Table of Contents
Previous section | Next section


     If a body contains more water than earth fire only thickens it: if it contains more earth fire solidifies it. Hence natron and salt and stone and potter's clay must contain more earth.

     The nature of oil presents the greatest problem. If water preponderated in it, cold ought to solidify it; if earth preponderated, then fire ought to do so. Actually neither solidifies, but both thicken it. The reason is that it is full of air (hence it floats on the top of water, since air tends to rise). Cold thickens it by turning the air in it into water, for any mixture of oil and water is thicker than either. Fire and the lapse of time thicken and whiten it. The whitening follows on the evaporation of any water that may have been in it; the is due to the change of the air into water as the heat in the oil is dissipated. The effect in both cases is the same and the cause is the same, but the manner of its operation is different. Both heat and cold thicken it, but neither dries it (neither the sun nor cold dries oil), not only because it is glutinous but because it contains air. Its glutinous nature prevents it from giving off vapour and so fire does not dry it or boil it off.

     Those bodies which are made up of earth and water may be classified according to the preponderance of either. There is a kind of wine, for instance, which both solidifies and thickens by boiling-I mean, must. All bodies of this kind lose their water as they That it is their water may be seen from the fact that the vapour from them condenses into water when collected. So wherever some sediment is left this is of the nature of earth. Some of these bodies, as we have said, are also thickened and dried by cold. For cold not only solidifies but also dries water, and thickens things by turning air into water. (Solidifying, as we have said, is a form of drying.) Now those things that are not thickened by cold, but solidified, belong rather to water, e.g.. wine, urine, vinegar, lye, whey. But those things that are thickened (not by evaporation due to fire) are made up either of earth or of water and air: honey of earth, while oil contains air. Milk and blood, too, are made up of both water and earth, though earth generally predominates in them. So, too, are the liquids out of which natron and salt are formed; and stones are also formed from some mixtures of this kind. Hence, if the whey has not been separated, it burns away if you boil it over a fire. But the earthy element in milk can also be coagulated by the help of fig-juice, if you boil it in a certain way as doctors do when they treat it with fig-juice, and this is how the whey and the cheese are commonly separated. Whey, once separated, does not thicken, as the milk did, but boils away like water. Sometimes, however, there is little or no cheese in milk, and such milk is not nutritive and is more like water. The case of blood is similar: cold dries and so solidifies it. Those kinds of blood that do not solidify, like that of the stag, belong rather to water and are very cold. Hence they contain no fibres: for the fibres are of earth and solid, and blood from which they have been removed does not solidify. This is because it cannot dry; for what remains is water, just as what remains of milk when cheese has been removed is water. The fact that diseased blood will not solidify is evidence of the same thing, for such blood is of the nature of serum and that is phlegm and water, the nature of the animal having failed to get the better of it and digest it.

     Some of these bodies are soluble, e.g. natron, some insoluble, e.g. pottery: of the latter, some, like horn, can be softened by heat, others, like pottery and stone, cannot. The reason is that opposite causes have opposite effects: consequently, if solidification is due to two causes, the cold and the dry, solution must be due to the hot and the moist, that is, to fire and to water (these being opposites): water dissolving what was solidified by fire alone, fire what was solidified by cold alone. Consequently, if any things happen to be solidified by the action of both, these are least apt to be soluble. Such a case we find where things have been heated and are then solidified by cold. When the heat in leaving them has caused most of the moisture to evaporate, the cold so compacts these bodies together again as to leave no entrance even for moisture. Therefore heat does not dissolve them (for it only dissolves those bodies that are solidified by cold alone), nor does water (for it does not dissolve what cold solidifies, but only what is solidified by dry heat). But iron is melted by heat and solidified by cold. Wood consists of earth and air and is therefore combustible but cannot be melted or softened by heat. (For the same reason it floats in water-all except ebony. This does not, for other kinds of wood contain a preponderance of air, but in black ebony the air has escaped and so earth preponderates in it.) Pottery consists of earth alone because it solidified gradually in the process of drying. Water cannot get into it, for the pores were only large enough to admit of vapour escaping: and seeing that fire solidified it, that cannot dissolve it either.

     So solidification and melting, their causes, and the kinds of subjects in which they occur have been described.


