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Heraclides Ponticus (Greek: Ἡρακλείδης ὁ Ποντικός Herakleides; c. 390 BC – c. 310 BC)[1] was a Greek philosopher and astronomer who was born in Heraclea Pontica, , and migrated to Athens. He is best remembered for proposing that the Earth rotates on its axis, from west to east, once every 24 hours.[2] He is also hailed as the originator of the heliocentric theory, although this is doubted by some.


Heraclides' father was Euthyphron,[3] a wealthy nobleman who sent his son to study at the Platonic Academy in Athens under its founder Plato and under his successor Speusippus. According to the Suda, Plato, on his departure for Sicily in 361/360 BC, left the Academy in the charge of Heraclides. Heraclides was nearly elected successor to Speusippus as head of the academy in 339/338 BC, but narrowly lost to Xenocrates.[4]

Like the Pythagoreans Hicetas and Ecphantus, Heraclides proposed that the apparent daily motion of the stars was created by the rotation of the Earth on its axis once a day. This view contradicted the accepted Aristotelian model of the universe, which said that the Earth was fixed and that the stars and planets in their respective spheres might also be fixed. Simplicius says that Heraclides proposed that the irregular movements of the planets can be explained if the Earth moves while the Sun stays still.[5]

Although some historians[6] have proposed that Heraclides taught that Venus and Mercury revolve around the Sun, a detailed investigation of the sources has shown that "nowhere in the ancient literature mentioning Heraclides of Pontus is there a clear reference for his support for any kind of heliocentrical planetary position".[7]

A punning on his name, dubbing him Heraclides "Pompicus," suggests he may have been a rather vain and pompous man and the target of much ridicule.[8] According to Diogenes Laërtius, Heraclides forged plays under the name of Thespis, this time drawing from a different source, Dionysius the Deserter, composed plays and forged them under the name of Sophocles. Heraclides was deceived by this easily and cited from them as the words of Aeschylus and Sophocles.[9] However, Heraclides seems to have been a versatile and prolific writer on philosophy, mathematics, music, grammar, physics, history and rhetoric, notwithstanding doubts about attribution of many of the works. It appears that he composed various works in dialogue form.

Heraclides also seems to have had an interest in the occult. In particular he focused on explaining trances, visions and prophecies in terms of the retribution of the gods, and reincarnation.[2]

A quote of Heraclides, of particular significance to historians, is his statement that fourth century B.C. Rome was a Greek city.

Heraclides Ponticus refers with much admiration that Pythagoras would remember having been Pirro and before Euphorbus and before some other mortal.

Excerpt from a speech by the character ‘Heraclides’ in Protrepticus (Hutchinson and Johnson, 2015)[10]

"So nothing divine or happy belongs to humans apart from just that one thing worth taking seriously, as much insight and intelligence as is in us, for, of what’s ours, this alone seems to be immortal, and this alone divine. And by being able to share in such a capacity, our way of life, although by nature miserable and difficult, is yet so gracefully managed that, in comparison with the other animals, a human seems to be a god." (p. 43)


Dorandi 1999, p. 48.
Porter 2000.
Gottschalk 1980, p. 2.
Guthrie 1986, p. 470.
Simplicius, p. 48.
Heath 1921, pp. 312, 316-317.
Eastwood 1992, p. 256.
Davidson 2007, p. 45.
Laërtius 1925, § 92.

Hutchinson & Johnson 2015.


