n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - Elemental imagery in Solon

Volume 58, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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This article discusses Solon's use of elemental imagery, that is, imagery that involves the elements of the inanimate natural world or cosmos. A century after Solon, Empedocles (. 490-. 430), developed the theory of the four constituent elements of the cosmos: earth, air, fire, water. The 'cosmology' with which Solon was familiar was that of Homer and Hesiod, but he was almost certainly also aware of the theories of his contemporaries, the natural philosophers of Ionia during the 6th century BC, and may even have influenced their ideas. They were already conceiving the universe in terms of these elements. It is therefore not surprising to encounter these elements in his poetry, albeit mainly as imagery. The texts examined are: Frr. 13 W (1 G-P) 14-15: fire; 36 W (30 G-P) 3-7 and 43 W (37 G-P): earth; 9 W (12 G-P) 1-4 and 12 W (13 G-P): water, sea, snow and hail; and 13 W (1 G-P) 16-25: air or wind.

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