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Fragments of Xenophanes

Fragments of Xenophanes

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Fragments of Xenophanes
Fragments of Xenophanes

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Fragments and Commentary
The First Philosophers of Greece
(London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1898)

Arthur Fairbanks
editor and translator Hanover Historical Texts Project
Scanned and proofread by Aaron Gulyas, May 1998 Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001 Proofread and validated by Michael Stewart, June 2013

Fragments of Xenophanes Translation Sayings of Xenophanes Passages relating to Xenophanes in Plato and Aristotle Passages relating to Xenophanes in the Doxographists List of Abbreviations

[Page 65]

XENOPHANES of Kolophon, son of Dexias (Apollodoros says of Orthomenes), was the founder of the Eleatic School. After a careful review of the evidence, Zeller (Yorsokr. Phil. pp. 521-522) concludes that be was born about 580 B.C.; it is agreed by all writers that he lived to a great age. The stories of his travels and adventures are very numerous. He speaks of the war between the Ionic colonies and the Persians as beginning in his youth. According to Diogenes he sang the founding of Elea in 2,000 hexameter verses. The reference to him by Herakleitos (Fr. 16) indicates the general respect for his philosophy. He composed poetry of all varieties, and is said to have recited his own poems. His philosophic views were embodied in a poem which was early lost, and to which later ages gave the name 'περὶ φύσεως.'

Literature: Brandis, Comm. Eleat. 1813; Cousin, Nouv. frag. phil. 1828, pp. 945; Karsten, Phil. Graec. vet. reliq. i. 1, 1830; Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. ii.; F. Kern. Quaestionum Xenophanearum cap. duo, Naumb. 1864; Beiträge, Danzig 1871; Ueber Xenophanes, Stettin 1874; Fredenthal, Die Theologie des Xenophanes, 1886; and Archiv f. d. Gesch. d. Phil. i. 1888, p. 322 sqq.; Thill, Xenophane de Colophon, Luxemb. 1890.

On the book De Xen. Zen. Gorg. Aristotelis, v. Fülleborn, Halle 1789; Bergk, 1843; Mullach, 1845; Ueberweg, Philol. viii. 1853, p. 104 sqq.; xxvi. 1868, p. 709 sqq.; Vermehren, 1861; F. Kern, Symbola crit. ad libellum, π. Ξενοφ. etc. Oldenb. 1867; Diels' Doxogr. pp. 109-113; Zeller, Geshchichte d. Phil d. Griechen, i. 499-521.

[Page 66]



2.1 2. 27. But without effort he sets in motion all things by mind and thought. It [i. so as to paint with their hands and produce works of art as men do. the whole hears. Vorsokratische Philosophie. 530. i. 4. Cf. not moved at all.e. n. 23. Deor.[Page 67] TRANSLATION. 2.2 3. 5. supreme among gods and men. 4. 1399 b 6. n. Rhet. nor is it fitting that it should move from one place to another. Zeller. 525. 3. 526. No author is given in the context. Arist. Cic. Zeller.4 1.3 6. n. Diog Laer. being] always abides in the same place. 3. Karsten follows Fabricius in accrediting it to Xenophanes. de nat. But if cattle or lions had hands. 1. 2. and not like mortals in body or in mind. they would paint their gods and give them bodies in form like their own—horses like horses. ii. Zeller. n. and that they wear man's clothing and have human voice and body. 1. The whole [of god] sees. [Page 68] . p. Zeller. 524. God is one. the whole perceives. But mortals suppose that the gods are born (as they themselves are). iii. cattle like cattle. 16.


