Heaven and Earth in Ancient Greek Cosmology

From Thales to Heraclides Ponticus

  • Dirk L. Couprie

Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 374)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxxii
  2. Archaic Astronomy and the World-Picture of a Flat Earth

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Dirk L. Couprie
      Pages 3-14
    3. Dirk L. Couprie
      Pages 15-49
    4. Dirk L. Couprie
      Pages 63-67
    5. Dirk L. Couprie
      Pages 69-78
    6. Dirk L. Couprie
      Pages 79-86
  3. Anaximander and the Discovery of Space

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 87-87
    2. Dirk L. Couprie
      Pages 89-97
    3. Dirk L. Couprie
      Pages 153-160
  4. The Completion of the New World-Picture and the Debate on the Shape of the Earth

  5. Back Matter
    Pages 231-261

About this book


In Miletus, about 550 B.C., together with our world-picture cosmology was born. This book tells the story. In Part One the reader is introduced in the archaic world-picture of a flat earth with the cupola of the celestial vault onto which the celestial bodies are attached. One of the subjects treated in that context is the riddle of the tilted celestial axis. This part also contains an extensive chapter on archaic astronomical instruments. Part Two shows how Anaximander (610-547 B.C.) blew up this archaic world-picture and replaced it by a new one that is essentially still ours. He taught that the celestial bodies orbit at different distances and that the earth floats unsupported in space. This makes him the founding father of cosmology. Part Three discusses topics that completed the new picture described by Anaximander. Special attention is paid to the confrontation between Anaxagoras and Aristotle on the question whether the earth is flat or spherical, and on the battle between Aristotle and Heraclides Ponticus on the question whether the universe is finite or infinite.

“In this book, Dirk L. Couprie presents his efforts at clarifying the views of the pioneers of theoretical cosmology. It covers the crucial period from about the middle of the sixth until the middle of the fourth century B.C., with its focus on the magnificent figure of Anaximander. The book by Dirk Couprie constitutes an important and in several respects indispensable contribution to this field.”

Dmitri Panchenko

St. Petersburg State University


Anaximander’s cosmology Ancient Greek philosophy Cosmic Architecture Heraclides Ponticus and the Infinite Universe Solar Eclipe of 585 BC Thales’ theories on shape of the earth dodecahedron model for the sky first definition of the dodecahedron first map of the Earth the dimensions of the Universe

Authors and affiliations

  • Dirk L. Couprie
    • 1
  1. 1.LimburgNetherlands

Bibliographic information