Philosophy is the study of fundamental truths. For this purpose, philosophy opens up ways to deal with the views and concepts of daily life, science, art, religion, politics, or any other field one can imagine. It aims to raise awareness for the correct use of concepts in every field. It poses new questions and introduces unique new concepts while trying to answer these questions. Ancient Philosophers of Anatolia were the pioneers of these works in the world.
Anatolian lands have hosted many different cultures and civilizations throughout history. Philosophers such as Aristotle, Heraclitus, and Thales, who were born, learned and shaped their ideas in Anatolia. Their influence has continued till today and lived on the Aegean coasts of Anatolia.
Thales, who is considered the first philosopher in the world, lived in Miletus (Aydın) and founded the Miletus school of philosophers there. It is known that Thales, who put forward ideas in the fields of metaphysics, mathematics, ethics, and astronomy. He was also a sailor. Being a sailor was reflected in his thoughts. He thought that the land was a piece of stone and was floating on the water. No written documents have survived from the works of Thales, we know his ideas from the narrations of ancient writers.
Galen, born in Bergama, is also one of the famous doctors of Ancient Rome. He is the person who gave his name to Galenos Street in Bergama today and there is a statue of him in Cumhuriyet Square which is situated in the center of modern Bergama (Pergamon) of Turkey. Galen was the most important physician, anatomy and physiology scholar, and thinker of Ancient Rome. He was the surgeon of the gladiators, then he became a physician to the Roman court. Besides his therapeutic studies, he was interested in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and also philosophy.
Anaxagoras who was Thales’ student was from Klazomenai located in Urla town of Izmir (Smyrna) today. Anaxagoras belongs to one of the noble families of this city. It is rumored that he spent all his wealth on scientific research. He examined a meteorite that fell in 468 B.C. and came to the conclusion that it was a hot piece of stone. Anaxagoras settled in Athens in his later years.
Aristotle, one of the most important philosophers in the history of philosophy, was counted among the philosophers living in Anatolia because he spent a part of his life in Assos (Today’s Gallipoli area) and did philosophical studies there. Aristotle’s works were on things such as logic, politics, biology and he expressed views in most of these fields making his influence last for ages. He is also known as the first historian of philosophy due to the information he collected and published about the philosophers and scientific studies before him. Aristotle, known as the first biologist too because of classifying living things. Also, maybe the most influential aspect of Aristotle was being the teacher and mentor of Macedonian King Alexander the Great.
Anaximander designed models of the Solar System and Earth. He was a philosopher who created himself an important place in the philosophy world thanks to his ideas about rational thinking. Anaximander, who was born in Miletus which is today in Aydın located nearby Ephesus. He is considered to be the first philosopher to write down his teachings. Unlike most philosophers before him, he did not attempt to attribute natural events to gods. Anaximandros is a person who came to the fore with his identity as a politician, astronomer, cartographer, and mathematician.
Xenophanes was born in the city of İzmir (Smyrna) today. Back then it was called Kolophon. Philosophy as a real science begins with Xenophanes. Because he started the basis of criticism in philosophy. Against the folk religion’s designation of gods in human form, Xenophanes puts his own representation of God. This is a purified god. God is all-hearing, all thinking; He manages everything effortlessly with his thoughts. This god design of Xenophanes is a step towards monotheism.
Heraclitus had a philosophy that thinks everything changes. The saying “Different waters flow over those who enter the same rivers” summarizes his view. Little is known about his life, apart from details like he was a native of Ephesus and his father’s name was Bloson. He is the first person to put forward a dynamic philosophical system in the history of Western philosophy. Just like the flow theory of Heraclitus, another widely discussed theory is the theory of relativity. Heraclitus argues that good and evil, right and wrong, crime, punishment, and justice are relative depending on the circumstances.
Diogenes was the forerunner of Cynic philosophy. He was born in 412 BC in the city of Sinop, formerly known as Sinope (its name is rumored to have taken its name from an Amazon queen), the northernmost point of the Black Sea coast of Anatolia today. He compares himself to stray dogs in his thinking. Hearing the name of Diogenes, who lived in a barrel, Alexander the Great wanted to visit him and make a donation. When Alexander the Great, who came to Diogenes while he was sunbathing in the barrel in which he lived, said, “Ask whatever you wish from me,” he replied, “Don’t overshadow, I don’t want any other favors.” Alexander said, “If I had not been Alexander, I would have wanted to be Diogenes.”
Strabo was a traveler and visited many cities of the ancient world. He had the opportunity to do research in the huge library of Alexandria. Strabo, who was born in Amasya (Amaseia or Amasia in antiquity) today, is known as the first geographer of the world and gained fame with his geography book describing the ancient world. He wrote a 17-volume geography book series called Geography. Especially his work on cartography is very important. He is thought to be related by blood to Roman aristocrats.
Epictetus was born as a slave in Hierapolis (Pamukkale), then freed and opened a philosophy school. The fact that he was injured during his slavery made him inclined to this philosophy. Epictetus, known as a good-hearted person, is said to have a merciful, benevolent, and humble personality, especially towards children. Epictetus, adopting Stoicism, advised that man should see his destiny as a divine gift and design of God and surrender to him. Epictetus’s most famous saying was “I cannot escape death, but I can escape the fear of death.”.
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Anatolia and philosophy are two subjects that are getting into each other here in Anatolia. Reading about ideas and theories of the ancient Anatolian philosophers always makes you evaluate the world around you. Contact me to learn more about Anatolia and its history also contact me for hiring a licensed tour guide in Turkey. See you soon, Hasan Gülday.