Meteorology, by Aristotle

Book II

1

LET us explain the nature of the sea and the reason why such a large mass of water is salt and the way in which it originally came to be.

The old writers who invented theogonies say that the sea has springs, for they want earth and sea to have foundations and roots of their own. Presumably they thought that this view was grander and more impressive as implying that our earth was an important part of the universe. For they believed that the whole world had been built up round our earth and for its sake, and that the earth was the most important and primary part of it. Others, wiser in human knowledge, give an account of its origin. At first, they say, the earth was surrounded by moisture. Then the sun began to dry it up, part of it evaporated and is the cause of winds and the turnings back of the sun and the moon, while the remainder forms the sea. So the sea is being dried up and is growing less, and will end by being some day entirely dried up. Others say that the sea is a kind of sweat exuded by the earth when the sun heats it, and that this explains its saltness: for all sweat is salt. Others say that the saltness is due to the earth. Just as water strained through ashes becomes salt, so the sea owes its saltness to the admixture of earth with similar properties.

We must now consider the facts which prove that the sea cannot possibly have springs. The waters we find on the earth either flow or are stationary. All flowing water has springs. (By a spring, as we have explained above, we must not understand a source from which waters are ladled as it were from a vessel, but a first point at which the water which is continually forming and percolating gathers.) Stationary water is either that which has collected and has been left standing, marshy pools, for instance, and lakes, which differ merely in size, or else it comes from springs. In this case it is always artificial, I mean as in the case of wells, otherwise the spring would have to be above the outlet. Hence the water from fountains and rivers flows of itself, whereas wells need to be worked artificially. All the waters that exist belong to one or other of these classes.

On the basis of this division we can sec that the sea cannot have springs. For it falls under neither of the two classes; it does not flow and it is not artificial; whereas all water from springs must belong to one or other of them. Natural standing water from springs is never found on such a large scale.

Again, there are several seas that have no communication with one another at all. The Red Sea, for instance, communicates but slightly with the ocean outside the straits, and the Hyrcanian and Caspian seas are distinct from this ocean and people dwell all round them. Hence, if these seas had had any springs anywhere they must have been discovered.

It is true that in straits, where the land on either side contracts an open sea into a small space, the sea appears to flow. But this is because it is swinging to and fro. In the open sea this motion is not observed, but where the land narrows and contracts the sea the motion that was imperceptible in the open necessarily strikes the attention.

The whole of the Mediterranean does actually flow. The direction of this flow is determined by the depth of the basins and by the number of rivers. Maeotis flows into Pontus and Pontus into the Aegean. After that the flow of the remaining seas is not so easy to observe. The current of Maeotis and Pontus is due to the number of rivers (more rivers flow into the Euxine and Maeotis than into the whole Mediterranean with its much larger basin), and to their own shallowness. For we find the sea getting deeper and deeper. Pontus is deeper than Maeotis, the Aegean than Pontus, the Sicilian sea than the Aegean; the Sardinian and Tyrrhenic being the deepest of all. (Outside the pillars of Heracles the sea is shallow owing to the mud, but calm, for it lies in a hollow.) We see, then, that just as single rivers flow from mountains, so it is with the earth as a whole: the greatest volume of water flows from the higher regions in the north. Their alluvium makes the northern seas shallow, while the outer seas are deeper. Some further evidence of the height of the northern regions of the earth is afforded by the view of many of the ancient meteorologists. They believed that the sun did not pass below the earth, but round its northern part, and that it was the height of this which obscured the sun and caused night.

So much to prove that there cannot be sources of the sea and to explain its observed flow.

2

We must now discuss the origin of the sea, if it has an origin, and the cause of its salt and bitter taste.

What made earlier writers consider the sea to be the original and main body of water is this. It seems reasonable to suppose that to be the case on the analogy of the other elements. Each of them has a main bulk which by reason of its mass is the origin of that element, and any parts which change and mix with the other elements come from it. Thus the main body of fire is in the upper region; that of air occupies the place next inside the region of fire; while the mass of the earth is that round which the rest of the elements are seen to lie. So we must clearly look for something analogous in the case of water. But here we can find no such single mass, as in the case of the other elements, except the sea. River water is not a unity, nor is it stable, but is seen to be in a continuous process of becoming from day to day. It was this difficulty which made people regard the sea as the origin and source of moisture and of all water. And so we find it maintained that rivers not only flow into the sea but originate from it, the salt water becoming sweet by filtration.

But this view involves another difficulty. If this body of water is the origin and source of all water, why is it salt and not sweet? The reason for this, besides answering this question, will ensure our having a right first conception of the nature of the sea.

The earth is surrounded by water, just as that is by the sphere of air, and that again by the sphere called that of fire (which is the outermost both on the common view and on ours). Now the sun, moving as it does, sets up processes of change and becoming and decay, and by its agency the finest and sweetest water is every day carried up and is dissolved into vapour and rises to the upper region, where it is condensed again by the cold and so returns to the earth. This, as we have said before, is the regular course of nature.

Hence all my predecessors who supposed that the sun was nourished by moisture are absurdly mistaken. Some go on to say that the solstices are due to this, the reason being that the same places cannot always supply the sun with nourishment and that without it he must perish. For the fire we are familiar with lives as long as it is fed, and the only food for fire is moisture. As if the moisture that is raised could reach the sun! or this ascent were really like that performed by flame as it comes into being, and to which they supposed the case of the sun to be analogous! Really there is no similarity. A flame is a process of becoming, involving a constant interchange of moist and dry. It cannot be said to be nourished since it scarcely persists as one and the same for a moment. This cannot be true of the sun; for if it were nourished like that, as they say it is, we should obviously not only have a new sun every day, as Heraclitus says, but a new sun every moment. Again, when the sun causes the moisture to rise, this is like fire heating water. So, as the fire is not fed by the water above it, it is absurd to suppose that the sun feeds on that moisture, even if its heat made all the water in the world evaporate. Again, it is absurd, considering the number and size of the stars, that these thinkers should consider the sun only and overlook the question how the rest of the heavenly bodies subsist. Again, they are met by the same difficulty as those who say that at first the earth itself was moist and the world round the earth was warmed by the sun, and so air was generated and the whole firmament grew, and the air caused winds and solstices. The objection is that we always plainly see the water that has been carried up coming down again. Even if the same amount does not come back in a year or in a given country, yet in a certain period all that has been carried up is returned. This implies that the celestial bodies do not feed on it, and that we cannot distinguish between some air which preserves its character once it is generated and some other which is generated but becomes water again and so perishes; on the contrary, all the moisture alike is dissolved and all of it condensed back into water.

