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what is its position relatively to the other physical elements. (For

there is no question as to the relation of the bulk of the earth to

the size of the bodies which exist around it, since astronomical

demonstrations have by this time proved to us that it is actually

far smaller than some individual stars. As for the water, it is not

observed to exist collectively and separately, nor can it do so

apart from that volume of it which has its seat about the earth: the

sea, that is, and rivers, which we can see, and any subterranean water

that may be hidden from our observation.) The question is really about

that which lies between the earth and the nearest stars. Are we to

consider it to be one kind of body or more than one? And if more

than one, how many are there and what are the bounds of their regions?

We have already described and characterized the first element, and

explained that the whole world of the upper motions is full of that


This is an opinion we are not alone in holding: it appears to be

an old assumption and one which men have held in the past, for the

word ether has long been used to denote that element. Anaxagoras, it

is true, seems to me to think that the word means the same as fire.

For he thought that the upper regions were full of fire, and that

men referred to those regions when they spoke of ether. In the

latter point he was right, for men seem to have assumed that a body

that was eternally in motion was also divine in nature; and, as such a

body was different from any of the terrestrial elements, they

determined to call it 'ether'.

For the um opinions appear in cycles among men not once nor twice,

but infinitely often.

Now there are some who maintain that not only the bodies in motion

but that which contains them is pure fire, and the interval between

the earth and the stars air: but if they had considered what is now

satisfactorily established by mathematics, they might have given up

this puerile opinion. For it is altogether childish to suppose that

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