Anaxagoras, Greek Philosopher

500-428 BC

Born in Clazomene, Asia, Anaximander was the first philosopher to settle in Athens where he founded a school. There he was to teach for 30 years, but after upsetting the Athenians by claiming that the heavenly bodies were made of the same material as Earth, that the Sun was a glowing mass at least the size of the Peloponnese and that the Moon might be inhabited he was charged with impiety and sentenced to death.

Pericles managed to change the penalty to ostracism, and the philosopher returned to Asia Minor where he died. According to an anecdote he wanted the local children to be free to play on the day of his death.

We do not have much of Anaxagoras' work, but we know that he wrote a book on nature, Peri Physeos ("On Nature"). There he explained that all matter originally exists as atoms or molecules, tiny units that had always existed.

He was the first to introduce the idea of nous ("mind or reason"). Where the previous philosophers had been interested in the four elements, Anaxagoras thought that the nous had organised the chaotic atoms and thus creating order. These ideas were to inspire both Aristotle and Democritus.

"Men would live exceedingly quiet if these two words, mine and thine were taken away"

"Everything has a natural explanation. The moon is not a god but a great rock and the sun a hot rock."

"It is not I who have lost the Athenians, but the Athenians who have lost me"

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