The drinkable, sweet water, then, is light and is all of it drawn up: the salt water is heavy and remains behind, but not in its natural place. For this is a question which has been sufficiently discussed (I mean about the natural place that water, like the other elements, must in reason have), and the answer is this. The place which we see the sea filling is not its natural place but that of water. It seems to belong to the sea because the weight of the salt water makes it remain there, while the sweet, drinkable water which is light is carried up. The same thing happens in animal bodies. Here, too, the food when it enters the body is sweet, yet the residuum and dregs of liquid food are found to be bitter and salt. This is because the sweet and drinkable part of it has been drawn away by the natural animal heat and has passed into the flesh and the other parts of the body according to their several natures. Now just as here it would be wrong for any one to refuse to call the belly the place of liquid food because that disappears from it soon, and to call it the place of the residuum because this is seen to remain, so in the case of our present subject. This place, we say, is the place of water. Hence all rivers and all the water that is generated flow into it: for water flows into the deepest place, and the deepest part of the earth is filled by the sea. Only all the light and sweet part of it is quickly carried off by the sun, while herest remains for the reason we have explained. It is quite natural that some people should have been puzzled by the old question why such a mass of water leaves no trace anywhere (for the sea does not increase though innumerable and vast rivers are flowing into it every day.) But if one considers the matter the solution is easy. The same amount of water does not take as long to dry up when it is spread out as when it is gathered in a body, and indeed the difference is so great that in the one case it might persist the whole day long while in the other it might all disappear in a moment-as for instance if one were to spread out a cup of water over a large table. This is the case with the rivers: all the time they are flowing their water forms a compact mass, but when it arrives at a vast wide place it quickly and imperceptibly evaporates.

But the theory of the Phaedo about rivers and the sea is impossible. There it is said that the earth is pierced by intercommunicating channels and that the original head and source of all waters is what is called Tartarus-a mass of water about the centre, from which all waters, flowing and standing, are derived. This primary and original water is always surging to and fro, and so it causes the rivers to flow on this side of the earth’s centre and on that; for it has no fixed seat but is always oscillating about the centre. Its motion up and down is what fills rivers. Many of these form lakes in various places (our sea is an instance of one of these), but all of them come round again in a circle to the original source of their flow, many at the same point, but some at a point opposite to that from which they issued; for instance, if they started from the other side of the earth’s centre, they might return from this side of it. They descend only as far as the centre, for after that all motion is upwards. Water gets its tastes and colours from the kind of earth the rivers happened to flow through.

But on this theory rivers do not always flow in the same sense. For since they flow to the centre from which they issue forth they will not be flowing down any more than up, but in whatever direction the surging of Tartarus inclines to. But at this rate we shall get the proverbial rivers flowing upwards, which is impossible. Again, where is the water that is generated and what goes up again as vapour to come from? For this must all of it simply be ignored, since the quantity of water is always the same and all the water that flows out from the original source flows back to it again. This itself is not true, since all rivers are seen to end in the sea except where one flows into another. Not one of them ends in the earth, but even when one is swallowed up it comes to the surface again. And those rivers are large which flow for a long distance through a lowying country, for by their situation and length they cut off the course of many others and swallow them up. This is why the Istrus and the Nile are the greatest of the rivers which flow into our sea. Indeed, so many rivers fall into them that there is disagreement as to the sources of them both. All of which is plainly impossible on the theory, and the more so as it derives the sea from Tartarus.

Enough has been said to prove that this is the natural place of water and not of the sea, and to explain why sweet water is only found in rivers, while salt water is stationary, and to show that the sea is the end rather than the source of water, analogous to the residual matter of all food, and especially liquid food, in animal bodies.

3

We must now explain why the sea is salt, and ask whether it eternally exists as identically the same body, or whether it did not exist at all once and some day will exist no longer, but will dry up as some people think.

Every one admits this, that if the whole world originated the sea did too; for they make them come into being at the same time. It follows that if the universe is eternal the same must be true of the sea. Any one who thinks like Democritus that the sea is diminishing and will disappear in the end reminds us of Aesop’s tales. His story was that Charybdis had twice sucked in the sea: the first time she made the mountains visible; the second time the islands; and when she sucks it in for the last time she will dry it up entirely. Such a tale is appropriate enough to Aesop in a rage with the ferryman, but not to serious inquirers. Whatever made the sea remain at first, whether it was its weight, as some even of those who hold these views say (for it is easy to see the cause here), or some other reason-clearly the same thing must make it persist for ever. They must either deny that the water raised by the sun will return at all, or, if it does, they must admit that the sea persists for ever or as long as this process goes on, and again, that for the same period of time that sweet water must have been carried up beforehand. So the sea will never dry up: for before that can happen the water that has gone up beforehand will return to it: for if you say that this happens once you must admit its recurrence. If you stop the sun’s course there is no drying agency. If you let it go on it will draw up the sweet water as we have said whenever it approaches, and let it descend again when it recedes. This notion about the sea is derived from the fact that many places are found to be drier now than they once were. Why this is so we have explained. The phenomenon is due to temporary excess of rain and not to any process of becoming in which the universe or its parts are involved. Some day the opposite will take place and after that the earth will grow dry once again. We must recognize that this process always goes on thus in a cycle, for that is more satisfactory than to suppose a change in the whole world in order to explain these facts. But we have dwelt longer on this point than it deserves.

To return to the saltness of the sea: those who create the sea once for all, or indeed generate it at all, cannot account for its saltness. It makes no difference whether the sea is the residue of all the moisture that is about the earth and has been drawn up by the sun, or whether all the flavour existing in the whole mass of sweet water is due to the admixture of a certain kind of earth. Since the total volume of the sea is the same once the water that evaporated has returned, it follows that it must either have been salt at first too, or, if not at first, then not now either. If it was salt from the very beginning, then we want to know why that was so; and why, if salt water was drawn up then, that is not the case now.

Again, if it is maintained that an admixture of earth makes the sea salt (for they say that earth has many flavours and is washed down by the rivers and so makes the sea salt by its admixture), it is strange that rivers should not be salt too. How can the admixture of this earth have such a striking effect in a great quantity of water and not in each river singly? For the sea, differing in nothing from rivers but in being salt, is evidently simply the totality of river water, and the rivers are the vehicle in which that earth is carried to their common destination.

It is equally absurd to suppose that anything has been explained by calling the sea ‘the sweat of the earth’, like Empedicles. Metaphors are poetical and so that expression of his may satisfy the requirements of a poem, but as a scientific theory it is unsatisfactory. Even in the case of the body it is a question how the sweet liquid drunk becomes salt sweat whether it is merely by the departure of some element in it which is sweetest, or by the admixture of something, as when water is strained through ashes. Actually the saltness seems to be due to the same cause as in the case of the residual liquid that gathers in the bladder. That, too, becomes bitter and salt though the liquid we drink and that contained in our food is sweet. If then the bitterness is due in these cases (as with the water strained through lye) to the presence of a certain sort of stuff that is carried along by the urine (as indeed we actually find a salt deposit settling in chamber-pots) and is secreted from the flesh in sweat (as if the departing moisture were washing the stuff out of the body), then no doubt the admixture of something earthy with the water is what makes the sea salt.

