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)


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










The archaeological site of Troy is located on the western coast of Anatolia, near the convergence of the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles (ancient Hellespont), the strait that connects the Aegean to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea.

Excavations have revealed 9 main layers of settlement going back 5 thousand years. The Troy immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, which tells the story of the final months of a 10 year siege of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, has been placed in layer VIIa, dated to around 1250 BCE. Scholars generally agree that the Iliad is a fictionalized, mythologized account of an actual conflict, but that the war was most likely over control of the Hellespont and trade access to the Black Sea, rather than the abduction of Helen, the queen of Sparta, as Homer tells it.

Can you name that country? 
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Kayseri Sultan Hani is one of many caravanserais in the Cappadocia region of our mystery country. The Silk Road and other well-traveled trade routes connecting Europe, Asia and North Africa were punctuated with these hostels, which provided shelter for trade caravans. At the caravanserai, merchants found shelter, food and supplies for themselves and their animals, as well as a range of services and plenty of opportunities for networking and deal making. The first caravanserais were built in Anatolia (of which Cappadocia is a part) by Seljuk sultans, who ruled from the 10th to the 13th century. Caravanserais were square or rectangular, with fortress-like walls and a single, often elaborate, portal. Inside, chambers and stalls were arranged around a central courtyard, usually with a small mosque in the center.

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A Solar Eclipse of Peace


Today at Ya’lla Tours HQ in Portland, Oregon, we have just come in from viewing the solar eclipse. It was awesome! Just north of the path of totality, we saw the sun 99% covered.

Some 2500 years ago, the Greek philosopher/scientist Thales of Miletus was the first person ever to predict an eclipse, according to the ancient historian Herodotus. If this is true, it’s a mystery how the prediction was made, as it was another 200 years before the Greeks understood what causes solar eclipses, the moon passing between the earth and the sun.

Legend tells that the Eclipse of Thales occurred during a battle in a long running war between the Medes and the Lydians near the Halys River in what is now Anatolian Turkey. Taking the eclipse as an admonition by the gods, the combatants dropped their weapons and called a truce. Both sides accepted the Halys River as the border between their lands and peace ensued. Based on modern scientific dating, that eclipse, and hence the battle, happened in 585 BCE.



The world’s steepest ancient theater appears to be sliding right off the acropolis of Pergamum. Don’t worry, it has been there for 2,000 years. Just out of the picture, dazzling marble remains are scattered across the mountain top and the Temple of Dionysus, the foundations of the great Alter of Zeus and the agora are terraced into the slope.

Pergamum was an important Greco-Roman city, home to 200,000 people at its peak. The 3rd largest library of antiquity was here and people from all across the Roman world came for health and wellness treatments at the Sanctuary of Asclepius. One of the Seven Churches of Revelation was in Pergamum and it’s a common stop on Christian pilgrimage tours of our mystery country. 

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Pergamum in Turkey

Temple of Trajan, Pergamum, Turkey

Temple of Trajan, Pergamum, Turkey

Pergamum is an ancient Greco-Roman city in western Turkey, about 15 miles from the Aegean coast, 60 miles from Izmir, the closest airport, 110 miles from Ephesus, and about 320 miles from Istanbul. The modern town on the site is Bergama.

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