Selections from Heraclitus


From The Fragments of the Work of Heraclitus of Ephesus on Nature, translated from the Greek text of Bywater by G.T.W. Patrick, Baltimore: N. Murray, 1889

It is wise for those who hear, not me, but the universal Reason, to confess that all things are one.
SOURCES–Hippolytus, Ref. haer. ix. 9. Context:–Heraclitus says that all things are one, divided undivided, created uncreated, mortal immortal, reason eternity, father son, God justice. “It is wise for those who hear, not me, but the universal Reason, to confess that all things are one.” And since all do not comprehend this or acknowledge it, he reproves them somewhat as follows: “They do not understand how that which separates unites with itself; it is a harmony of oppositions like that of the bow and of the lyre” (=frag. 45).
Compare Philo, Leg. alleg. iii. 3, p. 88. Context, see frag: 24.

To this universal Reason which I unfold, although it always exists, men make themselves insensible, both before they have heard it and when they have heard it for the first time. For notwithstanding that all things happen according to this Reason, men act as though they had never had any experience in regard to it when they attempt such words and works as I am now relating, describing each thing according to its nature and explaining how it is ordered. And some men are as ignorant of what they do when awake as they are forgetful of what they do when asleep.
SOURCES–Hippolytus, Ref. haer. ix. 9. Context:–And that Reason always exists, being all and permeating all, he (Heraclitus) says in this manner: “To this universal,” etc.
Aristotle, Rhet. iii. 5, p. 1407,b. 14. Context:–For it is very hard to punctuate Heraclitus’ writings on account of its not being clear whether the words refer to those which precede or to those which follow. For instance, in the beginning of his work, where he says, “To Reason existing always men make themselves insensible.” For here it is ambiguous to what “always” refers.
Sextus Empir. adv. Math. vii. 132.–Clement of Alex. Stromata, v. 14, p. 716.–Amelius from Euseb. Praep. Evang. xi. 19, p. 540.– Compare Philo, Quis. rer. div. haer. 43, p. 505.–Compare Ioannes Sicel. in Walz. Rhett. Gr. vi. p. 95.

Whatever concerns seeing, hearing, and learning, I particularly honor.
SOURCES–Hippolytus, Ref. haer. ix. 9, 10. Context:–And that the hidden, the unseen and unknown to men is [better], he (Heraclitus) says in these words, “A hidden harmony is better than a visible ” (= frag. 47). He thus praises and admires the unknown and unseen more than the known. And that that which is discoverable and visible to men is [better], he says in these words, “Whatever concerns seeing, hearing, and learning, I particularly honor,” that is, the visible above the invisible. From such expressions it is easy to understand him. In the knowledge of the visible, he says, men allow themselves to be deceived as Homer was, who yet was wiser than all the Greeks; for some boys killing lice deceived him saying, “What we see and catch we leave behind; what we neither see nor catch we take with us ” (frag. 1, Schuster). Thus Heraclitus honors in equal degree the seen and the unseen, as if the seen and unseen were confessedly one. For what does he say? “A hidden harmony is better than a visible,” and, “whatever concerns seeing, hearing, and learning, I particularly honor,” having before particularly honored the invisible.”

Ὀφθαλμοὶ τῶν ὤτων ἀκριβέστεροι μάρτυρες.
The eyes are more exact witnesses than the ears.
SOURCES–Polybius xii. 27. Context:–There are two organs given to us by nature, sight and hearing, sight being considerably the more truthful, according to Heraclitus, “For the eyes are more exact witnesses than the ears.”
Compare Herodotus i. 8.

There is one wisdom, to understand the intelligent will by which all things are governed through all.
SOURCES–Diogenes Laert. ix. 1. Context:–See frag. 16.
Plutarch, de Iside 77, p. 382. Context:–Nature, who lives and sees, and has in herself the beginning of motion and a knowledge of the suitable and the foreign, in some way draws an emanation and a share from the intelligence by which the universe is governed, according to Heraclitus.
Compare Cleanthes H. in Iov. 36.
Compare pseudo-Linus, 13 Mullach.

