Greeks and Romans: Antiquity

Frank N. Egerton

in Roots of Ecology

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780520271746
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780520953635 | DOI:
Greeks and Romans: Antiquity

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Greeks first sought rational explanations of nature and rejected mythological explanations. Their earliest natural philosophy was simplistic, but their process of conjecture and refutation enabled them to develop more sophisticated explanations. Natural philosophy influenced other aspects of Greek thinking: medicine included the idea that health is a balance of humors, that disease is humoral imbalance, and that adverse climate causes humors to become unbalanced; the traveler Herodotus explained that predatory animals have fewer offspring than their prey to avoid eating all their prey and then starving. That discussion was supplemented by Plato's assertion that all species are endowed with the means for survival, and this resulted in an implicit concept of the balance of nature. Aristotle established an Athenian school that combined natural philosophy and information about nature to create sciences of zoology and botany, the latter associated with his successor, Theophrastus. Romans combined Greek teachings with Roman uncritical information, which resulted in Pliny the Elder's work on natural history.

Keywords: Herodotus; Plato; Aristotle; Theophrastus; Pliny the Elder; balance of nature; botany; zoology; natural history

Chapter.  14489 words. 

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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