Anaxagŏras in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Anaxagŏras (Ἀναξαγόρας). A Greek philosopher, of Clazomenae in Asia Minor, born about B.C. 500. Sprung from a noble family, but wishing to devote himself entirely to science, he gave up his property to his kinsmen, and removed to Athens, where he lived in intimacy with the most distinguished men-above all with Pericles. Shortly before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War he was charged by the political opponents of Pericles with impiety, i.e. with denying the gods recognized by the State; and, though acquitted through his friend's influence, he felt compelled to emigrate to Lampsacus, where he died soon after, aged seventy-two. He not only had the honour of giving philosophy a home at Athens, where it went on flourishing for quite a thousand years, but he was the first philosopher who, by the side of the material principle, introduced a spiritual, which gives the other life and form. He laid down his doctrine in a work "On Nature" in the Ionic dialect, of which only fragments are preserved. Like Parmenides, he denied the existence of birth or death; the two processes were rather to be described as a mingling and unmingling. The ultimate elements of combination are indivisible, imperishable primordia of infinite number, and differing in shape, colour, and taste, called by himself "seeds of things," and by later writers (from an expression of Aristotle) ὁμοιομέρεια, i. e. particles of like kind with each other and with the whole that is made up of them. At first these lay mingled without order; but the divine spirit-νοῦς, pure, passionless reason-set the unarranged matter into motion, and thereby created out of chaos an orderly world. This movement, proceeding from the centre, works on forever, penetrating farther and farther the infinite mass. But the application of the spiritual principle was rather indicated than fully carried out by Anaxagoras: he himself commonly explains phenomena by physical causes, and only when he cannot find these, falls back on the action of divine reason. The fragments of his most important work were edited by Schaubach (1827), and by Schorn (1829). See also Beckel, Anaxagorae Doctrina de Rebus Animatis (Münster, 1868), and Ueberweg, Hist. of Philosophy, vol. i. pp. 63-67 (Eng. trans., N. Y. 1872). For criticism of Anaxagoras by Lucretius, see the De Rerum Natura, i. 830-920.