This world, the same for all, neither any of the gods nor any man has made, but it always was, and is, and shall be, an ever living fire, kindled in due measure, and in due measure extinguished.
SOURCES–Clement of Alex. Strom. v. 14, p. 711. Context:–Heraclitus of Ephesus is very plainly of this opinion, since he recognizes that there is an everlasting world on the one hand and on the other a perishable, that is, in its arrangement, knowing that in a certain manner the one is not different from the other. But that he knew an everlasting world eternally of a certain kind in its whole essence, he makes plain, saying in this manner, “This world the same for all,” etc.
Plutarch, de Anim. procreat. 5, p. 1014. Context:–This world, says Heraclitus, neither any god nor man has made; as if fearing that having denied a divine creation, we should suppose the creator of the world to have been some man.
Simplicius in Aristot. de cael. p. 132, Karst.
Olympiodorus in Plat. Phaed. p. 201, Finckh.
Compare Cleanthes H., Iov. 9.
Nicander, Alexiph. 174.
Epictetus from Stob. Floril. cviii. 60.
M. Antoninus vii. 9.
Just. Mart. Apol. p. 93 C.
Heraclitus, Alleg. Hom. 26.

The transmutations of fire are, first, the sea; and of the sea, half is earth, and half the lightning flash.
SOURCES–Clement of Alex. Strom. v. 14, p. 712. Context:–And that he (Heraclitus) taught that it was created and perishable is shown by the following, “The transmutations,” etc.
Compare Hippolytus, Ref. haer. vi. 17.

All things are exchanged for fire and fire for all things, just as wares for gold and gold for wares.
SOURCES–Plutarch, de EI. 8, p. 388. Context:–For how that (scil. first cause) forming the world from itself, again perfects itself from the world, Heraclitus declares as follows, “All things are exchanged for fire and fire for all things,” etc.
Compare Philo, Leg. alleg. iii. 3, p. 89. Context, see frag. 24.
Idem, de Incorr. mundi 21, p. 508.–Lucianus, Vit. auct. 14.
Diogenes Laert. ix. 8.
Heraclitus, Alleg. Hom. 43.
Plotinus, Enn. iv. 8, p. 468.–Iamblichus from Stob. Ecl. i. 41.
Eusebius, Praep. Evang. xiv. 3, p. 720.–Simplicius on Aristot. Phys. 6, a.

The sea is poured out and measured to the same proportion as existed before it became earth.
SOURCES–Clement of Alex. Strom. v. 14, p. 712 (=Eusebius, P. E. xiii. 13, p. 676). Context:–For he (Heraclitus) says that fire is changed by the divine Reason which rules the universe, through air into moisture, which is as it were the seed of cosmic arrangement, and which he calls sea; and from this again arise the earth and the heavens and all they contain. And how again they are restored and ignited, he shows plainly as follows, “The sea is poured out,” etc.

Craving and Satiety.
SOURCES–Hippolytus, Ref. haer. ix. 30. Context:–And he (Heraclitus) says also that this fire is intelligent and is the cause of the government of all things. And he calls it craving and satiety. And craving is, according to him, arrangement (diakosmêsis), and satiety is conflagration (ekpyrôsis). For, he says, ” Fire coming upon all things will separate and seize them ” (= frag. 26).
Philo, Leg. alleg. iii. 3, p. 88. Context:–And the other (scil. ho gonorruês), supposing that all things are from the world and are changed back into the world, and thinking that nothing was made by God, being a champion of the Heraclitic doctrine, introduces craving and satiety and that all things are one and happen by change.
Philo, de Victim. 6, p. 242.
Plutarch, de EI. 9, p. 389.

Fire lives in the death of earth, air lives in the death of fire, water lives in the death of air, and earth in the death of water.
SOURCES–Maximus Tyr. xli. 4, p. 489. Context:–You see the change of bodies and the alternation of origin, the way up and down, according to Heraclitus. And again he says, “Living in their death and dying in their life (see frag. 67). Fire lives in the death of earth” etc.
M. Antoninus iv. 46. Context, see frag. 5.
Plutarch, de EI. 18, p. 392.
Idem, de Prim. frig. 10, p. 949. Comp. pseudo-Linus 21, Mull.

