Aristotle, On Colours

LCL 307: 4-5

Go To Section
Go To Section



791 aI. Ἁπλᾶ τῶν χρωμάτων ἐστὶν ὅσα τοῖς στοιχείοις συνακολουθεῖ, οἷον πυρὶ καὶ ἀέρι καὶ ὕδατι καὶ γῇ. ἀὴρ μὲν γὰρ καὶ ὕδωρ καθ᾿ ἑαυτὰ τῇ φύσει λευκά, τὸ δὲ πῦρ καὶ ὁ ἥλιος ξανθά. καὶ ἡ γῆ δ᾿ ἐστὶ 5φύσει λευκή, παρὰ δὲ τὴν βαφὴν πολύχρους φαίνεται. δῆλον δ᾿ ἐπὶ τῆς τέφρας τοῦτ᾿ ἐστίν· ἐκκαυθέντος γὰρ τοῦ τὴν βαφὴν πεποιηκότος ὑγροῦ λευκὴ γίνεται, οὐ παντελῶς δὲ διὰ τὸ τῷ καπνῷ βεβάφθαι μέλανι ὄντι. διὸ καὶ ἡ κονία ξανθὴ γίνεται, τοῦ φλογοειδοῦς καὶ μέλανος ἐπιχρώζοντος 10τὸ ὕδωρ. τὸ δὲ μέλαν χρῶμα συνακολουθεῖ τοῖς στοιχείοις εἰς ἄλληλα μεταβαλλόντων. τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα ἐκ τούτων εὐσύνοπτα τῇ μίξει κεραννυμένων ἀλλήλοις γίνεται. τὸ δὲ σκότος ἐκλείποντος τοῦ φωτὸς γίνεται.

Τριχῶς γὰρ τὸ μέλαν ἡμῖν φαίνεται. ἢ γὰρ ὅλως τὸ μὴ ὁρώμενόν ἐστι τῇ φύσει μέλαν (ἁπάντων 15γὰρ τῶν τοιούτων ἀνακλᾶταί τι φῶς μέλαν), ἢ ἀφ᾿ ὧν μηδὲν ὅλως φέρεται φῶς πρὸς τὰς ὄψεις· τὸ γὰρ μὴ ὁρώμενον, ὅταν ὁ περιέχων τόπος ὁρᾶται, φαντασίαν ποιεῖ μέλανος. φαίνεται δὲ καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα ἡμῖν ἅπαντα μέλανα, ἀφ᾿ ὅσων ἀραιὸν καὶ ὀλίγον ἰσχυρῶς ἀνακλᾶται τὸ φῶς. διὸ καὶ αἱ 20σκιαὶ φαίνονται μέλαιναι. ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ,


On Colours

Aristotle: On Colours

I. Those colours are simple which belong to the simple colours. elements, fire, air, water and earth. For air and water are naturally white in themselves, while fire and the sun are golden. The earth is also naturally white, but seems coloured because it is dyed. This becomes clear when we consider ashes; for they become white when the moisture which caused their dyeing is burned out of them; but not completely so, for they are also dyed by smoke, which is black. In the same way sand becomes golden, because the fiery red and black tints the water. The colour black belongs to the elements of things while they are undergoing a transformation of their nature. But the other colours are evidently due to mixture, when they are blended with each other. For darkness follows when light fails.

But black appears to us in three ways. In the first, Black. that which is not seen is, generally speaking, black naturally (for any light from such things is reflected as black); or secondly, black is that from which no light is conveyed to the eyes; for that which is not seen, when the surrounding region is seen, gives an impression of black. Thirdly, all things appear black of the kind from which a very small amount of light is reflected. This is why shadows appear to be black.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-colours.1936