Fragments of Thought of Anaximander

Fragments of Thought of Anaximander

Anaximander of Miletus, son of Praxiades, a fellow-citizen and associate of Thales, said that the material cause and first element of things was the Infinite, he being the first to introduce this name for the material cause. He says it is neither water nor any other of what are now called the elements, but a substance different from them which is infinite, from which arise all the heavens and the worlds within them.—Phys. Op. fr. 2 (Diels Doxographi Graeci p. 476; Ritter’s Historia Philosophiae Graecae 12).

He says that this is eternal and ageless, and that it encompasses all the worlds.—Hippolytos, Refutation of all Heresies i. 6 (R. P. 13a).

And into that from which things take their rise they pass away once more, "as is ordained; for they make reparation and satisfaction to one another for their injustice according to the appointed time," as he says in these somewhat poetical terms.—Phys. Op. fr. 2 (R. P. 12).

And besides this, there was an eternal motion, in the course of which was brought about the origin of the worlds.—Hipp. Ref. i. 6 (R. P. 13a).

He did not ascribe the origin of things to any alteration in matter, but said that the oppositions in the substratum, which was a boundless Body, were separated out.—Simplicius Phys. p. 150 D (R. P. 14a).

He says that something capable of begetting hot and cold was separated off from the eternal at the origin of this world. From this arose a sphere of flame which grew round the air encircling the earth, as the bark grows round a tree. When this was broken up and enclosed in certain rings, the sun, moon, and stars came into existence.—Pseudo Plutarch Stromateis fr. 2 (R. P. 14 B).

The heavenly bodies are wheels of fire separated off from the fire which encircles the world, and surrounded by air. And they have breathing-holes, certain pipe-like openings through which the heavenly bodies are seen. For this reason, too, when the breathing-holes are stopped, eclipses occur. And the moon appears now to wax and now to wane because of the stopping and opening of the outlets. The circle of the sun is twenty-seven times the size (of the earth, while that) of the moon (is eighteen times as large). The sun is highest of all, and lowest are the wheels of the fixed stars.—Hipp. Ref. i. 6 (R. P. 14C).

Anaximander said the stars were hoop-like compressions of air, full of fire, breathing out flames at a certain point from orifices. The sun was highest of all, after it came the moon, and below these the fixed stars and the planets.—Aetios=Stobaios Ekl. i. 510 (R. P. 14b).

Anaximander said the sun was a ring twenty-eight times the size of the earth, like a cart-wheel with the felloe hollow and full of fire, showing the fire at a certain point, as if through the nozzle of a pair of bellows.—Aetios=Placita II. 20. I (R. P. 14b).

Anaximander held that thunder and lightning were caused by the blast. When it is shut up in a thick cloud and bursts forth with violence, then the breakage of the cloud makes the noise, and the rift gives the appearance of a flash by contrast with the darkness of the cloud.—Aet. iii. 3. I (Dox. p. 367).

Anaximander held that wind was a current of air (i.e. mist) which arose when its finest and moistest particles were set in motion or dissolved by the sun.—Aet. iii. 6. I (Dox. p. 374).

Rain was produced by the moisture drawn up from the earth by the sun.—Hipp. Ref. i. 6, 7 (Dox. p. 560).

The sea is what is left of the original moisture. The fire has dried up most of it and turned the rest salt by scorching it.—Aet.=Plac. iii. 16. I (R. P. 14c).

He says that the earth is cylindrical in form, and that its height is as a third part of its width.—Ps.-Plut. Strom. fr. 2 (R. P. ib.).

The earth swings free, held in its place by nothing. It stays where it is because of its equal distance from anything. Its shape is convex and round, and like a stone pillar (?). We are on one of the surfaces, and the other is on the opposite side.—Hipp. Ref. i. 6 (R. P. 14 C).

Living creatures arose from the moist element as it was evaporated by the sun. Man was like another animal, namely, a fish, in the beginning.—Hipp. Ref. i. 6 (R. P. 16a).

Further, he says that in the beginning man was born from animals of a different species. His reason is, that, while other animals quickly find food for themselves, man alone requires a prolonged period of sucking. Hence, had he been originally such as he is now, he could never have survived.—Ps.-Plut. Strom. fr. 2 (R. P. 16).

The first living creatures were produced in the moist element, and were covered with prickly integuments. As time went on they came out upon the drier part, and, the integument soon breaking off, they changed their manner of life.—Aet.=Plac. v. 19. I (R. P. ib.).

Translations of John Burnet.

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Chicago: Fragments of Thought of Anaximander in The Library of Original Sources, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher (Milwaukee, WI: University Research Extension Co., 1907), 141–142. Original Sources, accessed March 31, 2023,

MLA: . Fragments of Thought of Anaximander, in The Library of Original Sources, edited by Oliver J. Thatcher, Vol. 2, Milwaukee, WI, University Research Extension Co., 1907, pp. 141–142. Original Sources. 31 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: , Fragments of Thought of Anaximander. cited in 1907, The Library of Original Sources, ed. , University Research Extension Co., Milwaukee, WI, pp.141–142. Original Sources, retrieved 31 March 2023, from