     All this makes it clear that bodies are formed by heat and cold and that these agents operate by thickening and solidifying. It is because these qualities fashion bodies that we find heat in all of them, and in some cold in so far as heat is absent. These qualities, then, are present as active, and the moist and the dry as passive, and consequently all four are found in mixed bodies. So water and earth are the constituents of homogeneous bodies both in plants and in animals and of metals such as gold, silver, and the rest-water and earth and their respective exhalations shut up in the compound bodies, as we have explained elsewhere.

     All these mixed bodies are distinguished from one another, firstly by the qualities special to the various senses, that is, by their capacities of action. (For a thing is white, fragrant, sonant, sweet, hot, cold in virtue of a power of acting on sense). Secondly by other more characteristic affections which express their aptitude to be affected: I mean, for instance, the aptitude to melt or solidify or bend and so forth, all these qualities, like moist and dry, being passive. These are the qualities that differentiate bone, flesh, sinew, wood, bark, stone and all other homogeneous natural bodies. Let us begin by enumerating these qualities expressing the aptitude or inaptitude of a thing to be affected in a certain way. They are as follows: to be apt or inapt to solidify, melt, be softened by heat, be softened by water, bend, break, be comminuted, impressed, moulded, squeezed; to be tractile or non-tractile, malleable or non-malleable, to be fissile or non-fissile, apt or inapt to be cut; to be viscous or friable, compressible or incompressible, combustible or incombustible; to be apt or inapt to give off fumes. These affections differentiate most bodies from one another. Let us go on to explain the nature of each of them. We have already given a general account of that which is apt or inapt to solidify or to melt, but let us return to them again now. Of all the bodies that admit of solidification and hardening, some are brought into this state by heat, others by cold. Heat does this by drying up their moisture, cold by driving out their heat. Consequently some bodies are affected in this way by defect of moisture, some by defect of heat: watery bodies by defect of heat, earthy bodies of moisture. Now those bodies that are so affected by defect of moisture are dissolved by water, unless like pottery they have so contracted that their pores are too small for the particles of water to enter. All those bodies in which this is not the case are dissolved by water, e.g. natron, salt, dry mud. Those bodies that solidified through defect of heat are melted by heat, e.g. ice, lead, copper. So much for the bodies that admit of solidification and of melting, and those that do not admit of melting.

     The bodies which do not admit of solidification are those which contain no aqueous moisture and are not watery, but in which heat and earth preponderate, like honey and must (for these are in a sort of state of effervescence), and those which do possess some water but have a preponderance of air, like oil and quicksilver, and all viscous substances such as pitch and birdlime.


     Those bodies admit of softening which are not (like ice) made up of water, but in which earth predominates. All their moisture must not have left them (as in the case of natron and salt), nor must the relation of dry to moist in them be incongruous (as in the case of pottery). They must be tractile (without admitting water) or malleable (without consisting of water), and the agent in softening them is fire. Such are iron and horn.

     Both of bodies that can melt and of bodies that cannot, some do and some do not admit of softening in water. Copper, for instance, which can be melted, cannot be softened in water, whereas wool and earth can be softened in water, for they can be soaked. (It is true that though copper can be melted the agent in its case is not water, but some of the bodies that can be melted by water too such as natron and salt cannot be softened in water: for nothing is said to be so affected unless the water soaks into it and makes it softer.) Some things, on the other hand, such as wool and grain, can be softened by water though they cannot be melted. Any body that is to be softened by water must be of earth and must have its pores larger than the particles of water, and the pores themselves must be able to resist the action of water, whereas bodies that can be 'melted' by water must have pores throughout.

     (Why is it that earth is both 'melted' and softened by moisture, while natron is 'melted' but not softened? Because natron is pervaded throughout by pores so that the parts are immediately divided by the water, but earth has also pores which do not connect and is therefore differently affected according as the water enters by one or the other set of pores.)

     Some bodies can be bent or straightened, like the reed or the withy, some cannot, like pottery and stone. Those bodies are apt to be bent and straightened which can change from being curved to being straight and from being straight to being curved, and bending and straightening consist in the change or motion to the straight or to a curve, for a thing is said to be in process of being bent whether it is being made to assume a convex or a concave shape. So bending is defined as motion to the convex or the concave without a change of length. For if we added 'or to the straight', we should have a thing bent and straight at once, and it is impossible for that which is straight to be bent. And if all bending is a bending back or a bending down, the former being a change to the convex, the latter to the concave, a motion that leads to the straight cannot be called bending, but bending and straightening are two different things. These, then, are the things that can, and those that cannot be bent, and be straightened.

