ARCHELAUS OF ATHENS (’Αρχελαος)—the last representative of the Ionian school of philosophy of nature, a representative of its period of decline of eclecticism; b. around 450 BC., the teacher of Socrates, he was called the Physicist.
According to Diogenes Laertios, Archelaus brought the Ionian philosophy of nature to Athens, or, what is more likely, his master Anaxagoras brought it to Athens. Archelaus came from Athens or Miletus and was the son of Apollodorus or, according to others, the son of Midon. He was probably concerned with questions, law, beauty, and justice, and he inspired Socrates’ interest in these matters. Archelaus was the first to incorporate some of the accomplishments of the physicists into ethics, in particular the discovery of the subjectivity sensory experiences and their extension to the area of moral convictions (Guthrie). He was the first to distinguish nature from convention in ethics. He removed the feature of non-mixture from Anaxagoras’ concept of mind. He pondered how the world arose. He thought that the separation of primitive elements did non occur as the result of rotation but was the result of condensation and rarefaction as Anaximenes taught. Diels-Kranz cites the following fragment from the Refutation of all heresies, Hippolytus, I, 9: Archelaus said, “that the principle (’αρχη& [arché] is air, and even infinite air, which is the same as mind (νους [nous]). He recognized the mixture of matter in the same way as Anaxagoras and likewise that of the first principles. Mixture is immanently inherent in mind from the very beginning. He held that the beginning of motion is the separation of hot and cold; the hot was in motion, while the cold was at rest (the cold is a knot—δσμος [desmos]—Plutarch, De primo frigido, 954 f 6—probably ice). When water melted from it (under the action of heat), it flowed to the center, and then as it burned away it created earth and air, which was carried upward, and earth took its place below. Hence the earth is immobile and arose for such reasons. It rests in the center of the universe but is not a part of it, but the air that arises from this burning rules everything.”
The nature (φυσις [physis]) of the stars is the first to emerge from the burning. The greatest of the stars is the Sun, then the Moon, and then other lesser and greater bodies. At one time the heaven was pressed down to the Earth. Then the Sun shone upon the Earth and made the air transparent and the Earth dry. The Earth at the beginning was standing water like a marsh, with a high rim and a hollow center. As proof that it is hollow, he notes that the Sun does not rise or set at the same time for everyone, and it should do so if the Earth was flat.
Regarding animals, when at the beginning the Earth was heated in its lower part, when hot and cold were mixed, many living beings and men appeared. All had the same diet. They fed entirely on mud and had short lived. Then some were born from others. Men stood apart from the rest and created rulers, laws, arts, states, and other things. All animals possess innate reason in like manner. All animals also use reason, but some slowly and others quickly.
Diels-Kranz II 322; W. K. C. Guthrie, The Greek Philosophers. From Thales to Aristotle, Lo 1950 (Filozofowie greccy od Talesa do Arystotelesa [Greek philosophers from Thales to Aristotle], Kr 1956, 1996); G. S. Kir, J. E. Raven, M. Schofield, The Presocratic Philosophers, C 1957, 1983² (Filozofia przedsokratejska [Pre-Socratic philosophy], Pz 1999); DLaert II 3–II 4; Reale I (passim).