Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Timaeus by Plato, translated by B. Jowett.

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

children, and can never have too much of good or friendship among his
creatures. Only, as there is a certain remnant of evil inherent in matter
which he cannot get rid of, he detaches himself from them and leaves them
to themselves, that he may be guiltless of their faults and sufferings.

Between the ideal and the sensible Plato interposes the two natures of time
and space. Time is conceived by him to be only the shadow or image of
eternity which ever is and never has been or will be, but is described in a
figure only as past or future. This is one of the great thoughts of early
philosophy, which are still as difficult to our minds as they were to the
early thinkers; or perhaps more difficult, because we more distinctly see
the consequences which are involved in such an hypothesis. All the
objections which may be urged against Kant's doctrine of the ideality of
space and time at once press upon us. If time is unreal, then all which is
contained in time is unreal--the succession of human thoughts as well as
the flux of sensations; there is no connecting link between (Greek) and
(Greek). Yet, on the other hand, we are conscious that knowledge is
independent of time, that truth is not a thing of yesterday or tomorrow,
but an 'eternal now.' To the 'spectator of all time and all existence' the
universe remains at rest. The truths of geometry and arithmetic in all
their combinations are always the same. The generations of men, like the
leaves of the forest, come and go, but the mathematical laws by which the
world is governed remain, and seem as if they could never change. The
ever-present image of space is transferred to time--succession is conceived
as extension. (We remark that Plato does away with the above and below in
space, as he has done away with the absolute existence of past and future.)
The course of time, unless regularly marked by divisions of number,
partakes of the indefiniteness of the Heraclitean flux. By such
reflections we may conceive the Greek to have attained the metaphysical
conception of eternity, which to the Hebrew was gained by meditation on the
Divine Being. No one saw that this objective was really a subjective, and
involved the subjectivity of all knowledge. 'Non in tempore sed cum
tempore finxit Deus mundum,' says St. Augustine, repeating a thought
derived from the Timaeus, but apparently unconscious of the results to
which his doctrine would have led.

The contradictions involved in the conception of time or motion, like the
infinitesimal in space, were a source of perplexity to the mind of the
Greek, who was driven to find a point of view above or beyond them. They
had sprung up in the decline of the Eleatic philosophy and were very
familiar to Plato, as we gather from the Parmenides. The consciousness of
them had led the great Eleatic philosopher to describe the nature of God or
Being under negatives. He sings of 'Being unbegotten and imperishable,
unmoved and never-ending, which never was nor will be, but always is, one
and continuous, which cannot spring from any other; for it cannot be said
or imagined not to be.' The idea of eternity was for a great part a
negation. There are regions of speculation in which the negative is hardly
separable from the positive, and even seems to pass into it. Not only
Buddhism, but Greek as well as Christian philosophy, show that it is quite
possible that the human mind should retain an enthusiasm for mere
negations. In different ages and countries there have been forms of light
in which nothing could be discerned and which have nevertheless exercised a
life-giving and illumining power. For the higher intelligence of man seems
to require, not only something above sense, but above knowledge, which can
only be described as Mind or Being or Truth or God or the unchangeable and
eternal element, in the expression of which all predicates fail and fall
short. Eternity or the eternal is not merely the unlimited in time but the
truest of all Being, the most real of all realities, the most certain of
all knowledge, which we nevertheless only see through a glass darkly. The
passionate earnestness of Parmenides contrasts with the vacuity of the
thought which he is revolving in his mind.

Space is said by Plato to be the 'containing vessel or nurse of
generation.' Reflecting on the simplest kinds of external objects, which
to the ancients were the four elements, he was led to a more general notion
of a substance, more or less like themselves, out of which they were
fashioned. He would not have them too precisely distinguished. Thus seems
to have arisen the first dim perception of (Greek) or matter, which has
played so great a part in the metaphysical philosophy of Aristotle and his
followers. But besides the material out of which the elements are made,
there is also a space in which they are contained. There arises thus a
second nature which the senses are incapable of discerning and which can
hardly be referred to the intelligible class. For it is and it is not, it
is nowhere when filled, it is nothing when empty. Hence it is said to be
discerned by a kind of spurious or analogous reason, partaking so feebly of
existence as to be hardly perceivable, yet always reappearing as the
containing mother or nurse of all things. It had not that sort of
consistency to Plato which has been given to it in modern times by geometry
and metaphysics. Neither of the Greek words by which it is described are
so purely abstract as the English word 'space' or the Latin 'spatium.'
Neither Plato nor any other Greek would have spoken of (Greek) or (Greek)
in the same manner as we speak of 'time' and 'space.'

Yet space is also of a very permanent or even eternal nature; and Plato
seems more willing to admit of the unreality of time than of the unreality
of space; because, as he says, all things must necessarily exist in space.
We, on the other hand, are disposed to fancy that even if space were
annihilated time might still survive. He admits indeed that our knowledge
of space is of a dreamy kind, and is given by a spurious reason without the
help of sense. (Compare the hypotheses and images of Rep.) It is true
that it does not attain to the clearness of ideas. But like them it seems
to remain, even if all the objects contained in it are supposed to have
vanished away. Hence it was natural for Plato to conceive of it as
eternal. We must remember further that in his attempt to realize either
space or matter the two abstract ideas of weight and extension, which are
familiar to us, had never passed before his mind.

Thus far God, working according to an eternal pattern, out of his goodness
has created the same, the other, and the essence (compare the three
principles of the Philebus--the finite, the infinite, and the union of the
two), and out of them has formed the outer circle of the fixed stars and
the inner circle of the planets, divided according to certain musical
intervals; he has also created time, the moving image of eternity, and
space, existing by a sort of necessity and hardly distinguishable from
matter. The matter out of which the world is formed is not absolutely
void, but retains in the chaos certain germs or traces of the elements.
These Plato, like Empedocles, supposed to be four in number--fire, air,
earth, and water. They were at first mixed together; but already in the
chaos, before God fashioned them by form and number, the greater masses of
the elements had an appointed place. Into the confusion (Greek) which
preceded Plato does not attempt further to penetrate. They are called
elements, but they are so far from being elements (Greek) or letters in the
higher sense that they are not even syllables or first compounds. The real
elements are two triangles, the rectangular isosceles which has but one
form, and the most beautiful of the many forms of scalene, which is half of
an equilateral triangle. By the combination of these triangles which exist
in an infinite variety of sizes, the surfaces of the four elements are

That there were only five regular solids was already known to the ancients,
and out of the surfaces which he has formed Plato proceeds to generate the
four first of the five. He perhaps forgets that he is only putting
together surfaces and has not provided for their transformation into
solids. The first solid is a regular pyramid, of which the base and sides
are formed by four equilateral or twenty-four scalene triangles. Each of
the four solid angles in this figure is a little larger than the largest of
obtuse angles. The second solid is composed of the same triangles, which
unite as eight equilateral triangles, and make one solid angle out of four
plane angles--six of these angles form a regular octahedron. The third
solid is a regular icosahedron, having twenty triangular equilateral bases,
and therefore 120 rectangular scalene triangles. The fourth regular solid,
or cube, is formed by the combination of four isosceles triangles into one
square and of six squares into a cube. The fifth regular solid, or
dodecahedron, cannot be formed by a combination of either of these
triangles, but each of its faces may be regarded as composed of thirty
triangles of another kind. Probably Plato notices this as the only
remaining regular polyhedron, which from its approximation to a globe, and
possibly because, as Plutarch remarks, it is composed of 12 x 30 = 360
scalene triangles (Platon. Quaest.), representing thus the signs and
degrees of the Zodiac, as well as the months and days of the year, God may
be said to have 'used in the delineation of the universe.' According to
Plato earth was composed of cubes, fire of regular pyramids, air of regular
octahedrons, water of regular icosahedrons. The stability of the last
three increases with the number of their sides.

The elements are supposed to pass into one another, but we must remember
that these transformations are not the transformations of real solids, but
of imaginary geometrical figures; in other words, we are composing and
decomposing the faces of substances and not the substances themselves--it
is a house of cards which we are pulling to pieces and putting together
again (compare however Laws). Yet perhaps Plato may regard these sides or
faces as only the forms which are impressed on pre-existent matter. It is
remarkable that he should speak of each of these solids as a possible world
in itself, though upon the whole he inclines to the opinion that they form
one world and not five. To suppose that there is an infinite number of
worlds, as Democritus (Hippolyt. Ref. Haer. I.) had said, would be, as he
satirically observes, 'the characteristic of a very indefinite and ignorant

The twenty triangular faces of an icosahedron form the faces or sides of
two regular octahedrons and of a regular pyramid (20 = 8 x 2 + 4); and
therefore, according to Plato, a particle of water when decomposed is
supposed to give two particles of air and one of fire. So because an
octahedron gives the sides of two pyramids (8 = 4 x 2), a particle of air
is resolved into two particles of fire.

The transformation is effected by the superior power or number of the
conquering elements. The manner of the change is (1) a separation of
portions of the elements from the masses in which they are collected; (2) a
resolution of them into their original triangles; and (3) a reunion of them
in new forms. Plato himself proposes the question, Why does motion
continue at all when the elements are settled in their places? He answers
that although the force of attraction is continually drawing similar
elements to the same spot, still the revolution of the universe exercises a
condensing power, and thrusts them again out of their natural places. Thus
want of uniformity, the condition of motion, is produced. In all such
disturbances of matter there is an alternative for the weaker element: it
may escape to its kindred, or take the form of the stronger--becoming
denser, if it be denser, or rarer if rarer. This is true of fire, air, and
water, which, being composed of similar triangles, are interchangeable;
earth, however, which has triangles peculiar to itself, is capable of
dissolution, but not of change. Of the interchangeable elements, fire, the
rarest, can only become a denser, and water, the densest, only a rarer:
but air may become a denser or a rarer. No single particle of the elements
is visible, but only the aggregates of them are seen. The subordinate
species depend, not upon differences of form in the original triangles, but
upon differences of size. The obvious physical phenomena from which Plato
has gathered his views of the relations of the elements seem to be the
effect of fire upon air, water, and earth, and the effect of water upon
earth. The particles are supposed by him to be in a perpetual process of
circulation caused by inequality. This process of circulation does not
admit of a vacuum, as he tells us in his strange account of respiration.

Of the phenomena of light and heavy he speaks afterwards, when treating of
sensation, but they may be more conveniently considered by us in this
place. They are not, he says, to be explained by 'above' and 'below,'
which in the universal globe have no existence, but by the attraction of
similars towards the great masses of similar substances; fire to fire, air
to air, water to water, earth to earth. Plato's doctrine of attraction
implies not only (1) the attraction of similar elements to one another, but
also (2) of smaller bodies to larger ones. Had he confined himself to the
latter he would have arrived, though, perhaps, without any further result
or any sense of the greatness of the discovery, at the modern doctrine of
gravitation. He does not observe that water has an equal tendency towards
both water and earth. So easily did the most obvious facts which were
inconsistent with his theories escape him.

The general physical doctrines of the Timaeus may be summed up as follows:
(1) Plato supposes the greater masses of the elements to have been already
settled in their places at the creation: (2) they are four in number, and
are formed of rectangular triangles variously combined into regular solid
figures: (3) three of them, fire, air, and water, admit of transformation
into one another; the fourth, earth, cannot be similarly transformed: (4)
different sizes of the same triangles form the lesser species of each
element: (5) there is an attraction of like to like--smaller masses of the
same kind being drawn towards greater: (6) there is no void, but the
particles of matter are ever pushing one another round and round (Greek).
Like the atomists, Plato attributes the differences between the elements to
differences in geometrical figures. But he does not explain the process by
which surfaces become solids; and he characteristically ridicules
Democritus for not seeing that the worlds are finite and not infinite.

Section 4.

The astronomy of Plato is based on the two principles of the same and the
other, which God combined in the creation of the world. The soul, which is
compounded of the same, the other, and the essence, is diffused from the
centre to the circumference of the heavens. We speak of a soul of the
universe; but more truly regarded, the universe of the Timaeus is a soul,
governed by mind, and holding in solution a residuum of matter or evil,
which the author of the world is unable to expel, and of which Plato cannot
tell us the origin. The creation, in Plato's sense, is really the creation
of order; and the first step in giving order is the division of the heavens
into an inner and outer circle of the other and the same, of the divisible
and the indivisible, answering to the two spheres, of the planets and of
the world beyond them, all together moving around the earth, which is their
centre. To us there is a difficulty in apprehending how that which is at
rest can also be in motion, or that which is indivisible exist in space.
But the whole description is so ideal and imaginative, that we can hardly
venture to attribute to many of Plato's words in the Timaeus any more
meaning than to his mythical account of the heavens in the Republic and in
the Phaedrus. (Compare his denial of the 'blasphemous opinion' that there
are planets or wandering stars; all alike move in circles--Laws.) The
stars are the habitations of the souls of men, from which they come and to
which they return. In attributing to the fixed stars only the most perfect
motion--that which is on the same spot or circulating around the same--he
might perhaps have said that to 'the spectator of all time and all
existence,' to borrow once more his own grand expression, or viewed, in the
language of Spinoza, 'sub specie aeternitatis,' they were still at rest,
but appeared to move in order to teach men the periods of time. Although
absolutely in motion, they are relatively at rest; or we may conceive of
them as resting, while the space in which they are contained, or the whole
anima mundi, revolves.