     Some things can be both broken and comminuted, others admit only one or the other. Wood, for instance, can be broken but not comminuted, ice and stone can be comminuted but not broken, while pottery may either be comminuted or broken. The distinction is this: breaking is a division and separation into large parts, comminution into parts of any size, but there must be more of them than two. Now those solids that have many pores not communicating with one another are comminuible (for the limit to their subdivision is set by the pores), but those whose pores stretch continuously for a long way are breakable, while those which have pores of both kinds are both comminuible and breakable.

     Some things, e.g. copper and wax, are impressible, others, e.g. pottery and water, are not. The process of being impressed is the sinking of a part of the surface of a thing in response to pressure or a blow, in general to contact. Such bodies are either soft, like wax, where part of the surface is depressed while the rest remains, or hard, like copper. Non-impressible bodies are either hard, like pottery (its surface does not give way and sink in), or liquid, like water (for though water does give way it is not in a part of it, for there is a reciprocal change of place of all its parts). Those impressibles that retain the shape impressed on them and are easily moulded by the hand are called 'plastic'; those that are not easily moulded, such as stone or wood, or are easily moulded but do not retain the shape impressed, like wool or a sponge, are not plastic. The last group are said to be 'squeezable'. Things are 'squeezable' when they can contract into themselves under pressure, their surface sinking in without being broken and without the parts interchanging position as happens in the case of water. (We speak of pressure when there is movement and the motor remains in contact with the thing moved, of impact when the movement is due to the local movement of the motor.) Those bodies are subject to squeezing which have empty pores-empty, that is, of the stuff of which the body itself consists-and that can sink upon the void spaces within them, or rather upon their pores. For sometimes the pores upon which a body sinks in are not empty (a wet sponge, for instance, has its pores full). But the pores, if full, must be full of something softer than the body itself which is to contract. Examples of things squeezable are the sponge, wax, flesh. Those things are not squeezable which cannot be made to contract upon their own pores by pressure, either because they have no pores or because their pores are full of something too hard. Thus iron, stone, water and all liquids are incapable of being squeezed.

     Things are tractile when their surface can be made to elongate, for being drawn out is a movement of the surface, remaining unbroken, in the direction of the mover. Some things are tractile, e.g. hair, thongs, sinew, dough, birdlime, and some are not, e.g. water, stone. Some things are both tractile and squeezable, e.g. wool; in other cases the two qualities do not coincide; phlegm, for instance, is tractile but not squeezable, and a sponge squeezable but not tractile.

     Some things are malleable, like copper. Some are not, like stone and wood. Things are malleable when their surface can be made to move (but only in part) both downwards and sideways with one and the same blow: when this is not possible a body is not malleable. All malleable bodies are impressible, but not all impressible bodies are malleable, e.g. wood, though on the whole the two go together. Of squeezable things some are malleable and some not: wax and mud are malleable, wool is not. Some things are fissile, e.g. wood, some are not, e.g. potter's clay. A thing is fissile when it is apt to divide in advance of the instrument dividing it, for a body is said to split when it divides to a further point than that to which the dividing instrument divides it and the act of division advances: which is not the case with cutting. Those bodies which cannot behave like this are non-fissile. Nothing soft is fissile (by soft I mean absolutely soft and not relatively: for iron itself may be relatively soft); nor are all hard things fissile, but only such as are neither liquid nor impressible nor comminuible. Such are the bodies that have the pores along which they cohere lengthwise and not crosswise.

     Those hard or soft solids are apt to be cut which do not necessarily either split in advance of the instrument or break into minute fragments when they are being divided. Those that necessarily do so and liquids cannot be cut. Some things can be both split and cut, like wood, though generally it is lengthwise that a thing can be split and crosswise that it can be cut. For, a body being divided into many parts fin so far as its unity is made up of many lengths it is apt to be split, in so far as it is made up of many breadths it is apt to be cut.

