Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/361

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
357
THE IDEA OF SPIRIT IN GREEK THOUGHT

THE BIRTH OF THE IDEA OF SPIRIT IN GREEK THOUGHT
By President MARY MILLS PATRICK, Ph.D.

THE AMERICAN COLLEGE FOR GIRLS, CONSTANTINOPLE

THE ideal side of life came into Greek consciousness on the eastern shore of the blue Mediterranean, under the shadow of Mt. Ida, in sunny Ionia with its fertile plains and luxuriant verdure and its rich and brilliant cities.

The poets were its forerunners, Homer, Alkaeus, Sappho and Anakreon. First there were the wandering poets, and then a school of poetry arose in the many tinted isle of Mitylene with Sappho at its head at the end of the seventh century, a school which was compared in antiquity to the circle of Sokrates. Schools of philosophy followed in Miletos, that hot-house of intellect, and later on in Ephesos, where Sappho and Herakleitos were born. We do not know whether these schools were organized Thiasai, dedicated to the goddesses like the school of Pythagoras in southern Italy and the Greek schools of philosophy of a later age, but it may well have been so, for in Ionia as in Greece there was a 'shrine at every turn of the mountain path, and a religious ceremony for every act of daily life.'

On the southern shore of the Gulf of Smyrna, opposite the river Hermus, with Mitylene in the distance across the sea, was the city of Klazomenai, the modern Voorla. There Anaxagoras was born, who was the first among the Greeks to evolve the idea of spirit as a philosophical principle. Yet like all great ideas, this one, perhaps the greatest, was vague and uncertain in its first appearance. Anaxagoras belonged to the school of Anaximenes of Miletos. Miletos lay only a few miles south of Klazomenai on the shore of another picturesque gulf of the eastern Mediterranean, and from the time of Thales it had been a center of philosophic thought. Theophrastos states that Anaxagoras was an 'associate of the philosophy of Anaximenes,' but these two great thinkers were not contemporary, as Anaximenes died in 520 b.c., two decades before the birth of Anaxagoras. The connection between them lay especially in a love of scientific research, and in similar methods of explanation of astronomical and cosmological facts. Anaxagoras lived in Ionia until he was about forty years of age, and he attained great fame in his own country during the last ten years of his residence there, gaining a reputation for depth of thought and integrity of life, and slowly evolving his theory of the universe.

The Ionian philosophers were monists and materialists. They sought a fundamental substance, water, air or fire, or some other form