The universe revolves around a centre once in twenty-four hours, but the
orbits of the fixed stars take a different direction from those of the
planets. The outer and the inner sphere cross one another and meet again
at a point opposite to that of their first contact; the first moving in a
circle from left to right along the side of a parallelogram which is
supposed to be inscribed in it, the second also moving in a circle along
the diagonal of the same parallelogram from right to left; or, in other
words, the first describing the path of the equator, the second, the path
of the ecliptic. The motion of the second is controlled by the first, and
hence the oblique line in which the planets are supposed to move becomes a
spiral. The motion of the same is said to be undivided, whereas the inner
motion is split into seven unequal orbits--the intervals between them being
in the ratio of two and three, three of either:--the Sun, moving in the
opposite direction to Mercury and Venus, but with equal swiftness; the
remaining four, Moon, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, with unequal swiftness to the
former three and to one another. Thus arises the following progression:--
Moon 1, Sun 2, Venus 3, Mercury 4, Mars 8, Jupiter 9, Saturn 27. This
series of numbers is the compound of the two Pythagorean ratios, having the
same intervals, though not in the same order, as the mixture which was
originally divided in forming the soul of the world.

Plato was struck by the phenomenon of Mercury, Venus, and the Sun appearing
to overtake and be overtaken by one another. The true reason of this,
namely, that they lie within the circle of the earth's orbit, was unknown
to him, and the reason which he gives--that the two former move in an
opposite direction to the latter--is far from explaining the appearance of
them in the heavens. All the planets, including the sun, are carried round
in the daily motion of the circle of the fixed stars, and they have a
second or oblique motion which gives the explanation of the different
lengths of the sun's course in different parts of the earth. The fixed
stars have also two movements--a forward movement in their orbit which is
common to the whole circle; and a movement on the same spot around an axis,
which Plato calls the movement of thought about the same. In this latter
respect they are more perfect than the wandering stars, as Plato himself
terms them in the Timaeus, although in the Laws he condemns the appellation
as blasphemous.

The revolution of the world around earth, which is accomplished in a single
day and night, is described as being the most perfect or intelligent. Yet
Plato also speaks of an 'annus magnus' or cyclical year, in which periods
wonderful for their complexity are found to coincide in a perfect number,
i.e. a number which equals the sum of its factors, as 6 = 1 + 2 + 3. This,
although not literally contradictory, is in spirit irreconcilable with the
perfect revolution of twenty-four hours. The same remark may be applied to
the complexity of the appearances and occultations of the stars, which, if
the outer heaven is supposed to be moving around the centre once in twenty-
four hours, must be confined to the effects produced by the seven planets.
Plato seems to confuse the actual observation of the heavens with his
desire to find in them mathematical perfection. The same spirit is carried
yet further by him in the passage already quoted from the Laws, in which he
affirms their wanderings to be an appearance only, which a little knowledge
of mathematics would enable men to correct.

We have now to consider the much discussed question of the rotation or
immobility of the earth. Plato's doctrine on this subject is contained in
the following words:--'The earth, which is our nurse, compacted (OR
revolving) around the pole which is extended through the universe, he made
to be the guardian and artificer of night and day, first and eldest of gods
that are in the interior of heaven'. There is an unfortunate doubt in this
passage (1) about the meaning of the word (Greek), which is translated
either 'compacted' or 'revolving,' and is equally capable of both
explanations. A doubt (2) may also be raised as to whether the words
'artificer of day and night' are consistent with the mere passive causation
of them, produced by the immobility of the earth in the midst of the
circling universe. We must admit, further, (3) that Aristotle attributed
to Plato the doctrine of the rotation of the earth on its axis. On the
other hand it has been urged that if the earth goes round with the outer
heaven and sun in twenty-four hours, there is no way of accounting for the
alternation of day and night; since the equal motion of the earth and sun
would have the effect of absolute immobility. To which it may be replied
that Plato never says that the earth goes round with the outer heaven and
sun; although the whole question depends on the relation of earth and sun,
their movements are nowhere precisely described. But if we suppose, with
Mr. Grote, that the diurnal rotation of the earth on its axis and the
revolution of the sun and outer heaven precisely coincide, it would be
difficult to imagine that Plato was unaware of the consequence. For though
he was ignorant of many things which are familiar to us, and often confused
in his ideas where we have become clear, we have no right to attribute to
him a childish want of reasoning about very simple facts, or an inability
to understand the necessary and obvious deductions from geometrical figures
or movements. Of the causes of day and night the pre-Socratic
philosophers, and especially the Pythagoreans, gave various accounts, and
therefore the question can hardly be imagined to have escaped him. On the
other hand it may be urged that the further step, however simple and
obvious, is just what Plato often seems to be ignorant of, and that as
there is no limit to his insight, there is also no limit to the blindness
which sometimes obscures his intelligence (compare the construction of
solids out of surfaces in his account of the creation of the world, or the
attraction of similars to similars). Further, Mr. Grote supposes, not that
(Greek) means 'revolving,' or that this is the sense in which Aristotle
understood the word, but that the rotation of the earth is necessarily
implied in its adherence to the cosmical axis. But (a) if, as Mr Grote
assumes, Plato did not see that the rotation of the earth on its axis and
of the sun and outer heavens around the earth in equal times was
inconsistent with the alternation of day and night, neither need we suppose
that he would have seen the immobility of the earth to be inconsistent with
the rotation of the axis. And (b) what proof is there that the axis of the
world revolves at all? (c) The comparison of the two passages quoted by Mr
Grote (see his pamphlet on 'The Rotation of the Earth') from Aristotle De
Coelo, Book II (Greek) clearly shows, although this is a matter of minor
importance, that Aristotle, as Proclus and Simplicius supposed, understood
(Greek) in the Timaeus to mean 'revolving.' For the second passage, in
which motion on an axis is expressly mentioned, refers to the first, but
this would be unmeaning unless (Greek) in the first passage meant rotation
on an axis. (4) The immobility of the earth is more in accordance with
Plato's other writings than the opposite hypothesis. For in the Phaedo the
earth is described as the centre of the world, and is not said to be in
motion. In the Republic the pilgrims appear to be looking out from the
earth upon the motions of the heavenly bodies; in the Phaedrus, Hestia, who
remains immovable in the house of Zeus while the other gods go in
procession, is called the first and eldest of the gods, and is probably the
symbol of the earth. The silence of Plato in these and in some other
passages (Laws) in which he might be expected to speak of the rotation of
the earth, is more favourable to the doctrine of its immobility than to the
opposite. If he had meant to say that the earth revolves on its axis, he
would have said so in distinct words, and have explained the relation of
its movements to those of the other heavenly bodies. (5) The meaning of
the words 'artificer of day and night' is literally true according to
Plato's view. For the alternation of day and night is not produced by the
motion of the heavens alone, or by the immobility of the earth alone, but
by both together; and that which has the inherent force or energy to remain
at rest when all other bodies are moving, may be truly said to act, equally
with them. (6) We should not lay too much stress on Aristotle or the
writer De Caelo having adopted the other interpretation of the words,
although Alexander of Aphrodisias thinks that he could not have been
ignorant either of the doctrine of Plato or of the sense which he intended
to give to the word (Greek). For the citations of Plato in Aristotle are
frequently misinterpreted by him; and he seems hardly ever to have had in
his mind the connection in which they occur. In this instance the allusion
is very slight, and there is no reason to suppose that the diurnal
revolution of the heavens was present to his mind. Hence we need not
attribute to him the error from which we are defending Plato.

After weighing one against the other all these complicated probabilities,
the final conclusion at which we arrive is that there is nearly as much to
be said on the one side of the question as on the other, and that we are
not perfectly certain, whether, as Bockh and the majority of commentators,
ancient as well as modern, are inclined to believe, Plato thought that the
earth was at rest in the centre of the universe, or, as Aristotle and Mr.
Grote suppose, that it revolved on its axis. Whether we assume the earth
to be stationary in the centre of the universe, or to revolve with the
heavens, no explanation is given of the variation in the length of days and
nights at different times of the year. The relations of the earth and
heavens are so indistinct in the Timaeus and so figurative in the Phaedo,
Phaedrus and Republic, that we must give up the hope of ascertaining how
they were imagined by Plato, if he had any fixed or scientific conception
of them at all.

Section 5.

The soul of the world is framed on the analogy of the soul of man, and many
traces of anthropomorphism blend with Plato's highest flights of idealism.
The heavenly bodies are endowed with thought; the principles of the same
and other exist in the universe as well as in the human mind. The soul of
man is made out of the remains of the elements which had been used in
creating the soul of the world; these remains, however, are diluted to the
third degree; by this Plato expresses the measure of the difference between
the soul human and divine. The human soul, like the cosmical, is framed
before the body, as the mind is before the soul of either--this is the
order of the divine work--and the finer parts of the body, which are more
akin to the soul, such as the spinal marrow, are prior to the bones and
flesh. The brain, the containing vessel of the divine part of the soul, is
(nearly) in the form of a globe, which is the image of the gods, who are
the stars, and of the universe.

There is, however, an inconsistency in Plato's manner of conceiving the
soul of man; he cannot get rid of the element of necessity which is allowed
to enter. He does not, like Kant, attempt to vindicate for men a freedom
out of space and time; but he acknowledges him to be subject to the
influence of external causes, and leaves hardly any place for freedom of
the will. The lusts of men are caused by their bodily constitution, though
they may be increased by bad education and bad laws, which implies that
they may be decreased by good education and good laws. He appears to have
an inkling of the truth that to the higher nature of man evil is
involuntary. This is mixed up with the view which, while apparently
agreeing with it, is in reality the opposite of it, that vice is due to
physical causes. In the Timaeus, as well as in the Laws, he also regards
vices and crimes as simply involuntary; they are diseases analogous to the
diseases of the body, and arising out of the same causes. If we draw
together the opposite poles of Plato's system, we find that, like Spinoza,
he combines idealism with fatalism.

The soul of man is divided by him into three parts, answering roughly to
the charioteer and steeds of the Phaedrus, and to the (Greek) of the
Republic and Nicomachean Ethics. First, there is the immortal nature of
which the brain is the seat, and which is akin to the soul of the universe.
This alone thinks and knows and is the ruler of the whole. Secondly, there
is the higher mortal soul which, though liable to perturbations of her own,
takes the side of reason against the lower appetites. The seat of this is
the heart, in which courage, anger, and all the nobler affections are
supposed to reside. There the veins all meet; it is their centre or house
of guard whence they carry the orders of the thinking being to the
extremities of his kingdom. There is also a third or appetitive soul,
which receives the commands of the immortal part, not immediately but
mediately, through the liver, which reflects on its surface the admonitions
and threats of the reason.

The liver is imagined by Plato to be a smooth and bright substance, having
a store of sweetness and also of bitterness, which reason freely uses in
the execution of her mandates. In this region, as ancient superstition
told, were to be found intimations of the future. But Plato is careful to
observe that although such knowledge is given to the inferior parts of man,
it requires to be interpreted by the superior. Reason, and not enthusiasm,
is the true guide of man; he is only inspired when he is demented by some
distemper or possession. The ancient saying, that 'only a man in his
senses can judge of his own actions,' is approved by modern philosophy too.
The same irony which appears in Plato's remark, that 'the men of old time
must surely have known the gods who were their ancestors, and we should
believe them as custom requires,' is also manifest in his account of

The appetitive soul is seated in the belly, and there imprisoned like a
wild beast, far away from the council chamber, as Plato graphically calls
the head, in order that the animal passions may not interfere with the
deliberations of reason. Though the soul is said by him to be prior to the
body, yet we cannot help seeing that it is constructed on the model of the
body--the threefold division into the rational, passionate, and appetitive
corresponding to the head, heart and belly. The human soul differs from
the soul of the world in this respect, that it is enveloped and finds its
expression in matter, whereas the soul of the world is not only enveloped
or diffused in matter, but is the element in which matter moves. The
breath of man is within him, but the air or aether of heaven is the element
which surrounds him and all things.