for neither would blasts of wind arise in the clouds and blow out from within them. Pyrrh. 12. Homer and Hesiod attributed to the gods all things which are disreputable and worthy of blame when done by men.4 13. 3. and they told of them many lawless deeds.1 8. 2. 13. adultery. 4. Stob.2 9. 525. For all things come from earth. [Page 70] . 18. Cf. Pyrrh. 1.3 10. 294 a 21. and deception of each other. 282. n. Ecl.† but below it reaches to infinity. 11. nor would the streams of rivers nor the rain-water in the sky exist but for the sea. and all things end by becoming earth. 3. She whom men call Iris (rainbow). 1. 30. stealing. Cf. Cf. but the great sea is the begetter of clouds and winds and rivers. ix. ii. de Coelo ii. εκ πυρὸς γαρ τα παντα καὶ εὶς πυρ τα παντα τελευτα. n. i. Sext. The sea is the source of water and the source of wind. Zeller. Arist. ii. All things that come into being and grow are earth and water. Zeller. Emp. this also is by nature cloud. 224. Diog Laer. This upper limit of earth at our feet is visible and †touches the air. Cf. which Karsten does not assign to Xenophanes. Emp. violet and red and pale green to behold.[Page 69] 7. Sext. Phys. For we are all sprung from earth and water. 541. except for the great sea.


Zeller. 549. . and I will show the way. . Burnett. for it is the soul of a dear friend.' [Page 72] .1 15. The following are fit topics for conversation for men reclining on a soft couch by the fire in the winter season. 16. In the beginning the gods did not at all reveal all things clearly to mortals. 'Stop beating him. Accordingly there has not been a man. 2.[Page 71] 14. when after a meal they are drinking sweet wine and eating a little pulse: Who are you. however. 'All are free to guess. . and what is your family? What is your age. They say that once on a time when a hound was badly treated a passer-by pitied him and said. 17. nor will there be. but every one thinks he knows. I recognised him on hearing his voice. Now. still he would not know. my friend? How old were you when the Medes invaded this land? 18. for even if one chances for the most part to say what is true.' 1. but by searching men in the course of time find them out better. n. who knows distinctly what I say about the gods or in regard to all things. I come to another topic. These things have seemed to me to resemble the truth.


and would be entertained by the city at the public table. or in the pentathlon. while as yet they had no experience of hateful tyranny. no less than a thousand in number all told. as I deserve them. where the grove of Zeus lies by Pisas' stream at Olympia. or in wrestling. If he won 10 by means of horses he would get all these things although he did not deserve them. or in the pentathlon. Small joy would it be 20 to any city in this case if a citizen conquers at the games on the banks of the Pisas. boastful. which is honoured more than strength (among the contests men enter into at the games). or as a wrestler. or in swiftness of foot. for this does not fill with wealth its secret chambers. he would win a front seat at assemblies. This is indeed a very wrong custom. with purple garments completely covering them.[Page 73] 19. For if there 15 should be in the city a man good at boxing. 20. and he would receive a gift which would be a keepsake for him. anointed with unguents of rich perfume. [Page 74] . nor is it right to prefer strength to excellent wisdom. proud of their comely locks. Having learned profitless luxuries from the Lydians. But if one wins a victory by swiftness of foot. he would be more glorious in the eyes of the citizens. or in painful boxing 5 or in that severe contest called the pancration. they proceeded into the market-place. the city would not on that account be any better governed. for our wisdom is better than the strength of men or of horses.


cold. if you are not very old. and the table of honour is loaded with cheese and rich 10 honey. and there is water. And one ought to praise that man who. unfolds noble things as his memory and his toil 20 for virtue suggest. when he has drunk.[Page 75] 21. For now the floor is clean. the yellow loaves are near at hand. and pure. Men making merry should first hymn the god with propitious stanzas and pure words. [Page 76] . and more wine. fictions of former ages. and when they have poured out libations and prayed for power to do the 15 right (since this lies nearest at hand). 5 mild and of delicate bouquet. another passes around the fragrant ointment in a vase. singing and mirth fill the house. and sweet. The altar in the midst is thickly covered with flowers on every side. But it is good always to pay careful respect to the gods. nor in plotting violent revolutions. which says it will never fail. In the midst frankincense sends forth its sacred fragrance. the hands of all and the cups are clean. the mixing bowl stands full of good cheer. but there is nothing praiseworthy in discussing battles of Titans or of Giants or Centaurs. is at hand in jars. one puts on the woven garlands. then it is no unfitting thing to drink as much as will not prevent your walking home without a slave.


