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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Body and senses

Timaeus 44d-47e  * Greek Fonts


IRST, then, the gods, imitating the spherical shape of the universe, enclosed the two divine courses in a spherical body, that, namely, which we now term the head, being the most divine part of us and the lord of all that is in us: to this the gods, when they put together the body, gave all the other members to be servants, considering that it partook of every sort of motion. In order then that it might not tumble about among the high and deep places of the earth, but might be able to get over the one and out of the other, they provided the body to be its vehicle and means of locomotion; which consequently had length and was furnished with four limbs extended and flexible; these God contrived to be instruments of locomotion with which it might take hold and find support, and so be able to pass through all places, carrying on high the dwelling-place of the most sacred and divine part of us. Such was the origin of legs and hands, which for this reason were attached to every man; and the gods, deeming the front part of man to be more honourable and more fit to command than the hinder part, made us to move mostly in a forward direction. Wherefore man must needs have his front part unlike and distinguished from the rest of his body.

And so in the vessel of the head, they first of all put a face in which they inserted organs to minister in all things to the providence of the soul, and they appointed this part, which has authority, to be by nature the part which is in front. 

σῶμα καὶ αἰσθήσεις

Τὰς μὲν δὴ θείας περιόδους δύο οὔσας͵ τὸ τοῦ παντὸς σχῆμα ἀπομιμησάμενοι περιφερὲς ὄν͵ εἰς σφαιροειδὲς σῶμα ἐνέδησαν͵ τοῦτο ὃ νῦν κεφαλὴν ἐπονομάζομεν͵ ὃ θειότατόν τέ ἐστιν καὶ τῶν ἐν ἡμῖν πάντων δεσποτοῦν· ᾧ καὶ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα παρέδοσαν ὑπηρεσίαν αὐτῷ συναθροίσαντες θεοί͵ κατανοήσαντες ὅτι πασῶν ὅσαι κινήσεις ἔσοιντο μετέχοι. [44e] ἵν΄ οὖν μὴ κυλινδούμενον ἐπὶ γῆς ὕψη τε καὶ βάθη παντοδαπὰ ἐχούσης ἀποροῖ τὰ μὲν ὑπερβαίνειν͵ ἔνθεν δὲ ἐκβαίνειν͵ ὄχημα αὐτῷ τοῦτο καὶ εὐπορίαν ἔδοσαν· ὅθεν δὴ μῆκος τὸ σῶμα ἔσχεν͵ ἐκτατά τε κῶλα καὶ καμπτὰ ἔφυσεν τέτταρα θεοῦ μηχανησαμένου πορείαν͵ οἷς ἀντιλαμβανόμενον καὶ ἀπερειδόμενον διὰ πάντων τόπων πορεύεσθαι δυνατὸν γέγονε͵ τὴν τοῦ θειοτάτου καὶ ἱερωτάτου φέρον οἴκησιν ἐπάνωθεν ἡμῶν. [45a] σκέλη μὲν οὖν χεῖρές τε ταύτῃ καὶ διὰ ταῦτα προσέφυ πᾶσιν· τοῦ δ΄ ὄπισθεν τὸ πρόσθεν τιμιώτερον καὶ ἀρχικώτερον νομίζοντες θεοὶ ταύτῃ τὸ πολὺ τῆς πορείας ἡμῖν ἔδοσαν. ἔδει δὴ διωρισμένον ἔχειν καὶ ἀνόμοιον τοῦ σώματος τὸ πρόσθεν ἄνθρωπον. διὸ πρῶτον μὲν περὶ τὸ τῆς κεφαλῆς κύτος͵ ὑποθέντες αὐτόσε τὸ πρόσωπον͵ [45b] ὄργανα ἐνέδησαν τούτῳ πάσῃ τῇ τῆς ψυχῆς προνοίᾳ͵ καὶ διέταξαν τὸ μετέχον ἡγεμονίας τοῦτ΄ εἶναι͵ τὸ κατὰ φύσιν πρόσθεν·

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