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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Plurality of Worlds, According to the Ancient Greeks and Romans

Did any of the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers conceptualize that life might be spread across the universe?

Plurality of Worlds: "Concerning the structure and evolution of the universe, the most influential Epicurean proponent was the Roman poet Lucretius (99-55 B.C.) who asserted:

'Granted, then, that empty space extends without limit in every direction and that seeds innumerable are rushing on countless courses through an unfathomable universe...it is in the highest degree unlikely that this earth and sky is the only one to have been created and that all those particles are accomplishing nothing.'
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...

"Even more radical views from antiquity were expressed by the Pythagoreans, such as speculation that our moon is currently inhabited: "the moon is terraneous, is inhabited as our earth is, and contains animals of a larger size and plants of a rarer beauty than our globe affords. The animals in their virtue and energy are fifteen degrees superior to ours, emit nothing excrementitious and the days are fifteen times longer.

The Pythagorean speculators were notable not only for their quantitative flavor (the lunar animals as fifteen percent but not twenty percent superior?). More revolutionary even today, the Pythagoreans concluded that earth might not offer the best place for humans to live.

Not to be satisfied with only speculation and hypothesis, Lucian of Samosata (120-200 A.D.) composed two fictional moon voyages to do what today might be called, 'the astrobiological hardwork' of looking and testing.
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