Litt. according to Homer. Zeitg. Bacchic wands of fir stand about the firmly built house. 27. Ibid. Arist. 1399 b 6 (Karsten. and if they thought her human not to sacrifice to her. an honourable present to a man. 30. 31. but then it was twenty and five years from my birth.1 .' [Page 78] SAYINGS OF XENOPHANES. and shall not cease so long as there is a race of Greek bards. but water first and the wine above it. Fr. the fame whereof shall come to all Greece. Deut. 1400 b 5 (K. if I know how to speak the truth about these things. that the gods do not exist at all. Bergk interprets φροντίδα by carmen. I should have said that a fig was far sweeter. When the inhabitants of Elea asked Xenophanes whether they should sacrifice to Leukothea and sing a dirge or not. Hiller. 474-475. Much more feeble than an aged man. 1886. suggests '(Men know the wanderings of Odysseus) from the beginning as Homer tells them. Nor is this (an oath) an equal demand to make of an impious man as compared with a pious man. since all have learned them. For sending the thigh-bone of a goat. As many things as they have made plain for mortals to see! 1. Coll. since all have learned them. Xenophanes asserts that those who say the gods are born are as impious as those who say that they die. From the beginning. thou didst receive the rich leg of a fatted bull. 23.1 25. for in both cases it amounts to this. 35). Holy water trickles down in thy grottoes. Already now sixty-seven years my thoughts have been tossed restlessly up and down Greece. 34).2 29. 24. Nor would any one first pour the wine into the cup to mix it. 2. ii. he advised them not to sing a dirge if they thought her divine. 23. Rhet.. If the god had not made light-coloured honey. 28.[Page 77] 22. 26.

841. 294 a 21. Laer. Gellius. iii. 530 F (K. set forth in tales how what men call all things is really one. 39). each race in forms like their own. Xenophanes answered that he was very cowardly and without daring in regard to dishonourable things. 11 (K. and came back in the seventeenth. others assert that he was later than Hesiod. p. and accordingly they represent them. (b) PASSAGES RELATING TO XENOPHANES IN PLATO AND ARISTOTLE. ix. There are some who have expressed the opinion about the All that it is one in its essential nature. when some one told him that he had seen eels living in hot water. Soph. for instance. called that man a coward who was unwilling to play at dice with him. When Lasos. And he says that the lava-stream from Aetna is neither of the nature of fire. for it would take a wise man to recognise a wise man. Metaph i. 2. De Coelo. de vit. p.Plutarch. Al. said: Then we will boil them in cold water. Att. p. beginning with Xenophanes and even earlier. 986 b 10. pud. 31). Laer. Diog. Aff. Cf. in order that they may not have the trouble of seeking the cause. 49. 379 B. or as agreeably as possible.1 De mirac. as. And the Eleatic group of thinkers among us. Xenophanes. p. 'Have intercourse with tyrants either as little as possible. Strom. son of Hermiones. and among these were Philochoros and Xenophanes of Kolophon. 20 (K. de comm. Plato. 1084 E (K. oscult. 833 a 16. Plutarch. Diog. nor is it continuous. [Page 79] A. 5. p. Is. 242 D. vii. but it appears at intervals of many years. Xenophanes says. And Greeks suppose the gods to be like men in their passions as well as in their forms. saying that it is rooted in infinity. On this account some assert that there is no limit to the earth underneath us. ix. Plut.' Clem. iii. Thracians red-haired and with blue eyes. 19 (K. Some writers have stated that Homer antedated Hesiod. Noct. 732 D.2 1. 38. 13. Theod. so also they conceive the spirits of the gods to be like themselves. in the words of Xenophanes: Ethiopians make their gods black and snub-nosed. Amat. 38). 37). When Empedokles said to him (Xenophanes) that the wise man was not to be found. Cur. p. 36). The fire at Lipara. but they have not expressed this opinion after the . not. ceased once for sixteen years. et Os. ii. Cf. he answered: Naturally. Graec. Xenophanes of Kolophon.

