Thales said everything comes from water in the end, just as we say everything is made of atoms in the end.
He was wrong about the water bit, but that style of thinking, of looking for a root natural cause of everything, is still with us and it started with him.
He was on everyone’s list as one of the seven wise men in ancient Greece. So was Solon, the great lawmaker of Athens, who lived at the same time across the Aegean sea. We still have a letter that Thales wrote to him.
Thales was the first to say “Know yourself”. He said it was the hardest thing in the world to do. The best way to make yourself better is to avoid the faults you see in others. Time was the wisest thing of all because it brought all to light.
But Thales was less interested in men than in the stars. He was the first Greek to know when an eclipse would take place. He said there would be one on May 12th -585. On that day, right in the middle of a battle, the moon covered the sun just like he said it would. It made him a wonder in the Greek world.
He wrote little. We know of only two books, both on the motion of the sun: “On the Solstices” and “On the Equinox”. Both are lost.
Perhaps he wrote so little because he was too busy travelling the world to learn all he could: Crete, Egypt, Asia and throughout the Greek-speaking world.
Although to the Greeks he seems to have made great discoveries about the sun, the moon and the stars, it is likely that he “discovered” most of them not in the skies but in talking to the priests of Egypt, who even then had records going back thousands of years.
Even so Thales did not find philosophy and science being practised anywhere in the world. They are his invention. He certainly did not find it in Egypt, a land ruled by priests.
Thales came from Miletus, a town Athens settled on the other side of the Aegean sea. It was then a part of Ionia, which ran down the west coast of what we now call Turkey. It produced most of the early Greek thinkers, even Pythagoras who later moved to Italy. Athens did not become the centre of Greek thought till 200 later in the time of Plato and Socrates.
He once measured the height of a pyramid: he waited till his shadow was as long as he was tall. Then he measured the shadow of the pyramid.
Some say he died by falling into a hole while looking up at the stars.
– Abagond, 2007.
- Greek philosophy
- Ancient Egypt
- Diop: Contribution of Ethiopia-Nubia and Egypt – much of the “Grrek miracle” was columbused from Egypt