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Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers, by Kathleen Freeman, [1948], at


Anaxagoras of Clazomenae was in his prime about 460 B.C.

He wrote one book, which was on sale at Athens for one drachma at the end of the fifth century.

p. 83

1. (Opening sentences from his book 'On Natural Science'): All Things 1. were together, infinite in number and in smallness. For the Small also was infinite. And since all were together, nothing was distinguishable because of its smallness. For Air and Aether dominated all things, both of them being infinite. For these are the most important (Elements) in the total mixture, both in number and in size.

2. Air and Aether are separated off from the surrounding multiplicity, and that which surrounds is infinite in number.

3. For in Small there is no Least, but only a Lesser: for it is impossible that Being should Not-Be; 2 and in Great there is always a Greater. And it is equal in number to the small, but each thing is to itself both great and small.

4. Conditions being thus, one must believe that there are many things of all sorts in all composite products, and the seeds of all Things, which contain all kinds of shapes and colours and pleasant savours. And men too were fitted together, and all other creatures which have life. And the men possessed both inhabited cities and artificial works just like ourselves, and they had sun and moon and the rest, just as we have, and the earth produced for them many and diverse things, of which they collected the most useful, and now use them for their dwellings. This I say concerning Separation, that it must have taken place not only with us, but elsewhere.

Before these things were separated off, all things were together, nor was any colour distinguishable, for the mixing of all Things prevented this, (namely) the mixing of moist and dry and hot and cold and bright and dark, and there was a great quantity of earth in the mixture, and seeds infinite in number, not at all like one another. For none of the other things either is like any other. And as this was so, one must believe that all Things were present in the Whole.

5. These things being thus separated off, one must understand that all things are in no wise less or more (for it is not possible for them to be more than All), but all things are forever equal (in quantity).

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6. And since there are equal (quantitative) parts of Great and Small, so too similarly in everything there must be everything. It is not possible (for them) to exist apart, but all things contain a portion of everything. Since it is not possible for the Least to exist, it cannot be isolated, nor come into being by itself; but as it was in the beginning, so now, all things are together. In all things there are many things, and of the things separated off, there are equal numbers in (the categories) Great and Small.

7. So that the number of the things separated off cannot be known either in thought or in fact.

8. The things in the one Cosmos are not separated off from one another with an axe, neither the Hot from the Cold, nor the Cold from the Hot.

9. Thus these things circulate and are separated off by force and speed. The speed makes the force. Their speed is not like the speed of any of the Things now existing among mankind, but altogether many times as fast.

10. How can hair come from not-hair, and flesh from not-flesh?

11. In everything there is a portion of everything except Mind; and some things contain Mind also.

12. Other things all contain a part of everything, but Mind is infinite and self-ruling, and is mixed with no Thing, but is alone by itself. If it were not by itself, but were mixed with anything else, it would have had a share of all Things, if it were mixed with anything; for in everything there is a portion of everything, as I have said before. And the things mixed (with Mind) would have prevented it, so that it could not rule over any Thing in the same way as it can being alone by itself. For it is the finest of all Things, and the purest, and has complete understanding of everything, and has the greatest power. All things which have life, both the greater and the less, are ruled by Mind. Mind took command of the universal revolution, so as to make (things) revolve at the outset. And at first things began to revolve from some small point, but now the revolution extends over a greater area, and will spread even further. And the things which were mixed together, and separated off, and divided, were all understood by Mind. And

p. 85

whatever they were going to be, and whatever things were then in existence that are not now, and all things that now exist and whatever shall exist—all were arranged by Mind, as also the revolution now followed by the stars, the sun and moon, and the Air and Aether which were separated off. It was this revolution which caused the separation off. And dense separates from rare, and hot from cold, and bright from dark, and dry from wet. There are many portions of many things. And nothing is absolutely separated off or divided the one from the other except Mind. Mind is all alike, both the greater and the less. But nothing else is like anything else, but each individual thing is and was most obviously that of which it contains the most.

13. And when Mind began the motion, there was a separating-off 1 from all that was being moved; and all that Mind set in motion was separated (internally); and as things were moving and separating off (internally), the revolution greatly increased this (internal) separation.

14. Mind, which ever Is, certainly still exists also where all other things are, (namely) in the multiple surrounding (mass) and in the things which were separated off before, and in the things already separated off.

15. The dense and moist and cold and dark (Elements) collected here, where now is Earth, and the rare and hot and dry went outwards to the furthest part of the Aether.

16. From these, while they are separating off, Earth solidifies; for from the clouds, water is separated off, and from the water, earth, and from the earth, stones are solidified by the cold; and these rush outward rather than the water.

17. The Greeks have an incorrect belief on Coming into Being and Passing Away. No Thing comes into being or passes away, but it is mixed together or separated from existing Things. Thus they would be correct if they called coming into being 'mixing', and passing away 'separation-off'.

p. 86

18. It is the sun that endows the moon with its brilliance.

19. We give the name Iris to the reflection of the sun on the clouds. It is therefore the sign of a storm, for the water which flows round the cloud produces wind or forces out rain.

20. (Translation, purporting to be from Galen's commentary on Hippocrates, into Arabic and then Hebrew. But it is uncertain if the author quoted in the passage, called 'Ansaros' in Hebrew, is Anaxagoras; some have thought that the material is from Hesiod. It deals principally with the rising and setting of the Pleiads and the seasonal work connected with this period).

21. Through the weakness of the sense-perceptions, we cannot judge truth.

21a. Visible existences are a sight of the unseen (i.e. the present gives a view of the future).

21b. (We are inferior to the animals in strength and swiftness) but we have experience, memory and wisdom and skill for our use alone (and so can collect their products).

22. Bird's milk (used to mean 'white of egg').


23. (From a Graeco-Syrian MS.: Praise of death, at any age).


83:1 Where χρήματα is used, 'Things' is spelt with a capital. See Companion, pp. 266-7.

83:2 τὸ μή was emended by Zeller to τομῇ), which Burnet accepts: 'it cannot be that what is should cease to be by being cut'.

85:1 I follow Burnet in taking ἀπεκρίνετο as impersonal; Diels-Kranz make Nous the subject, and translate: 'Mind severed itself from the moving Whole.' But the reference is to three events: the starting of the revolution by Mind; the separation of a portion from the Whole; and the internal sifting under the revolution.

Next: 60. Archelâus of Athens