same manner nor in an orderly or natural way. moreover limits arise through the relation of a . Phys. for not-being is infinite. 110. . p. n. than that like should be born from like. Zen. p. asserted that the first principle is one. 2 ff. he says. it is no more natural that like should give birth to like. Theophrastos says that Xenophanes of Kolophon. for it is not the nature of god to be ruled. Nor is it either infinite or subject to limits. If. It is natural that god should be one. 986 b 23. Dox. . nor did he seem to get at the nature of either of these things. 5. but that which is equal is neither better nor worse than its equal. teacher of Parmenides. in connection with the fragment of Theophrastos which covers exactly the same ground. Vorsokr. Two passages from the Rhet. are to be dismissed from the present investigation. Zeller. and ascribed to Aristotle. but if it had sprung from what is unlike it. he shows that god is one because god is the most powerful of all things. Simpl. there were several beings. but. Gorg. Zenone. he would not be the most powerful and most excellent of all. as we have said. Cf. then.. some weaker. 78. it is necessary that power should exist in them all alike. n. 5v: 22. however. Studien. for if there were two or more. some stronger. Xenophanes and Melissos. 2. p. are in part translated below. neither moving nor at rest.1 (c) PASSAGES RELATING TO XENOPHANES IN THE 'DOXOGRAPHISTS. 480. they would not be gods. 977 a 23. This allembracing unity Xenophanes called god.2 And he shows that god must have been without beginning. Arist. Gorgia. 1. V. [Page 80] These. ii 23 are translated above. Teichmüller. two of them entirely as being rather more crude. Xenophanes first taught the unity of these things (Parmenides is said to have been his pupil). then being would have 1. 80. that the record of his opinion is derived from some other source than the investigation of nature. 513.1 So he showed that god is without beginning and eternal. since whatever comes into being must come either from what is like it or from what is unlike it. and that being is one and all-embracing. but he did not make anything clear. and is neither limited nor infinite. 1. Extracts from the book are ordinarily called De Xenophane. 36. Nor would they have the nature of god if they were equal. but Parmenides seems to speak in some places with greater care. Theophrastos admits. Xen. p. but looking up into the broad heavens he said: The unity is god. as having neither beginning nor middle nor end. Fr. Phil. if there be a multiplicity of things. he says. but the most powerful and most excellent of all things is god. 607. [Page 81] sprung from not-being. for.' Theophrastos. for god ought to be the most powerful. i. Diels' Dox. .

