Cosmos of the Ancients
The Greek Philosophers on Myth and Cosmology
elissus (flourished circa 442 BC) was the student of Parmenides, but also in contact with Heraclitus - that would have been in his early youth, since their flourishing differs some 60 years. To Parmenides, the difference was a little more than 30 years. Melissus wrote one book, the title of which is referred to with different titles in antiquity, one being Concerning Nature or What Is
According to Diogenes Laertius, Melissus said that: "we ought not to make any statements about the gods, for it was impossible to have knowledge of them." Melissus regarded the universe as unlimited and forever the same, also uniform and completely full of matter. Any change or motion was only apparent, not real. Simplicius, who contains all ten Melissus fragments remaining, quotes him saying:
That which was, was always and always will be. For if it had come into being, it necessarily follows that before it came into being, Nothing existed. If however Nothing existed, in no way could anything come into being out of nothing.
By the same method of reasoning he concludes that the world is one, uniform and unlimited, cannot move and cannot change.
Thereby, he would necessarily refuse to accept the cosmogony given in Hesiod, and a portrayal of gods mighty enough to cause genuine change to the world - to add things to it or take things away from it, to disturb its uniformity or set it in motion. With such limitations, there would not be much divine remaining for the gods, and indeed he makes no reference at all to them in his cosmology. Therefore, in stating that it is impossible to have any knowledge of the gods, Melissus may have masked a total disbelief in them behind this somewhat diplomatic thesis, very similar to what had been stated by Protagoras - of the same age as him - in the year 411 BC. There were limits to the tolerance of Greek society, and they could be dangerous indeed to exceed.
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
, translated by R. D. Hicks, volume II, Loeb, London 1950.
Barnes, Jonathan, The Presocratic Philosophers, volume 1, London 1979.
Freeman, Kathleen, Ancilla to The Pre-Socratic Philosophers, Oxford 1952.
© Stefan Stenudd 2000
The Greek Philosophers
Cosmos of the Ancients - the Book
The material on this website about the Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods, is now a book. It can be ordered at the Internet bookstores - printed or as a Kindle ebook. Both contain the footnotes with additional explanations as well as literary sources. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
All about the peaceful Japanese martial art.
A system of jo (staff) and ken (sword) exercises for aikido students.
My paintings, drawings, photos and video art.
My writing - fiction as well as non-fiction.
What the Greek philosophers thought about the cosmos, the gods and the myths.
Myth, its psychology and archetypes.
My blog with random thoughts.
My Other Websites
Myths in general and myths of creation in particular.
Qi (also spelled chi or ki) explained and exercises to increase it.
An encyclopedia of life energy concepts around the world.
The wisdom of Taoism and the Tao Te Ching, its primary source.
The ancient Chinese system of divination and free online reading.
Tarot card meanings in divination and a free online spread.
The complete horoscope and how to read it.
Zodiac sign astrology, explaining each sign and its meaning.
My Facebook page.
My Twitter account.
My Amazon Author page.
My YouTube account with aikido videos.
My YouTube account Aravadia, with art videos and poetry.
My Swedish website.
Click the header to get to the webpage where I present all my books in English. Click an image below to go to that book's page on Amazon.
I'm a Swedish writer
of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist
, an historian of ideas
and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor
. Click the header to read my full bio.