|THE MASTER READ TO THE PUPILS THE POEMS OF HOMER.|
Anaxagoras, an influential Greek philosopher, was born probably about the year 500 B.C. At his native town of
Clazomenae in Asia Minor, he had, it appears, some amount of property and prospects of political influence,
both of which he surrendered, from a fear that they would hinder his search after knowledge. In early
manhood (c. 464)) he went to Athens, which was rapidly becoming the headquarters of Greek culture. There he is
said to have remained for thirty years. Pericles learned to love and admire him and the poet Euripides derived
from him an enthusiasm for science and humanity. Some authorities assert that even Socrates was among his disciples.
His influence was due partly to his astronomical and mathematical eminence, but still more to the ascetic
dignity of his nature and his superiority to ordinary weaknesses. It was he who brought philosophy and the spirit
of scientific inquiry from Ionia to Athens. His observations of the celestial bodies led him to form new theories
of the universal order, and brought him into collision with the popular faith. He attempted, not without success,
to give a scientific account of eclipses, meteors, rainbows and the sun, which he described as a mass of blazing
metal, larger than the Peloponnesus; the heavenly bodies were masses of stone torn from the earth and ignited by
rapid rotation. The ignorant polytheism of the time could not tolerate such explanation, and the enemies of
Pericles used the superstitions of their countrymen as a means of attacking him in the person of his friend.
Anaxagoras was arrested on a charge of contravening the established dogmas of religion (some say the charge was
one of Medism), and it required all the eloquence of Pericles to secure his acquittal. Even so he was forced
to retire from Athens to Lampsacus (434-433 B.C.), where he died about 428 B.C., honoured and respected
by the whole city.
—Excerpted from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Key events during the life of Anaxagoras:
||Moved from Asia Minor to Athens.
||Teacher and philosphical inspiration of Pericles, Socrates, and Euripides.
||Accused of impiety. Defended by Pericles.
||Exiled to Lampsacus.
||Died in exile.
||Athenian statesman during Golden Age of Athens. Made Athens cultural center of Greece.
||First moral philosopher, immortalized by Plato.
||Third of the great Greek Tragedians. Wrote Alcestis, Medea, Orestes, Electra and many others.