The Classical Quarterly

Research Article

Plants in Plato's Timaeus

J. B. Skempa1

a1 Manchester

‘Now that all parts and members of the mortal creature had been fashioned into one, seeing that it must be the creature's lot for reasons of necessity to spend its life in the domain of fire and air and that it was like to waste away being continually melted and emptied by their onslaught, the gods contrived reinforcement for it. Blending a being kindred to man's being but with different shapes and senses, they brought it into life, a second kind of living creature. Trees, plants, and seeds are these, and those among them which are cultivated types to-day have arrived at their mild benevolence to man only because they have been civilized by his husbandry; formerly only the wild kinds existed, for these are older than the cultivated. Now everything that is alive, whatever it be, may perfectly correctly and of right be termed ‘a living creature’. The creature now in question has at any rate the third kind of soul which our discourse told us is situated between the midriff and the navel. This kind of soul has nothing of opining or of reasoning mind, but it has sensation of pleasant and painful with attendant desires. For continually it is subject to every impression. Its manner of birth has not granted it the power to revolve by itself in itself upon itself rejecting outside motion and asserting its own and thus by beholding all things by native endowment of soull to reason out aught of its own concerns. So it has life and is not some second being other than a living creature, but it stays fixed, rooted, motionless, for it has never been granted movement of its own initiation.’