Pleasure and pain are attributed in the Timaeus to the suddenness of our
sensations--the first being a sudden restoration, the second a sudden
violation, of nature (Phileb.). The sensations become conscious to us when
they are exceptional. Sight is not attended either by pleasure or pain,
but hunger and the appeasing of hunger are pleasant and painful because
they are extraordinary.

Section 6.

I shall not attempt to connect the physiological speculations of Plato
either with ancient or modern medicine. What light I can throw upon them
will be derived from the comparison of them with his general system.

There is no principle so apparent in the physics of the Timaeus, or in
ancient physics generally, as that of continuity. The world is conceived
of as a whole, and the elements are formed into and out of one another; the
varieties of substances and processes are hardly known or noticed. And in
a similar manner the human body is conceived of as a whole, and the
different substances of which, to a superficial observer, it appears to be
composed--the blood, flesh, sinews--like the elements out of which they are
formed, are supposed to pass into one another in regular order, while the
infinite complexity of the human frame remains unobserved. And diseases
arise from the opposite process--when the natural proportions of the four
elements are disturbed, and the secondary substances which are formed out
of them, namely, blood, flesh, sinews, are generated in an inverse order.

Plato found heat and air within the human frame, and the blood circulating
in every part. He assumes in language almost unintelligible to us that a
network of fire and air envelopes the greater part of the body. This outer
net contains two lesser nets, one corresponding to the stomach, the other
to the lungs; and the entrance to the latter is forked or divided into two
passages which lead to the nostrils and to the mouth. In the process of
respiration the external net is said to find a way in and out of the pores
of the skin: while the interior of it and the lesser nets move alternately
into each other. The whole description is figurative, as Plato himself
implies when he speaks of a 'fountain of fire which we compare to the
network of a creel.' He really means by this what we should describe as a
state of heat or temperature in the interior of the body. The 'fountain of
fire' or heat is also in a figure the circulation of the blood. The
passage is partly imagination, partly fact.

He has a singular theory of respiration for which he accounts solely by the
movement of the air in and out of the body; he does not attribute any part
of the process to the action of the body itself. The air has a double
ingress and a double exit, through the mouth or nostrils, and through the
skin. When exhaled through the mouth or nostrils, it leaves a vacuum which
is filled up by other air finding a way in through the pores, this air
being thrust out of its place by the exhalation from the mouth and
nostrils. There is also a corresponding process of inhalation through the
mouth or nostrils, and of exhalation through the pores. The inhalation
through the pores appears to take place nearly at the same time as the
exhalation through the mouth; and conversely. The internal fire is in
either case the propelling cause outwards--the inhaled air, when heated by
it, having a natural tendency to move out of the body to the place of fire;
while the impossibility of a vacuum is the propelling cause inwards.

Thus we see that this singular theory is dependent on two principles
largely employed by Plato in explaining the operations of nature, the
impossibility of a vacuum and the attraction of like to like. To these
there has to be added a third principle, which is the condition of the
action of the other two,--the interpenetration of particles in proportion
to their density or rarity. It is this which enables fire and air to
permeate the flesh.

Plato's account of digestion and the circulation of the blood is closely
connected with his theory of respiration. Digestion is supposed to be
effected by the action of the internal fire, which in the process of
respiration moves into the stomach and minces the food. As the fire
returns to its place, it takes with it the minced food or blood; and in
this way the veins are replenished. Plato does not enquire how the blood
is separated from the faeces.

Of the anatomy and functions of the body he knew very little,--e.g. of the
uses of the nerves in conveying motion and sensation, which he supposed to
be communicated by the bones and veins; he was also ignorant of the
distinction between veins and arteries;--the latter term he applies to the
vessels which conduct air from the mouth to the lungs;--he supposes the
lung to be hollow and bloodless; the spinal marrow he conceives to be the
seed of generation; he confuses the parts of the body with the states of
the body--the network of fire and air is spoken of as a bodily organ; he
has absolutely no idea of the phenomena of respiration, which he attributes
to a law of equalization in nature, the air which is breathed out
displacing other air which finds a way in; he is wholly unacquainted with
the process of digestion. Except the general divisions into the spleen,
the liver, the belly, and the lungs, and the obvious distinctions of flesh,
bones, and the limbs of the body, we find nothing that reminds us of
anatomical facts. But we find much which is derived from his theory of the
universe, and transferred to man, as there is much also in his theory of
the universe which is suggested by man. The microcosm of the human body is
the lesser image of the macrocosm. The courses of the same and the other
affect both; they are made of the same elements and therefore in the same
proportions. Both are intelligent natures endued with the power of self-
motion, and the same equipoise is maintained in both. The animal is a sort
of 'world' to the particles of the blood which circulate in it. All the
four elements entered into the original composition of the human frame; the
bone was formed out of smooth earth; liquids of various kinds pass to and
fro; the network of fire and air irrigates the veins. Infancy and
childhood is the chaos or first turbid flux of sense prior to the
establishment of order; the intervals of time which may be observed in some
intermittent fevers correspond to the density of the elements. The spinal
marrow, including the brain, is formed out of the finest sorts of
triangles, and is the connecting link between body and mind. Health is
only to be preserved by imitating the motions of the world in space, which
is the mother and nurse of generation. The work of digestion is carried on
by the superior sharpness of the triangles forming the substances of the
human body to those which are introduced into it in the shape of food. The
freshest and acutest forms of triangles are those that are found in
children, but they become more obtuse with advancing years; and when they
finally wear out and fall to pieces, old age and death supervene.

As in the Republic, Plato is still the enemy of the purgative treatment of
physicians, which, except in extreme cases, no man of sense will ever
adopt. For, as he adds, with an insight into the truth, 'every disease is
akin to the nature of the living being and is only irritated by
stimulants.' He is of opinion that nature should be left to herself, and
is inclined to think that physicians are in vain (Laws--where he says that
warm baths would be more beneficial to the limbs of the aged rustic than
the prescriptions of a not over-wise doctor). If he seems to be extreme in
his condemnation of medicine and to rely too much on diet and exercise, he
might appeal to nearly all the best physicians of our own age in support of
his opinions, who often speak to their patients of the worthlessness of
drugs. For we ourselves are sceptical about medicine, and very unwilling
to submit to the purgative treatment of physicians. May we not claim for
Plato an anticipation of modern ideas as about some questions of astronomy
and physics, so also about medicine? As in the Charmides he tells us that
the body cannot be cured without the soul, so in the Timaeus he strongly
asserts the sympathy of soul and body; any defect of either is the occasion
of the greatest discord and disproportion in the other. Here too may be a
presentiment that in the medicine of the future the interdependence of mind
and body will be more fully recognized, and that the influence of the one
over the other may be exerted in a manner which is not now thought

Section 7.

In Plato's explanation of sensation we are struck by the fact that he has
not the same distinct conception of organs of sense which is familiar to
ourselves. The senses are not instruments, but rather passages, through
which external objects strike upon the mind. The eye is the aperture
through which the stream of vision passes, the ear is the aperture through
which the vibrations of sound pass. But that the complex structure of the
eye or the ear is in any sense the cause of sight and hearing he seems
hardly to be aware.

The process of sight is the most complicated (Rep.), and consists of three
elements--the light which is supposed to reside within the eye, the light
of the sun, and the light emitted from external objects. When the light of
the eye meets the light of the sun, and both together meet the light
issuing from an external object, this is the simple act of sight. When the
particles of light which proceed from the object are exactly equal to the
particles of the visual ray which meet them from within, then the body is
transparent. If they are larger and contract the visual ray, a black
colour is produced; if they are smaller and dilate it, a white. Other
phenomena are produced by the variety and motion of light. A sudden flash
of fire at once elicits light and moisture from the eye, and causes a
bright colour. A more subdued light, on mingling with the moisture of the
eye, produces a red colour. Out of these elements all other colours are
derived. All of them are combinations of bright and red with white and
black. Plato himself tells us that he does not know in what proportions
they combine, and he is of opinion that such knowledge is granted to the
gods only. To have seen the affinity of them to each other and their
connection with light, is not a bad basis for a theory of colours. We must
remember that they were not distinctly defined to his, as they are to our
eyes; he saw them, not as they are divided in the prism, or artificially
manufactured for the painter's use, but as they exist in nature, blended
and confused with one another.

We can hardly agree with him when he tells us that smells do not admit of
kinds. He seems to think that no definite qualities can attach to bodies
which are in a state of transition or evaporation; he also makes the subtle
observation that smells must be denser than air, though thinner than water,
because when there is an obstruction to the breathing, air can penetrate,
but not smell.

The affections peculiar to the tongue are of various kinds, and, like many
other affections, are caused by contraction and dilation. Some of them are
produced by rough, others by abstergent, others by inflammatory
substances,--these act upon the testing instruments of the tongue, and
produce a more or less disagreeable sensation, while other particles
congenial to the tongue soften and harmonize them. The instruments of
taste reach from the tongue to the heart. Plato has a lively sense of the
manner in which sensation and motion are communicated from one part of the
body to the other, though he confuses the affections with the organs.
Hearing is a blow which passes through the ear and ends in the region of
the liver, being transmitted by means of the air, the brain, and the blood
to the soul. The swifter sound is acute, the sound which moves slowly is
grave. A great body of sound is loud, the opposite is low. Discord is
produced by the swifter and slower motions of two sounds, and is converted
into harmony when the swifter motions begin to pause and are overtaken by
the slower.

The general phenomena of sensation are partly internal, but the more
violent are caused by conflict with external objects. Proceeding by a
method of superficial observation, Plato remarks that the more sensitive
parts of the human frame are those which are least covered by flesh, as is
the case with the head and the elbows. Man, if his head had been covered
with a thicker pulp of flesh, might have been a longer-lived animal than he
is, but could not have had as quick perceptions. On the other hand, the
tongue is one of the most sensitive of organs; but then this is made, not
to be a covering to the bones which contain the marrow or source of life,
but with an express purpose, and in a separate mass.

Section 8.

We have now to consider how far in any of these speculations Plato
approximated to the discoveries of modern science. The modern physical
philosopher is apt to dwell exclusively on the absurdities of ancient ideas
about science, on the haphazard fancies and a priori assumptions of
ancient teachers, on their confusion of facts and ideas, on their
inconsistency and blindness to the most obvious phenomena. He measures
them not by what preceded them, but by what has followed them. He does not
consider that ancient physical philosophy was not a free enquiry, but a
growth, in which the mind was passive rather than active, and was incapable
of resisting the impressions which flowed in upon it. He hardly allows to
the notions of the ancients the merit of being the stepping-stones by which
he has himself risen to a higher knowledge. He never reflects, how great a
thing it was to have formed a conception, however imperfect, either of the
human frame as a whole, or of the world as a whole. According to the view
taken in these volumes the errors of ancient physicists were not separable
from the intellectual conditions under which they lived. Their genius was
their own; and they were not the rash and hasty generalizers which, since
the days of Bacon, we have been apt to suppose them. The thoughts of men
widened to receive experience; at first they seemed to know all things as
in a dream: after a while they look at them closely and hold them in their
hands. They begin to arrange them in classes and to connect causes with
effects. General notions are necessary to the apprehension of particular
facts, the metaphysical to the physical. Before men can observe the world,
they must be able to conceive it.

To do justice to the subject, we should consider the physical philosophy of
the ancients as a whole; we should remember, (1) that the nebular theory
was the received belief of several of the early physicists; (2) that the
development of animals out of fishes who came to land, and of man out of
the animals, was held by Anaximander in the sixth century before Christ
(Plut. Symp. Quaest; Plac. Phil.); (3) that even by Philolaus and the early
Pythagoreans, the earth was held to be a body like the other stars
revolving in space around the sun or a central fire; (4) that the
beginnings of chemistry are discernible in the 'similar particles' of
Anaxagoras. Also they knew or thought (5) that there was a sex in plants
as well as in animals; (6) they were aware that musical notes depended on
the relative length or tension of the strings from which they were emitted,
and were measured by ratios of number; (7) that mathematical laws pervaded
the world; and even qualitative differences were supposed to have their
origin in number and figure; (8) the annihilation of matter was denied by
several of them, and the seeming disappearance of it held to be a
transformation only. For, although one of these discoveries might have
been supposed to be a happy guess, taken together they seem to imply a
great advance and almost maturity of natural knowledge.