     A thing is viscous when, being moist or soft, it is tractile. Bodies owe this property to the interlocking of their parts when they are composed like chains, for then they can be drawn out to a great length and contracted again. Bodies that are not like this are friable. Bodies are compressible when they are squeezable and retain the shape they have been squeezed into; incompressible when they are either inapt to be squeezed at all or do not retain the shape they have been squeezed into.

     Some bodies are combustible and some are not. Wood, wool, bone are combustible; stone, ice are not. Bodies are combustible when their pores are such as to admit fire and their longitudinal pores contain moisture weaker than fire. If they have no moisture, or if, as in ice or very green wood, the moisture is stronger than fire, they are not combustible.

     Those bodies give off fumes which contain moisture, but in such a form that it does not go off separately in vapour when they are exposed to fire. For vapour is a moist secretion tending to the nature of air produced from a liquid by the agency of burning heat. Bodies that give off fumes give off secretions of the nature of air by the lapse of time: as they perish away they dry up or become earth. But the kind of secretion we are concerned with now differs from others in that it is not moist nor does it become wind (which is a continuous flow of air in a given direction). Fumes are common secretion of dry and moist together caused by the agency of burning heat. Hence they do not moisten things but rather colour them.

     The fumes of a woody body are called smoke. (I mean to include bones and hair and everything of this kind in the same class. For there is no name common to all the objects that I mean, but, for all that, these things are all in the same class by analogy. Compare what Empedocles says: They are one and the same, hair and leaves and the thick wings of birds and scales that grow on stout limbs.) The fumes of fat are a sooty smoke and those of oily substances a greasy steam. Oil does not boil away or thicken by evaporation because it does not give off vapour but fumes. Water on the other hand does not give off fumes, but vapour. Sweet wine does give off fumes, for it contains fat and behaves like oil. It does not solidify under the influence of cold and it is apt to burn. Really it is not wine at all in spite of its name: for it does not taste like wine and consequently does not inebriate as ordinary wine does. It contains but little fumigable stuff and consequently is inflammable.

     All bodies are combustible that dissolve into ashes, and all bodies do this that solidify under the influence either of heat or of both heat and cold; for we find that all these bodies are mastered by fire. Of stones the precious stone called carbuncle is least amenable to fire.

     Of combustible bodies some are inflammable and some are not, and some of the former are reduced to coals. Those are called 'inflammable' which produce flame and those which do not are called 'non-inflammable'. Those fumigable bodies that are not liquid are inflammable, but pitch, oil, wax are inflammable in conjunction with other bodies rather than by themselves. Most inflammable are those bodies that give off smoke. Of bodies of this kind those that contain more earth than smoke are apt to be reduced to coals. Some bodies that can be melted are not inflammable, e.g. copper; and some bodies that cannot be melted are inflammable, e.g. wood; and some bodies can be melted and are also inflammable, e.g. frankincense. The reason is that wood has its moisture all together and this is continuous throughout and so it burns up: whereas copper has it in each part but not continuous, and insufficient in quantity to give rise to flame. In frankincense it is disposed in both of these ways. Fumigable bodies are inflammable when earth predominates in them and they are consequently such as to be unable to melt. These are inflammable because they are dry like fire. When this dry comes to be hot there is fire. This is why flame is burning smoke or dry exhalation. The fumes of wood are smoke, those of wax and frankincense and such-like, and pitch and whatever contains pitch or such-like are sooty smoke, while the fumes of oil and oily substances are a greasy steam; so are those of all substances which are not at all combustible by themselves because there is too little of the dry in them (the dry being the means by which the transition to fire is effected), but burn very readily in conjunction with something else. (For the fat is just the conjunction of the oily with the dry.) So those bodies that give off fumes, like oil and pitch, belong rather to the moist, but those that burn to the dry.


     Homogeneous bodies differ to touch-by these affections and differences, as we have said. They also differ in respect of their smell, taste, and colour.

     By homogeneous bodies I mean, for instance, 'metals', gold, copper, silver, tin, iron, stone, and everything else of this kind and the bodies that are extracted from them; also the substances found in animals and plants, for instance, flesh, bones, sinew, skin, viscera, hair, fibres, veins (these are the elements of which the non-homogeneous bodies like the face, a hand, a foot, and everything of that kind are made up), and in plants, wood, bark, leaves, roots, and the rest like them.

