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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Space

Timaeus 48e - 53c  * Greek Fonts


HIS new beginning of our discussion of the universe requires a fuller division than the former; for then we made two classes, now a third must be revealed. The two sufficed for the former discussion: one, which we assumed, was a pattern intelligible and always the same; and the second was only the imitation of the pattern, generated and visible. There is also a third kind which we did not distinguish at the time, conceiving that the two would be enough. But now the argument seems to require that we should set forth in words another kind, which is difficult of explanation and dimly seen. What nature are we to attribute to this new kind of being? We reply, that it is the receptacle, and in a manner the nurse, of all generation. I have spoken the truth; but I must express myself in clearer language, and this will be an arduous task for many reasons, and in particular because I must first raise questions concerning fire and the other elements, and determine what each of them is; for to say, with any probability or certitude, which of them should be called water rather than fire, and which should be called any of them rather than all or some one of them, is a difficult matter. How, then, shall we settle this point, and what questions about the elements may be fairly raised?


[48e] Ἡ δ΄ οὖν αὖθις ἀρχὴ περὶ τοῦ παντὸς ἔστω μειζόνως τῆς πρόσθεν διῃρημένη· τότε μὲν γὰρ δύο εἴδη διειλόμεθα͵ νῦν δὲ τρίτον ἄλλο γένος ἡμῖν δηλωτέον. τὰ μὲν γὰρ δύο ἱκανὰ ἦν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἔμπροσθεν λεχθεῖσιν͵ ἓν μὲν ὡς παραδείγματος εἶδος ὑποτεθέν͵ νοητὸν καὶ ἀεὶ κατὰ ταὐτὰ ὄν͵ μίμημα δὲ παραδείγματος δεύτερον͵ γένεσιν ἔχον καὶ ὁρατόν. [49a] τρίτον δὲ τότε μὲν οὐ διειλόμεθα͵ νομίσαντες τὰ δύο ἕξειν ἱκανῶς· νῦν δὲ ὁ λόγος ἔοικεν εἰσαναγκάζειν χαλεπὸν καὶ ἀμυδρὸν εἶδος ἐπιχειρεῖν λόγοις ἐμφανίσαι. τίν΄ οὖν ἔχον δύναμιν καὶ φύσιν αὐτὸ ὑποληπτέον; τοιάνδε μάλιστα· πάσης εἶναι γενέσεως ὑποδοχὴν αὐτὴν οἷον τιθήνην. εἴρηται μὲν οὖν τἀληθές͵ δεῖ δὲ ἐναργέστερον εἰπεῖν περὶ αὐτοῦ͵ χαλεπὸν δὲ ἄλλως τε καὶ διότι προαπορηθῆναι περὶ πυρὸς καὶ τῶν μετὰ πυρὸς ἀναγκαῖον τούτου χάριν· [49b] τούτων γὰρ εἰπεῖν ἕκαστον ὁποῖον ὄντως ὕδωρ χρὴ λέγειν μᾶλλον ἢ πῦρ͵ καὶ ὁποῖον ὁτιοῦν μᾶλλον ἢ καὶ ἅπαντα καθ΄ ἕκαστόν τε͵ οὕτως ὥστε τινὶ πιστῷ καὶ βεβαίῳ χρήσασθαι λόγῳ͵ χαλεπόν. πῶς οὖν δὴ τοῦτ΄ αὐτὸ καὶ πῇ καὶ τί περὶ αὐτῶν εἰκότως διαπορηθέντες ἂν λέγοιμεν;

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