aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Heraclitus (the Allegorist), Homeric Problems 12.3-5

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Heraclitus outlines the theory of the ‘music of the spheres’, which he has just claimed Homer knew about and alluded to in the Iliad.

εἰσὶ γὰρ, εἰσί τινες οὐράνιοι μεθ’ ἁρμονίας ἐμμελοῦς ἦχοι κατὰ τὴν ἀίδιον φορὰν ἀποψαλλόμενοι, μάλιστα δὲ τῆς ἡλιακῆς περιόδου συντόνως φερομένης. οὐ γὰρ δήπου ῥάβδῳ μὲν ὑγρᾷ πλήξας τις εἰκῇ τὸν ἀέρα καὶ λίθον ἀπὸ σφενδόνης ἀφεὶς ῥοίζους ἀποτελεῖ καὶ συριγμὸν οὕτω βαρύφθογγον, τηλικούτων δὲ σωμάτων ἠ κυκλοπόρος βία δρόμοις ἀπ’ ἀνατολῆς εἰς δύσιν ἁρματηλατουμένη μεθ’ ἡσυχίας τὸν σφοδρὸν ὁδοιπορεῖ δρόμον. τούτους δὲ τοὺς διηνεκῶς ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ τελουμένους φθόγγους ἀγνοοῦμεν ἢ διὰ τὴν ἀπὸ πρώτης γονῆς συνήθειαν ἐνδελεχῶς ἐνοικοῦσαν ἡμῖν, ἢ διὰ τὴν ἄμετρον ὑπερβολὴν τοῦ διαστήματος ἐκλυομένου τοῦ ψόφου τῷ διείργοντι μέτρῳ.

For there are – yes there are – certain celestial sounds, accompanied by tuneful concords which are produced by the [spheres’] everlasting motion, especially when the sun’s orbit is more taut. Now when one beats the air at random with a pliant stick, or throws a stone from a sling, it produces whirring sounds and a loud-twanging whistling; the force of the circular movement of such massive bodies, as it drives its course from rising to setting, does not make its vast journey in silence. But we are unaware of these sounds which are produced perpetually in the heavens, either because of our being accustomed to them continuously from the moment of our birth, or because of the measureless expanse of the distance, which causes the sound to be broken up in the intervening span.

Written by aleatorclassicus

July 22, 2011 at 12:00 PM

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