Now in the body stuff of this kind, viz. the sediment of food, is due to failure to digest: but how there came to be any such thing in the earth requires explanation. Besides, how can the drying and warming of the earth cause the secretion such a great quantity of water; especially as that must be a mere fragment of what is left in the earth? Again, waiving the question of quantity, why does not the earth sweat now when it happens to be in process of drying? If it did so then, it ought to do so now. But it does not: on the contrary, when it is dry it graws moist, but when it is moist it does not secrete anything at all. How then was it possible for the earth at the beginning when it was moist to sweat as it grew dry? Indeed, the theory that maintains that most of the moisture departed and was drawn up by the sun and that what was left over is the sea is more reasonable; but for the earth to sweat when it is moist is impossible.

Since all the attempts to account for the saltness of the sea seem unsuccessful let us explain it by the help of the principle we have used already.

Since we recognize two kinds of evaporation, one moist, the other dry, it is clear that the latter must be recognized as the source of phenomena like those we are concerned with.

But there is a question which we must discuss first. Does the sea always remain numerically one and consisting of the same parts, or is it, too, one in form and volume while its parts are in continual change, like air and sweet water and fire? All of these are in a constant state of change, but the form and the quantity of each of them are fixed, just as they are in the case of a flowing river or a burning flame. The answer is clear, and there is no doubt that the same account holds good of all these things alike. They differ in that some of them change more rapidly or more slowly than others; and they all are involved in a process of perishing and becoming which yet affects them all in a regular course.

This being so we must go on to try to explain why the sea is salt. There are many facts which make it clear that this taste is due to the admixture of something. First, in animal bodies what is least digested, the residue of liquid food, is salt and bitter, as we said before. All animal excreta are undigested, but especially that which gathers in the bladder (its extreme lightness proves this; for everything that is digested is condensed), and also sweat; in these then is excreted (along with other matter) an identical substance to which this flavour is due. The case of things burnt is analogous. What heat fails to assimilate becomes the excrementary residue in animal bodies, and, in things burnt, ashes. That is why some people say that it was burnt earth that made the sea salt. To say that it was burnt earth is absurd; but to say that it was something like burnt earth is true. We must suppose that just as in the cases we have described, so in the world as a whole, everything that grows and is naturally generated always leaves an undigested residue, like that of things burnt, consisting of this sort of earth. All the earthy stuff in the dry exhalation is of this nature, and it is the dry exhalation which accounts for its great quantity. Now since, as we have said, the moist and the dry evaporations are mixed, some quantity of this stuff must always be included in the clouds and the water that are formed by condensation, and must redescend to the earth in rain. This process must always go on with such regularity as the sublunary world admits of. and it is the answer to the question how the sea comes to be salt.

It also explains why rain that comes from the south, and the first rains of autumn, are brackish. The south is the warmest of winds and it blows from dry and hot regions. Hence it carries little moist vapour and that is why it is hot. (It makes no difference even if this is not its true character and it is originally a cold wind, for it becomes warm on its way by incorporating with itself a great quantity of dry evaporation from the places it passes over.) The north wind, on the other hand, comb ing from moist regions, is full of vapour and therefore cold. It is dry in our part of the world because it drives the clouds away before it, but in the south it is rainy; just as the south is a dry wind in Libya. So the south wind charges the rain that falls with a great quantity of this stuff. Autumn rain is brackish because the heaviest water must fall first; so that that which contains the greatest quantity of this kind of earth descends quickest.

This, too, is why the sea is warm. Everything that has been exposed to fire contains heat potentially, as we see in the case of lye and ashes and the dry and liquid excreta of animals. Indeed those animals which are hottest in the belly have the hottest excreta.

The action of this cause is continually making the sea more salt, but some part of its saltness is always being drawn up with the sweet water. This is less than the sweet water in the same ratio in which the salt and brackish element in rain is less than the sweet, and so the saltness of the sea remains constant on the whole. Salt water when it turns into vapour becomes sweet, and the vapour does not form salt water when it condenses again. This I know by experiment. The same thing is true in every case of the kind: wine and all fluids that evaporate and condense back into a liquid state become water. They all are water modified by a certain admixture, the nature of which determines their flavour. But this subject must be considered on another more suitable occasion.

For the present let us say this. The sea is there and some of it is continually being drawn up and becoming sweet; this returns from above with the rain. But it is now different from what it was when it was drawn up, and its weight makes it sink below the sweet water. This process prevents the sea, as it does rivers, from drying up except from local causes (this must happen to sea and rivers alike). On the other hand the parts neither of the earth nor of the sea remain constant but only their whole bulk. For the same thing is true of the earth as of the sea: some of it is carried up and some comes down with the rain, and both that which remains on the surface and that which comes down again change their situations.

There is more evidence to prove that saltness is due to the admixture of some substance, besides that which we have adduced. Make a vessel of wax and put it in the sea, fastening its mouth in such a way as to prevent any water getting in. Then the water that percolates through the wax sides of the vessel is sweet, the earthy stuff, the admixture of which makes the water salt, being separated off as it were by a filter. It is this stuff which make salt water heavy (it weighs more than fresh water) and thick. The difference in consistency is such that ships with the same cargo very nearly sink in a river when they are quite fit to navigate in the sea. This circumstance has before now caused loss to shippers freighting their ships in a river. That the thicker consistency is due to an admixture of something is proved by the fact that if you make strong brine by the admixture of salt, eggs, even when they are full, float in it. It almost becomes like mud; such a quantity of earthy matter is there in the sea. The same thing is done in salting fish.

Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine, such that if you bind a man or beast and throw it in it floats and does not sink, this would bear out what we have said. They say that this lake is so bitter and salt that no fish live in it and that if you soak clothes in it and shake them it cleans them. The following facts all of them support our theory that it is some earthy stuff in the water which makes it salt. In Chaonia there is a spring of brackish water that flows into a neighbouring river which is sweet but contains no fish. The local story is that when Heracles came from Erytheia driving the oxen and gave the inhabitants the choice, they chose salt in preference to fish. They get the salt from the spring. They boil off some of the water and let the rest stand; when it has cooled and the heat and moisture have evaporated together it gives them salt, not in lumps but loose and light like snow. It is weaker than ordinary salt and added freely gives a sweet taste, and it is not as white as salt generally is. Another instance of this is found in Umbria. There is a place there where reeds and rushes grow. They burn some of these, put the ashes into water and boil it off. When a little water is left and has cooled it gives a quantity of salt.

Most salt rivers and springs must once have been hot. Then the original fire in them was extinguished but the earth through which they percolate preserves the character of lye or ashes. Springs and rivers with all kinds of flavours are found in many places. These flavours must in every case be due to the fire that is or was in them, for if you expose earth to different degrees of heat it assumes various kinds and shades of flavour. It becomes full of alum and lye and other things of the kind, and the fresh water percolates through these and changes its character. Sometimes it becomes acid as in Sicania, a part of Sicily. There they get a salt and acid water which they use as vinegar to season some of their dishes. In the neighbourhood of Lyncus, too, there is a spring of acid water, and in Scythia a bitter spring. The water from this makes the whole of the river into which it flows bitter. These differences are explained by a knowledge of the particular mixtures that determine different savours. But these have been explained in another treatise.

