Fragments and Commentary

The First Philosophers of Greece
(London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1898)

Arthur Fairbanks
editor and translator

Hanover Historical Texts Project
Scanned and proofread by Aaron Gulyas, May 1998
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001
Proofread and validated by Michael Stewart, June 2013


Fragment accredited to Anaximenes
Passages relating to Anaximenes in Aristotle, &c.
Passages relating to Anaximenes in the Doxographists
List of Abbreviations


[Page 17]



ANAXIMENES of Miletos, son of Eurystratos, was the pupil or companion of Anaximandros. According to Apollodoros, quoted by Diogenes, he was born in the sixty-third Olympiad (528-524 B.C.). Diels1 has, however, made it seem probable that this date refers to his prime of life, rather than to his birth. Of his life nothing is known.



Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs, Livre i., Paris 1887, p. 83, 11. 7-10, Olympiodoros. μίαν δε κινουμενην απειρον ἀρχην πάντων των οντων εδοξαζεν Άναξιμενης τον ἀερα. λεγει γαρ ουτως· εγγυς εστιν ὁ ἀηρ του ἀσωμάτου· και οτι κατ' εκροιαν τουτου γινόμεθα, ἀνάγκη αυτον καὶ απειρον εἰναι καὶ πλουσιον δια το μηδέποτε ἐκλείπειν.

   Translation—Anaximenes arrived at the conclusion that air is the one, movable, infinite, first principle of all things. For he speaks as follows: Air is the nearest to an immaterial thing; for since we are generated in

1. Rhein. Mus. xxxi. 27.

[Page 18]

the flow of air, it is necessary that it should be infinite and abundant, because it is never exhausted.1



   Arist. Meteor. ii. 1; 354 a 28. Most of the earlier students of the heavenly bodies believed that the sun did not go underneath the earth, but rather around the earth and this region, and that it disappeared from view and produced night, because the earth was so high toward the north.

   Arist. de Coelo ii. 13; 294 b 13. Anaximenes and Anaxagoras and Demokritos say that the breadth of the earth is the reason why it remains where it is.

   Arist. Meteor. ii. 7; 365 (a 17), b 6. Anaximenes says that the earth was wet, and when it dried it broke apart, and that earthquakes are due to the breaking and falling of hills; accordingly earthquakes occur in droughts, and in rainy seasons also; they occur in drought, as has been said, because the earth dries and breaks apart, and it also crumbles when it is wet through with waters.

   Arist. Metaph. i. 3; 984 a 5. Anaximenes regarded air as the first principle.

1. For a discussion of the above argument, v. Archive f. d. Geschichte d. Phil. i. 315.

[Page 19]



   Theophrastos; Simpl. Phys. 6r 24, 26; Dox. 476. Anaximenes of Miletos, son of Eurystratos, a companion of Anaximandros, agrees with him that the essential nature of things is one and infinite, but he regards it as not indeterminate but rather determinate, and calls it air; the air differs in rarity and in density as the nature of things is different; when very attenuated it becomes fire, when more condensed wind, and then cloud, and when still more condensed water and earth and stone, and all other things are composed of these; and he regards motion as eternal, and by this changes are produced.1

   Hipp. Philos. 7; Dox. 560. Anaximenes, himself a Milesian, son of Eurystratos, said that infinite air is the first principle,2 from which arise the things that have come and are coming into existence, and the things that will be, and gods and divine beings, while other things are produced from these. And the form of air is as follows:—When it is of a very even consistency, it is imperceptible to vision, but it becomes evident as the result of cold or

1. Cf. Arist. Phys. i. 4; and de Coelo iii. 5.

2. V. Epiph. adv. Haer. iii 3; Dox. 589.

[Page 20]