We should also remember, when we attribute to the ancients hasty
generalizations and delusions of language, that physical philosophy and
metaphysical too have been guilty of similar fallacies in quite recent
times. We by no means distinguish clearly between mind and body, between
ideas and facts. Have not many discussions arisen about the Atomic theory
in which a point has been confused with a material atom? Have not the
natures of things been explained by imaginary entities, such as life or
phlogiston, which exist in the mind only? Has not disease been regarded,
like sin, sometimes as a negative and necessary, sometimes as a positive or
malignant principle? The 'idols' of Bacon are nearly as common now as
ever; they are inherent in the human mind, and when they have the most
complete dominion over us, we are least able to perceive them. We
recognize them in the ancients, but we fail to see them in ourselves.

Such reflections, although this is not the place in which to dwell upon
them at length, lead us to take a favourable view of the speculations of
the Timaeus. We should consider not how much Plato actually knew, but how
far he has contributed to the general ideas of physics, or supplied the
notions which, whether true or false, have stimulated the minds of later
generations in the path of discovery. Some of them may seem old-fashioned,
but may nevertheless have had a great influence in promoting system and
assisting enquiry, while in others we hear the latest word of physical or
metaphysical philosophy. There is also an intermediate class, in which
Plato falls short of the truths of modern science, though he is not wholly
unacquainted with them. (1) To the first class belongs the teleological
theory of creation. Whether all things in the world can be explained as
the result of natural laws, or whether we must not admit of tendencies and
marks of design also, has been a question much disputed of late years.
Even if all phenomena are the result of natural forces, we must admit that
there are many things in heaven and earth which are as well expressed under
the image of mind or design as under any other. At any rate, the language
of Plato has been the language of natural theology down to our own time,
nor can any description of the world wholly dispense with it. The notion
of first and second or co-operative causes, which originally appears in the
Timaeus, has likewise survived to our own day, and has been a great peace-
maker between theology and science. Plato also approaches very near to our
doctrine of the primary and secondary qualities of matter. (2) Another
popular notion which is found in the Timaeus, is the feebleness of the
human intellect--'God knows the original qualities of things; man can only
hope to attain to probability.' We speak in almost the same words of human
intelligence, but not in the same manner of the uncertainty of our
knowledge of nature. The reason is that the latter is assured to us by
experiment, and is not contrasted with the certainty of ideal or
mathematical knowledge. But the ancient philosopher never experimented:
in the Timaeus Plato seems to have thought that there would be impiety in
making the attempt; he, for example, who tried experiments in colours would
'forget the difference of the human and divine natures.' Their
indefiniteness is probably the reason why he singles them out, as
especially incapable of being tested by experiment. (Compare the saying of
Anaxagoras--Sext. Pyrrh.--that since snow is made of water and water is
black, snow ought to be black.)

The greatest 'divination' of the ancients was the supremacy which they
assigned to mathematics in all the realms of nature; for in all of them
there is a foundation of mechanics. Even physiology partakes of figure and
number; and Plato is not wrong in attributing them to the human frame, but
in the omission to observe how little could be explained by them. Thus we
may remark in passing that the most fanciful of ancient philosophies is
also the most nearly verified in fact. The fortunate guess that the world
is a sum of numbers and figures has been the most fruitful of
anticipations. The 'diatonic' scale of the Pythagoreans and Plato
suggested to Kepler that the secret of the distances of the planets from
one another was to be found in mathematical proportions. The doctrine that
the heavenly bodies all move in a circle is known by us to be erroneous;
but without such an error how could the human mind have comprehended the
heavens? Astronomy, even in modern times, has made far greater progress by
the high a priori road than could have been attained by any other. Yet,
strictly speaking--and the remark applies to ancient physics generally--
this high a priori road was based upon a posteriori grounds. For there
were no facts of which the ancients were so well assured by experience as
facts of number. Having observed that they held good in a few instances,
they applied them everywhere; and in the complexity, of which they were
capable, found the explanation of the equally complex phenomena of the
universe. They seemed to see them in the least things as well as in the
greatest; in atoms, as well as in suns and stars; in the human body as well
as in external nature. And now a favourite speculation of modern chemistry
is the explanation of qualitative difference by quantitative, which is at
present verified to a certain extent and may hereafter be of far more
universal application. What is this but the atoms of Democritus and the
triangles of Plato? The ancients should not be wholly deprived of the
credit of their guesses because they were unable to prove them. May they
not have had, like the animals, an instinct of something more than they

Besides general notions we seem to find in the Timaeus some more precise
approximations to the discoveries of modern physical science. First, the
doctrine of equipoise. Plato affirms, almost in so many words, that nature
abhors a vacuum. Whenever a particle is displaced, the rest push and
thrust one another until equality is restored. We must remember that these
ideas were not derived from any definite experiment, but were the original
reflections of man, fresh from the first observation of nature. The latest
word of modern philosophy is continuity and development, but to Plato this
is the beginning and foundation of science; there is nothing that he is so
strongly persuaded of as that the world is one, and that all the various
existences which are contained in it are only the transformations of the
same soul of the world acting on the same matter. He would have readily
admitted that out of the protoplasm all things were formed by the gradual
process of creation; but he would have insisted that mind and intelligence
--not meaning by this, however, a conscious mind or person--were prior to
them, and could alone have created them. Into the workings of this eternal
mind or intelligence he does not enter further; nor would there have been
any use in attempting to investigate the things which no eye has seen nor
any human language can express.

Lastly, there remain two points in which he seems to touch great
discoveries of modern times--the law of gravitation, and the circulation of
the blood.

(1) The law of gravitation, according to Plato, is a law, not only of the
attraction of lesser bodies to larger ones, but of similar bodies to
similar, having a magnetic power as well as a principle of gravitation. He
observed that earth, water, and air had settled down to their places, and
he imagined fire or the exterior aether to have a place beyond air. When
air seemed to go upwards and fire to pierce through air--when water and
earth fell downward, they were seeking their native elements. He did not
remark that his own explanation did not suit all phenomena; and the simpler
explanation, which assigns to bodies degrees of heaviness and lightness
proportioned to the mass and distance of the bodies which attract them,
never occurred to him. Yet the affinities of similar substances have some
effect upon the composition of the world, and of this Plato may be thought
to have had an anticipation. He may be described as confusing the
attraction of gravitation with the attraction of cohesion. The influence
of such affinities and the chemical action of one body upon another in long
periods of time have become a recognized principle of geology.

(2) Plato is perfectly aware--and he could hardly be ignorant--that blood
is a fluid in constant motion. He also knew that blood is partly a solid
substance consisting of several elements, which, as he might have observed
in the use of 'cupping-glasses', decompose and die, when no longer in
motion. But the specific discovery that the blood flows out on one side of
the heart through the arteries and returns through the veins on the other,
which is commonly called the circulation of the blood, was absolutely
unknown to him.

A further study of the Timaeus suggests some after-thoughts which may be
conveniently brought together in this place. The topics which I propose
briefly to reconsider are (a) the relation of the Timaeus to the other
dialogues of Plato and to the previous philosophy; (b) the nature of God
and of creation (c) the morality of the Timaeus:--

(a) The Timaeus is more imaginative and less scientific than any other of
the Platonic dialogues. It is conjectural astronomy, conjectural natural
philosophy, conjectural medicine. The writer himself is constantly
repeating that he is speaking what is probable only. The dialogue is put
into the mouth of Timaeus, a Pythagorean philosopher, and therefore here,
as in the Parmenides, we are in doubt how far Plato is expressing his own
sentiments. Hence the connexion with the other dialogues is comparatively
slight. We may fill up the lacunae of the Timaeus by the help of the
Republic or Phaedrus: we may identify the same and other with the (Greek)
of the Philebus. We may find in the Laws or in the Statesman parallels
with the account of creation and of the first origin of man. It would be
possible to frame a scheme in which all these various elements might have a
place. But such a mode of proceeding would be unsatisfactory, because we
have no reason to suppose that Plato intended his scattered thoughts to be
collected in a system. There is a common spirit in his writings, and there
are certain general principles, such as the opposition of the sensible and
intellectual, and the priority of mind, which run through all of them; but
he has no definite forms of words in which he consistently expresses
himself. While the determinations of human thought are in process of
creation he is necessarily tentative and uncertain. And there is least of
definiteness, whenever either in describing the beginning or the end of the
world, he has recourse to myths. These are not the fixed modes in which
spiritual truths are revealed to him, but the efforts of imagination, by
which at different times and in various manners he seeks to embody his
conceptions. The clouds of mythology are still resting upon him, and he
has not yet pierced 'to the heaven of the fixed stars' which is beyond
them. It is safer then to admit the inconsistencies of the Timaeus, or to
endeavour to fill up what is wanting from our own imagination, inspired by
a study of the dialogue, than to refer to other Platonic writings,--and
still less should we refer to the successors of Plato,--for the elucidation
of it.

More light is thrown upon the Timaeus by a comparison of the previous
philosophies. For the physical science of the ancients was traditional,
descending through many generations of Ionian and Pythagorean philosophers.
Plato does not look out upon the heavens and describe what he sees in them,
but he builds upon the foundations of others, adding something out of the
'depths of his own self-consciousness.' Socrates had already spoken of God
the creator, who made all things for the best. While he ridiculed the
superficial explanations of phenomena which were current in his age, he
recognised the marks both of benevolence and of design in the frame of man
and in the world. The apparatus of winds and waters is contemptuously
rejected by him in the Phaedo, but he thinks that there is a power greater
than that of any Atlas in the 'Best' (Phaedo; Arist. Met.). Plato,
following his master, affirms this principle of the best, but he
acknowledges that the best is limited by the conditions of matter. In the
generation before Socrates, Anaxagoras had brought together 'Chaos' and
'Mind'; and these are connected by Plato in the Timaeus, but in accordance
with his own mode of thinking he has interposed between them the idea or
pattern according to which mind worked. The circular impulse (Greek) of
the one philosopher answers to the circular movement (Greek) of the other.
But unlike Anaxagoras, Plato made the sun and stars living beings and not
masses of earth or metal. The Pythagoreans again had framed a world out of
numbers, which they constructed into figures. Plato adopted their
speculations and improved upon them by a more exact knowledge of geometry.
The Atomists too made the world, if not out of geometrical figures, at
least out of different forms of atoms, and these atoms resembled the
triangles of Plato in being too small to be visible. But though the
physiology of the Timaeus is partly borrowed from them, they are either
ignored by Plato or referred to with a secret contempt and dislike. He
looks with more favour on the Pythagoreans, whose intervals of number
applied to the distances of the planets reappear in the Timaeus. It is
probable that among the Pythagoreans living in the fourth century B.C.,
there were already some who, like Plato, made the earth their centre.
Whether he obtained his circles of the Same and Other from any previous
thinker is uncertain. The four elements are taken from Empedocles; the
interstices of the Timaeus may also be compared with his (Greek). The
passage of one element into another is common to Heracleitus and several of
the Ionian philosophers. So much of a syncretist is Plato, though not
after the manner of the Neoplatonists. For the elements which he borrows
from others are fused and transformed by his own genius. On the other hand
we find fewer traces in Plato of early Ionic or Eleatic speculation. He
does not imagine the world of sense to be made up of opposites or to be in
a perpetual flux, but to vary within certain limits which are controlled by
what he calls the principle of the same. Unlike the Eleatics, who
relegated the world to the sphere of not-being, he admits creation to have
an existence which is real and even eternal, although dependent on the will
of the creator. Instead of maintaining the doctrine that the void has a
necessary place in the existence of the world, he rather affirms the modern
thesis that nature abhors a vacuum, as in the Sophist he also denies the
reality of not-being (Aristot. Metaph.). But though in these respects he
differs from them, he is deeply penetrated by the spirit of their
philosophy; he differs from them with reluctance, and gladly recognizes the
'generous depth' of Parmenides (Theaet.).