We have now given an account of waters and the sea, why they persist, how they change, what their nature is, and have explained most of their natural operations and affections.

4

Let us proceed to the theory of winds. Its basis is a distinction we have already made. We recognize two kinds of evaporation, one moist, the other dry. The former is called vapour: for the other there is no general name but we must call it a sort of smoke, applying to the whole of it a word that is proper to one of its forms. The moist cannot exist without the dry nor the dry without the moist: whenever we speak of either we mean that it predominates. Now when the sun in its circular course approaches, it draws up by its heat the moist evaporation: when it recedes the cold makes the vapour that had been raised condense back into water which falls and is distributed through the earth. (This explains why there is more rain in winter and more by night than by day: though the fact is not recognized because rain by night is more apt to escape observation than by day.) But there is a great quantity of fire and heat in the earth, and the sun not only draws up the moisture that lies on the surface of it, but warms and dries the earth itself. Consequently, since there are two kinds of evaporation, as we have said, one like vapour, the other like smoke, both of them are necessarily generated. That in which moisture predominates is the source of rain, as we explained before, while the dry evaporation is the source and substance of all winds. That things must necessarily take this course is clear from the resulting phenomena themselves, for the evaporation that is to produce them must necessarily differ; and the sun and the warmth in the earth not only can but must produce these evaporations.

Since the two evaporations are specifically distinct, wind and rain obviously differ and their substance is not the same, as those say who maintain that one and the same air when in motion is wind, but when it condenses again is water. Air, as we have explained in an earlier book, is made up of these as constituents. Vapour is moist and cold (for its fluidity is due to its moistness, and because it derives from water it is naturally cold, like water that has not been warmed): whereas the smoky evaporation is hot and dry. Hence each contributes a part, and air is moist and hot. It is absurd that this air that surrounds us should become wind when in motion, whatever be the source of its motion on the contrary the case of winds is like that of rivers. We do not call water that flows anyhow a river, even if there is a great quantity of it, but only if the flow comes from a spring. So too with the winds; a great quantity of air might be moved by the fall of some large object without flowing from any source or spring.

The facts bear out our theory. It is because the evaporation takes place uninterruptedly but differs in degree and quantity that clouds and winds appear in their natural proportion according to the season; and it is because there is now a great excess of the vaporous, now of the dry and smoky exhalation, that some years are rainy and wet, others windy and dry. Sometimes there is much drought or rain, and it prevails over a great and continuous stretch of country. At other times it is local; the surrounding country often getting seasonable or even excessive rains while there is drought in a certain part; or, contrariwise, all the surrounding country gets little or even no rain while a certain part gets rain in abundance. The reason for all this is that while the same affection is generally apt to prevail over a considerable district because adjacent places (unless there is something special to differentiate them) stand in the same relation to the sun, yet on occasion the dry evaporation will prevail in one part and the moist in another, or conversely. Again the reason for this latter is that each evaporation goes over to that of the neighbouring district: for instance, the dry evaporation circulates in its own place while the moist migrates to the next district or is even driven by winds to some distant place: or else the moist evaporation remains and the dry moves away. Just as in the case of the body when the stomach is dry the lower belly is often in the contrary state, and when it is dry the stomach is moist and cold, so it often happens that the evaporations reciprocally take one another’s place and interchange.

Further, after rain wind generally rises in those places where the rain fell, and when rain has come on the wind ceases. These are necessary effects of the principles we have explained. After rain the earth is being dried by its own heat and that from above and gives off the evaporation which we saw to be the material cause of. wind. Again, suppose this secretion is present and wind prevails; the heat is continually being thrown off, rising to the upper region, and so the wind ceases; then the fall in temperature makes vapour form and condense into water. Water also forms and cools the dry evaporation when the clouds are driven together and the cold concentrated in them. These are the causes that make wind cease on the advent of rain, and rain fall on the cessation of wind.

The cause of the predominance of winds from the north and from the south is the same. (Most winds, as a matter of fact, are north winds or south winds.) These are the only regions which the sun does not visit: it approaches them and recedes from them, but its course is always over the-west and the east. Hence clouds collect on either side, and when the sun approaches it provokes the moist evaporation, and when it recedes to the opposite side there are storms and rain. So summer and winter are due to the sun’s motion to and from the solstices, and water ascends and falls again for the same reason. Now since most rain falls in those regions towards which and from which the sun turns and these are the north and the south, and since most evaporation must take place where there is the greatest rainfall, just as green wood gives most smoke, and since this evaporation is wind, it is natural that the most and most important winds should come from these quarters. (The winds from the north are called Boreae, those from the south Noti.)

The course of winds is oblique: for though the evaporation rises straight up from the earth, they blow round it because all the surrounding air follows the motion of the heavens. Hence the question might be asked whether winds originate from above or from below. The motion comes from above: before we feel the wind blowing the air betrays its presence if there are clouds or a mist, for their motion shows that the wind has begun to blow before it has actually reached us; and this implies that the source of winds is above. But since wind is defined as ‘a quantity of dry evaporation from the earth moving round the earth’, it is clear that while the origin of the motion is from above, the matter and the generation of wind come from below. The oblique movement of the rising evaporation is caused from above: for the motion of the heavens determines the processes that are at a distance from the earth, and the motion from below is vertical and every cause is more active where it is nearest to the effect; but in its generation and origin wind plainly derives from the earth.

The facts bear out the view that winds are formed by the gradual union of many evaporations just as rivers derive their sources from the water that oozes from the earth. Every wind is weakest in the spot from which it blows; as they proceed and leave their source at a distance they gather strength. Thus the winter in the north is windless and calm: that is, in the north itself; but, the breeze that blows from there so gently as to escape observation becomes a great wind as it passes on.

We have explained the nature and origin of wind, the occurrence of drought and rains, the reason why rain stops wind and wind rises after rain, the prevalence of north and south winds and also why wind moves in the way it does.

5

The sun both checks the formation of winds and stimulates it. When the evaporation is small in amount and faint the sun wastes it and dissipates by its greater heat the lesser heat contained in the evaporation. It also dries up the earth, the source of the evaporation, before the latter has appeared in bulk: just as, when you throw a little fuel into a great fire, it is often burnt up before giving off any smoke. In these ways the sun checks winds and prevents them from rising at all: it checks them by wasting the evaporation, and prevents their rising by drying up the earth quickly. Hence calm is very apt to prevail about the rising of Orion and lasts until the coming of the Etesiae and their ‘forerunners’.

Calm is due to two causes. Either cold quenches the evaporation, for instance a sharp frost: or excessive heat wastes it. In the intermediate periods, too, the causes are generally either that the evaporation has not had time to develop or that it has passed away and there is none as yet to replace it.

Both the setting and the rising of Orion are considered to be treacherous and stormy, because they place at a change of season (namely of summer or winter; and because the size of the constellation makes its rise last over many days) and a state of change is always indefinite and therefore liable to disturbance.

