Heraclitus, Fragment 121 (D 66)


“Fire, having come upon them, will distinguish and seize all things.” (S 66; Cp. D R 66, K 121).

Robinson renders this closer to the wording of Hippolytus, who understands it as foreshadowing his own Christian views regarding a final judgment: “Fire, [he says,] having come suddenly upon all things, will judge and convict them.” Reinholdt (1922, 22ff.) and Kirk (359 ff.) had rejected the fragment as inauthentic, because of its close mirroring of Hippolytus’ view that there would be a final hellfire. Robinson, however, this as a mere coincidence. In this case, the fire is indicative of the aether from which all things originate (cp. the commentary of R 66). Sweet’s rendering has the advantage of playing less explicitly into the later Christian view.

The cosmic process exudes a control on all things (coming upon them — epelthon). It judges or decides or distinguishes them (krinei). It seizes them or judges or convicts them (katalepsetai). (See Kahn, p. 272.)

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