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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Powers of the soul

Timaeus 69a - 72d  * Greek Fonts


Page 4

For the authors of our being, remembering the command of their father when he bade them create the human race as good as they could, that they might correct our inferior parts and make them to attain a measure of truth, placed in the liver the seat of divination. And herein is a proof that God has given the art of divination not to the wisdom, but to the foolishness of man. No man, when in his wits, attains prophetic truth and inspiration; but when he receives the inspired word, either his intelligence is enthralled in sleep, or he is demented by some distemper or possession. And he who would understand what he remembers to have been said, whether in a dream or when he was awake, by the prophetic and inspired nature, or would determine by reason the meaning of the apparitions which he has seen, and what indications they afford to this man or that, of past, present or future good and evil, must first recover his wits. But, while he continues demented, he cannot judge of the visions which he sees or the words which he utters; the ancient saying is very true, that "only a man who has his wits can act or judge about himself and his own affairs." And for this reason it is customary to appoint interpreters to be judges of the true inspiration. Some persons call them prophets; they are quite unaware that they are only the expositors of dark sayings and visions, and are not to be called prophets at all, but only interpreters of prophecy.

Such is the nature of the liver, which is placed as we have described in order that it may give prophetic intimations. During the life of each individual these intimations are plainer, but after his death the liver becomes blind, and delivers oracles too obscure to be intelligible. The neighbouring organ [the spleen] is situated on the left-hand side, and is constructed with a view of keeping the liver bright and pure-like a napkin, always ready prepared and at hand to clean the mirror. And hence, when any impurities arise in the region of the liver by reason of disorders of the body, the loose nature of the spleen, which is composed of a hollow and bloodless tissue, receives them all and clears them away, and when filled with the unclean matter, swells and festers, but, again, when the body is purged, settles down into the same place as before, and is humbled.

μεμνημένοι γὰρ τῆς τοῦ πατρὸς ἐπιστολῆς οἱ συστήσαντες ἡμᾶς͵ ὅτε τὸ θνητὸν ἐπέστελλεν γένος ὡς ἄριστον εἰς δύναμιν ποιεῖν͵ οὕτω δὴ κατορθοῦντες καὶ τὸ φαῦλον ἡμῶν͵ [71e] ἵνα ἀληθείας πῃ προσάπτοιτο͵ κατέστησαν ἐν τούτῳ τὸ μαντεῖον. ἱκανὸν δὲ σημεῖον ὡς μαντικὴν ἀφροσύνῃ θεὸς ἀνθρωπίνῃ δέδωκεν· οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἔννους ἐφάπτεται μαντικῆς ἐνθέου καὶ ἀληθοῦς͵ ἀλλ΄ ἢ καθ΄ ὕπνον τὴν τῆς φρονήσεως πεδηθεὶς δύναμιν ἢ διὰ νόσον͵ ἢ διά τινα ἐνθουσιασμὸν παραλλάξας. ἀλλὰ συννοῆσαι μὲν ἔμφρονος τά τε ῥηθέντα ἀναμνησθέντα ὄναρ ἢ ὕπαρ ὑπὸ τῆς μαντικῆς τε καὶ ἐνθουσιαστικῆς φύσεως͵ καὶ ὅσα ἂν φαντάσματα ὀφθῇ͵ [72a] πάντα λογισμῷ διελέσθαι ὅπῃ τι σημαίνει καὶ ὅτῳ μέλλοντος ἢ παρελθόντος ἢ παρόντος κακοῦ ἢ ἀγαθοῦ· τοῦ δὲ μανέντος ἔτι τε ἐν τούτῳ μένοντος οὐκ ἔργον τὰ φανέντα καὶ φωνηθέντα ὑφ΄ ἑαυτοῦ κρίνειν͵ ἀλλ΄ εὖ καὶ πάλαι λέγεται τὸ πράττειν καὶ γνῶναι τά τε αὑτοῦ καὶ ἑαυτὸν σώφρονι μόνῳ προσήκειν. [72b] ὅθεν δὴ καὶ τὸ τῶν προφητῶν γένος ἐπὶ ταῖς ἐνθέοις μαντείαις κριτὰς ἐπικαθιστάναι νόμος· οὓς μάντεις αὐτοὺς ὀνομάζουσίν τινες͵ τὸ πᾶν ἠγνοηκότες ὅτι τῆς δι΄ αἰνιγμῶν οὗτοι φήμης καὶ φαντάσεως ὑποκριταί͵ καὶ οὔτι μάντεις͵ προφῆται δὲ μαντευομένων δικαιότατα ὀνομάζοιντ΄ ἄν.


Ἡ μὲν οὖν φύσις ἥπατος διὰ ταῦτα τοιαύτη τε καὶ ἐν τόπῳ ᾧ λέγομεν πέφυκε͵ χάριν μαντικῆς· καὶ ἔτι μὲν δὴ ζῶντος ἑκάστου τὸ τοιοῦτον σημεῖα ἐναργέστερα ἔχει͵ στερηθὲν δὲ τοῦ ζῆν γέγονε τυφλὸν καὶ τὰ μαντεῖα ἀμυδρότερα ἔσχεν τοῦ τι σαφὲς σημαίνειν. [72c] ἡ δ΄ αὖ τοῦ γείτονος αὐτῷ σύστασις καὶ ἕδρα σπλάγχνου γέγονεν ἐξ ἀριστερᾶς χάριν ἐκείνου͵ τοῦ παρέχειν αὐτὸ λαμπρὸν ἀεὶ καὶ καθαρόν͵ οἷον κατόπτρῳ παρεσκευασμένον καὶ ἕτοιμον ἀεὶ παρακείμενον ἐκμαγεῖον. διὸ δὴ καὶ ὅταν τινὲς ἀκαθαρσίαι γίγνωνται διὰ νόσους σώματος περὶ τὸ ἧπαρ͵ πάντα ἡ σπληνὸς καθαίρουσα αὐτὰ δέχεται μανότης͵ ἅτε κοίλου καὶ ἀναίμου ὑφανθέντος· [72d] ὅθεν πληρούμενος τῶν ἀποκαθαιρομένων μέγας καὶ ὕπουλος αὐξάνεται͵ καὶ πάλιν͵ ὅταν καθαρθῇ τὸ σῶμα͵ ταπεινούμενος εἰς ταὐτὸν συνίζει.

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