The Etesiae blow after the summer solstice and the rising of the dog-star: not at the time when the sun is closest nor when it is distant; and they blow by day and cease at night. The reason is that when the sun is near it dries up the earth before evaporation has taken place, but when it has receded a little its heat and the evaporation are present in the right proportion; so the ice melts and the earth, dried by its own heat and that of the sun, smokes and vapours. They abate at night because the cold pf the nights checks the melting of the ice. What is frozen gives off no evaporation, nor does that which contains no dryness at all: it is only where something dry contains moisture that it gives off evaporation under the influence of heat.

The question is sometimes asked: why do the north winds which we call the Etesiae blow continuously after the summer solstice, when there are no corresponding south winds after the winter solstice? The facts are reasonable enough: for the so-called ‘white south winds’ do blow at the corresponding season, though they are not equally continuous and so escape observation and give rise to this inquiry. The reason for this is that the north wind I from the arctic regions which are full of water and snow. The sun thaws them and so the Etesiae blow: after rather than at the summer solstice. (For the greatest heat is developed not when the sun is nearest to the north, but when its heat has been felt for a considerable period and it has not yet receded far. The ‘bird winds’ blow in the same way after the winter solstice. They, too, are weak Etesiae, but they blow less and later than the Etesiae. They begin to blow only on the seventieth day because the sun is distant and therefore weaker. They do not blow so continuously because only things on the surface of the earth and offering little resistance evaporate then, the thoroughly frozen parts requiring greater heat to melt them. So they blow intermittently till the true Etesiae come on again at the summer solstice: for from that time onwards the wind tends to blow continuously.) But the south wind blows from the tropic of Cancer and not from the antarctic region.

There are two inhabitable sections of the earth: one near our upper, or nothern pole, the other near the other or southern pole; and their shape is like that of a tambourine. If you draw lines from the centre of the earth they cut out a drum-shaped figure. The lines form two cones; the base of the one is the tropic, of the other the ever visible circle, their vertex is at the centre of the earth. Two other cones towards the south pole give corresponding segments of the earth. These sections alone are habitable. Beyond the tropics no one can live: for there the shade would not fall to the north, whereas the earth is known to be uninhabitable before the sun is in the zenith or the shade is thrown to the south: and the regions below the Bear are uninhabitable because of the cold.

(The Crown, too, moves over this region: for it is in the zenith when it is on our meridian.)

So we see that the way in which they now describe the geography of the earth is ridiculous. They depict the inhabited earth as round, but both ascertained facts and general considerations show this to be impossible. If we reflect we see that the inhabited region is limited in breadth, while the climate admits of its extending all round the earth. For we meet with no excessive heat or cold in the direction of its length but only in that of its breadth; so that there is nothing to prevent our travelling round the earth unless the extent of the sea presents an obstacle anywhere. The records of journeys by sea and land bear this out. They make the length far greater than the breadth. If we compute these voyages and journeys the distance from the Pillars of Heracles to India exceeds that from Aethiopia to Maeotis and the northernmost Scythians by a ratio of more than 5 to 3, as far as such matters admit of accurate statement. Yet we know the whole breadth of the region we dwell in up to the uninhabited parts: in one direction no one lives because of the cold, in the other because of the heat.

But it is the sea which divides as it seems the parts beyond India from those beyond the Pillars of Heracles and prevents the earth from being inhabited all round.

Now since there must be a region bearing the same relation to the southern pole as the place we live in bears to our pole, it will clearly correspond in the ordering of its winds as well as in other things. So just as we have a north wind here, they must have a corresponding wind from the antarctic. This wind cannot reach us since our own north wind is like a land breeze and does not even reach the limits of the region we live in. The prevalence of north winds here is due to our lying near the north. Yet even here they give out and fail to penetrate far: in the southern sea beyond Libya east and west winds are always blowing alternately, like north and south winds with us. So it is clear that the south wind is not the wind that blows from the south pole. It is neither that nor the wind from the winter tropic. For symmetry would require another wind blowing from the summer tropic, which there is not, since we know that only one wind blows from that quarter. So the south wind clearly blows from the torrid region. Now the sun is so near to that region that it has no water, or snow which might melt and cause Etesiae. But because that place is far more extensive and open the south wind is greater and stronger and warmer than the north and penetrates farther to the north than the north wind does to the south.

The origin of these winds and their relation to one another has now been explained.

6

Let us now explain the position of the winds, their oppositions, which can blow simultaneously with which, and which cannot, their names and number, and any other of their affections that have not been treated in the ‘particular questions’. What we say about their position must be followed with the help of the figure. For clearness’ sake we have drawn the circle of the horizon, which is round, but it represents the zone in which we live; for that can be divided in the same way. Let us also begin by laying down that those things are locally contrary which are locally most distant from one another, just as things specifically most remote from one another are specific contraries. Now things that face one another from opposite ends of a diameter are locally most distant from one another. (See diagram.)

Let A be the point where the sun sets at the equinox and B, the point opposite, the place where it rises at the equinox. Let there be another diameter cutting this at right angles, and let the point H on it be the north and its diametrical opposite O the south. Let Z be the rising of the sun at the summer solstice and E its setting at the summer solstice; D its rising at the winter solstice, and G its setting at the winter solstice. Draw a diameter from Z to G from D to E. Then since those things are locally contrary which are most distant from one another in space, and points diametrically opposite are most distant from one another, those winds must necessarily be contrary to one another that blow from opposite ends of a diameter.

The names of the winds according to their position are these. Zephyrus is the wind that blows from A, this being the point where the sun sets at the equinox. Its contrary is Apeliotes blowing from B the point where the sun rises at the equinox. The wind blowing from H, the north, is the true north wind, called Aparctias: while Notus blowing from O is its contrary; for this point is the south and O is contrary to H, being diametrically opposite to it. Caecias blows from Z, where the sun rises at the summer solstice. Its contrary is not the wind blowing from E but Lips blowing from G. For Lips blows from the point where the sun sets at the winter solstice and is diametrically opposite to Caecias: so it is its contrary. Eurus blows from D, coming from the point where the sun rises at the winter solstice. It borders on Notus, and so we often find that people speak of ‘Euro-Noti’. Its contrary is not Lips blowing from G but the wind that blows from E which some call Argestes, some Olympias, and some Sciron. This blows from the point where the sun sets at the summer solstice, and is the only wind that is diametrically opposite to Eurus. These are the winds that are diametrically opposite to one another and their contraries.

There are other winds which have no contraries. The wind they call Thrascias, which lies between Argestes and Aparctias, blows from I; and the wind called Meses, which lies between Caecias and Aparctias, from K. (The line IK nearly coincides with the ever visible circle, but not quite.) These winds have no contraries. Meses has not, or else there would be a wind blowing from the point M which is diametrically opposite. Thrascias corresponding to the point I has not, for then there would be a wind blowing from N, the point which is diametrically opposite. (But perhaps a local wind which the inhabitants of those parts call Phoenicias blows from that point.)