Fire coming upon all things, will sift and seize them.
SOURCES– XXVI.–Hippolytus, Ref. haer. ix. 10. Context, see frag. 24.
Compare Aetna v. 536: quod si quis lapidis miratur fusile robur, cogitet obscuri verissima dicta libelli, Heraclite, tui, nihil insuperabile ab igni, omnia quo rerum naturae semina iacta.
Heraclitus say that “souls smell in Hades.”

Cold becomes warm, and warm, cold; wet becomes dry, and dry, wet.
SOURCES–Schol. Tzetzae, Exeget. Iliad. p. 126, Hermann. Context:–Of old, Heraclitus of Ephesus was noted for the obscurity of his sayings, “Cold becomes warm,” etc.
Compare Hippocrates, peri diaitês i. 21.
Pseudo-Heraclitus, Epist. v.–Apuleius, de Mundo 21.

It disperses and gathers, it comes and goes.
SOURCES–Plutarch, de EI. 18, p. 392. Context, see frag. 41.
Compare pseudo-Heraclitus, Epist. vi.

Into the same river you could not step twice, for other waters are flowing.
SOURCES–Plutarch, Qu. nat. 2, p. 912. Context:–For the waters of fountains and rivers are fresh and new, for, as Heraclitus says, “Into the same river,” etc.
Plato, Crat. 402 A. Context:–Heraclitus is supposed to say that all things are in motion and nothing at rest; he compares them to the stream of a river, and says that you cannot go into the same river twice (Jowett’s transl.).
Aristotle, Metaph. iii. 5, p. 1010 a 13. Context:–From this assumption there grew up that extreme opinion of those just now mentioned, those, namely, who professed to follow Heraclitus, such as Cratytus held, who finally thought that nothing ought to be said, but merely moved his finger. And he blamed Heraclitus because he said you could not step twice into the same river, for he himself thought you could not do so once.
Plutarch, de EI. 18, p. 392. Context:–It is not possible to step twice into the same river, according to Heraclitus, nor twice to find a perishable substance in a fixed state; but by the sharpness and quickness of change, it disperses and gathers again, or rather not again nor a second time, but at the same time it forms and is dissolved, it comes and goes (see frag 40).
Idem, de Sera num. vind. 15, p. 559.
Simplicius in Aristot. Phys. f. 17 a.

†To those entering the same river, other and still other waters flow.†
SOURCES–Arius Didymus from Eusebius, Praep. evang. xv. 20, p. 821. Context:–Concerning the soul, Cleanthes, quoting the doctrine of Zeno in comparison with the other physicists, said that Zeno affirmed the perceptive soul to be an exhalation, just as Heraclitus did. For, wishing to show that the vaporized souls are always of an intellectual nature, he compared them to a river, saying, “To those entering the same river, other and still other waters flow.” And souls are exhalations from moisture. Zeno, therefore, like Heraclitus, called the soul an exhalation.
Compare Sextus Emp. Pyrrh. hyp. iii. 115.

Aristotle, Eth. Eud. vii. 1, p. 1235 a 26. And Heraclitus blamed the poet who said, “Would that strife were destroyed from among gods and men.” For there could be no harmony without sharps and flats, nor living beings without male and female which are contraries.
SOURCES–Plutarch, de Iside 48, p. 370. Context:–For Heraclitus in plain terms calls war the father and king and lord of all (= frag. 44), and he says that Homer, when he prayed–”Discord be damned from gods and human race,” forgot that he called down curses on the origin of all things, since they have their source in antipathy and war.
Chalcidius in Tim. 295.
Simplicius in Aristot. Categ. p. 104 Delta, ed. Basil.
Schol. Ven. (A) ad Il. xviii, 107.
Eustathius ad Il. xviii. 107, p. 1113, 56.

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