There is a similarity between the Timaeus and the fragments of Philolaus,
which by some has been thought to be so great as to create a suspicion that
they are derived from it. Philolaus is known to us from the Phaedo of
Plato as a Pythagorean philosopher residing at Thebes in the latter half of
the fifth century B.C., after the dispersion of the original Pythagorean
society. He was the teacher of Simmias and Cebes, who became disciples of
Socrates. We have hardly any other information about him. The story that
Plato had purchased three books of his writings from a relation is not
worth repeating; it is only a fanciful way in which an ancient biographer
dresses up the fact that there was supposed to be a resemblance between the
two writers. Similar gossiping stories are told about the sources of the
Republic and the Phaedo. That there really existed in antiquity a work
passing under the name of Philolaus there can be no doubt. Fragments of
this work are preserved to us, chiefly in Stobaeus, a few in Boethius and
other writers. They remind us of the Timaeus, as well as of the Phaedrus
and Philebus. When the writer says (Stob. Eclog.) that all things are
either finite (definite) or infinite (indefinite), or a union of the two,
and that this antithesis and synthesis pervades all art and nature, we are
reminded of the Philebus. When he calls the centre of the world (Greek),
we have a parallel to the Phaedrus. His distinction between the world of
order, to which the sun and moon and the stars belong, and the world of
disorder, which lies in the region between the moon and the earth,
approximates to Plato's sphere of the Same and of the Other. Like Plato
(Tim.), he denied the above and below in space, and said that all things
were the same in relation to a centre. He speaks also of the world as one
and indestructible: 'for neither from within nor from without does it
admit of destruction' (Tim). He mentions ten heavenly bodies, including
the sun and moon, the earth and the counter-earth (Greek), and in the midst
of them all he places the central fire, around which they are moving--this
is hidden from the earth by the counter-earth. Of neither is there any
trace in Plato, who makes the earth the centre of his system. Philolaus
magnifies the virtues of particular numbers, especially of the number 10
(Stob. Eclog.), and descants upon odd and even numbers, after the manner of
the later Pythagoreans. It is worthy of remark that these mystical fancies
are nowhere to be found in the writings of Plato, although the importance
of number as a form and also an instrument of thought is ever present to
his mind. Both Philolaus and Plato agree in making the world move in
certain numerical ratios according to a musical scale: though Bockh is of
opinion that the two scales, of Philolaus and of the Timaeus, do not
correspond...We appear not to be sufficiently acquainted with the early
Pythagoreans to know how far the statements contained in these fragments
corresponded with their doctrines; and we therefore cannot pronounce,
either in favour of the genuineness of the fragments, with Bockh and
Zeller, or, with Valentine Rose and Schaarschmidt, against them. But it is
clear that they throw but little light upon the Timaeus, and that their
resemblance to it has been exaggerated.

That there is a degree of confusion and indistinctness in Plato's account
both of man and of the universe has been already acknowledged. We cannot
tell (nor could Plato himself have told) where the figure or myth ends and
the philosophical truth begins; we cannot explain (nor could Plato himself
have explained to us) the relation of the ideas to appearance, of which one
is the copy of the other, and yet of all things in the world they are the
most opposed and unlike. This opposition is presented to us in many forms,
as the antithesis of the one and many, of the finite and infinite, of the
intelligible and sensible, of the unchangeable and the changing, of the
indivisible and the divisible, of the fixed stars and the planets, of the
creative mind and the primeval chaos. These pairs of opposites are so many
aspects of the great opposition between ideas and phenomena--they easily
pass into one another; and sometimes the two members of the relation differ
in kind, sometimes only in degree. As in Aristotle's matter and form the
connexion between them is really inseparable; for if we attempt to separate
them they become devoid of content and therefore indistinguishable; there
is no difference between the idea of which nothing can be predicated, and
the chaos or matter which has no perceptible qualities--between Being in
the abstract and Nothing. Yet we are frequently told that the one class of
them is the reality and the other appearance; and one is often spoken of as
the double or reflection of the other. For Plato never clearly saw that
both elements had an equal place in mind and in nature; and hence,
especially when we argue from isolated passages in his writings, or attempt
to draw what appear to us to be the natural inferences from them, we are
full of perplexity. There is a similar confusion about necessity and free-
will, and about the state of the soul after death. Also he sometimes
supposes that God is immanent in the world, sometimes that he is
transcendent. And having no distinction of objective and subjective, he
passes imperceptibly from one to the other; from intelligence to soul, from
eternity to time. These contradictions may be softened or concealed by a
judicious use of language, but they cannot be wholly got rid of. That an
age of intellectual transition must also be one of inconsistency; that the
creative is opposed to the critical or defining habit of mind or time, has
been often repeated by us. But, as Plato would say, 'there is no harm in
repeating twice or thrice' (Laws) what is important for the understanding
of a great author.

It has not, however, been observed, that the confusion partly arises out of
the elements of opposing philosophies which are preserved in him. He holds
these in solution, he brings them into relation with one another, but he
does not perfectly harmonize them. They are part of his own mind, and he
is incapable of placing himself outside of them and criticizing them. They
grow as he grows; they are a kind of composition with which his own
philosophy is overlaid. In early life he fancies that he has mastered
them: but he is also mastered by them; and in language (Sophist) which may
be compared with the hesitating tone of the Timaeus, he confesses in his
later years that they are full of obscurity to him. He attributes new
meanings to the words of Parmenides and Heracleitus; but at times the old
Eleatic philosophy appears to go beyond him; then the world of phenomena
disappears, but the doctrine of ideas is also reduced to nothingness. All
of them are nearer to one another than they themselves supposed, and nearer
to him than he supposed. All of them are antagonistic to sense and have an
affinity to number and measure and a presentiment of ideas. Even in Plato
they still retain their contentious or controversial character, which was
developed by the growth of dialectic. He is never able to reconcile the
first causes of the pre-Socratic philosophers with the final causes of
Socrates himself. There is no intelligible account of the relation of
numbers to the universal ideas, or of universals to the idea of good. He
found them all three, in the Pythagorean philosophy and in the teaching of
Socrates and of the Megarians respectively; and, because they all furnished
modes of explaining and arranging phenomena, he is unwilling to give up any
of them, though he is unable to unite them in a consistent whole.

Lastly, Plato, though an idealist philosopher, is Greek and not Oriental in
spirit and feeling. He is no mystic or ascetic; he is not seeking in vain
to get rid of matter or to find absorption in the divine nature, or in the
Soul of the universe. And therefore we are not surprised to find that his
philosophy in the Timaeus returns at last to a worship of the heavens, and
that to him, as to other Greeks, nature, though containing a remnant of
evil, is still glorious and divine. He takes away or drops the veil of
mythology, and presents her to us in what appears to him to be the form-
fairer and truer far--of mathematical figures. It is this element in the
Timaeus, no less than its affinity to certain Pythagorean speculations,
which gives it a character not wholly in accordance with the other
dialogues of Plato.

(b) The Timaeus contains an assertion perhaps more distinct than is found
in any of the other dialogues (Rep.; Laws) of the goodness of God. 'He was
good himself, and he fashioned the good everywhere.' He was not 'a jealous
God,' and therefore he desired that all other things should be equally
good. He is the IDEA of good who has now become a person, and speaks and
is spoken of as God. Yet his personality seems to appear only in the act
of creation. In so far as he works with his eye fixed upon an eternal
pattern he is like the human artificer in the Republic. Here the theory of
Platonic ideas intrudes upon us. God, like man, is supposed to have an
ideal of which Plato is unable to tell us the origin. He may be said, in
the language of modern philosophy, to resolve the divine mind into subject
and object.

The first work of creation is perfected, the second begins under the
direction of inferior ministers. The supreme God is withdrawn from the
world and returns to his own accustomed nature (Tim.). As in the
Statesman, he retires to his place of view. So early did the Epicurean
doctrine take possession of the Greek mind, and so natural is it to the
heart of man, when he has once passed out of the stage of mythology into
that of rational religion. For he sees the marks of design in the world;
but he no longer sees or fancies that he sees God walking in the garden or
haunting stream or mountain. He feels also that he must put God as far as
possible out of the way of evil, and therefore he banishes him from an evil
world. Plato is sensible of the difficulty; and he often shows that he is
desirous of justifying the ways of God to man. Yet on the other hand, in
the Tenth Book of the Laws he passes a censure on those who say that the
Gods have no care of human things.

The creation of the world is the impression of order on a previously
existing chaos. The formula of Anaxagoras--'all things were in chaos or
confusion, and then mind came and disposed them'--is a summary of the first
part of the Timaeus. It is true that of a chaos without differences no
idea could be formed. All was not mixed but one; and therefore it was not
difficult for the later Platonists to draw inferences by which they were
enabled to reconcile the narrative of the Timaeus with the Mosaic account
of the creation. Neither when we speak of mind or intelligence, do we seem
to get much further in our conception than circular motion, which was
deemed to be the most perfect. Plato, like Anaxagoras, while commencing
his theory of the universe with ideas of mind and of the best, is compelled
in the execution of his design to condescend to the crudest physics.

(c) The morality of the Timaeus is singular, and it is difficult to adjust
the balance between the two elements of it. The difficulty which Plato
feels, is that which all of us feel, and which is increased in our own day
by the progress of physical science, how the responsibility of man is to be
reconciled with his dependence on natural causes. And sometimes, like
other men, he is more impressed by one aspect of human life, sometimes by
the other. In the Republic he represents man as freely choosing his own
lot in a state prior to birth--a conception which, if taken literally,
would still leave him subject to the dominion of necessity in his after
life; in the Statesman he supposes the human race to be preserved in the
world only by a divine interposition; while in the Timaeus the supreme God
commissions the inferior deities to avert from him all but self-inflicted
evils--words which imply that all the evils of men are really self-
inflicted. And here, like Plato (the insertion of a note in the text of an
ancient writer is a literary curiosity worthy of remark), we may take
occasion to correct an error. For we too hastily said that Plato in the
Timaeus regarded all 'vices and crimes as involuntary.' But the fact is
that he is inconsistent with himself; in one and the same passage vice is
attributed to the relaxation of the bodily frame, and yet we are exhorted
to avoid it and pursue virtue. It is also admitted that good and evil
conduct are to be attributed respectively to good and evil laws and
institutions. These cannot be given by individuals to themselves; and
therefore human actions, in so far as they are dependent upon them, are
regarded by Plato as involuntary rather than voluntary. Like other writers
on this subject, he is unable to escape from some degree of self-
contradiction. He had learned from Socrates that vice is ignorance, and
suddenly the doctrine seems to him to be confirmed by observing how much of
the good and bad in human character depends on the bodily constitution. So
in modern times the speculative doctrine of necessity has often been
supported by physical facts.

The Timaeus also contains an anticipation of the stoical life according to
nature. Man contemplating the heavens is to regulate his erring life
according to them. He is to partake of the repose of nature and of the
order of nature, to bring the variable principle in himself into harmony
with the principle of the same. The ethics of the Timaeus may be summed up
in the single idea of 'law.' To feel habitually that he is part of the
order of the universe, is one of the highest ethical motives of which man
is capable. Something like this is what Plato means when he speaks of the
soul 'moving about the same in unchanging thought of the same.' He does
not explain how man is acted upon by the lesser influences of custom or of
opinion; or how the commands of the soul watching in the citadel are
conveyed to the bodily organs. But this perhaps, to use once more
expressions of his own, 'is part of another subject' or 'may be more
suitably discussed on some other occasion.'

There is no difficulty, by the help of Aristotle and later writers, in
criticizing the Timaeus of Plato, in pointing out the inconsistencies of
the work, in dwelling on the ignorance of anatomy displayed by the author,
in showing the fancifulness or unmeaningness of some of his reasons. But
the Timaeus still remains the greatest effort of the human mind to conceive
the world as a whole which the genius of antiquity has bequeathed to us.


One more aspect of the Timaeus remains to be considered--the mythological
or geographical. Is it not a wonderful thing that a few pages of one of
Plato's dialogues have grown into a great legend, not confined to Greece
only, but spreading far and wide over the nations of Europe and reaching
even to Egypt and Asia? Like the tale of Troy, or the legend of the Ten
Tribes (Ewald, Hist. of Isr.), which perhaps originated in a few verses of
II Esdras, it has become famous, because it has coincided with a great
historical fact. Like the romance of King Arthur, which has had so great a
charm, it has found a way over the seas from one country and language to
another. It inspired the navigators of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries; it foreshadowed the discovery of America. It realized the
fiction so natural to the human mind, because it answered the enquiry about
the origin of the arts, that there had somewhere existed an ancient
primitive civilization. It might find a place wherever men chose to look
for it; in North, South, East, or West; in the Islands of the Blest; before
the entrance of the Straits of Gibraltar, in Sweden or in Palestine. It
mattered little whether the description in Plato agreed with the locality
assigned to it or not. It was a legend so adapted to the human mind that
it made a habitation for itself in any country. It was an island in the
clouds, which might be seen anywhere by the eye of faith. It was a subject
especially congenial to the ponderous industry of certain French and
Swedish writers, who delighted in heaping up learning of all sorts but were
incapable of using it.

