Heraclides Ponticus and the Infinite Universe

  • Dirk L. Couprie
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 374)


In Chap. 8, it was explained how Anaximander, with one of his fundamental speculative insights, broke through the firmament of the archaic world picture by placing the celestial bodies at different distances from the earth. Yet the size of his cosmos is not very big, albeit much larger than in the archaic world picture, in which the celestial vault is at about 2,500 km distance from the earth’s center (see Chap. 1). Anaxagoras’ calculations resulted in a distance of about 6,000 km from the earth to the sun (see Chap. 16). Anaximander clearly did not perform calculations like those of Anaxagoras, for he estimated a much bigger distance to the sun, which he supposed to be the farthest celestial body. If we agree, in conformity with what was called in Chap. 9 the unorthodox variant of the standard interpretation, that the radius of Anaximander’s sun wheel counts 28 earth diameters and if we take the diameter of the earth to be about 5,000 km (the greatest distance known at that time, between Babylon and the Pillars of Hercules), then the diameter of Anaximander’s cosmos amounts to 280,000 km, and the sun is 140,000 km away. What is beyond the sun is not so obvious, although his concept of the apeiron makes some surmise that we have to imagine an infinite space out there (see Chap. 8).


Celestial Body Open Universe Infinite Space World Picture Earth Diameter 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk L. Couprie
    • 1
  1. 1.MaastrichtNetherlands

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