nor water. as Anaximenes taught. in . not moved at all.3 According to Alexander he regards this principle as limited and spherical. And it is clear from Sabinos's own words that he made a false statement intentionally and did not fall into error through ignorance. Arist. G. 2. The one is not like not-being nor like a multiplicity of parts. Z. d. Fr. n. as Thales taught.. X. He adds: Nothing. Galen. G. for it is neither like not-being. or the better from the worse. nor like a multiplicity of being. these would limit each other. since this is impossible.—Alexander says that he regarded it as limited and spherical because it is homogeneous throughout. 35 K. on the one hand. and he holds that it perceives all things. Hipp. Accordingly god is eternal. X. as Xenophanes says in some book. so that when he says that it abides in the same state and is not moved (Frag. i. On the contrary he wrote 'as Xenophanes says in some book. X. Xenophanes of Kolophon.'1 Theophrast. in Hipp. still being could not come from not-being. can be moved into notbeing. but to remain immovable and fixed is a characteristic of notbeing.' but no such opinion is found to be expressed by Xenophanes anywhere. if it were really true. The second part reads: But if there were several parts. you can read the books of Theophrastos in which he made this abridgment of the opinions of the physicists. Dox. He was the first to say that all things are incomprehensible. arises among the several parts of the one. since the one has nothing by which it may be limited. Philos. But that Xenophanes shows it to be neither limited nor infinite is clear from the very words 1. Several of the commentators have made false statements about Xenophanes. but rather in a stillness that is out of the sphere of both motion and rest. Z. 3) 'But without effort he sets in motion all things by mind and thought. Dox. Therefore the two or more parts of the one may be moved. for not-being does not exist anywhere. who uses almost these very words: 'I say that man is not air. 977 a 19. G. the greater from the less. lived to the time of Cyrus. there would be parts of the one.) 'And it always abides in the same place. motion. Nikolaos of Damascus in his book On the Gods mentions him as saying that the first principle of things is infinite and immovable. nor earth. for one thing changes its position with reference to another. But if there is change of place among several parts. however. 14. Else he would certainly have mentioned by name the book in which Xenophanes expressed this opinion. denies to it both motion and rest. Cf. 977 b 6. h. 4. Z. for not-being is immovable. [Page 82] quoted. 5a. 3. or on the other hand the worse from the better. xv. Arist. The one is neither movable nor is it fixed.2 Similarly he. Arist. as for instance Sabinos. And if you are interested in the investigation of these things. son of Orthomenes. He adds: For even if the stronger were to come from the weaker. Cf. 977 b 13. saying (Frag. 565. Cf. since neither could anything else come into it nor could it itself come into anything else.' he does not mean that it abides in a rest that is the antithesis of motion. nor is it fitting that it should move from one place to another. 481.' Theophrastos would have recorded this opinion of Xenophanes in his abridgment of the opinions of the physicists.multiplicity of things to each other.

Dox. that in the quarries of Syracuse the imprints of a fish and of seals had been found. and together with them he does away with the authority of reason itself. going his own way and differing from all those that had gone before. for a god hears and sees in all his parts and not in some particular organs.the following verses: (Frag. still he would not know. For if it came into being. but in the course of time it became freed from moisture. Except for this some parts of god might rule and be ruled by one another. Vorsokr. nor could anything come from not-being. and all things come from earth. did not admit either genesis or destruction. Zeller. n. [Page 83] knows. limited. but Metrodoros assigns as the reason for its saltness that it has filtered through the earth. an infinite number of suns and moons exist. The sea. Xenophanes of Kolophon. G. with power of senseperception in all parts. 4. The sun is formed each day from small fiery particles which are gathered together.'1 And he says that nothing comes into being. he is homogeneous in all his parts. and in Melite shallow impressions of all sorts of sea products. Cf. is salt because so many things flow together and become mixed in it. spherical. Dox. and that the race will begin anew from the beginning. 543. and not-being could not come into existence 1. He says that the sun is composed of numerous fiery particles massed together. [Page 84] nor could it accomplish anything. and that the universe is one and is not subject to change. but every one thinks he 1. And with regard to the gods he declares that there is no rule of one god over another. Farther he says that all men will be destroyed when the earth sinks into the sea and becomes mud. X. he said. Phil. And he declares that sensations are deceptive. Being homogeneous throughout he is a sphere in form. Z. 580. and this transformation takes place for all worlds. 590. nor moved. but says that the all is always the same. 2. Since god is a unity. Plut. a thing which is impossible. Strom. And he declares that the earth is constantly sinking little by little into the sea.1 He declares that the earth is infinite and is not surrounded on every . Arist. and none of the gods have need of anything at all. 14) 'For even if one chances for the most part to say what is true. And he says that god is eternal and one. adv. and his proofs are such as these: that shells are found in the midst of the land and among the mountains. Haer. and then the imprint dried in the mud. for it is impious that any of the gods should be ruled. and is not surrounded by air or by sky. Epiph. He says that these imprints were made when everything long ago was covered with mud. and in Paros the imprint of an anchovy at some depth in the stone. and sees and hears and has other sensations in all his parts. nor is anything destroyed. for it could not be spheroidal in places but rather throughout. the earth is infinite. 9.2 And Xenophanes believes that once the earth was mingled with the sea. it could not have existed before this. 1. homogeneous throughout. 977. iii.