     The homogeneous bodies, it is true, are constituted by a different cause, but the matter of which they are composed is the dry and the moist, that is, water and earth (for these bodies exhibit those qualities most clearly). The agents are the hot and the cold, for they constitute and make concrete the homogeneous bodies out of earth and water as matter. Let us consider, then, which of the homogeneous bodies are made of earth and which of water, and which of both.

     Of organized bodies some are liquid, some soft, some hard. The soft and the hard are constituted by a process of solidification, as we have already explained.

     Those liquids that go off in vapour are made of water, those that do not are either of the nature of earth, or a mixture either of earth and water, like milk, or of earth and air, like wood, or of water and air, like oil. Those liquids which are thickened by heat are a mixture. (Wine is a liquid which raises a difficulty: for it is both liable to evaporation and it also thickens; for instance new wine does. The reason is that the word 'wine' is ambiguous and different 'wines' behave in different ways. New wine is more earthy than old, and for this reason it is more apt to be thickened by heat and less apt to be congealed by cold. For it contains much heat and a great proportion of earth, as in Arcadia, where it is so dried up in its skins by the smoke that you scrape it to drink. If all wine has some sediment in it then it will belong to earth or to water according to the quantity of the sediment it possesses.) The liquids that are thickened by cold are of the nature of earth; those that are thickened either by heat or by cold consist of more than one element, like oil and honey, and 'sweet wine'.

     Of solid bodies those that have been solidified by cold are of water, e.g. ice, snow, hail, hoar-frost. Those solidified by heat are of earth, e.g. pottery, cheese, natron, salt. Some bodies are solidified by both heat and cold. Of this kind are those solidified by refrigeration, that is by the privation both of heat and of the moisture which departs with the heat. For salt and the bodies that are purely of earth solidify by the privation of moisture only, ice by that of heat only, these bodies by that of both. So both the active qualities and both kinds of matter were involved in the process. Of these bodies those from which all the moisture has gone are all of them of earth, like pottery or amber. (For amber, also, and the bodies called 'tears' are formed by refrigeration, like myrrh, frankincense, gum. Amber, too, appears to belong to this class of things: the animals enclosed in it show that it is formed by solidification. The heat is driven out of it by the cold of the river and causes the moisture to evaporate with it, as in the case of honey when it has been heated and is immersed in water.) Some of these bodies cannot be melted or softened; for instance, amber and certain stones, e.g. the stalactites in caves. (For these stalactites, too, are formed in the same way: the agent is not fire, but cold which drives out the heat, which, as it leaves the body, draws out the moisture with it: in the other class of bodies the agent is external fire.) In those from which the moisture has not wholly gone earth still preponderates, but they admit of softening by heat, e.g. iron and horn.

     Now since we must include among 'meltables' those bodies which are melted by fire, these contain some water: indeed some of them, like wax, are common to earth and water alike. But those that are melted by water are of earth. Those that are not melted either by fire or water are of earth, or of earth and water.

     Since, then, all bodies are either liquid or solid, and since the things that display the affections we have enumerated belong to these two classes and there is nothing intermediate, it follows that we have given a complete account of the criteria for distinguishing whether a body consists of earth or of water or of more elements than one, and whether fire was the agent in its formation, or cold, or both.

     Gold, then, and silver and copper and tin and lead and glass and many nameless stone are of water: for they are all melted by heat. Of water, too, are some wines and urine and vinegar and lye and whey and serum: for they are all congealed by cold. In iron, horn, nails, bones, sinews, wood, hair, leaves, bark, earth preponderates. So, too, in amber, myrrh, frankincense, and all the substances called 'tears', and stalactites, and fruits, such as leguminous plants and corn. For things of this kind are, to a greater or less degree, of earth. For of all these bodies some admit of softening by heat, the rest give off fumes and are formed by refrigeration. So again in natron, salt, and those kinds of stones that are not formed by refrigeration and cannot be melted. Blood, on the other hand, and semen, are made up of earth and water and air. If the blood contains fibres, earth preponderates in it: consequently its solidifies by refrigeration and is melted by liquids; if not, it is of water and therefore does not solidify. Semen solidifies by refrigeration, its moisture leaving it together with its heat.

Table of Contents
Previous section | Next section

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.