M. Martin has written a valuable dissertation on the opinions entertained
respecting the Island of Atlantis in ancient and modern times. It is a
curious chapter in the history of the human mind. The tale of Atlantis is
the fabric of a vision, but it has never ceased to interest mankind. It
was variously regarded by the ancients themselves. The stronger heads
among them, like Strabo and Longinus, were as little disposed to believe in
the truth of it as the modern reader in Gulliver or Robinson Crusoe. On
the other hand there is no kind or degree of absurdity or fancy in which
the more foolish writers, both of antiquity and of modern times, have not
indulged respecting it. The Neo-Platonists, loyal to their master, like
some commentators on the Christian Scriptures, sought to give an
allegorical meaning to what they also believed to be an historical fact.
It was as if some one in our own day were to convert the poems of Homer
into an allegory of the Christian religion, at the same time maintaining
them to be an exact and veritable history. In the Middle Ages the legend
seems to have been half-forgotten until revived by the discovery of
America. It helped to form the Utopia of Sir Thomas More and the New
Atlantis of Bacon, although probably neither of those great men were at all
imposed upon by the fiction. It was most prolific in the seventeenth or in
the early part of the eighteenth century, when the human mind, seeking for
Utopias or inventing them, was glad to escape out of the dulness of the
present into the romance of the past or some ideal of the future. The
later forms of such narratives contained features taken from the Edda, as
well as from the Old and New Testament; also from the tales of missionaries
and the experiences of travellers and of colonists.

The various opinions respecting the Island of Atlantis have no interest for
us except in so far as they illustrate the extravagances of which men are
capable. But this is a real interest and a serious lesson, if we remember
that now as formerly the human mind is liable to be imposed upon by the
illusions of the past, which are ever assuming some new form.

When we have shaken off the rubbish of ages, there remain one or two
questions of which the investigation has a permanent value:--

1. Did Plato derive the legend of Atlantis from an Egyptian source? It
may be replied that there is no such legend in any writer previous to
Plato; neither in Homer, nor in Pindar, nor in Herodotus is there any
mention of an Island of Atlantis, nor any reference to it in Aristotle, nor
any citation of an earlier writer by a later one in which it is to be
found. Nor have any traces been discovered hitherto in Egyptian monuments
of a connexion between Greece and Egypt older than the eighth or ninth
century B.C. It is true that Proclus, writing in the fifth century after
Christ, tells us of stones and columns in Egypt on which the history of the
Island of Atlantis was engraved. The statement may be false--there are
similar tales about columns set up 'by the Canaanites whom Joshua drove
out' (Procop.); but even if true, it would only show that the legend, 800
years after the time of Plato, had been transferred to Egypt, and
inscribed, not, like other forgeries, in books, but on stone. Probably in
the Alexandrian age, when Egypt had ceased to have a history and began to
appropriate the legends of other nations, many such monuments were to be
found of events which had become famous in that or other countries. The
oldest witness to the story is said to be Crantor, a Stoic philosopher who
lived a generation later than Plato, and therefore may have borrowed it
from him. The statement is found in Proclus; but we require better
assurance than Proclus can give us before we accept this or any other
statement which he makes.

Secondly, passing from the external to the internal evidence, we may remark
that the story is far more likely to have been invented by Plato than to
have been brought by Solon from Egypt. That is another part of his legend
which Plato also seeks to impose upon us. The verisimilitude which he has
given to the tale is a further reason for suspecting it; for he could
easily 'invent Egyptian or any other tales' (Phaedrus). Are not the words,
'The truth of the story is a great advantage,' if we read between the
lines, an indication of the fiction? It is only a legend that Solon went
to Egypt, and if he did he could not have conversed with Egyptian priests
or have read records in their temples. The truth is that the introduction
is a mosaic work of small touches which, partly by their minuteness, and
also by their seeming probability, win the confidence of the reader. Who
would desire better evidence than that of Critias, who had heard the
narrative in youth when the memory is strongest at the age of ten from his
grandfather Critias, an old man of ninety, who in turn had heard it from
Solon himself? Is not the famous expression--'You Hellenes are ever
children and there is no knowledge among you hoary with age,' really a
compliment to the Athenians who are described in these words as 'ever
young'? And is the thought expressed in them to be attributed to the
learning of the Egyptian priest, and not rather to the genius of Plato? Or
when the Egyptian says--'Hereafter at our leisure we will take up the
written documents and examine in detail the exact truth about these
things'--what is this but a literary trick by which Plato sets off his
narrative? Could any war between Athens and the Island of Atlantis have
really coincided with the struggle between the Greeks and Persians, as is
sufficiently hinted though not expressly stated in the narrative of Plato?
And whence came the tradition to Egypt? or in what does the story consist
except in the war between the two rival powers and the submersion of both
of them? And how was the tale transferred to the poem of Solon? 'It is
not improbable,' says Mr. Grote, 'that Solon did leave an unfinished
Egyptian poem' (Plato). But are probabilities for which there is not a
tittle of evidence, and which are without any parallel, to be deemed worthy
of attention by the critic? How came the poem of Solon to disappear in
antiquity? or why did Plato, if the whole narrative was known to him, break
off almost at the beginning of it?

While therefore admiring the diligence and erudition of M. Martin, we
cannot for a moment suppose that the tale was told to Solon by an Egyptian
priest, nor can we believe that Solon wrote a poem upon the theme which was
thus suggested to him--a poem which disappeared in antiquity; or that the
Island of Atlantis or the antediluvian Athens ever had any existence except
in the imagination of Plato. Martin is of opinion that Plato would have
been terrified if he could have foreseen the endless fancies to which his
Island of Atlantis has given occasion. Rather he would have been
infinitely amused if he could have known that his gift of invention would
have deceived M. Martin himself into the belief that the tradition was
brought from Egypt by Solon and made the subject of a poem by him. M.
Martin may also be gently censured for citing without sufficient
discrimination ancient authors having very different degrees of authority
and value.

2. It is an interesting and not unimportant question which is touched upon
by Martin, whether the Atlantis of Plato in any degree held out a guiding
light to the early navigators. He is inclined to think that there is no
real connexion between them. But surely the discovery of the New World was
preceded by a prophetic anticipation of it, which, like the hope of a
Messiah, was entering into the hearts of men? And this hope was nursed by
ancient tradition, which had found expression from time to time in the
celebrated lines of Seneca and in many other places. This tradition was
sustained by the great authority of Plato, and therefore the legend of the
Island of Atlantis, though not closely connected with the voyages of the
early navigators, may be truly said to have contributed indirectly to the
great discovery.

The Timaeus of Plato, like the Protagoras and several portions of the
Phaedrus and Republic, was translated by Cicero into Latin. About a
fourth, comprehending with lacunae the first portion of the dialogue, is
preserved in several MSS. These generally agree, and therefore may be
supposed to be derived from a single original. The version is very
faithful, and is a remarkable monument of Cicero's skill in managing the
difficult and intractable Greek. In his treatise De Natura Deorum, he also
refers to the Timaeus, which, speaking in the person of Velleius the
Epicurean, he severely criticises.

The commentary of Proclus on the Timaeus is a wonderful monument of the
silliness and prolixity of the Alexandrian Age. It extends to about thirty
pages of the book, and is thirty times the length of the original. It is
surprising that this voluminous work should have found a translator (Thomas
Taylor, a kindred spirit, who was himself a Neo-Platonist, after the
fashion, not of the fifth or sixteenth, but of the nineteenth century
A.D.). The commentary is of little or no value, either in a philosophical
or philological point of view. The writer is unable to explain particular
passages in any precise manner, and he is equally incapable of grasping the
whole. He does not take words in their simple meaning or sentences in
their natural connexion. He is thinking, not of the context in Plato, but
of the contemporary Pythagorean philosophers and their wordy strife. He
finds nothing in the text which he does not bring to it. He is full of
Porphyry, Iamblichus and Plotinus, of misapplied logic, of misunderstood
grammar, and of the Orphic theology.

Although such a work can contribute little or nothing to the understanding
of Plato, it throws an interesting light on the Alexandrian times; it
realizes how a philosophy made up of words only may create a deep and
widespread enthusiasm, how the forms of logic and rhetoric may usurp the
place of reason and truth, how all philosophies grow faded and discoloured,
and are patched and made up again like worn-out garments, and retain only a
second-hand existence. He who would study this degeneracy of philosophy
and of the Greek mind in the original cannot do better than devote a few of
his days and nights to the commentary of Proclus on the Timaeus.

A very different account must be given of the short work entitled 'Timaeus
Locrus,' which is a brief but clear analysis of the Timaeus of Plato,
omitting the introduction or dialogue and making a few small additions. It
does not allude to the original from which it is taken; it is quite free
from mysticism and Neo-Platonism. In length it does not exceed a fifth
part of the Timaeus. It is written in the Doric dialect, and contains
several words which do not occur in classical Greek. No other indication
of its date, except this uncertain one of language, appears in it. In
several places the writer has simplified the language of Plato, in a few
others he has embellished and exaggerated it. He generally preserves the
thought of the original, but does not copy the words. On the whole this
little tract faithfully reflects the meaning and spirit of the Timaeus.

>From the garden of the Timaeus, as from the other dialogues of Plato, we
may still gather a few flowers and present them at parting to the reader.
There is nothing in Plato grander and simpler than the conversation between
Solon and the Egyptian priest, in which the youthfulness of Hellas is
contrasted with the antiquity of Egypt. Here are to be found the famous
words, 'O Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are ever young, and there is not an
old man among you'--which may be compared to the lively saying of Hegel,
that 'Greek history began with the youth Achilles and left off with the
youth Alexander.' The numerous arts of verisimilitude by which Plato
insinuates into the mind of the reader the truth of his narrative have been
already referred to. Here occur a sentence or two not wanting in Platonic
irony (Greek--a word to the wise). 'To know or tell the origin of the
other divinities is beyond us, and we must accept the traditions of the men
of old time who affirm themselves to be the offspring of the Gods--that is
what they say--and they must surely have known their own ancestors. How
can we doubt the word of the children of the Gods? Although they give no
probable or certain proofs, still, as they declare that they are speaking
of what took place in their own family, we must conform to custom and
believe them.' 'Our creators well knew that women and other animals would
some day be framed out of men, and they further knew that many animals
would require the use of nails for many purposes; wherefore they fashioned
in men at their first creation the rudiments of nails.' Or once more, let
us reflect on two serious passages in which the order of the world is
supposed to find a place in the human soul and to infuse harmony into it.
'The soul, when touching anything that has essence, whether dispersed in
parts or undivided, is stirred through all her powers to declare the
sameness or difference of that thing and some other; and to what
individuals are related, and by what affected, and in what way and how and
when, both in the world of generation and in the world of immutable being.
And when reason, which works with equal truth, whether she be in the circle
of the diverse or of the same,--in voiceless silence holding her onward
course in the sphere of the self-moved,--when reason, I say, is hovering
around the sensible world, and when the circle of the diverse also moving
truly imparts the intimations of sense to the whole soul, then arise
opinions and beliefs sure and certain. But when reason is concerned with
the rational, and the circle of the same moving smoothly declares it, then
intelligence and knowledge are necessarily perfected;' where, proceeding in
a similar path of contemplation, he supposes the inward and the outer world
mutually to imply each other. 'God invented and gave us sight to the end
that we might behold the courses of intelligence in the heaven, and apply
them to the courses of our own intelligence which are akin to them, the
unperturbed to the perturbed; and that we, learning them and partaking of
the natural truth of reason, might imitate the absolutely unerring courses
of God and regulate our own vagaries.' Or let us weigh carefully some
other profound thoughts, such as the following. 'He who neglects education
walks lame to the end of his life, and returns imperfect and good for
nothing to the world below.' 'The father and maker of all this universe is
past finding out; and even if we found him, to tell of him to all men would
be impossible.' 'Let me tell you then why the Creator made this world of
generation. He was good, and the good can never have jealousy of anything.
And being free from jealousy, he desired that all things should be as like
himself as they could be. This is in the truest sense the origin of
creation and of the world, as we shall do well in believing on the
testimony of wise men: God desired that all things should be good and
nothing bad, so far as this was attainable.' This is the leading thought
in the Timaeus, just as the IDEA of Good is the leading thought of the
Republic, the one expression describing the personal, the other the
impersonal Good or God, differing in form rather than in substance, and
both equally implying to the mind of Plato a divine reality. The slight
touch, perhaps ironical, contained in the words, 'as we shall do well in
believing on the testimony of wise men,' is very characteristic of Plato.


PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Socrates, Critias, Timaeus, Hermocrates.

SOCRATES: One, two, three; but where, my dear Timaeus, is the fourth of
those who were yesterday my guests and are to be my entertainers to-day?