These are the most important and definite winds and these their places.

There are more winds from the north than from the south. The reason for this is that the region in which we live lies nearer to the north. Also, much more water and snow is pushed aside into this quarter because the other lies under the sun and its course. When this thaws and soaks into the earth and is exposed to the heat of the sun and the earth it necessarily causes evaporation to rise in greater quantities and over a greater space.

Of the winds we have described Aparctias is the north wind in the strict sense. Thrascias and Meses are north winds too. (Caecias is half north and half east.) South are that which blows from due south and Lips. East, the wind from the rising of the sun at the equinox and Eurus. Phoenicias is half south and half east. West, the wind from the true west and that called Argestes. More generally these winds are classified as northerly or southerly. The west winds are counted as northerly, for they blow from the place of sunset and are therefore colder; the east winds as southerly, for they are warmer because they blow from the place of sunrise. So the distinction of cold and hot or warm is the basis for the division of the winds into northerly and southerly. East winds are warmer than west winds because the sun shines on the east longer, whereas it leaves the west sooner and reaches it later.

Since this is the distribution of the winds it is clear that contrary winds cannot blow simultaneously. They are diametrically opposite to one another and one of the two must be overpowered and cease. Winds that are not diametrically opposite to one another may blow simultaneously: for instance the winds from Z and from D. Hence it sometimes happens that both of them, though different winds and blowing from different quarters, are favourable to sailors making for the same point.

Contrary winds commonly blow at opposite seasons. Thus Caecias and in general the winds north of the summer solstice blow about the time of the spring equinox, but about the autumn equinox Lips; and Zephyrus about the summer solstice, but about the winter solstice Eurus.

Aparctias, Thrascias, and Argestes are the winds that fall on others most and stop them. Their source is so close to us that they are greater and stronger than other winds. They bring fair weather most of all winds for the same reason, for, blowing as they do, from close at hand, they overpower the other winds and stop them; they also blow away the clouds that are forming and leave a clear sky-unless they happen to be very cold. Then they do not bring fair weather, but being colder than they are strong they condense the clouds before driving them away.

Caecias does not bring fair weather because it returns upon itself. Hence the saying: ‘Bringing it on himself as Caecias does clouds.’

When they cease, winds are succeeded by their neighbours in the direction of the movement of the sun. For an effect is most apt to be produced in the neighbourhood of its cause, and the cause of winds moves with the sun.

Contrary winds have either the same or contrary effects. Thus Lips and Caecias, sometimes called Hellespontias, are both rainy gestes and Eurus are dry: the latter being dry at first and rainy afterwards. Meses and Aparctias are coldest and bring most snow. Aparctias, Thrascias, and Argestes bring hail. Notus, Zephyrus, and Eurus are hot. Caecias covers the sky with heavy clouds, Lips with lighter ones. Caecias does this because it returns upon itself and combines the qualities of Boreas and Eurus. By being cold it condenses and gathers the vaporous air, and because it is easterly it carries with it and drives before it a great quantity of such matter. Aparctias, Thrascias, and Argestes bring fair weather for the reason we have explained before. These winds and Meses are most commonly accompanied by lightning. They are cold because they blow from the north, and lightning is due to cold, being ejected when the clouds contract. Some of these same bring hail with them for the same reason; namely, that they cause a sudden condensation.

Hurricanes are commonest in autumn, and next in spring: Aparctias, Thrascias, and Argestes give rise to them most. This is because hurricanes are generally formed when some winds are blowing and others fall on them; and these are the winds which are most apt to fall on others that are blowing; the reason for which, too, we have explained before.

The Etesiae veer round: they begin from the north, and become for dwellers in the west Thrasciae, Argestae, and Zephyrus (for Zephyrus belongs to the north). For dwellers in the east they veer round as far as Apeliotes.

So much for the winds, their origin and nature and the properties common to them all or peculiar to each.

7

We must go on to discuss earthquakes next, for their cause is akin to our last subject.

The theories that have been put forward up to the present date are three, and their authors three men, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, and before him Anaximenes of Miletus, and later Democritus of Abdera.

Anaxagoras says that the ether, which naturally moves upwards, is caught in hollows below the earth and so shakes it, for though the earth is really all of it equally porous, its surface is clogged up by rain. This implies that part of the whole sphere is ‘above’ and part ‘below’: ‘above’ being the part on which we live, ‘below’ the other.

This theory is perhaps too primitive to require refutation. It is absurd to think of up and down otherwise than as meaning that heavy bodies move to the earth from every quarter, and light ones, such as fire, away from it; especially as we see that, as far as our knowledge of the earth goes, the horizon always changes with a change in our position, which proves that the earth is convex and spherical. It is absurd, too, to maintain that the earth rests on the air because of its size, and then to say that impact upwards from below shakes it right through. Besides he gives no account of the circumstances attendant on earthquakes: for not every country or every season is subject to them.

Democritus says that the earth is full of water and that when a quantity of rain-water is added to this an earthquake is the result. The hollows in the earth being unable to admit the excess of water it forces its way in and so causes an earthquake. Or again, the earth as it dries draws the water from the fuller to the emptier parts, and the inrush of the water as it changes its place causes the earthquake.

Anaximenes says that the earth breaks up when it grows wet or dry, and earthquakes are due to the fall of these masses as they break away. Hence earthquakes take place in times of drought and again of heavy rain, since, as we have explained, the earth grows dry in time of drought and breaks up, whereas the rain makes it sodden and destroys its cohesion.

But if this were the case the earth ought to be found to be sinking in many places. Again, why do earthquakes frequently occur in places which are not excessively subject to drought or rain, as they ought to be on the theory? Besides, on this view, earthquakes ought always to be getting fewer, and should come to an end entirely some day: the notion of contraction by packing together implies this. So this is impossible the theory must be impossible too.

8

We have already shown that wet and dry must both give rise to an evaporation: earthquakes are a necessary consequence of this fact. The earth is essentially dry, but rain fills it with moisture. Then the sun and its own fire warm it and give rise to a quantity of wind both outside and inside it. This wind sometimes flows outwards in a single body, sometimes inwards, and sometimes it is divided. All these are necessary laws. Next we must find out what body has the greatest motive force. This will certainly be the body that naturally moves farthest and is most violent. Now that which has the most rapid motion is necessarily the most violent; for its swiftness gives its impact the greatest force. Again, the rarest body, that which can most readily pass through every other body, is that which naturally moves farthest. Wind satisfies these conditions in the highest degree (fire only becomes flame and moves rapidly when wind accompanies it): so that not water nor earth is the cause of earthquakes but wind-that is, the inrush of the external evaporation into the earth.

Hence, since the evaporation generally follows in a continuous body in the direction in which it first started, and either all of it flows inwards or all outwards, most earthquakes and the greatest are accompanied by calm. It is true that some take place when a wind is blowing, but this presents no difficulty. We sometimes find several winds blowing simultaneously. If one of these enters the earth we get an earthquake attended by wind. Only these earthquakes are less severe because their source and cause is divided.

