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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : More about the body

Timaeus 72d - 81e  * Greek Fonts


Page 6

The fleshy nature was not therefore wholly dried up, but a large sort of peel was parted off and remained over, which is now called the skin. This met and grew by the help of the cerebral moisture, and became the circular envelopment of the head. And the moisture, rising up under the sutures, watered and closed in the skin upon the crown, forming a sort of knot. The diversity of the sutures was caused by the power of the courses of the soul and of the food, and the more these struggled against one another the more numerous they became, and fewer if the struggle were less violent. This skin the divine power pierced all round with fire, and out of the punctures which were thus made the moisture issued forth, and the liquid and heat which was pure came away, and a mixed part which was composed of the same material as the skin, and had a fineness equal to the punctures, was borne up by its own impulse and extended far outside the head, but being too slow to escape, was thrust back by the external air, and rolled up underneath the skin, where it took root. Thus the hair sprang up in the skin, being akin to it because it is like threads of leather, but rendered harder and closer through the pressure of the cold, by which each hair, while in process of separation from the skin, is compressed and cooled. Wherefore the creator formed the head hairy, making use of the causes which I have mentioned, and reflecting also that instead of flesh the brain needed the hair to be a light covering or guard, which would give shade in summer and shelter in winter, and at the same time would not impede our quickness of perception. From the combination of sinew, skin, and bone, in the structure of the finger, there arises a triple compound, which, when dried up, takes the form of one hard skin partaking of all three natures, and was fabricated by these second causes, but designed by mind which is the principal cause with an eye to the future. For our creators well knew that women and other animals would some day be framed out of men, and they further knew that many animals would require the use of nails for many purposes; wherefore they fashioned in men at their first creation the rudiments of nails. For this purpose and for these reasons they caused skin, hair, and nails to grow at the extremities of the limbs.

[76a] τῆς δὴ σαρκοειδοῦς φύσεως οὐ καταξηραινομένης λέμμα μεῖζον περιγιγνόμενον ἐχωρίζετο͵ δέρμα τὸ νῦν λεγόμενον. τοῦτο δὲ διὰ τὴν περὶ τὸν ἐγκέφαλον νοτίδα συνιὸν αὐτὸ πρὸς αὑτὸ καὶ βλαστάνον κύκλῳ περιημφιέννυεν τὴν κεφαλήν· ἡ δὲ νοτὶς ὑπὸ τὰς ῥαφὰς ἀνιοῦσα ἦρδε καὶ συνέκλεισεν αὐτὸ ἐπὶ τὴν κορυφήν͵ οἷον ἅμμα συναγαγοῦσα͵ τὸ δὲ τῶν ῥαφῶν παντοδαπὸν εἶδος γέγονε διὰ τὴν τῶν περιόδων δύναμιν καὶ τῆς τροφῆς͵ μᾶλλον μὲν ἀλλήλοις μαχομένων τούτων πλείους͵ ἧττον δὲ ἐλάττους. [76b] τοῦτο δὴ πᾶν τὸ δέρμα κύκλῳ κατεκέντει πυρὶ τὸ θεῖον͵ τρηθέντος δὲ καὶ τῆς ἰκμάδος ἔξω δι΄ αὐτοῦ φερομένης τὸ μὲν ὑγρὸν καὶ θερμὸν ὅσον εἰλικρινὲς ἀπῄειν͵ τὸ δὲ μεικτὸν ἐξ ὧν καὶ τὸ δέρμα ἦν͵ αἰρόμενον μὲν ὑπὸ τῆς φορᾶς ἔξω μακρὸν ἐτείνετο͵ λεπτότητα ἴσην ἔχον τῷ κατακεντήματι͵ διὰ δὲ βραδυτῆτα ἀπωθούμενον ὑπὸ τοῦ περιεστῶτος ἔξωθεν πνεύματος πάλιν ἐντὸς ὑπὸ τὸ δέρμα εἱλλόμενον κατερριζοῦτο· [76c] καὶ κατὰ ταῦτα δὴ τὰ πάθη τὸ τριχῶν γένος ἐν τῷ δέρματι πέφυκεν͵ συγγενὲς μὲν ἱμαντῶδες ὂν αὐτοῦ͵ σκληρότερον δὲ καὶ πυκνότερον τῇ πιλήσει τῆς ψύξεως͵ ἣν ἀποχωριζομένη δέρματος ἑκάστη θρὶξ ψυχθεῖσα συνεπιλήθη. τούτῳ δὴ λασίαν ἡμῶν ἀπηργάσατο τὴν κεφαλὴν ὁ ποιῶν͵ χρώμενος μὲν αἰτίοις τοῖς εἰρημένοις͵ [76d] διανοούμενος δὲ ἀντὶ σαρκὸς αὐτὸ δεῖν εἶναι στέγασμα τῆς περὶ τὸν ἐγκέφαλον ἕνεκα ἀσφαλείας κοῦφον καὶ θέρους χειμῶνός τε ἱκανὸν σκιὰν καὶ σκέπην παρέχειν͵ εὐαισθησίας δὲ οὐδὲν διακώλυμα ἐμποδὼν γενησόμενον. τὸ δ΄ ἐν τῇ περὶ τοὺς δακτύλους καταπλοκῇ τοῦ νεύρου καὶ τοῦ δέρματος ὀστοῦ τε͵ συμμειχθὲν ἐκ τριῶν͵ ἀποξηρανθὲν ἓν κοινὸν συμπάντων σκληρὸν γέγονεν δέρμα͵ τοῖς μὲν συναιτίοις τούτοις δημιουργηθέν͵ τῇ δὲ αἰτιωτάτῃ διανοίᾳ τῶν ἔπειτα ἐσομένων ἕνεκα εἰργασμένον. [76e] ὡς γάρ ποτε ἐξ ἀνδρῶν γυναῖκες καὶ τἆλλα θηρία γενήσοιντο͵ ἠπίσταντο οἱ συνιστάντες ἡμᾶς͵ καὶ δὴ καὶ τῆς τῶν ὀνύχων χρείας ὅτι πολλὰ τῶν θρεμμάτων καὶ ἐπὶ πολλὰ δεήσοιτο ᾔδεσαν͵ ὅθεν ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐθὺς γιγνομένοις ὑπετυπώσαντο τὴν τῶν ὀνύχων γένεσιν. τούτῳ δὴ τῷ λόγῳ καὶ ταῖς προφάσεσιν ταύταις δέρμα τρίχας ὄνυχάς τε ἐπ΄ ἄκροις τοῖς κώλοις ἔφυσαν.

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