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date: 11 December 2023



  • J. T. Vallance


Fire (πῦρ, ignis) has special status in ancient myth, religion, cosmology, physics, and physiology. According to Greek myth, *Prometheus stole it from the gods for mortals with dire consequences, and the name of the god *Hephaestus is often synonymous with it. Fire figures prominently in the cosmologies of *Heraclitus (1), *Parmenides, the Pythagoreans (see pythagoras (1)), and *Empedocles, to name only a few.The status of fire as an element presented problems throughout antiquity. *Theophrastus noted at the beginning of his treatise De igne (‘On Fire’) that ‘of the simple substances fire has the most special powers’; much of the rest of the work is concerned with describing its various manifestations, and coming to terms with the problem of how such an element can only exist in the company of a material substrate, and how it can generate itself and be generated in such a variety of ways. Heat, flame, and light are different species of fire in many theories including that of *Aristotle.


  • Science, Technology, and Medicine

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