Again, most earthquakes and the severest occur at night or, if by day, about noon, that being generally the calmest part of the day. For when the sun exerts its full power (as it does about noon) it shuts the evaporation into the earth. Night, too, is calmer than day. The absence of the sun makes the evaporation return into the earth like a sort of ebb tide, corresponding to the outward flow; especially towards dawn, for the winds, as a rule, begin to blow then, and if their source changes about like the Euripus and flows inwards the quantity of wind in the earth is greater and a more violent earthquake results.

The severest earthquakes take place where the sea is full of currents or the earth spongy and cavernous: so they occur near the Hellespont and in Achaea and Sicily, and those parts of Euboea which correspond to our description-where the sea is supposed to flow in channels below the earth. The hot springs, too, near Aedepsus are due to a cause of this kind. It is the confined character of these places that makes them so liable to earthquakes. A great and therefore violent wind is developed, which would naturally blow away from the earth: but the onrush of the sea in a great mass thrusts it back into the earth. The countries that are spongy below the surface are exposed to earthquakes because they have room for so much wind.

For the same reason earthquakes usually take place in spring and autumn and in times of wet and of drought-because these are the windiest seasons. Summer with its heat and winter with its frost cause calm: winter is too cold, summer too dry for winds to form. In time of drought the air is full of wind; drought is just the predominance of the dry over the moist evaporation. Again, excessive rain causes more of the evaporation to form in the earth. Then this secretion is shut up in a narrow compass and forced into a smaller space by the water that fills the cavities. Thus a great wind is compressed into a smaller space and so gets the upper hand, and then breaks out and beats against the earth and shakes it violently.

We must suppose the action of the wind in the earth to be analogous to the tremors and throbbings caused in us by the force of the wind contained in our bodies. Thus some earthquakes are a sort of tremor, others a sort of throbbing. Again, we must think of an earthquake as something like the tremor that often runs through the body after passing water as the wind returns inwards from without in one volume.

The force wind can have may be gathered not only from what happens in the air (where one might suppose that it owed its power to produce such effects to its volume), but also from what is observed in animal bodies. Tetanus and spasms are motions of wind, and their force is such that the united efforts of many men do not succeed in overcoming the movements of the patients. We must suppose, then (to compare great things with small), that what happens in the earth is just like that. Our theory has been verified by actual observation in many places. It has been known to happen that an earthquake has continued until the wind that caused it burst through the earth into the air and appeared visibly like a hurricane. This happened lately near Heracleia in Pontus and some time past at the island Hiera, one of the group called the Aeolian islands. Here a portion of the earth swelled up and a lump like a mound rose with a noise: finally it burst, and a great wind came out of it and threw up live cinders and ashes which buried the neighbouring town of Lipara and reached some of the towns in Italy. The spot where this eruption occurred is still to be seen.

Indeed, this must be recognized as the cause of the fire that is generated in the earth: the air is first broken up in small particles and then the wind is beaten about and so catches fire.

A phenomenon in these islands affords further evidence of the fact that winds move below the surface of the earth. When a south wind is going to blow there is a premonitory indication: a sound is heard in the places from which the eruptions issue. This is because the sea is being pushed on from a distance and its advance thrusts back into the earth the wind that was issuing from it. The reason why there is a noise and no earthquake is that the underground spaces are so extensive in proportion to the quantity of the air that is being driven on that the wind slips away into the void beyond.

Again, our theory is supported by the facts that the sun appears hazy and is darkened in the absence of clouds, and that there is sometimes calm and sharp frost before earthquakes at sunrise. The sun is necessarily obscured and darkened when the evaporation which dissolves and rarefies the air begins to withdraw into the earth. The calm, too, and the cold towards sunrise and dawn follow from the theory. The calm we have already explained. There must as a rule be calm because the wind flows back into the earth: again, it must be most marked before the more violent earthquakes, for when the wind is not part outside earth, part inside, but moves in a single body, its strength must be greater. The cold comes because the evaporation which is naturally and essentially hot enters the earth. (Wind is not recognized to be hot, because it sets the air in motion, and that is full of a quantity of cold vapour. It is the same with the breath we blow from our mouth: close by it is warm, as it is when we breathe out through the mouth, but there is so little of it that it is scarcely noticed, whereas at a distance it is cold for the same reason as wind.) Well, when this evaporation disappears into the earth the vaporous exhalation concentrates and causes cold in any place in which this disappearance occurs.

A sign which sometimes precedes earthquakes can be explained in the same way. Either by day or a little after sunset, in fine weather, a little, light, long-drawn cloud is seen, like a long very straight line. This is because the wind is leaving the air and dying down. Something analogous to this happens on the sea-shore. When the sea breaks in great waves the marks left on the sand are very thick and crooked, but when the sea is calm they are slight and straight (because the secretion is small). As the sea is to the shore so the wind is to the cloudy air; so, when the wind drops, this very straight and thin cloud is left, a sort of wave-mark in the air.

An earthquake sometimes coincides with an eclipse of the moon for the same reason. When the earth is on the point of being interposed, but the light and heat of the sun has not quite vanished from the air but is dying away, the wind which causes the earthquake before the eclipse, turns off into the earth, and calm ensues. For there often are winds before eclipses: at nightfall if the eclipse is at midnight, and at midnight if the eclipse is at dawn. They are caused by the lessening of the warmth from the moon when its sphere approaches the point at which the eclipse is going to take place. So the influence which restrained and quieted the air weakens and the air moves again and a wind rises, and does so later, the later the eclipse.

A severe earthquake does not stop at once or after a single shock, but first the shocks go on, often for about forty days; after that, for one or even two years it gives premonitory indications in the same place. The severity of the earthquake is determined by the quantity of wind and the shape of the passages through which it flows. Where it is beaten back and cannot easily find its way out the shocks are most violent, and there it must remain in a cramped space like water that cannot escape. Any throbbing in the body does not cease suddenly or quickly, but by degrees according as the affection passes off. So here the agency which created the evaporation and gave it an impulse to motion clearly does not at once exhaust the whole of the material from which it forms the wind which we call an earthquake. So until the rest of this is exhausted the shocks must continue, though more gently, and they must go on until there is too little of the evaporation left to have any perceptible effect on the earth at all.

Subterranean noises, too, are due to the wind; sometimes they portend earthquakes but sometimes they have been heard without any earthquake following. Just as the air gives off various sounds when it is struck, so it does when it strikes other things; for striking involves being struck and so the two cases are the same. The sound precedes the shock because sound is thinner and passes through things more readily than wind. But when the wind is too weak by reason of thinness to cause an earthquake the absence of a shock is due to its filtering through readily, though by striking hard and hollow masses of different shapes it makes various noises, so that the earth sometimes seems to ‘bellow’ as the portentmongers say.

Water has been known to burst out during an earthquake. But that does not make water the cause of the earthquake. The wind is the efficient cause whether it drives the water along the surface or up from below: just as winds are the causes of waves and not waves of winds. Else we might as well say that earth was the cause; for it is upset in an earthquake, just like water (for effusion is a form of upsetting). No, earth and water are material causes (being patients, not agents): the true cause is the wind.

