1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pherecydes of Syros

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PHERECYDES OF SYROS, Greek philosopher (or rather philosophical theologian), flourished during the 6th century B.C. He was sometimes reckoned one of the Seven Wise Men, and is said to have been the teacher of Pythagoras. With the possible exception of Cadmus (q.v.) of Miletus, he was the first Greek prose-writer He belonged to the circle of Peisistratus at Athens, and was the founder of an Orphic community. He is characterized as " one of the earhest Representatives of a half-critical, half-credulous eclecticism" (Gomperz). He was credited with having originated the doctrine of metempsychosis (q.v), while Cicero and Augustine assert that he was the first to teach the immortality of the soul. Of his astronomical studies he left a proof in the "heliotropion," a cave at Syros which served to determine the annual turning-point of the sun, like the grotto of Posillipo (Posilipo, Posilippo) at Naples, and was one of the sights of the island.

In his cosmogonic treatise on nature and the gods, called Πεντέμυχος (Preller's correction of Suidas, who has ἐπτάμυχος) from the five elementary or original principles (aether, fire, air water, earth; Gomperz substitutes smoke and darkness for aether and earth), he enunciated a system in which science allegory and mythology were blended. In the beginning were Chronos, the principle of time, Zeus (Zas), the principle of life, and Chthonié, the earth goddess. Chronos begat fire, a and water, and from these three sprang numerous other god . Smoke and darkness appear in a later tradition. A fragment of the "sacred marriage" of Zas and Chthon.e was found on an Egyptian papyrus at the end of the 19th century.

See H. Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (1903); also O. Kern, De Orphei, Epimeniais, Pherecydis theogoniis (1888), D. Speliotopoulos, Περι Φ ρεκύδου τοῦ Συρί υ (Athens, 1890); T. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers (Eng trans), i 85, B. P. Grenfell, New Classical Fragments (1897) H. Weil, Etudes sur l'antiquité grecgue (1900).