heat or moisture, or when it is moved. It is always in motion; for things would not change as they do unless it were in motion. It has a different appearance when it is made more dense or thinner; when it is expanded into a thinner state it becomes fire, and again winds are condensed air, and air becomes cloud by compression, and water when it is compressed farther, and earth and finally stones as it is more condensed. So that generation is controlled by the opposites, heat and cold. And the broad earth is supported on air;1 similarly the sun and the moon and all the rest of the stars, being fiery bodies,2 are supported on the air by their breadth.3 And stars are made of earth, since exhalations arise from this, and these being attenuated become fire, and of this fire when it is raised to the heaven the stars are constituted. There are also bodies of an earthy nature4 in the place occupied by the stars, and carried along with them in their motion. He says that the stars do not move under the earth as others have supposed, but around the earth,5 just as a cap is moved about the head. And the sun is hidden not by going underneath the earth, but because it is covered by some of the higher parts of the earth, and because of its greater distance from us. The stars do not give forth heat because they are so far away. Winds are produced when the air that has been attenuated is set in motion; and when it comes together and is yet farther condensed, clouds are produced, and so it changes into water. And hail is formed when the water descending from the clouds is frozen; and snow, when these being yet more filled with moisture become frozen;6 and lightning, when clouds are separated by violence of the winds; for when they are separated,

1. Aet. iii. 15; Dox. 380.    2. Aet. ii. 13; 342; ii. 20; 348; ii. 25; 356.

3. Aet. ii. 22; 352.    4. Aet. ii. 13; 342.

5. Aet. ii. 16; 346.    6. Aet. iii. 4; 370.

[Page 21]

the flash is bright and like fire.1 And a rainbow is produced when the sun's rays fall on compressed air;2 and earthquakes are produced when the earth is changed yet more by beating and cooling.3 Such are the opinions of Anaximenes. And he flourished about the first year of the fifty-eighth Olympiad.

   Plut. Strom. 3; Dox. 579. Anaximenes says that air is the first principle of all things, and that it is infinite in quantity but is defined by its qualities; and all things are generated by a certain condensation or rarefaction of it. Motion also exists from eternity. And by compression of the air the earth was formed, and it is very broad; accordingly he says that this rests on air; and the sun and the moon and the rest of the stars were formed from earth. He declared that the sun is earth because of its swift motion, and it has the proper amount of heat.

   Cic. de Nat, Deor. i. 10; Dox. 531. Afterwards Anaximenes said that air is god,4 [and that it arose] and that it is boundless and infinite and always in motion; just as though air without any form could be god, when it is very necessary that god should be not only of some form, but of the most beautiful form; or as though everything which comes into being were not thereby subject to death.

   Aet. i. 3; Dox. 278. Anaximenes of Miletos, son of Eurystratos, declared that air is the first principle of things, for from this all things arise and into this they are all resolved again. As our soul which is air, he says, holds us together, so wind [i.e. breath, πνευμα] and air encompass the whole world. He uses these words 'air' and 'wind' synonymously. He is mistaken in thinking that animals are composed of simple homogeneous

1. Aet. iii. 3; 368.    2. Aet. iii. 5; 373.

3. Cf. Aet. iii. 15; 379 infra and Arist. Meteor. ii. 7, supra.

4. Aet. i. 7; 302.

[Page 22]

air and wind; for it is impossible that one first principle should constitute the substance of things, but an active cause is also necessary; just as silver alone is not enough to become coin, but there is need of an active cause, i.e. a coin-maker; [so there is need of copper and wood and other substances].

   Aet. ii. 1; 327, Anaximenes et al.: Infinite worlds exist in the infinite in every cycle. 4; 331, The world is perishable. 11; 339. The sky is the revolving vault most distant from the earth. 14; 344. The stars are fixed like nailheads in the crystalline (vault). 19; 347. The stars shine for none of these reasons, but solely by the light of the sun. 22; 352. The sun is broad [like a leaf]. 23; 352. The stars revolve, being pushed by condensed resisting air.

   Aet. iii. 10; 377. The form of the earth is like a table. 15; 379. The dryness of the air, due to drought, and its wetness, due to rainstorms, are the causes of earthquakes.

   Aet. iv. 3; 387. Anaximenes et al.: The soul is like air in its nature.



Simp. Phys. = Simplicii in Aristotelis physicarum libros qua ores edidit H. Diels, Berlin 1882.

Simp. Cael. = Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle's De caelo.

Dox. = Diels, Doxographi Graeci, Berlin 1879.


Hanover Historical Texts Project

Hanover College Department of History

Please send comments to: historians@hanover.edu