Essay About Particular Thales Of Miletus And Powerful Greek City

Pythagoras and Early Philosophy

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The origin of western philosophy is often identified with the first natural philosophers of Ionia
and in particular Thales of Miletus. Thales visited Egypt, but it was probably the Babylonian
astronomical records that enabled him to predict an eclipse of the sun for the year 585 BC. As
the most powerful Greek city in Asia, he advised Miletus not to form an alliance with Croesus of
Lydia, though it was said that he enabled the Lydian army to cross the Halys River by diverting
part of it into another channel. According to Herodotus, after Croesus was defeated by the Medes
and before the Persian empire took over Greek Ionia, Thales suggested that the Ionians establish
a central seat of government in Teos which would still allow the other cities to enjoy their own
laws.
Aristotle reported that to prove he could make his knowledge practical Thales used his
astrological wisdom to predict an abundant olive crop and hired all the oil presses in Miletus and
Chios when they were cheap and then leased them later at a great profit, showing that
philosophers could become rich; but that is not what they pursue. He learned how to calculate the
height of something by measuring its shadow. Thales speculated that everything was like water,
GREEK CULTURE TO 500 BC
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though he maintained that all things are full of the gods or soul and spirits and that the
intelligence of the universe is divine. One account of how there came to be seven recognized
sages in Greece has it that some fishermen presented a tripod to Delphi, and the oracle told them
to give it to the wisest. So they gave it to Thales, who passed it on to another, who did the same
until it came to Solon, who declared that God is the wisest and sent it to Delphi.
Thales said that most ancient is God, being uncreated; most beautiful: the universe, being Gods
craft; the greatest: space, which holds everything; the swiftest: the mind which speeds
everywhere; the strongest: necessity which masters all; and the wisest: time, which brings
everything to light. Probably believing in the immortality of the soul, Thales held that there is no
difference between life and death. When someone asked then why he did not die, he replied,
“Because there is no difference.” When asked what is difficult, he replied, “To know yourself;”
what is easy: “To give advice to another;” what is most pleasant: “Success;” what is divine: “That

which has neither beginning nor end;” and what is the strangest thing he ever saw: “An aged
tyrant.” 13 When asked how to lead the best and most just life, he said, “By refraining from
doing what we blame in others.” When asked who is happy, he said, “The one with a healthy
body, a resourceful mind, and a docile nature.”14 He advised people to remember their friends
present or absent, to shun ill-gotten gains, not to pride themselves on outward appearance, but to
study to be beautiful in character.
Thales was followed in Miletus by Anaximander, who instead of speculating there is a single
element held that everything is indefinite and infinite. He wrote a book on physics, which is the
Greek word for nature and astonished people by publishing a geographical map of the known
world. In speculating on the laws of the universe Anaximander touched on ethics when he
posited the cosmic principle that everyone pays a penalty of retribution to others for any injustice
according to the assessment of Time. In speculating about the infinite he conceived of
innumerable worlds being born, dissolved, and born again according to the age to which they can
survive. He thought motion was eternal and wondered if humans had been at some time like fish.
Anaximenes in turn studied with Anaximander and later Parmenides. He speculated that air or
moisture is the infinite element though it can be as hot and fine as fire or condense into water,
earth, and stone.
By the early 6th century BC the Greek colonies in Italy had become large and prosperous;
Sybaris with about 100,000 people was perhaps the largest Greek city state then. Often in
conflict with Crotona, the two cities together destroyed the town of Siris in about 530 BC. The
philosopher Pythagoras left Samos shortly after Polycrates became tyrant there and came to
Crotona about 531 BC when he was about forty years old. His father Mnesarchus may have been
a Phoenician or at least went to Tyre to trade, although later Pythagoreans believed that their
teacher was the son of the god Apollo and Pythais. Pythagoras traveled much and was initiated in
various mysteries, perhaps studying with Egyptian priests for as long as twenty years. Iamblichus
in his Life of Pythagoras wrote that he studied with the Syrian Pherecydes as well as
Anaximander and Thales. Later he attended Pherecydes when he was dying.
At Crotona

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