Dorandi, Tiziano (1999). "Chapter 2: Chronology". In Algra, Keimpe; et al. (eds.). The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 48. ISBN 9780521250283.
Davidson, Martin P. (2007). The Stars And The Mind. Fabri Press. p. 45. ISBN 1-4067-7147-3.
Eastwood, Bruce (1992). "Heraclides and Heliocentrism: Texts, Diagrams, and Interpretations". Journal for the History of Astronomy. 23: 233–260. Bibcode:1992JHA....23..233E.
Gottschalk, H. B. (1980). Heraclides of Pontus. Clarendon Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-19-814021-5.
Guthrie, W. K. C. (1986). A History of Greek Philosophy: Volume 5, The Later Plato and the Academy (Later Plato & the Academy). Cambridge University Press. p. 470. ISBN 0-521-31102-0.
Heath, Thomas L. (1921). A History of Greek Mathematics: From Thales to Euclid. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 312, 316–317.
Hutchinson, D. S.; Johnson, Monte Ransome (25 January 2015). "Protrepticus: New Reconstruction, includes Greek text".
Wikisource-logo.svg Laërtius, Diogenes (1925). "The Peripatetics: Heraclides" . Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. 1:5. Translated by Hicks, Robert Drew (Two volume ed.). Loeb Classical Library. § 92.
Porter, Roy, ed. (2000). "Heraklides of Ponticus". The Hutchinson Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1st ed.). Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-1859863046.
Simplicius (2003). "Physics 2". On Aristotle's. Translated by Fleet, Barries. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p. 48.[full citation needed]

Further reading

Diogenes Laërtius trans. C.D. Yonge (1853) "Lives of Eminent Philosophers"
O. Voss (1896) De Heraclidis Pontici vita et scriptis
Wehrli, F. (1969) Herakleides Pontikos. Die Schule des Aristoteles vol. 7, 2nd edn. Basel.
Heraclides of Pontus. Texts and translations, edited by Eckart Schütrumpf; translators Peter Stork, Jan van Ophuijsen, and Susan Prince, New Brunswick, N.J., Transaction Publishers, 2008
Heraclides of Pontus. Discussion, edited by William W. Fortenbaugh, Elizabeth Pender, New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Publishers, 2009
Hans B. Gottschalk (1980) Heraclides of Pontus, New York, Oxford University Press
Neugebauer, Otto (1969) [1957]. The Exact Sciences in Antiquity (2 ed.). Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-22332-2.
O. Neugebauer (1975) A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy

External links

O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Heraclides Ponticus", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.


Ancient Greek astronomy

Aglaonice Agrippa Anaximander Andronicus Apollonius Aratus Aristarchus Aristyllus Attalus Autolycus Bion Callippus Cleomedes Cleostratus Conon Eratosthenes Euctemon Eudoxus Geminus Heraclides Hicetas Hipparchus Hippocrates of Chios Hypsicles Menelaus Meton Oenopides Philip of Opus Philolaus Posidonius Ptolemy Pytheas Seleucus Sosigenes of Alexandria Sosigenes the Peripatetic Strabo Thales Theodosius Theon of Alexandria Theon of Smyrna Timocharis


Almagest (Ptolemy) On Sizes and Distances (Hipparchus) On the Sizes and Distances (Aristarchus) On the Heavens (Aristotle)


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Plato Aristotle Eudoxus Philip of Opus Aristonymus Coriscus and Erastus of Scepsis Demetrius of Amphipolis Euaeon of Lampsacus Heraclides and Python of Aenus Hestiaeus of Perinthus Lastheneia of Mantinea Timolaus of Cyzicus Speusippus Axiothea of Phlius Heraclides Ponticus Menedemus of Pyrrha Xenocrates Crantor Polemon Crates of Athens


Arcesilaus Diocles of Cnidus Lacydes Telecles and Evander Hegesinus


Carneades Hagnon of Tarsus Metrodorus of Stratonicea Clitomachus Charmadas Aeschines of Neapolis Philo of Larissa Cicero Dio of Alexandria

Middle Platonist

Antiochus Philo of Alexandria Plutarch Justin Martyr Gaius Albinus Alcinous Apuleius Atticus Maximus of Tyre Numenius of Apamea Longinus Clement of Alexandria Origen the Pagan Calcidius


Ammonius Saccas Plotinus
Disciples Origen Amelius Porphyry Iamblichus Sopater Eustathius of Cappadocia Sosipatra Aedesius Dexippus Chrysanthius Theodorus of Asine Julian Sallustius Maximus of Ephesus Eusebius of Myndus Priscus of Epirus Antoninus Gregory of Nyssa Hypatia Gaius Marius Victorinus Augustine Macrobius


