The Beginning of Greek Thought: Heracleitus

At Ephesus during the fifth century B.C., writes Colin Davies, the philosophy of Heracleitus combined elements from Eastern visionaries and from Greek rationalism.

Heracleitus was born in Ephesus, a Greek town on the western littoral of Asia Minor, about 540 B.C. After the advancing Persians had destroyed Miletus, the home of Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes, Ephesus became the most powerful city in Asia Minor and renowned as the holy seat of Artemis, a many breasted oriental nature goddess, who was far removed from the Greek ideal of maiden purity.

Into her shrine, it is said, Heracleitus withdrew to escape as a recluse from a democracy of which he disapproved, and under her influence he turned in sympathy toward a perception of nature which was no less mystical than rational, the result as much of a divinely-inspired vision as the conclusions of reasoned analysis.

Yet the earlier cosmo-logists from Miletus could not fail to be a potent influence upon him, so that his resultant philosophy possesses a Janus-like form, at once characteristic of the Eastern visionary and of the Greek rationalist. Viewed in this light, Heracleitus is of unusual interest in any history of philosophy.

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