TIMAEUS: He has been taken ill, Socrates; for he would not willingly have
been absent from this gathering.

SOCRATES: Then, if he is not coming, you and the two others must supply
his place.

TIMAEUS: Certainly, and we will do all that we can; having been handsomely
entertained by you yesterday, those of us who remain should be only too
glad to return your hospitality.

SOCRATES: Do you remember what were the points of which I required you to

TIMAEUS: We remember some of them, and you will be here to remind us of
anything which we have forgotten: or rather, if we are not troubling you,
will you briefly recapitulate the whole, and then the particulars will be
more firmly fixed in our memories?

SOCRATES: To be sure I will: the chief theme of my yesterday's discourse
was the State--how constituted and of what citizens composed it would seem
likely to be most perfect.

TIMAEUS: Yes, Socrates; and what you said of it was very much to our mind.

SOCRATES: Did we not begin by separating the husbandmen and the artisans
from the class of defenders of the State?


SOCRATES: And when we had given to each one that single employment and
particular art which was suited to his nature, we spoke of those who were
intended to be our warriors, and said that they were to be guardians of the
city against attacks from within as well as from without, and to have no
other employment; they were to be merciful in judging their subjects, of
whom they were by nature friends, but fierce to their enemies, when they
came across them in battle.

TIMAEUS: Exactly.

SOCRATES: We said, if I am not mistaken, that the guardians should be
gifted with a temperament in a high degree both passionate and
philosophical; and that then they would be as they ought to be, gentle to
their friends and fierce with their enemies.

TIMAEUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And what did we say of their education? Were they not to be
trained in gymnastic, and music, and all other sorts of knowledge which
were proper for them?

TIMAEUS: Very true.

SOCRATES: And being thus trained they were not to consider gold or silver
or anything else to be their own private property; they were to be like
hired troops, receiving pay for keeping guard from those who were protected
by them--the pay was to be no more than would suffice for men of simple
life; and they were to spend in common, and to live together in the
continual practice of virtue, which was to be their sole pursuit.

TIMAEUS: That was also said.

SOCRATES: Neither did we forget the women; of whom we declared, that their
natures should be assimilated and brought into harmony with those of the
men, and that common pursuits should be assigned to them both in time of
war and in their ordinary life.

TIMAEUS: That, again, was as you say.

SOCRATES: And what about the procreation of children? Or rather was not
the proposal too singular to be forgotten? for all wives and children were
to be in common, to the intent that no one should ever know his own child,
but they were to imagine that they were all one family; those who were
within a suitable limit of age were to be brothers and sisters, those who
were of an elder generation parents and grandparents, and those of a
younger, children and grandchildren.

TIMAEUS: Yes, and the proposal is easy to remember, as you say.

SOCRATES: And do you also remember how, with a view of securing as far as
we could the best breed, we said that the chief magistrates, male and
female, should contrive secretly, by the use of certain lots, so to arrange
the nuptial meeting, that the bad of either sex and the good of either sex
might pair with their like; and there was to be no quarrelling on this
account, for they would imagine that the union was a mere accident, and was
to be attributed to the lot?

TIMAEUS: I remember.

SOCRATES: And you remember how we said that the children of the good
parents were to be educated, and the children of the bad secretly dispersed
among the inferior citizens; and while they were all growing up the rulers
were to be on the look-out, and to bring up from below in their turn those
who were worthy, and those among themselves who were unworthy were to take
the places of those who came up?


SOCRATES: Then have I now given you all the heads of our yesterday's
discussion? Or is there anything more, my dear Timaeus, which has been

TIMAEUS: Nothing, Socrates; it was just as you have said.

SOCRATES: I should like, before proceeding further, to tell you how I feel
about the State which we have described. I might compare myself to a
person who, on beholding beautiful animals either created by the painter's
art, or, better still, alive but at rest, is seized with a desire of seeing
them in motion or engaged in some struggle or conflict to which their forms
appear suited; this is my feeling about the State which we have been
describing. There are conflicts which all cities undergo, and I should
like to hear some one tell of our own city carrying on a struggle against
her neighbours, and how she went out to war in a becoming manner, and when
at war showed by the greatness of her actions and the magnanimity of her
words in dealing with other cities a result worthy of her training and
education. Now I, Critias and Hermocrates, am conscious that I myself
should never be able to celebrate the city and her citizens in a befitting
manner, and I am not surprised at my own incapacity; to me the wonder is
rather that the poets present as well as past are no better--not that I
mean to depreciate them; but every one can see that they are a tribe of
imitators, and will imitate best and most easily the life in which they
have been brought up; while that which is beyond the range of a man's
education he finds hard to carry out in action, and still harder adequately
to represent in language. I am aware that the Sophists have plenty of
brave words and fair conceits, but I am afraid that being only wanderers
from one city to another, and having never had habitations of their own,
they may fail in their conception of philosophers and statesmen, and may
not know what they do and say in time of war, when they are fighting or
holding parley with their enemies. And thus people of your class are the
only ones remaining who are fitted by nature and education to take part at
once both in politics and philosophy. Here is Timaeus, of Locris in Italy,
a city which has admirable laws, and who is himself in wealth and rank the
equal of any of his fellow-citizens; he has held the most important and
honourable offices in his own state, and, as I believe, has scaled the
heights of all philosophy; and here is Critias, whom every Athenian knows
to be no novice in the matters of which we are speaking; and as to
Hermocrates, I am assured by many witnesses that his genius and education
qualify him to take part in any speculation of the kind. And therefore
yesterday when I saw that you wanted me to describe the formation of the
State, I readily assented, being very well aware, that, if you only would,
none were better qualified to carry the discussion further, and that when
you had engaged our city in a suitable war, you of all men living could
best exhibit her playing a fitting part. When I had completed my task, I
in return imposed this other task upon you. You conferred together and
agreed to entertain me to-day, as I had entertained you, with a feast of
discourse. Here am I in festive array, and no man can be more ready for
the promised banquet.

HERMOCRATES: And we too, Socrates, as Timaeus says, will not be wanting in
enthusiasm; and there is no excuse for not complying with your request. As
soon as we arrived yesterday at the guest-chamber of Critias, with whom we
are staying, or rather on our way thither, we talked the matter over, and
he told us an ancient tradition, which I wish, Critias, that you would
repeat to Socrates, so that he may help us to judge whether it will satisfy
his requirements or not.

CRITIAS: I will, if Timaeus, who is our other partner, approves.

TIMAEUS: I quite approve.

CRITIAS: Then listen, Socrates, to a tale which, though strange, is
certainly true, having been attested by Solon, who was the wisest of the
seven sages. He was a relative and a dear friend of my great-grandfather,
Dropides, as he himself says in many passages of his poems; and he told the
story to Critias, my grandfather, who remembered and repeated it to us.
There were of old, he said, great and marvellous actions of the Athenian
city, which have passed into oblivion through lapse of time and the
destruction of mankind, and one in particular, greater than all the rest.
This we will now rehearse. It will be a fitting monument of our gratitude
to you, and a hymn of praise true and worthy of the goddess, on this her
day of festival.

SOCRATES: Very good. And what is this ancient famous action of the
Athenians, which Critias declared, on the authority of Solon, to be not a
mere legend, but an actual fact?

CRITIAS: I will tell an old-world story which I heard from an aged man;
for Critias, at the time of telling it, was, as he said, nearly ninety
years of age, and I was about ten. Now the day was that day of the
Apaturia which is called the Registration of Youth, at which, according to
custom, our parents gave prizes for recitations, and the poems of several
poets were recited by us boys, and many of us sang the poems of Solon,
which at that time had not gone out of fashion. One of our tribe, either
because he thought so or to please Critias, said that in his judgment Solon
was not only the wisest of men, but also the noblest of poets. The old
man, as I very well remember, brightened up at hearing this and said,
smiling: Yes, Amynander, if Solon had only, like other poets, made poetry
the business of his life, and had completed the tale which he brought with
him from Egypt, and had not been compelled, by reason of the factions and
troubles which he found stirring in his own country when he came home, to
attend to other matters, in my opinion he would have been as famous as
Homer or Hesiod, or any poet.

And what was the tale about, Critias? said Amynander.

About the greatest action which the Athenians ever did, and which ought to
have been the most famous, but, through the lapse of time and the
destruction of the actors, it has not come down to us.

Tell us, said the other, the whole story, and how and from whom Solon heard
this veritable tradition.

He replied:--In the Egyptian Delta, at the head of which the river Nile
divides, there is a certain district which is called the district of Sais,
and the great city of the district is also called Sais, and is the city
from which King Amasis came. The citizens have a deity for their
foundress; she is called in the Egyptian tongue Neith, and is asserted by
them to be the same whom the Hellenes call Athene; they are great lovers of
the Athenians, and say that they are in some way related to them. To this
city came Solon, and was received there with great honour; he asked the
priests who were most skilful in such matters, about antiquity, and made
the discovery that neither he nor any other Hellene knew anything worth
mentioning about the times of old. On one occasion, wishing to draw them
on to speak of antiquity, he began to tell about the most ancient things in
our part of the world--about Phoroneus, who is called 'the first man,' and
about Niobe; and after the Deluge, of the survival of Deucalion and Pyrrha;
and he traced the genealogy of their descendants, and reckoning up the
dates, tried to compute how many years ago the events of which he was
speaking happened. Thereupon one of the priests, who was of a very great
age, said: O Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are never anything but children,
and there is not an old man among you. Solon in return asked him what he
meant. I mean to say, he replied, that in mind you are all young; there is
no old opinion handed down among you by ancient tradition, nor any science
which is hoary with age. And I will tell you why. There have been, and
will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the
greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and
other lesser ones by innumerable other causes. There is a story, which
even you have preserved, that once upon a time Paethon, the son of Helios,
having yoked the steeds in his father's chariot, because he was not able to
drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth,
and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now this has the form of a
myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the
heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the
earth, which recurs after long intervals; at such times those who live upon
the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction
than those who dwell by rivers or on the seashore. And from this calamity
the Nile, who is our never-failing saviour, delivers and preserves us.
When, on the other hand, the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water,
the survivors in your country are herdsmen and shepherds who dwell on the
mountains, but those who, like you, live in cities are carried by the
rivers into the sea. Whereas in this land, neither then nor at any other
time, does the water come down from above on the fields, having always a
tendency to come up from below; for which reason the traditions preserved
here are the most ancient. The fact is, that wherever the extremity of
winter frost or of summer sun does not prevent, mankind exist, sometimes in
greater, sometimes in lesser numbers. And whatever happened either in your
country or in ours, or in any other region of which we are informed--if
there were any actions noble or great or in any other way remarkable, they
have all been written down by us of old, and are preserved in our temples.
Whereas just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with
letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual
interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down,
and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education;
and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of
what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves. As
for those genealogies of yours which you just now recounted to us, Solon,
they are no better than the tales of children. In the first place you
remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones; in the
next place, you do not know that there formerly dwelt in your land the
fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, and that you and your
whole city are descended from a small seed or remnant of them which
survived. And this was unknown to you, because, for many generations, the
survivors of that destruction died, leaving no written word. For there was
a time, Solon, before the great deluge of all, when the city which now is
Athens was first in war and in every way the best governed of all cities,
is said to have performed the noblest deeds and to have had the fairest
constitution of any of which tradition tells, under the face of heaven.
Solon marvelled at his words, and earnestly requested the priests to inform
him exactly and in order about these former citizens. You are welcome to
hear about them, Solon, said the priest, both for your own sake and for
that of your city, and above all, for the sake of the goddess who is the
common patron and parent and educator of both our cities. She founded your
city a thousand years before ours (Observe that Plato gives the same date
(9000 years ago) for the foundation of Athens and for the repulse of the
invasion from Atlantis (Crit.).), receiving from the Earth and Hephaestus
the seed of your race, and afterwards she founded ours, of which the
constitution is recorded in our sacred registers to be 8000 years old. As
touching your citizens of 9000 years ago, I will briefly inform you of
their laws and of their most famous action; the exact particulars of the
whole we will hereafter go through at our leisure in the sacred registers
themselves. If you compare these very laws with ours you will find that
many of ours are the counterpart of yours as they were in the olden time.
In the first place, there is the caste of priests, which is separated from
all the others; next, there are the artificers, who ply their several
crafts by themselves and do not intermix; and also there is the class of
shepherds and of hunters, as well as that of husbandmen; and you will
observe, too, that the warriors in Egypt are distinct from all the other
classes, and are commanded by the law to devote themselves solely to
military pursuits; moreover, the weapons which they carry are shields and
spears, a style of equipment which the goddess taught of Asiatics first to
us, as in your part of the world first to you. Then as to wisdom, do you
observe how our law from the very first made a study of the whole order of
things, extending even to prophecy and medicine which gives health, out of
these divine elements deriving what was needful for human life, and adding
every sort of knowledge which was akin to them. All this order and
arrangement the goddess first imparted to you when establishing your city;
and she chose the spot of earth in which you were born, because she saw
that the happy temperament of the seasons in that land would produce the
wisest of men. Wherefore the goddess, who was a lover both of war and of
wisdom, selected and first of all settled that spot which was the most
likely to produce men likest herself. And there you dwelt, having such
laws as these and still better ones, and excelled all mankind in all
virtue, as became the children and disciples of the gods.

Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories.
But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour. For these
histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition
against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end.
This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the
Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the
straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was
larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands,
and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which
surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of
Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a
real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless
continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful
empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over
parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected
the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of
Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one,
endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the
region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in
the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was
pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the
Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand
alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated
and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were
not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell
within the pillars. But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and
floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in
a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner
disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those
parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in
the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.

I have told you briefly, Socrates, what the aged Critias heard from Solon
and related to us. And when you were speaking yesterday about your city
and citizens, the tale which I have just been repeating to you came into my
mind, and I remarked with astonishment how, by some mysterious coincidence,
you agreed in almost every particular with the narrative of Solon; but I
did not like to speak at the moment. For a long time had elapsed, and I
had forgotten too much; I thought that I must first of all run over the
narrative in my own mind, and then I would speak. And so I readily
assented to your request yesterday, considering that in all such cases the
chief difficulty is to find a tale suitable to our purpose, and that with
such a tale we should be fairly well provided.

And therefore, as Hermocrates has told you, on my way home yesterday I at
once communicated the tale to my companions as I remembered it; and after I
left them, during the night by thinking I recovered nearly the whole of it.
Truly, as is often said, the lessons of our childhood make a wonderful
impression on our memories; for I am not sure that I could remember all the
discourse of yesterday, but I should be much surprised if I forgot any of
these things which I have heard very long ago. I listened at the time with
childlike interest to the old man's narrative; he was very ready to teach
me, and I asked him again and again to repeat his words, so that like an
indelible picture they were branded into my mind. As soon as the day
broke, I rehearsed them as he spoke them to my companions, that they, as
well as myself, might have something to say. And now, Socrates, to make an
end of my preface, I am ready to tell you the whole tale. I will give you
not only the general heads, but the particulars, as they were told to me.
The city and citizens, which you yesterday described to us in fiction, we
will now transfer to the world of reality. It shall be the ancient city of
Athens, and we will suppose that the citizens whom you imagined, were our
veritable ancestors, of whom the priest spoke; they will perfectly
harmonize, and there will be no inconsistency in saying that the citizens
of your republic are these ancient Athenians. Let us divide the subject
among us, and all endeavour according to our ability gracefully to execute
the task which you have imposed upon us. Consider then, Socrates, if this
narrative is suited to the purpose, or whether we should seek for some
other instead.

SOCRATES: And what other, Critias, can we find that will be better than
this, which is natural and suitable to the festival of the goddess, and has
the very great advantage of being a fact and not a fiction? How or where
shall we find another if we abandon this? We cannot, and therefore you
must tell the tale, and good luck to you; and I in return for my
yesterday's discourse will now rest and be a listener.

CRITIAS: Let me proceed to explain to you, Socrates, the order in which we
have arranged our entertainment. Our intention is, that Timaeus, who is
the most of an astronomer amongst us, and has made the nature of the
universe his special study, should speak first, beginning with the
generation of the world and going down to the creation of man; next, I am
to receive the men whom he has created, and of whom some will have profited
by the excellent education which you have given them; and then, in
accordance with the tale of Solon, and equally with his law, we will bring
them into court and make them citizens, as if they were those very
Athenians whom the sacred Egyptian record has recovered from oblivion, and
thenceforward we will speak of them as Athenians and fellow-citizens.

SOCRATES: I see that I shall receive in my turn a perfect and splendid
feast of reason. And now, Timaeus, you, I suppose, should speak next,
after duly calling upon the Gods.

TIMAEUS: All men, Socrates, who have any degree of right feeling, at the
beginning of every enterprise, whether small or great, always call upon
God. And we, too, who are going to discourse of the nature of the
universe, how created or how existing without creation, if we be not
altogether out of our wits, must invoke the aid of Gods and Goddesses and
pray that our words may be acceptable to them and consistent with
themselves. Let this, then, be our invocation of the Gods, to which I add
an exhortation of myself to speak in such manner as will be most
intelligible to you, and will most accord with my own intent.

First then, in my judgment, we must make a distinction and ask, What is
that which always is and has no becoming; and what is that which is always
becoming and never is? That which is apprehended by intelligence and
reason is always in the same state; but that which is conceived by opinion
with the help of sensation and without reason, is always in a process of
becoming and perishing and never really is. Now everything that becomes or
is created must of necessity be created by some cause, for without a cause
nothing can be created. The work of the creator, whenever he looks to the
unchangeable and fashions the form and nature of his work after an
unchangeable pattern, must necessarily be made fair and perfect; but when
he looks to the created only, and uses a created pattern, it is not fair or
perfect. Was the heaven then or the world, whether called by this or by
any other more appropriate name--assuming the name, I am asking a question
which has to be asked at the beginning of an enquiry about anything--was
the world, I say, always in existence and without beginning? or created,
and had it a beginning? Created, I reply, being visible and tangible and
having a body, and therefore sensible; and all sensible things are
apprehended by opinion and sense and are in a process of creation and
created. Now that which is created must, as we affirm, of necessity be
created by a cause. But the father and maker of all this universe is past
finding out; and even if we found him, to tell of him to all men would be
impossible. And there is still a question to be asked about him: Which of
the patterns had the artificer in view when he made the world--the pattern
of the unchangeable, or of that which is created? If the world be indeed
fair and the artificer good, it is manifest that he must have looked to
that which is eternal; but if what cannot be said without blasphemy is
true, then to the created pattern. Every one will see that he must have
looked to the eternal; for the world is the fairest of creations and he is
the best of causes. And having been created in this way, the world has
been framed in the likeness of that which is apprehended by reason and mind
and is unchangeable, and must therefore of necessity, if this is admitted,
be a copy of something. Now it is all-important that the beginning of
everything should be according to nature. And in speaking of the copy and
the original we may assume that words are akin to the matter which they
describe; when they relate to the lasting and permanent and intelligible,
they ought to be lasting and unalterable, and, as far as their nature
allows, irrefutable and immovable--nothing less. But when they express
only the copy or likeness and not the eternal things themselves, they need
only be likely and analogous to the real words. As being is to becoming,
so is truth to belief. If then, Socrates, amid the many opinions about the
gods and the generation of the universe, we are not able to give notions
which are altogether and in every respect exact and consistent with one
another, do not be surprised. Enough, if we adduce probabilities as likely
as any others; for we must remember that I who am the speaker, and you who
are the judges, are only mortal men, and we ought to accept the tale which
is probable and enquire no further.

SOCRATES: Excellent, Timaeus; and we will do precisely as you bid us. The
prelude is charming, and is already accepted by us--may we beg of you to
proceed to the strain?

TIMAEUS: Let me tell you then why the creator made this world of
generation. He was good, and the good can never have any jealousy of
anything. And being free from jealousy, he desired that all things should
be as like himself as they could be. This is in the truest sense the
origin of creation and of the world, as we shall do well in believing on
the testimony of wise men: God desired that all things should be good and
nothing bad, so far as this was attainable. Wherefore also finding the
whole visible sphere not at rest, but moving in an irregular and disorderly
fashion, out of disorder he brought order, considering that this was in
every way better than the other. Now the deeds of the best could never be
or have been other than the fairest; and the creator, reflecting on the
things which are by nature visible, found that no unintelligent creature
taken as a whole was fairer than the intelligent taken as a whole; and that
intelligence could not be present in anything which was devoid of soul.
For which reason, when he was framing the universe, he put intelligence in
soul, and soul in body, that he might be the creator of a work which was by
nature fairest and best. Wherefore, using the language of probability, we
may say that the world became a living creature truly endowed with soul and
intelligence by the providence of God.

This being supposed, let us proceed to the next stage: In the likeness of
what animal did the Creator make the world? It would be an unworthy thing
to liken it to any nature which exists as a part only; for nothing can be
beautiful which is like any imperfect thing; but let us suppose the world
to be the very image of that whole of which all other animals both
individually and in their tribes are portions. For the original of the
universe contains in itself all intelligible beings, just as this world
comprehends us and all other visible creatures. For the Deity, intending
to make this world like the fairest and most perfect of intelligible
beings, framed one visible animal comprehending within itself all other
animals of a kindred nature. Are we right in saying that there is one
world, or that they are many and infinite? There must be one only, if the
created copy is to accord with the original. For that which includes all
other intelligible creatures cannot have a second or companion; in that
case there would be need of another living being which would include both,
and of which they would be parts, and the likeness would be more truly said
to resemble not them, but that other which included them. In order then
that the world might be solitary, like the perfect animal, the creator made
not two worlds or an infinite number of them; but there is and ever will be
one only-begotten and created heaven.

Now that which is created is of necessity corporeal, and also visible and
tangible. And nothing is visible where there is no fire, or tangible which
has no solidity, and nothing is solid without earth. Wherefore also God in
the beginning of creation made the body of the universe to consist of fire
and earth. But two things cannot be rightly put together without a third;
there must be some bond of union between them. And the fairest bond is
that which makes the most complete fusion of itself and the things which it
combines; and proportion is best adapted to effect such a union. For
whenever in any three numbers, whether cube or square, there is a mean,
which is to the last term what the first term is to it; and again, when the
mean is to the first term as the last term is to the mean--then the mean
becoming first and last, and the first and last both becoming means, they
will all of them of necessity come to be the same, and having become the
same with one another will be all one. If the universal frame had been
created a surface only and having no depth, a single mean would have
sufficed to bind together itself and the other terms; but now, as the world
must be solid, and solid bodies are always compacted not by one mean but by
two, God placed water and air in the mean between fire and earth, and made
them to have the same proportion so far as was possible (as fire is to air
so is air to water, and as air is to water so is water to earth); and thus
he bound and put together a visible and tangible heaven. And for these
reasons, and out of such elements which are in number four, the body of the
world was created, and it was harmonized by proportion, and therefore has
the spirit of friendship; and having been reconciled to itself, it was
indissoluble by the hand of any other than the framer.

Now the creation took up the whole of each of the four elements; for the
Creator compounded the world out of all the fire and all the water and all
the air and all the earth, leaving no part of any of them nor any power of
them outside. His intention was, in the first place, that the animal
should be as far as possible a perfect whole and of perfect parts:
secondly, that it should be one, leaving no remnants out of which another
such world might be created: and also that it should be free from old age
and unaffected by disease. Considering that if heat and cold and other
powerful forces which unite bodies surround and attack them from without
when they are unprepared, they decompose them, and by bringing diseases and
old age upon them, make them waste away--for this cause and on these
grounds he made the world one whole, having every part entire, and being
therefore perfect and not liable to old age and disease. And he gave to
the world the figure which was suitable and also natural. Now to the
animal which was to comprehend all animals, that figure was suitable which
comprehends within itself all other figures. Wherefore he made the world
in the form of a globe, round as from a lathe, having its extremes in every
direction equidistant from the centre, the most perfect and the most like
itself of all figures; for he considered that the like is infinitely fairer
than the unlike. This he finished off, making the surface smooth all round
for many reasons; in the first place, because the living being had no need
of eyes when there was nothing remaining outside him to be seen; nor of
ears when there was nothing to be heard; and there was no surrounding
atmosphere to be breathed; nor would there have been any use of organs by
the help of which he might receive his food or get rid of what he had
already digested, since there was nothing which went from him or came into
him: for there was nothing beside him. Of design he was created thus, his
own waste providing his own food, and all that he did or suffered taking
place in and by himself. For the Creator conceived that a being which was
self-sufficient would be far more excellent than one which lacked anything;
and, as he had no need to take anything or defend himself against any one,
the Creator did not think it necessary to bestow upon him hands: nor had
he any need of feet, nor of the whole apparatus of walking; but the
movement suited to his spherical form was assigned to him, being of all the
seven that which is most appropriate to mind and intelligence; and he was
made to move in the same manner and on the same spot, within his own limits
revolving in a circle. All the other six motions were taken away from him,
and he was made not to partake of their deviations. And as this circular

Book of the day: