Exploring Ancient Cosmologies
Parmenides (c. 450 BCE) The Sphere of All, Wreaths of Fire
Parmenides of Elea in Italy challenges conventional physics by arguing against the existence of motion, change, and differences in matter (quoted by Simplicius in Phys. 146.5). Despite this, he describes the “beliefs of mortals,” representing his view of the deceptive physical world Ionic Thought’s Influence, akin to the Buddhist concept of maya. Parmenides envisions heavenly bodies as concentrations of fire-vapor, regulated by “Necessity” to move between an inner “wreath” of fire and an outer solid sphere (Aetius 2.7.1). It is unclear whether he perceived the “wreath” as an asteroid belt and the outer shell as a true sphere, leaving ambiguity about the shape of the earth.
Empedocles and Anaxagoras Reflections of Light
Empedocles of Acragas (mid-5th century BCE) seeks
Concepts of Celestial Wheels and Bowls of Fire
This section explores the impact of Ionic thought on early Greek cosmology, focusing on key figures such as Xenophanes of Colophon and Heraclitus of Ephesus. Their contributions, building upon Milesian theories, delve into the condensation of heavenly bodies into fiery clouds and circular courses, providing insights into the evolving understanding of the universe.
Xenophanes of Colophon (c. 570-490 BCE)
Xenophanes migrated from Ionia to Italy, fleeing the Medes’ takeover, and carried forward Milesian theory. While emphasizing the de-anthropomorphization of god Anaximander of Miletus, he shared the view of heavenly bodies condensing from earth’s exhalations into fiery clouds. Similar to Anaximines, Xenophanes envisioned these bodies following circular courses, conceived as bands or zones, and becoming obscured behind high parts of the earth (Aetius 2.20.3).<
Anaximander of Miletus (c. 550 BCE) Exploring Celestial Fire and Wheels
Around 550 BCE, Anaximander of Miletus presented innovative ideas about the cosmos, envisioning the Earth as a cylinder surrounded by air and fire, likened to the bark of a tree. His cosmology aimed to explain celestial phenomena through physical and mathematical terms, introducing the concept of heavenly bodies as wheels of fire enclosed by air. This article explores Anaximander’s celestial theories and the evolving understanding of the universe in early Greek thought Parmenides Empedocles and Anaxagoras.
Anaximander’s Celestial Scheme
Anaximander proposed a unique celestial scheme where heavenly bodies, described as wheels of fire akin to chariot wheels, were enclosed by air. He depicted their light as an axle, pipe, vent, or bellows-nozzle, emitting fire jets. Eclipses and lunar variations were attributed to the opening