Selections from the
Book I: 1-20 The Primal Chaos
I want to speak about bodies changed into new forms. You,
, since you are the ones who alter these, and all other
things, inspire my attempt, and spin out a continuous thread of words, from the world's first origins to my own time.
Before there was earth or sea or the sky that covers everything, Nature appeared the same throughout the whole world:
what we call
: a raw confused mass, nothing but inert matter, badly combined discordant atoms of things, confused
in the one place. There was no Titan yet, shining his light on the world, or waxing Phoebe renewing her white horns, or
the earth hovering in surrounding air balanced by her own weight, or watery Amphitrite stretching out her arms along the
vast shores of the world. Though there was land and sea and air, it was unstable land, unswimmable water, air needing
light. Nothing retained its shape, one thing obstructed another, because in the one body, cold fought with heat, moist with
dry, soft with hard, and weight with weightless things.
Book I:21-31 Separation of the elements
This conflict was ended by a god and a greater order of nature, since he split off the earth from the sky, and the sea from
the land, and divided the transparent heavens from the dense air. When he had disentangled the elements, and freed them
from the obscure mass, he fixed them in separate spaces in harmonious peace. The weightless fire, that forms the heavens,
darted upwards to make its home in the furthest heights. Next came air in lightness and place. Earth, heavier than either of
these, drew down the largest elements, and was compressed by its own weight. The surrounding water took up the last
space and enclosed the solid world.
Book I:32-51 The earth and sea. The five zones.
it was had ordered and divided the mass, and collected it into separate parts, he first gathered the
earth into a great ball so that it was uniform on all sides. Then he ordered the seas to spread and rise in waves in the
flowing winds and pour around the coasts of the encircled land. He added springs and standing pools and lakes, and
contained in shelving banks the widely separated rivers, some of which are swallowed by the earth itself, others of which
reach the sea and entering the expanse of open waters beat against coastlines instead of riverbanks. He ordered the plains
to extend, the valleys to subside, leaves to hide the trees, stony mountains to rise: and just as the heavens are divided into
two zones to the north and two to the south, with a fifth and hotter between them, so the god carefully marked out the
enclosed matter with the same number, and described as many
on the earth. The
zone is too hot to be
are covered by deep snow; and he placed
two regions between
and gave them a temperate
climate mixing heat and cold.
Book I:52-68 The four winds