled about it, no action of fire was seen, nor even so much as a trace thereof, but a stone lying there, of large size, it is true, but one which bore almost no proportion at all to the fiery mass seen in the heavens. Well, then, that Daimachus must needs have indulgent readers, is clear;
but if his story is true, he refutes utterly those who affirm that a rock, which winds and tempests had torn from some mountain top, was caught up and borne along like a spinning top, and that at the point where the whirling impetus given to it first relaxed and ceased, there it plunged, and fell.
Unless, indeed, what was seen in the heavens for many days was really fire, the quenching and extinction of which produced a change in the air resulting in unusually violent winds and agitations, and these brought about the plunge of the stone. However, the minute discussion of this subject belongs to another kind of writing.