[Aristotle], On the Cosmos

LCL 400: 346-347

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[Aristotle]

391 a τοῖς τε ἀνθρώποις προφητεύουσα. τοῦτο δὲ ἔπαθε, καθ᾿ ὅσον οἷόν τε ἦν, πᾶσιν ἀφθόνως μεταδοῦναι βουληθεῖσα τῶν παρ᾿ αὑτῇ τιμίων. διὸ καὶ τοὺς μετὰ σπουδῆς διαγράψαντας ἡμῖν ἑνὸς τόπου φύσιν ἢ μιᾶς σχῆμα πόλεως ἢ ποταμοῦ μέγεθος 20ἢ ὄρους κάλλος, οἷά τινες ἤδη πεποιήκασι, φράζοντες οἱ μὲν τὴν Ὄσσαν, οἱ δὲ τὴν Νύσσαν,1 οἱ δὲ τὸ Κωρύκιον ἄντρον, οἱ δὲ ὁτιοῦν ἔτυχε τῶν ἐπὶ μέρους, οἰκτίσειεν ἄν τις τῆς μικροψυχίας, τὰ τυχόντα ἐκπεπληγμένους καὶ μέγα φρονοῦντας ἐπὶ 25θεωρίᾳ μικρᾷ. τοῦτο δὲ πάσχουσι διὰ τὸ ἀθέατοι τῶν κρειττόνων εἶναι, κόσμου λέγω καὶ τῶν ἐν κόσμῳ μεγίστων· οὐδέποτε γὰρ ἂν τούτοις γνῆσίως 391 bἐπιστήσαντες ἐθαύμαζόν τι τῶν ἄλλων, ἀλλὰ πάντα αὐτοῖς τὰ ἄλλα μικρὰ κατεφαίνετο ἂν καὶ οὐδενὸς ἄξια πρὸς τὴν τούτων ὑπεροχήν.

Λέγωμεν δὴ ἡμεῖς καί, καθ᾿ ὅσον ἐφικτόν, θεολογῶμεν περὶ τούτων συμπάντων, ὡς ἕκαστον 5ἔχει φύσεως καὶ θέσεως καὶ κινήσεως. πρέπειν δέ γε οἶμαι καὶ σοί, ὄντι ἡγεμόνων ἀρίστῳ, τὴν τῶν μεγίστων ἱστορίαν μετιέναι, φιλοσοφίᾳ τε μηδὲν μικρὸν ἐπινοεῖν, ἀλλὰ τοῖς τοιούτοις δώροις δεξιοῦσθαι τοὺς ἀρίστους.

2. Κόσμος μὲν οὖν ἐστι σύστημα ἐξ οὐρανοῦ καὶ 10γῆς καὶ τῶν ἐν τούτοις περιεχομένων φύσεων. λέγεται δὲ καὶ ἑτέρως κόσμος ἡ τῶν ὅλων τάξις τε καὶ διακόσμησις, ὑπὸ θεοῦ2 τε καὶ διὰ θεὸν3 φυλαττομένη.

  • 1Νύσσαν Lor.: Νύσαν Bekk.
  • 2θεοῦ codd. Stob. Lor.: θεῶν codd. al. Bekk.
  • 3θεὸν codd. Lor.: θεῶν codd. al. Stob. Bekk.
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On The Cosmos

grasped things divine, and interpreted them for mankind. This came about because it wished to impart to all unsparingly, as far as possible, a share of its own privileges. So those who have earnestly described to us the nature of a single place, or the plan of a single city, or the size of a river, or the beauty of a mountain, as some have done before now—some of them tell us of Ossa, some of Nyssa, others of the Corycian cave,a or whatever other detail it happens to be—all these might well be pitied for their meanness of spirit, since they are overawed by commonplaces and pride themselves on insignificant observations. The reason is that they are blind to the nobler things—I mean the cosmos and the greatest features of the cosmos. For if they once genuinely gave their attention to these things, they would never wonder at any other; everything else would appear small and worthless to them, in comparison with the matchless superiority of these.

Let us, then, take up the subject, and so far as they are attainable let us theologizeb about all the greatest features of the cosmos, discussing the nature, position and motion of each. It is right, I think, that even you, the best of princes, should undertake the study of the greatest things, and that philosophy should have no humble intentions, but should greet the most excellent men with worthy gifts.

2. Cosmos, then, means a system composed of heaven and earth and the elements contained in them.c In another sense, cosmos is used to signify the orderly arrangement of the universe, which is preserved by God and through God. The centre of

  • aCf. Pausanias x. 32. 2.
  • bCf. Introduction, p. 334.
  • cSo also Chrysippus ap. Arius Didymus fr. 31 (Diels, Dox. Graec. pp. 465–466), and Posidonius ap. Diog. Laert. vii. 138.
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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-cosmos.1955