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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Kinds of the elements

Timaeus 58c - 60b  * Greek Fonts


Page 3

Water which is mingled with fire, so much as is fine and liquid (being so called by reason of its motion and the way in which it rolls along the ground), and soft, because its bases give way are less stable than those of earth, when separated from fire and air and isolated, becomes more uniform, and by their retirement is compressed into itself; and if the condensation be very great, the water above the earth becomes hail, but on the earth, ice; and that which is congealed in a less degree and is only half solid, when above the earth is called snow, and when upon the earth, and condensed from dew, hoarfrost. Then, again, there are the numerous kinds of water which have been mingled with one another, and are distilled through plants which grow in the earth; and this whole class is called by the name of juices or saps. The unequal admixture of these fluids creates a variety of species; most of them are nameless, but four which are of a fiery nature are clearly distinguished and have names. First there is wine, which warms the soul as well as the body: secondly, there is the oily nature, which is smooth and divides the visual ray, and for this reason is bright and shining and of a glistening appearance, including pitch, the juice of the castor berry, oil itself, and other things of a like kind: thirdly, there is the class of substances which expand the contracted parts of the mouth, until they return to their natural state, and by reason of this property create sweetness;-these are included under the general name of honey: and, lastly, there is a frothy nature, which differs from all juices, having a burning quality which dissolves the flesh; it is called opos (a vegetable acid).

τὸ πυρὶ μεμειγμένον ὕδωρ͵ ὅσον λεπτὸν ὑγρόν τε διὰ τὴν κίνησιν καὶ τὴν ὁδὸν ἣν κυλινδούμενον ἐπὶ γῆς ὑγρὸν λέγεται͵ μαλακόν τε αὖ τῷ τὰς βάσεις ἧττον ἑδραίους οὔσας ἢ τὰς γῆς ὑπείκειν͵ τοῦτο ὅταν πυρὸς ἀποχωρισθὲν ἀέρος τε μονωθῇ͵ [59e] γέγονεν μὲν ὁμαλώτερον͵ συνέωσται δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν ἐξιόντων εἰς αὑτό͵ παγέν τε οὕτως τὸ μὲν ὑπὲρ γῆς μάλιστα παθὸν ταῦτα χάλαζα͵ τὸ δ΄ ἐπὶ γῆς κρύσταλλος͵ τὸ δὲ ἧττον͵ ἡμιπαγές τε ὂν ἔτι͵ τὸ μὲν ὑπὲρ γῆς αὖ χιών͵ τὸ δ΄ ἐπὶ γῆς συμπαγὲν ἐκ δρόσου γενόμενον πάχνη λέγεται. τὰ δὲ δὴ πλεῖστα ὑδάτων εἴδη μεμειγμένα ἀλλήλοις [60a] - σύμπαν μὲν τὸ γένος͵ διὰ τῶν ἐκ γῆς φυτῶν ἠθημένα͵ χυμοὶ λεγόμενοι - διὰ δὲ τὰς μείξεις ἀνομοιότητα ἕκαστοι σχόντες τὰ μὲν ἄλλα πολλὰ ἀνώνυμα γένη παρέσχοντο͵ τέτταρα δὲ ὅσα ἔμπυρα εἴδη͵ διαφανῆ μάλιστα γενόμενα͵ εἴληφεν ὀνόματα αὐτῶν͵ τὸ μὲν τῆς ψυχῆς μετὰ τοῦ σώματος θερμαντικὸν οἶνος͵ τὸ δὲ λεῖον καὶ διακριτικὸν ὄψεως διὰ ταῦτά τε ἰδεῖν λαμπρὸν καὶ στίλβον λιπαρόν τε φανταζόμενον ἐλαιηρὸν εἶδος͵ πίττα καὶ κίκι καὶ ἔλαιον αὐτὸ ὅσα τ΄ ἄλλα τῆς αὐτῆς δυνάμεως· [60b] ὅσον δὲ διαχυτικὸν μέχρι φύσεως τῶν περὶ τὸ στόμα συνόδων͵ ταύτῃ τῇ δυνάμει γλυκύτητα παρεχόμενον͵ μέλι τὸ κατὰ πάντων μάλιστα πρόσρημα ἔσχεν͵ τὸ δὲ τῆς σαρκὸς διαλυτικὸν τῷ κάειν͵ ἀφρῶδες γένος͵ ἐκ πάντων ἀφορισθὲν τῶν χυμῶν͵ ὀπὸς ἐπωνομάσθη.

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