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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Time

Timaeus 37c-39e  * Greek Fonts


Page 3

Now, when all the stars which were necessary to the creation of time had attained a motion suitable to them,-and had become living creatures having bodies fastened by vital chains, and learnt their appointed task, moving in the motion of the diverse, which is diagonal, and passes through and is governed by the motion of the same, they revolved, some in a larger and some in a lesser orbit-those which had the lesser orbit revolving faster, and those which had the larger more slowly. Now by reason of the motion of the same, those which revolved fastest appeared to be overtaken by those which moved slower although they really overtook them; for the motion of the same made them all turn in a spiral, and, because some went one way and some another, that which receded most slowly from the sphere of the same, which was the swiftest, appeared to follow it most nearly. That there might be some visible measure of their relative swiftness and slowness as they proceeded in their eight courses, God lighted a fire, which we now call the sun, in the second from the earth of these orbits, that it might give light to the whole of heaven, and that the animals, as many as nature intended, might participate in number, learning arithmetic from the revolution of the same and the like. Thus then, and for this reason the night and the day were created, being the period of the one most intelligent revolution. And the month is accomplished when the moon has completed her orbit and overtaken the sun, and the year when the sun has completed his own orbit. Mankind, with hardly an exception, have not remarked the periods of the other stars, and they have no name for them, and do not measure them against one another by the help of number, and hence they can scarcely be said to know that their wanderings, being infinite in number and admirable for their variety, make up time. And yet there is no difficulty in seeing that the perfect number of time fulfils the perfect year when all the eight revolutions, having their relative degrees of swiftness, are accomplished together and attain their completion at the same time, measured by the rotation of the same and equally moving. After this manner, and for these reasons, came into being such of the stars as in their heavenly progress received reversals of motion, to the end that the created heaven might imitate the eternal nature, and be as like as possible to the perfect and intelligible animal.

ἐπειδὴ δὲ οὖν εἰς τὴν ἑαυτῷ πρέπουσαν ἕκαστον ἀφίκετο φορὰν τῶν ὅσα ἔδει συναπεργάζεσθαι χρόνον͵ δεσμοῖς τε ἐμψύχοις σώματα δεθέντα ζῷα ἐγεννήθη τό τε προσταχθὲν ἔμαθεν͵ κατὰ δὴ τὴν θατέρου φορὰν πλαγίαν οὖσαν͵ [39a] διὰ τῆς ταὐτοῦ φορᾶς ἰούσης τε καὶ κρατουμένης͵ τὸ μὲν μείζονα αὐτῶν͵ τὸ δ΄ ἐλάττω κύκλον ἰόν͵ θᾶττον μὲν τὰ τὸν ἐλάττω͵ τὰ δὲ τὸν μείζω βραδύτερον περιῄειν. τῇ δὴ ταὐτοῦ φορᾷ τὰ τάχιστα περιιόντα ὑπὸ τῶν βραδύτερον ἰόντων ἐφαίνετο καταλαμβάνοντα καταλαμβάνεσθαι· [39b] πάντας γὰρ τοὺς κύκλους αὐτῶν στρέφουσα ἕλικα διὰ τὸ διχῇ κατὰ τὰ ἐναντία ἅμα προϊέναι τὸ βραδύτατα ἀπιὸν ἀφ΄ αὑτῆς οὔσης ταχίστης ἐγγύτατα ἀπέφαινεν. ἵνα δ΄ εἴη μέτρον ἐναργές τι πρὸς ἄλληλα βραδυτῆτι καὶ τάχει καὶ τὰ περὶ τὰς ὀκτὼ φορὰς πορεύοιτο͵ φῶς ὁ θεὸς ἀνῆψεν ἐν τῇ πρὸς γῆν δευτέρᾳ τῶν περιόδων͵ ὃ δὴ νῦν κεκλήκαμεν ἥλιον͵ ἵνα ὅτι μάλιστα εἰς ἅπαντα φαίνοι τὸν οὐρανὸν μετάσχοι τε ἀριθμοῦ τὰ ζῷα ὅσοις ἦν προσῆκον͵ μαθόντα παρὰ τῆς ταὐτοῦ καὶ ὁμοίου [39c] περιφορᾶς. νὺξ μὲν οὖν ἡμέρα τε γέγονεν οὕτως καὶ διὰ ταῦτα͵ ἡ τῆς μιᾶς καὶ φρονιμωτάτης κυκλήσεως περίοδος· μεὶς δὲ ἐπειδὰν σελήνη περιελθοῦσα τὸν ἑαυτῆς κύκλον ἥλιον ἐπικαταλάβῃ͵ ἐνιαυτὸς δὲ ὁπόταν ἥλιος τὸν ἑαυτοῦ περιέλθῃ κύκλον. τῶν δ΄ ἄλλων τὰς περιόδους οὐκ ἐννενοηκότες ἄνθρωποι͵ πλὴν ὀλίγοι τῶν πολλῶν͵ οὔτε ὀνομάζουσιν οὔτε πρὸς ἄλληλα συμμετροῦνται σκοποῦντες ἀριθμοῖς͵ [39d] ὥστε ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν οὐκ ἴσασιν χρόνον ὄντα τὰς τούτων πλάνας͵ πλήθει μὲν ἀμηχάνῳ χρωμένας͵ πεποικιλμένας δὲ θαυμαστῶς· ἔστιν δ΄ ὅμως οὐδὲν ἧττον κατανοῆσαι δυνατὸν ὡς ὅ γε τέλεος ἀριθμὸς χρόνου τὸν τέλεον ἐνιαυτὸν πληροῖ τότε͵ ὅταν ἁπασῶν τῶν ὀκτὼ περιόδων τὰ πρὸς ἄλληλα συμπερανθέντα τάχη σχῇ κεφαλὴν τῷ τοῦ ταὐτοῦ καὶ ὁμοίως ἰόντος ἀναμετρηθέντα κύκλῳ. κατὰ ταῦτα δὴ καὶ τούτων ἕνεκα ἐγεννήθη τῶν ἄστρων ὅσα δι΄ οὐρανοῦ πορευόμενα ἔσχεν τροπάς͵ [39e] ἵνα τόδε ὡς ὁμοιότατον ᾖ τῷ τελέῳ καὶ νοητῷ ζῴῳ πρὸς τὴν τῆς διαιωνίας μίμησιν φύσεως.

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