who is limited. 13. but they are kindled again at night. who has his doubts as to all things. Dox. Dox. For when the moisture is drawn up from the sea.'2 Aet. 1889. Zeller. d. The moon is a compressed cloud. Plac. 355. Xenophanes held that the first principle of all things is earth. The objects which appear to those on vessels like stars. and the winds scatter it. d. 601. 343. 526. Eclipses occur by extinction of the sun. 332. Hist. and that this is god. 28. 371. 367. 2. Gesch. 358. Vorsokr. To the class holding eclectic views belongs Xenophanes. Xenophanes recorded an eclipse of the sun for a whole month.side by air. as well as in sustaining them. for he writes expressly (Frag. 4. 3. 4. 20. The sun is composed of fiery particles collected from the moist exhalation and massed together. which is ordinarily considered aporetic (skeptical) rather than dogmatic. iii. these are extinguished each day. 590. like coals. p. 2. 415. 396. pp. 24. Aet. Phil. Phil. 9. and it drags the moon after it. ii. 604. 7. or of burning clouds. 3. iv. he adds that the sun goes on for an infinite distance. ii. Haer. the sweet water separated by reason of its lightness becomes mist and passes into clouds. 356. imperishable. Dox. and all things end by becoming earth. Xenophanes of Kolophon is said to be the chief of this school. 18. The sun serves a purpose in the generation of the world and of the animals on it. 3. iii. Comets are groups or motions of burning clouds. 1. 348. Arch f. 11): 'The sea is the source of water.: The world is without beginning. 4. 30. Epiph. Dox. and falls as rain when compressed. . 354. endowed with reason. 360. 29. 347. 9. and immovable. Galen. and which some call Dioscuri. Xenophanes held that there are many suns and moons according to the different regions and sections and zones of the earth. Dox. Sensations are deceptive. Xenophanes and Epikouros abolished the prophetic art. and he says that the sun and the stars arise from clouds. Xenophanes et al. Aet. Lightnings take place when clouds shine in motion. n. and that at some fitting time the disk of the sun comes into a region of the earth not inhabited by us. are little clouds which have become luminous by a certain kind of motion. 25. 24. i. The stars are formed of burning cloud. adv. and the sun is born anew at its risings. and all things arise from earth.' Aet. Phil. 362. [Page 85] really kindlings and extinguishings. for he wrote in his book on nature: 'All things come from earth. but it seems to turn around by reason of the great distance. 284. Aet. 368. and so it suffers eclipse as though it had gone into a hole. The moon disappears each month because it is extinguished. It shines by its own light. and another eclipse so complete that the day seemed as night. eternal. for their risings and settings are 1. except that he holds this one dogma: that all things are one. The phenomena of the heavens come from the warmth of the sun as the principal cause. v. 1-5.

Doxographi Graeci. Phil. Herm. = Simplicii in Aristotelis physicarum libros qua ores edidit H. = Simplicius.html#frag1 .hanover. Berlin 1882. Hipp. Epi. = Hermiae irrisio gentilium philosophorum. Dox. Simp. Hanover Historical Texts Project Hanover College Department of History Please send comments to: historians@hanover. Diels. = Hippolyti philosophumena. Cael.LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS: Simp. = Diels.edu http://history.edu/texts/presoc/Xenophan. Berlin 1879. = Epiphanii varia excerpta. • • • • • Included in Diels: Aet. Commentary on Aristotle's De caelo. Phys. = Aetii de placitis reliquiae.

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