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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Triangles

Timaeus 53c - 55d  * Greek Fonts


Page 2

Then let us choose two triangles, out of which fire and the other elements have been constructed, one isosceles, the other having the square of the longer side equal to three times the square of the lesser side.

Now is the time to explain what was before obscurely said: there was an error in imagining that all the four elements might be generated by and into one another; this, I say, was an erroneous supposition, for there are generated from the triangles which we have selected four kinds-three from the one which has the sides unequal; the fourth alone is framed out of the isosceles triangle. Hence they cannot all be resolved into one another, a great number of small bodies being combined into a few large ones, or the converse. But three of them can be thus resolved and compounded, for they all spring from one, and when the greater bodies are broken up, many small bodies will spring up out of them and take their own proper figures; or, again, when many small bodies are dissolved into their triangles, if they become one, they will form one large mass of another kind. So much for their passage into one another. I have now to speak of their several kinds, and show out of what combinations of numbers each of them was formed. The first will be the simplest and smallest construction, and its element is that triangle which has its hypotenuse twice the lesser side. When two such triangles are joined at the diagonal, and this is repeated three times, and the triangles rest their diagonals and shorter sides on the same point as a centre, a single equilateral triangle is formed out of six triangles; and four equilateral triangles, if put together, make out of every three plane angles one solid angle, being that which is nearest to the most obtuse of plane angles; and out of the combination of these four angles arises the first solid form which distributes into equal and similar parts the whole circle in which it is inscribed.

προῃρήσθω δὴ δύο τρίγωνα ἐξ ὧν τό τε τοῦ πυρὸς καὶ τὰ τῶν ἄλλων σώματα μεμηχάνηται͵ τὸ μὲν ἰσοσκελές͵ τὸ δὲ τριπλῆν κατὰ δύναμιν ἔχον τῆς ἐλάττονος τὴν μείζω πλευρὰν ἀεί.  

τὸ δὴ πρόσθεν ἀσαφῶς ῥηθὲν νῦν μᾶλλον διοριστέον. τὰ γὰρ τέτταρα γένη δι΄ ἀλλήλων εἰς ἄλληλα ἐφαίνετο πάντα γένεσιν ἔχειν͵ οὐκ ὀρθῶς φανταζόμενα· [54c] γίγνεται μὲν γὰρ ἐκ τῶν τριγώνων ὧν προῃρήμεθα γένη τέτταρα͵ τρία μὲν ἐξ ἑνὸς τοῦ τὰς πλευρὰς ἀνίσους ἔχοντος͵ τὸ δὲ τέταρτον ἓν μόνον ἐκ τοῦ ἰσοσκελοῦς τριγώνου συναρμοσθέν. οὔκουν δυνατὰ πάντα εἰς ἄλληλα διαλυόμενα ἐκ πολλῶν σμικρῶν ὀλίγα μεγάλα καὶ τοὐναντίον γίγνεσθαι͵ τὰ δὲ τρία οἷόν τε· ἐκ γὰρ ἑνὸς ἅπαντα πεφυκότα λυθέντων τε τῶν μειζόνων πολλὰ σμικρὰ ἐκ τῶν αὐτῶν συστήσεται͵ δεχόμενα τὰ προσήκοντα ἑαυτοῖς σχήματα͵ καὶ σμικρὰ ὅταν αὖ πολλὰ κατὰ τὰ τρίγωνα διασπαρῇ͵ [54d] γενόμενος εἷς ἀριθμὸς ἑνὸς ὄγκου μέγα ἀποτελέσειεν ἂν ἄλλο εἶδος ἕν. ταῦτα μὲν οὖν λελέχθω περὶ τῆς εἰς ἄλληλα γενέσεως· οἷον δὲ ἕκαστον αὐτῶν γέγονεν εἶδος καὶ ἐξ ὅσων συμπεσόντων ἀριθμῶν͵ λέγειν ἂν ἑπόμενον εἴη. ἄρξει δὴ τό τε πρῶτον εἶδος καὶ σμικρότατον συνιστάμενον͵ στοιχεῖον δ΄ αὐτοῦ τὸ τὴν ὑποτείνουσαν τῆς ἐλάττονος πλευρᾶς διπλασίαν ἔχον μήκει· σύνδυο δὲ τοιούτων κατὰ διάμετρον συντιθεμένων καὶ τρὶς τούτου γενομένου͵ [54e] τὰς διαμέτρους καὶ τὰς βραχείας πλευρὰς εἰς ταὐτὸν ὡς κέντρον ἐρεισάντων͵ ἓν ἰσόπλευρον τρίγωνον ἐξ ἓξ τὸν ἀριθμὸν ὄντων γέγονεν. τρίγωνα δὲ ἰσόπλευρα συνιστάμενα τέτταρα κατὰ σύντρεις ἐπιπέδους γωνίας μίαν στερεὰν γωνίαν ποιεῖ͵ [55a] τῆς ἀμβλυτάτης τῶν ἐπιπέδων γωνιῶν ἐφεξῆς γεγονυῖαν· τοιούτων δὲ ἀποτελεσθεισῶν τεττάρων πρῶτον εἶδος στερεόν͵ ὅλου περιφεροῦς διανεμητικὸν εἰς ἴσα μέρη καὶ ὅμοια͵ συνίσταται.

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