The combination of a tidal wave with an earthquake is due to the presence of contrary winds. It occurs when the wind which is shaking the earth does not entirely succeed in driving off the sea which another wind is bringing on, but pushes it back and heaps it up in a great mass in one place. Given this situation it follows that when this wind gives way the whole body of the sea, driven on by the other wind, will burst out and overwhelm the land. This is what happened in Achaea. There a south wind was blowing, but outside a north wind; then there was a calm and the wind entered the earth, and then the tidal wave came on and simultaneously there was an earthquake. This was the more violent as the sea allowed no exit to the wind that had entered the earth, but shut it in. So in their struggle with one another the wind caused the earthquake, and the wave by its settling down the inundation.

Earthquakes are local and often affect a small district only; whereas winds are not local. Such phenomena are local when the evaporations at a given place are joined by those from the next and unite; this, as we explained, is what happens when there is drought or excessive rain locally. Now earthquakes do come about in this way but winds do not. For earthquakes, rains, and droughts have their source and origin inside the earth, so that the sun is not equally able to direct all the evaporations in one direction. But on the evaporations in the air the sun has more influence so that, when once they have been given an impulse by its motion, which is determined by its various positions, they flow in one direction.

When the wind is present in sufficient quantity there is an earthquake. The shocks are horizontal like a tremor; except occasionally, in a few places, where they act vertically, upwards from below, like a throbbing. It is the vertical direction which makes this kind of earthquake so rare. The motive force does not easily accumulate in great quantity in the position required, since the surface of the earth secretes far more of the evaporation than its depths. Wherever an earthquake of this kind does occur a quantity of stones comes to the surface of the earth (as when you throw up things in a winnowing fan), as we see from Sipylus and the Phlegraean plain and the district in Liguria, which were devastated by this kind of earthquake.

Islands in the middle of the sea are less exposed to earthquakes than those near land. First, the volume of the sea cools the evaporations and overpowers them by its weight and so crushes them. Then, currents and not shocks are produced in the sea by the action of the winds. Again, it is so extensive that evaporations do not collect in it but issue from it, and these draw the evaporations from the earth after them. Islands near the continent really form part of it: the intervening sea is not enough to make any difference; but those in the open sea can only be shaken if the whole of the sea that surrounds them is shaken too.

We have now explained earthquakes, their nature and cause, and the most important of the circumstances attendant on their appearance.

9

Let us go on to explain lightning and thunder, and further whirlwind, fire-wind, and thunderbolts: for the cause of them all is the same.

As we have said, there are two kinds of exhalation, moist and dry, and the atmosphere contains them both potentially. It, as we have said before, condenses into cloud, and the density of the clouds is highest at their upper limit. (For they must be denser and colder on the side where the heat escapes to the upper region and leaves them. This explains why hurricanes and thunderbolts and all analogous phenomena move downwards in spite of the fact that everything hot has a natural tendency upwards. Just as the pips that we squeeze between our fingers are heavy but often jump upwards: so these things are necessarily squeezed out away from the densest part of the cloud.) Now the heat that escapes disperses to the up region. But if any of the dry exhalation is caught in the process as the air cools, it is squeezed out as the clouds contract, and collides in its rapid course with the neighbouring clouds, and the sound of this collision is what we call thunder. This collision is analogous, to compare small with great, to the sound we hear in a flame which men call the laughter or the threat of Hephaestus or of Hestia. This occurs when the wood dries and cracks and the exhalation rushes on the flame in a body. So in the clouds, the exhalation is projected and its impact on dense clouds causes thunder: the variety of the sound is due to the irregularity of the clouds and the hollows that intervene where their density is interrupted. This then, is thunder, and this its cause.

It usually happens that the exhalation that is ejected is inflamed and burns with a thin and faint fire: this is what we call lightning, where we see as it were the exhalation coloured in the act of its ejection. It comes into existence after the collision and the thunder, though we see it earlier because sight is quicker than hearing. The rowing of triremes illustrates this: the oars are going back again before the sound of their striking the water reaches us.

However, there are some who maintain that there is actually fire in the clouds. Empedocles says that it consists of some of the sun’s rays which are intercepted: Anaxagoras that it is part of the upper ether (which he calls fire) which has descended from above. Lightning, then, is the gleam of this fire, and thunder the hissing noise of its extinction in the cloud.

But this involves the view that lightning actually is prior to thunder and does not merely appear to be so. Again, this intercepting of the fire is impossible on either theory, but especially it is said to be drawn down from the upper ether. Some reason ought to be given why that which naturally ascends should descend, and why it should not always do so, but only when it is cloudy. When the sky is clear there is no lightning: to say that there is, is altogether wanton.

The view that the heat of the sun’s rays intercepted in the clouds is the cause of these phenomena is equally unattractive: this, too, is a most careless explanation. Thunder, lightning, and the rest must have a separate and determinate cause assigned to them on which they ensue. But this theory does nothing of the sort. It is like supposing that water, snow, and hail existed all along and were produced when the time came and not generated at all, as if the atmosphere brought each to hand out of its stock from time to time. They are concretions in the same way as thunder and lightning are discretions, so that if it is true of either that they are not generated but pre-exist, the same must be true of the other. Again, how can any distinction be made about the intercepting between this case and that of interception in denser substances such as water? Water, too, is heated by the sun and by fire: yet when it contracts again and grows cold and freezes no such ejection as they describe occurs, though it ought on their the. to take place on a proportionate scale. Boiling is due to the exhalation generated by fire: but it is impossible for it to exist in the water beforehand; and besides they call the noise ‘hissing’, not ‘boiling’. But hissing is really boiling on a small scale: for when that which is brought into contact with moisture and is in process of being extinguished gets the better of it, then it boils and makes the noise in question. Some-Cleidemus is one of them-say that lightning is nothing objective but merely an appearance. They compare it to what happens when you strike the sea with a rod by night and the water is seen to shine. They say that the moisture in the cloud is beaten about in the same way, and that lightning is the appearance of brightness that ensues.

This theory is due to ignorance of the theory of reflection, which is the real cause of that phenomenon. The water appears to shine when struck because our sight is reflected from it to some bright object: hence the phenomenon occurs mainly by night: the appearance is not seen by day because the daylight is too in, tense and obscures it.

These are the theories of others about thunder and lightning: some maintaining that lightning is a reflection, the others that lightning is fire shining through the cloud and thunder its extinction, the fire not being generated in each case but existing beforehand. We say that the same stuff is wind on the earth, and earthquake under it, and in the clouds thunder. The essential constituent of all these phenomena is the same: namely, the dry exhalation. If it flows in one direction it is wind, in another it causes earthquakes; in the clouds, when they are in a process of change and contract and condense into water, it is ejected and causes thunder and lightning and the other phenomena of the same nature.

So much for thunder and lightning.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/a/aristotle/meteorology/book2.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:59