The Elements of Life Are Not Unlike The Elements of Language (Varro, On the Latin Language, Book V, 11-12)


Pythagoras of Samos claims that the basic elements of all things are paired—finite and infinite; good and bad; alive and dead, day and night. For this reason, then, two basic elements are motion and set-position; and both split into four parts: what is still or is moved is a body; where it is moved is a place; while it is moved, is a time; what is the character of the movement, an action. The four-part split will be more obvious like this: the body is something like a runner; the stadium is where he runs; the hour is his time; and the running is the action.

For this reason, then, all things can be divided into four parts and these are eternal—since there is never time unless there is motion—even an interruption of motion needs time; nor is there motion without place and body, since the former is the thing that moves and the latter is where it moves; nor is there a lack of action where the body moves. Therefore, location, body, time and action are the four-horse chariot of etymological foundations.

Pythagoras Samius ait omnium rerum initia esse bina ut finitum et infinitum, bonum et malum, vitam et mortem, diem et noctem. Quare item duo status et motus, utrumque quadripertitum: quod stat aut agitatur, corpus, ubi agitatur, locus, dum agitatur, tempus, quod est in agitatu, actio. Quadripertitio magis sic apparebit: corpus est ut cursor, locus stadium qua currit, tempus hora qua currit, actio cursio.

Quare fit, ut ideo fere omnia sint quadripertita et ea aeterna, quod neque unquam tempus, quin fuerit motus: eius enim intervallum tempus; neque motus, ubi non locus et corpus, quod alterum est quod movetur, alterum ubi; neque ubi is agitatus, non actio ibi. Igitur initiorum quadrigae locus et corpus, tempus et action.

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