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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Time

Timaeus 37c-39e  * Greek Fonts


HEN the father creator saw the creature which he had made moving and living, the created image of the eternal gods, he rejoiced, and in his joy determined to make the copy still more like the original; and as this was eternal, he sought to make the universe eternal, so far as might be. Now the nature of the ideal being was everlasting, but to bestow this attribute in its fulness upon a creature was impossible. Wherefore he resolved to have a moving image of eternity, and when he set in order the heaven, he made this image eternal but moving according to number, while eternity itself rests in unity; and this image we call time. For there were no days and nights and months and years before the heaven was created, but when he constructed the heaven he created them also. They are all parts of time, and the past and future are created species of time, which we unconsciously but wrongly transfer to the eternal essence; for we say that he "was," he "is," he "will be," but the truth is that "is" alone is properly attributed to him, and that "was" and "will be" only to be spoken of becoming in time, for they are motions, but that which is immovably the same cannot become older or younger by time, nor ever did or has become, or hereafter will be, older or younger, nor is subject at all to any of those states which affect moving and sensible things and of which generation is the cause. These are the forms of time, which imitates eternity and revolves according to a law of number. Moreover, when we say that what has become is become and what becomes is becoming, and that what will become is about to become and that the non-existent is non-existent-all these are inaccurate modes of expression. But perhaps this whole subject will be more suitably discussed on some other occasion.


Ὡς δὲ κινηθὲν αὐτὸ καὶ ζῶν ἐνόησεν τῶν ἀϊδίων θεῶν γεγονὸς ἄγαλμα ὁ γεννήσας πατήρ͵ ἠγάσθη τε καὶ εὐφρανθεὶς ἔτι δὴ μᾶλλον ὅμοιον πρὸς τὸ παράδειγμα ἐπενόησεν ἀπεργάσασθαι. [37d] καθάπερ οὖν αὐτὸ τυγχάνει ζῷον ἀίδιον ὄν͵ καὶ τόδε τὸ πᾶν οὕτως εἰς δύναμιν ἐπεχείρησε τοιοῦτον ἀποτελεῖν. ἡ μὲν οὖν τοῦ ζῴου φύσις ἐτύγχανεν οὖσα αἰώνιος͵ καὶ τοῦτο μὲν δὴ τῷ γεννητῷ παντελῶς προσάπτειν οὐκ ἦν δυνατόν· εἰκὼ δ΄ ἐπενόει κινητόν τινα αἰῶνος ποιῆσαι͵ καὶ διακοσμῶν ἅμα οὐρανὸν ποιεῖ μένοντος αἰῶνος ἐν ἑνὶ κατ΄ ἀριθμὸν ἰοῦσαν αἰώνιον εἰκόνα͵ τοῦτον ὃν δὴ χρόνον ὠνομάκαμεν. [37e] ἡμέρας γὰρ καὶ νύκτας καὶ μῆνας καὶ ἐνιαυτούς͵ οὐκ ὄντας πρὶν οὐρανὸν γενέσθαι͵ τότε ἅμα ἐκείνῳ συνισταμένῳ τὴν γένεσιν αὐτῶν μηχανᾶται· ταῦτα δὲ πάντα μέρη χρόνου͵ καὶ τό τ΄ ἦν τό τ΄ ἔσται χρόνου γεγονότα εἴδη͵ ἃ δὴ φέροντες λανθάνομεν ἐπὶ τὴν ἀίδιον οὐσίαν οὐκ ὀρθῶς. λέγομεν γὰρ δὴ ὡς ἦν ἔστιν τε καὶ ἔσται͵ τῇ δὲ τὸ ἔστιν μόνον κατὰ τὸν ἀληθῆ λόγον προσήκει͵ [38a] τὸ δὲ ἦν τό τ΄ ἔσται περὶ τὴν ἐν χρόνῳ γένεσιν ἰοῦσαν πρέπει λέγεσθαι - κινήσεις γάρ ἐστον͵ τὸ δὲ ἀεὶ κατὰ ταὐτὰ ἔχον ἀκινήτως οὔτε πρεσβύτερον οὔτε νεώτερον προσήκει γίγνεσθαι διὰ χρόνου οὐδὲ γενέσθαι ποτὲ οὐδὲ γεγονέναι νῦν οὐδ΄ εἰς αὖθις ἔσεσθαι͵ τὸ παράπαν τε οὐδὲν ὅσα γένεσις τοῖς ἐν αἰσθήσει φερομένοις προσῆψεν͵ ἀλλὰ χρόνου ταῦτα αἰῶνα μιμουμένου καὶ κατ΄ ἀριθμὸν κυκλουμένου γέγονεν εἴδη - καὶ πρὸς τούτοις ἔτι τὰ τοιάδε͵ [38b] τό τε γεγονὸς εἶναι γεγονὸς καὶ τὸ γιγνόμενον εἶναι γιγνόμενον͵ ἔτι τε τὸ γενησόμενον εἶναι γενησόμενον καὶ τὸ μὴ ὂν μὴ ὂν εἶναι͵ ὧν οὐδὲν ἀκριβὲς λέγομεν. περὶ μὲν οὖν τούτων τάχ΄ ἂν οὐκ εἴη καιρὸς πρέπων ἐν τῷ παρόντι διακριβολογεῖσθαι.

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