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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Genesis of other animals

Timaeus 90e - 92c  * Greek Fonts

ELPENOR EDITIONS IN PRINT

Page 2

Thus were created women and the female sex in general. But the race of birds was created out of innocent light-minded men, who, although their minds were directed toward heaven, imagined, in their simplicity, that the clearest demonstration of the things above was to be obtained by sight; these were remodelled and transformed into birds, and they grew feathers instead of hair. The race of wild pedestrian animals, again, came from those who had no philosophy in any of their thoughts, and never considered at all about the nature of the heavens, because they had ceased to use the courses of the head, but followed the guidance of those parts of the soul which are in the breast. In consequence of these habits of theirs they had their front-legs and their heads resting upon the earth to which they were drawn by natural affinity; and the crowns of their heads were elongated and of all sorts of shapes, into which the courses of the soul were crushed by reason of disuse. And this was the reason why they were created quadrupeds and polypods: God gave the more senseless of them the more support that they might be more attracted to the earth. And the most foolish of them, who trail their bodies entirely upon the ground and have no longer any need of feet, he made without feet to crawl upon the earth. The fourth class were the inhabitants of the water: these were made out of the most entirely senseless and ignorant of all, whom the transformers did not think any longer worthy of pure respiration, because they possessed a soul which was made impure by all sorts of transgression; and instead of the subtle and pure medium of air, they gave them the deep and muddy sea to be their element of respiration; and hence arose the race of fishes and oysters, and other aquatic animals, which have received the most remote habitations as a punishment of their outlandish ignorance. These are the laws by which animals pass into one another, now, as ever, changing as they lose or gain wisdom and folly.

We may now say that our discourse about the nature of the universe has an end. The world has received animals, mortal and immortal, and is fulfilled with them, and has become a visible animal containing the visible-the sensible God who is the image of the intellectual, the greatest, best, fairest, most perfect-the one only begotten heaven.

γυναῖκες μὲν οὖν καὶ τὸ θῆλυ πᾶν οὕτω γέγονεν· τὸ δὲ τῶν ὀρνέων φῦλον μετερρυθμίζετο͵ ἀντὶ τριχῶν πτερὰ φύον͵ ἐκ τῶν ἀκάκων ἀνδρῶν͵ κούφων δέ͵ καὶ μετεωρολογικῶν μέν͵ [91e] ἡγουμένων δὲ δι΄ ὄψεως τὰς περὶ τούτων ἀποδείξεις βεβαιοτάτας εἶναι δι΄ εὐήθειαν. τὸ δ΄ αὖ πεζὸν καὶ θηριῶδες γέγονεν ἐκ τῶν μηδὲν προσχρωμένων φιλοσοφίᾳ μηδὲ ἀθρούντων τῆς περὶ τὸν οὐρανὸν φύσεως πέρι μηδέν͵ διὰ τὸ μηκέτι ταῖς ἐν τῇ κεφαλῇ χρῆσθαι περιόδοις͵ ἀλλὰ τοῖς περὶ τὰ στήθη τῆς ψυχῆς ἡγεμόσιν ἕπεσθαι μέρεσιν. ἐκ τούτων οὖν τῶν ἐπιτηδευμάτων τά τ΄ ἐμπρόσθια κῶλα καὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς εἰς γῆν ἑλκόμενα ὑπὸ συγγενείας ἤρεισαν͵ προμήκεις τε καὶ παντοίας ἔσχον τὰς κορυφάς͵ [92a] ὅπῃ συνεθλίφθησαν ὑπὸ ἀργίας ἑκάστων αἱ περιφοραί· τετράπουν τε τὸ γένος αὐτῶν ἐκ ταύτης ἐφύετο καὶ πολύπουν τῆς προφάσεως͵ θεοῦ βάσεις ὑποτιθέντος πλείους τοῖς μᾶλλον ἄφροσιν͵ ὡς μᾶλλον ἐπὶ γῆν ἕλκοιντο. τοῖς δ΄ ἀφρονεστάτοις αὐτῶν τούτων καὶ παντάπασιν πρὸς γῆν πᾶν τὸ σῶμα κατατεινομένοις ὡς οὐδὲν ἔτι ποδῶν χρείας οὔσης͵ ἄποδα αὐτὰ καὶ ἰλυσπώμενα ἐπὶ γῆς ἐγέννησαν. [92b] τὸ δὲ τέταρτον γένος ἔνυδρον γέγονεν ἐκ τῶν μάλιστα ἀνοητοτάτων καὶ ἀμαθεστάτων͵ οὓς οὐδ΄ ἀναπνοῆς καθαρᾶς ἔτι ἠξίωσαν οἱ μεταπλάττοντες͵ ὡς τὴν ψυχὴν ὑπὸ πλημμελείας πάσης ἀκαθάρτως ἐχόντων͵ ἀλλ΄ ἀντὶ λεπτῆς καὶ καθαρᾶς ἀναπνοῆς ἀέρος εἰς ὕδατος θολερὰν καὶ βαθεῖαν ἔωσαν ἀνάπνευσιν· ὅθεν ἰχθύων ἔθνος καὶ τὸ τῶν ὀστρέων συναπάντων τε ὅσα ἔνυδρα γέγονεν͵ δίκην ἀμαθίας ἐσχάτης ἐσχάτας οἰκήσεις εἰληχότων. [92c] καὶ κατὰ ταῦτα δὴ πάντα τότε καὶ νῦν διαμείβεται τὰ ζῷα εἰς ἄλληλα͵ νοῦ καὶ ἀνοίας ἀποβολῇ καὶ κτήσει μεταβαλλόμενα.

Καὶ δὴ καὶ τέλος περὶ τοῦ παντὸς νῦν ἤδη τὸν λόγον ἡμῖν φῶμεν ἔχειν· θνητὰ γὰρ καὶ ἀθάνατα ζῷα λαβὼν καὶ συμπληρωθεὶς ὅδε ὁ κόσμος οὕτω͵ ζῷον ὁρατὸν τὰ ὁρατὰ περιέχον͵ εἰκὼν τοῦ νοητοῦ θεὸς αἰσθητός͵ μέγιστος καὶ ἄριστος κάλλιστός τε καὶ τελεώτατος γέγονεν εἷς οὐρανὸς ὅδε μονογενὴς ὤν.

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