Plutarch of Athens Asclepigenia Hierocles Syrianus Hermias Aedesia Proclus Ammonius Hermiae Asclepiodotus Hegias Zenodotus Marinus Agapius Isidore Damascius Simplicius Priscian


Boethius John Philoponus Olympiodorus Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite John Scotus Eriugena

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Bernard Gilbert Thierry

Henry of Ghent Bonaventure Theodoric of Freiberg Meister Eckhart Berthold of Moosburg Paul of Venice

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Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Christian Wolff Moses Mendelssohn Immanuel Kant Johann Gottlieb Fichte Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling Arthur Schopenhauer G. W. F. Hegel Hermann Lotze Otto Weininger

Thomas Taylor Ralph Waldo Emerson Josiah Royce Søren Kierkegaard Henri Bergson Aleksei Losev

Gottlob Frege G. E. Moore Kurt Gödel Alonzo Church Roderick Chisholm Michael Dummett W. V. O. Quine David Kaplan Saul Kripke Alvin Plantinga Peter van Inwagen Nicholas Wolterstorff Crispin Wright Edward N. Zalta

Edmund Husserl Roman Ingarden Leo Strauss


Philip K. Dick Joseph Ratzinger Bernard Bolzano

Ancient Greek and Hellenistic mathematics (Euclidean geometry)
Anaxagoras Anthemius Archytas Aristaeus the Elder Aristarchus Apollonius Archimedes Autolycus Bion Bryson Callippus Carpus Chrysippus Cleomedes Conon Ctesibius Democritus Dicaearchus Diocles Diophantus Dinostratus Dionysodorus Domninus Eratosthenes Eudemus Euclid Eudoxus Eutocius Geminus Heliodorus Heron Hipparchus Hippasus Hippias Hippocrates Hypatia Hypsicles Isidore of Miletus Leon Marinus Menaechmus Menelaus Metrodorus Nicomachus Nicomedes Nicoteles Oenopides Pappus Perseus Philolaus Philon Philonides Porphyry Posidonius Proclus Ptolemy Pythagoras Serenus Simplicius Sosigenes Sporus Thales Theaetetus Theano Theodorus Theodosius Theon of Alexandria Theon of Smyrna Thymaridas Xenocrates Zeno of Elea Zeno of Sidon Zenodorus
Almagest Archimedes Palimpsest Arithmetica Conics (Apollonius) Catoptrics Data (Euclid) Elements (Euclid) Measurement of a Circle On Conoids and Spheroids On the Sizes and Distances (Aristarchus) On Sizes and Distances (Hipparchus) On the Moving Sphere (Autolycus) Euclid's Optics On Spirals On the Sphere and Cylinder Ostomachion Planisphaerium Sphaerics The Quadrature of the Parabola The Sand Reckoner
Angle trisection Doubling the cube Squaring the circle Problem of Apollonius
Circles of Apollonius
Apollonian circles Apollonian gasket Circumscribed circle Commensurability Diophantine equation Doctrine of proportionality Golden ratio Greek numerals Incircle and excircles of a triangle Method of exhaustion Parallel postulate Platonic solid Lune of Hippocrates Quadratrix of Hippias Regular polygon Straightedge and compass construction Triangle center
In Elements
Angle bisector theorem Exterior angle theorem Euclidean algorithm Euclid's theorem Geometric mean theorem Greek geometric algebra Hinge theorem Inscribed angle theorem Intercept theorem Pons asinorum Pythagorean theorem Thales's theorem Theorem of the gnomon
Apollonius's theorem
Aristarchus's inequality Crossbar theorem Heron's formula Irrational numbers Menelaus's theorem Pappus's area theorem Problem II.8 of Arithmetica Ptolemy's inequality Ptolemy's table of chords Ptolemy's theorem Spiral of Theodorus
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