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TIIIiJ SLIPI.

] OF'I}II

(OSN'IOS

IN EIPI'DOC]LIS

I19

if Emireclocles hacl supposed his ovoicl cosmos to rotate


its longer axis, so that tbe plane containing the surface of the
errth coukl be circuar. Horvever, if this rvere the case the stars at
the zenith rvoultl appeal to ar obsetvel to be {arther tlot llearer
than those at the horizon.
Empedocles, thctr, catrnot liave saicl that tire cosmos was ovoid.
ZeTler 6 rvas colrect in mair.rtaining that he regardecl it as an oblate
spheroicl ancl that the egg comparison is introducecl only to make the
point that the broadest section of the spheroid is coinciilent rvith
the celestial equator'. Ihe cosmos lies as an egg does 'lvhen placecl
on a flat sur{ace.
The reason for Empedocles thus liolcling that the worlcl rvas
a flattened rather than a per{ect sphere was no doubt empirical.
Owing to their greater brightness tlie stars overhead usually seem
a little nearer than those near tire horizon. Consequently, tbe visible
portion of the celestial sphere appeals to be a flattened rather than

been avoicled
rbout

THE SHAPE OF TFIE COSMOS IN EMPEDOCI,trS

Accorcling to Aetius

as reporterl by John of Stobi, Empedocles

helil the follorving orinions:


to {ou ra .n "c Til ei tv ot:pat,t, itcg otiv .g" 4p"ib A,j"tcj.oc, n)'eiovu ei.tctt r,.t y,a,r, r n).n,o torctatt, xut, rata ro oi.pcl,ya
p.,)),o,t .vutien^cu:,:tou c r t nupan).qai.a rv xap.ov xeio0..

G,thrie 2 lielieves that this rotion $as suggested to Empeclocles


'not by any observecl facts, but by the poems o{ the Orphics, in
lvhose cosmogony & r,vorld egg g-ar,e birth to the generative power
of Love be{ore the existerce of heavc' a.cl earth, which rvere subsequently formecl from the tr,r'o iralves of the egg'.
This explanation is surely unacceptable. Even if it can be grantecl
that orphic cosmogo'ies

irvolvi'g

a rvorld egg artedated Empedocles,

and this is far from certain,3 it is harrl to creilit that any amou't
of Orphic plejuclice coulcl have led him to go against the facts of
observation. Tliis Empeclocles rvould have had to do if he rrelcl that
an egg-shaped cosmos rotated about its shorter axis. Accorcling to
bis vielv the cosmos lvas bourrded by a solid, crystalline heaven to
lvliich the fixed stars rvere attachecl.a If this heaven lvas egg-shaped,
then to observers on the earth the stals near to the horizon at two
opposite qur'te's of it rvo,lcl apper' to be closer than those at the
other tr,vo quarte's. As lfeath s sarv, such a cliffic'lty could o'ly have

I Aetius 2.31. 4 (DK 3.


2 W. K. C. Gurrrnrr,
A l,Iistorl, oJ Greelc
^.50).
Phlosoph,, lI (Cnmbridge, 1965),
pp. 190-91; a sinrilar vierv has been taken by
many othcrs. 3 'I'he mo-.l ltalancecl cliscussions of Lhe qucstion o{ ear.ly Op|ict
cosrnogorries is that b Gurunrr, ortheus coul Greelt, Religion, chapter 4. Thc
co-.rrric egg at Aristophancs' Birds 93 f1. has, o-[ course, litle cviclential valur:
si.ce the cosrlogory lhele is that of the rircls, a Aeti.s 2. ll.2 (DK
31. A.5l) ncl 2.13. ll (DK 31.4.54). 5 Sir Trror,r.rs [h.xtu, Aristarcltos oJ

hemisphericai clome. It is notervorthy that Empetlocles' forced


adoption of an oblate spheroicl lor the shape of the cosuros led him
into theoretical complications. Had he been able to suppose that the
cosmos, formed cluring the transition from the rule of Love to that
o{ Stri{e over the {ortr roots in the spl.rere o{ the All, rvas a per{ect
srhere, he could quite economically and logically have made it anri
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the sphere of the All coterminous. Sirrce Parmenicles' lroof that lhe
{rom
prevented
him
totality of rvhat is mrtst be a perfect sphere

allowing the ll even temporarily to lose its sphericity, he was


committed to maintaining that his notr'spherical cosmos 't\as mol'e
or less buried within the sphere o{ the ;\ll and surrouncled by matter
rvhich had not become involveil it.t cosmogony. This is clearly
strteil in a passage o{ \etiusB rvhic]r somee irave founcl puzzling:
'l!pn:oz).!6 zo-r.ov pv v, o pvtot r nv va r
r,t ro n.vr rpo;, t onv a,y'p t!t)'1t.

xap"o't, )J.r

).Lyov

Parn J. BrcrNnn
(Orforcl, 191.3), p.87, note 1. 6 F.'ltttt'ttn, Die Philosopltie tlcr Crie'
I, erl. 7 cnlargctl by \V. NESTLU, p. 980, note 2. 7 Parmenitle-', I)K
28.B.81ines,12-{9. I -A.etius 1.5.2 (DK 31.A..47). s Sec CurIInIr, HGP,
lI, p. 180.
Sro,s

clrcn,