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Xenophanes

Mortals believe that the gods are born


and have human clothing, voice and form.

7.1
Already there are sixty-seven years
tossing my thought throughout the land of Greece.
From my birth there were twenty-five in addition to these,
if I know how to speak truly about these matters.

7.5

7.2

7.6

Give us no fights with Titans, no, nor Giants


nor Centaursthe forgeries of our fathers
nor civil brawls, in which no advantage is.
But always to be mindful of the gods is good.1

If oxen and horses and lions had hands


and were able to draw with their hands and do the same things as men,
horses would draw the shapes of gods to look like horses
and oxen to look like oxen, and each would make the
gods bodies have the same shape as they themselves had.

7.3

Ethiopians say that their gods are flat-nosed and dark,


Thracians that theirs are blue-eyed and red-haired.

7.7

Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all deeds


which among men are a reproach and a disgrace:
thieving, adultery, and deceiving one another.
7.4
1

Xenophanes used to say that those who say that the gods are born are just as impious as
those who say that they die, since in both ways it follows that there is a time when the
gods do not exist. (Aristotle, Rhetoric 2.23 1399b6-9)

This fragment comes at the end of a longer poem (perhaps) attributable to


Xenophanes. The following is Paul Feyerabends translation in the Kenyon Review (1987,
Volume 9, Number 4), Reason, Xenophanes and the Homeric Gods, 13:

7.8

Clean is the floor, clean are the hands and the cups; and the garlands
freshly now woven, are put on the heads by the boy.
Redolent balsam preserved in the phial is brought by another,
exquisite pleasure lies waiting for us in the bowl;
and a different wine, with the promise not ever to bring disappointment,
soft tasting and sweet to the smell stands here in the jar.
And in the center the incense dispenses the holy perfume;
cool water is there, full of sweetness and clear to the eye.
Behold the goldyellow loaves and, on the magnificent tables,
overflowing abundance of cheese and rich honey.
And in the center an altar fully covered with flowers
and festive songs sounding all over the house.
But first it is proper for well disposed men to the god to pay tribute
with words which are pure and stories that fit the occasion;
then, after the common libations and the prayer for strength to act wisely
(the most important concern, preceding all others)
it is not hybris to fill the body with drinkprovided
only the old ones need later a slave to get home.
And I praise the man who, having imbibed, can still remember
how much he achieved and how he followed the virtues.
Let him not tell us of battles conducted by Titans and Giants
or even Centaursthe fantasies of our fathers;
or of civic dissensionnot useful are these events..
But one should always pay respect to the gods.

7.9

It is unholy for any of the gods to have a master.

He always remains in the same place, moving not at all,


nor is it fitting for him to go to different places at different times.
7.10
God is one, greatest among gods and men,
not at all like mortals in body or thought.
7.11
All of him sees, all of him thinks, all of him hears.
7.12
But without effort he shakes all things by the thought of his mind.

7.13

7.20
Some declared the universe to be a single substancenot supposing that what is is one,
like some of the natural philosophers, and generating <the universe> out of the one as out
of matter, but speaking differently, people say it is unchangeableXenophanes, who was
the first of these to preach monismmade nothing clearbut looking off to the whole
heaven he declared that the one is god.
(Aristotle, Metaphysics 1.5 986b10-25)
7.14
She whom they call Iris, this thing too is cloud,
purple and red and yellow to behold.
7.15
Xenophanes says that the things on boats which shine like stars,
which some call the Dioscuri [sons of Zeus],
are little clouds which shine as a result of motion.
7.16
All things that come into being and grow are earth and water.
7.17
Sea is the source of water and the source of wind.
For not without the great ocean would there come to be
in clouds the force of wind blowing out from within,
nor the streams of rivers nor the rain water of the upper sky,
but great ocean is the sire of clouds and winds and rivers.
7.18
Xenophanes declared that the sea is salty because many mixtures flow together in it.He
believes that earth is being mixed into the sea and over time it is being dissolved by the
moisture, saying that he has the following kinds of proofs, that sea shells are found in the
middle of the earth and in mountains, and the impression of fish and seals have been found
in Syracuse in quarries, and the impression of a laurel leaf in the depth of the stone in
Paros, and on Malta flat shapes of all marine life. He says these things occurred when all
things were covered with mud long ago and the impressions were dried in the mud. And
humans are destroyed when earth is carried down into the sea and becomes mud, and then
there is another beginning of coming to be, and this change occurs in all the world orders.
(Hyppolytus, Refutation 1.14.5-6).
7.19
No man has seen nor will anyone know
the truth about the gods and all the things I speak of.
For even if a person should in fact say what is absolutely the case,
nevertheless he himself does not know, but belief is fashioned over all things.

Let things be believed as resembling the truth.


7.21
By no means did the gods reveal all things to mortals from the beginning,
but in time, by searching, they discover better.
7.22
If god had not created yellow honey,
they would say that figs are far sweeter.
9.1
Once he [Xenophanes] passed by as a puppy was being beaten,
the story goes, and in pity said these words:
Stop, dont beat him, since it is the soul of a man, a friend of mine,
which I recognized when I heard it crying.