Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes, Turn and Face the Strain – the World View of Pre-Socratic Philosopher Heraclitus

In the ancient Greek world, pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus was among the very first “natural philosophers,” those who sought understanding of the physical world through observation. Before these thinkers, the mechanics of nature were attributed to the actions of the gods.

Heraclitus was a citizen of Ephesus, a Greek city on the Ionian coast, today western Anatolia in Turkey. He was part of a wave of revolutionary thought that rose up out of western Anatolia in the 5th and 6th centuries BCE. Other important thinkers from that time and place include Thales, Anaximander, Anaxagoras and Anaximenes.

All that we know of Heraclitus comes down through later philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, who referenced and quoted him extensively in their writings. Collections of his ideas are published as “Fragments,” presumably of a more complete body of work, now lost.

Heraclitus believed that the universe and everything in it is in an eternal state of becoming and that change is the only constant. His most famous and emblematic aphorism is that a person can never step into the same river twice, meaning that the person and the river will be different each time they meet.

You cannot step twice into the same rivers; for fresh waters are flowing in upon you. (12)
We step and do not step into the same rivers; we are and are not. (49a)

He understood the universe to be composed of the union of opposites striving for harmony, each reliant on the other for its existence. The interaction of united opposites  provides the primary universal order, which Heraclitus called logos and symbolized with fire. In this world, conflict is a natural and essential process to all being and exists on a continuum with reconciliation.

The way up and the way down is one and the same. (60)

In the circumference of a circle the beginning and the end are common. (103)

Men do not know how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tension, like that of the bow and the lyre. (51)

Couples are things whole and not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one. (10)

God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger; but he takes various shapes, just as fire, when it is mingled with spices, is named according to the savour of each. (67)

We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away through strife. (80)

It is sickness that makes health pleasant and good; hunger, satiety; weariness, rest. (111)

Heraclitus expressed little confidence in either the perceptive powers or the intelligence of his fellow humans. While acknowledging that the truth of things was hidden, he despaired that most people were unable to comprehend the truth even when pointed out to them. He is sometimes referred to as the Weeping Philosopher, partly due to his intellectual isolation. As an arrogant misanthrope, he probably didn’t have many friends, which also may have led to some tears.

Nature loves to hide. (123)

Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men, if they have souls that understand not their language. (107)

The many do not take heed of such things as those they meet with, nor do they mark them when they are taught, though they think they do. (17)

Fools when they do hear are like the deaf; of them, does the saying bear witness that they are absent when present. (34)

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The fragments used in this post are all from the John Burnet translation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAME THAT COUNTRY

Ancient Corinth was an important city in our mystery country. Located on a sliver of land connecting the mainland with the Peloponnesian peninsula, it was a thriving center of trade and maintained a large navy. The Apostle Paul spent time in Corinth and two of his letters, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, are addressed to the church there.

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Pensive Athena, 5th-century BCE relief sculpture from the acropolis in the name-sake city-state of this goddess of wisdom, justice, civilization, the arts and warfare, among other things. The Acropolis Museum holds hundreds of artefacts from over a thousand years of history beginning around the 7th century BCE, when urban centers began to form around the country. About 1/2 of the sculptures from the Parthenon are on display, including 165 feet of the frieze.

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NAME THAT COUNTRY

The fresco pictured above is from Akrotiri, a Minoan city that was buried in ash from one of the largest volcanic eruptions ever recorded. This site is known as the “Pompeii” of our mystery country. Unlike Pompeii, it seems the inhabitants of Akrotiri had time to evacuate, as no human remains have been found at the site.

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Charming Nafplion has a reputation as one of the prettiest towns in our mystery country, and that’s saying a lot. It’s located on the Peloponnese, a large peninsula  to the southwest of the mainland. Nafplion is often a gateway stop for tours of the Peloponnese, which continue on to historical sites such as Mycenae, Epidaurus and Olympia.

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Paros Island, Greece

Parikia port, Paros Island, Greece

Parikia port, Paros Island, Greece

Paros, Greece is the second largest island in the Cyclades group, after Naxos. It’s located just 5 miles from Naxos across a windy choppy channel. The waters of this windy, choppy channel are excellent for windsurfing and kiteboarding. Paros beaches frequently host international windsurfing events.

Since antiquity, Paros was known for the fine, translucent-white marble mined from the island’s interior mountain. Today the mines are closed but Parian marble buildings, monuments, statues and streets still stand all over Greece and around the Mediterranean.

Manto Mavrogenous, heroine of Greek independence, lived on Paros. As a wealthy young woman, she financed land and sea campaigns against the ruling Ottomans and lobbied her rich friends across Europe to support the revolution. Her house in Parikia is a historical monument.

The main village of Paros, Parikia, is situated on the western coast and is a hub for Aegean ferry traffic. This lovely town manages to be both lively and mellow, with plenty going on but no urgency to be found. Visitors are welcomed like old friends.  Restaurants serving just-caught seafood line the busy port and provide front-row viewing of the fishing boats as they come and go. Aimless wandering in the bougainvilleaed Cycladic streets is the best way to experience Parikia.You’ll find lots of fun shops, friendly locals and not as many tourists as nearby Mykonos.

Don’t miss the 4th-century Panagia Ekatontapilani (Church of 100 doors), built on the order of St. Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine, according to legend.

Naoussa, Paros Island, Greece

Naoussa, Paros Island, Greece

On the north coast of the island, the fishing village of Naoussa maintains its authentic character while catering to crowds of tourists. Pick any one of the many restaurants that cluster around the postcard-perfect port and you’re sure to have a superb, thoroughly Greek meal. Follow any street into the inner village to find the cheery embrace of Cycladic buildings perfectly packed around gentle, marbled alleys.

Lefkes, Paros Island, Greece

Lefkes, Paros Island, Greece

Drive (or take a bus) about 7 miles inland from Parikia to Lefkes, a beautiful little mountain village, a world (and seemingly a few centuries) away from the bustle of the coast. Lefkes looks out over the island from its perch at 1,000 feet. Cars are not allowed inside the village but there are parking lots on the perimeter. Neat Cycladic and Venetian buildings ease down the hillside at the foot of the tranquil, no-nonsense Church of Agia Triada, which watches over the town like a mother hen.

Byzantine Road, Paros Island, Greece

Byzantine Road, Paros Island, Greece

For hikers, the Byzantine Road is an easy walk on a section of one of the 1,000-year-old paved roads that connected Lefkes, then the capital, to points around the island. The best-known walk is from Lefkes eastward to the village of Prodromos, about 2.5 miles. For a longer walk, carry on another 4 miles (approximately) eastward from Prodromos through Marpissa to the coastal village of Piso Livadi. You can catch a bus back to Lefkes or Parikia.