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Cosmos of the Ancients

Comsos of the Ancients

The Greek Philosophers on Myth and Cosmology



Table of Greek Philosophers


Chronology

Flourished Philosopher Student of Theory
585 BC
571 BC
546 BC
540 BC
542 BC
530 BC
525 BC
510 BC
502 BC
480 BC
475 BC
460 BC
450 BC
450 BC
443 BC
442 BC
441 BC
440 BC
425 BC
ca 430 BC
ca 420 BC
415 BC
406 BC
ca 400 BC
387 BC
344 BC
301 BC
290 BC
Thales
Anaximander
Anaximenes
Pherecydes
Pythagoras
Xenophanes
Theagenes
Hecataeus
Heraclitus
Pindar
Parmenides
Anaxagoras
Empedocles
Herodotus
Gorgias
Melissus
Protagoras
Euripides
Prodicus
Leucippus
Democritus
Critias
Antisthenes
Diagoras
Plato
Aristotle
Epicurus
Euhemerus
Egyptians
Thales?
Anaximander
Pittacus
Pherecydes
none?
?
?
none
Apollodorus
Xenophanes?
Anaximenes
Pythagoras
?
Empedocles
Parmenides
Democritus?
?
Protagoras
Zeno
Leucippus
Socrates
Gorgias/Socrates
Democritus
Socrates
Plato
Nausiphanes
?
monotheistic
astronomical
astronomical
allegorical
mathematical
monotheistic
allegorical
misunderstandings
atheistic
polytheistic
allegorical
monotheistic
allegorical
polytheistic
nihilistic
atheistic?
agnostic?
polytheistic
atheistic
atheistic
atheistic
atheistic
monotheistic?
atheistic
monotheistic
monotheistic
astronomical
historical


Table of Greek philosophers

A bove is a simple table of the Greek philosophers treated above, giving their year of flourishing, their teacher, and a keyword to what type of theory they had regarding the gods and the myths about them.



       In many cases the year of their prime, as well as that of their birth and death, is rather uncertain - if very much so, I have noted it with a question mark. Sometimes there is also uncertainty as to whether they actually were students of the teachers mentioned, but when this is generally assumed I have just repeated the information, and when it is doubted by the scholars, I have again used the question mark. Finally, regarding the keyword for their theory on the divine and its mythology, I have allowed myself to use my own interpretation, which has sometimes been easy enough, in other cases the result of deduction with more or less solid support. Question marks note such cases, where the support for a certain wording is weak indeed, but no other category would fit any better.

       Monotheistic signifies a view putting some kind of singular divine will at the top of it all, and accordingly lessening the importance of any other divinities, if not excluding them completely.

       Astronomical is the view where divine forces are not at all pictured as instrumental in the making or continued process of the world.

       Allegorical is the view which sees some more or less divine doings behind the myths and the gods mentioned in them, but not in the way they are recounted in those myths - natural forces as well as divine principles are dressed in anthropomorphic costumes, but this does not necessarily mean that there are no divine beings at all.

       Mathematical is that type of theory which sees natural laws, much like the astronomical view, behind the creation and workings of the world, and in essence this type could easily be included among the astronomical ones, finding a world order independent of gods but nonetheless governed by universal principles.

       Misunderstandings are stated in many theories, also those given other keywords here, but when the term is used it signifies that nothing else is determined about the gods - Hecataeus, sole representative of this theory, is not recorded with any more elaborate cosmological opinion, so it would not be inaccurate to enclose his view within those of allegorical nature.

       Atheistic is that theory which refuses to accept any divine superiority above, any gods handling the world, or any other divine principle ruling the order of the universe.

       Polytheistic is a view including a number of gods, not necessarily those of Homer and Hesiod, but mostly so, and therefore this is the theory being closest to the cosmology of those two writers, in the listing below.

       Nihilistic theory might very well be included in the atheistic group, though going much further than those, by stating that nothing certain can at all be said about such matters.

       Agnostic I call the view which is uncertain, questioning the existence of the gods, but not denying it, doubting their roles in the making of the world, but not deeming it impossible.

       Historical, finally, is the theory that the gods and myths about them have historical explanations, not divine at all, which is the principle of euhemerism.

       By these definitions the statistics of the philosophers speak clearly. Out of 28 persons, only three are overall loyal to the mythology of Homer and Hesiod, being labeled polytheistic in the table below. As many as seven - the largest group - are atheistic, or eight if the nihilistic is included. To this group one would also be able to add the astronomical, mathematical and historical, giving little room for any gods, whereby it adds up to thirteen, almost half of all the philosophers included. The next to biggest group is the monotheistic, containing six names, and then the allegorical of four. It would not, from this simple table, be daring to state that the belief of the Greek philosophers in their gods was waning, if at all any stronger to begin with. They definitely both respected and utilized the myths, in most cases, but believe in them they did not.

© Stefan Stenudd 2000






The Greek Philosophers.

The Greek Philosophers


Introduction
Thales
Anaximander
Anaximenes
Pherecydes of Syros
Pythagoras
Xenophanes
Theagenes
Hecataeus
Heraclitus
Pindar
Parmenides
Anaxagoras
Empedocles
Herodotus
Gorgias
Melissus
Protagoras
Euripides
Prodicus of Ceos
Leucippus
Democritus
Critias
Antisthenes
Diagoras of Melos
Plato
Aristotle
Epicurus
Euhemerus
Table of the Greek Philosophers
Literature
The book


Aristotle

Aristotle


Aristotle's Life
Timeline
Aristotle's Poetics
Aristotle's Cosmology


Cosmos of the Ancients, by Stefan Stenudd.

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.



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