De Meteorologica

De Meteorologica is a text by Aristotle which contains his theories about the earth sciences. These include early accounts of water evaporation, weather phenomena, and earthquakes.


Early Physics

"…the motion of these latter bodies [of four] being of two kinds: either from the centre or to the centre."

"So we must treat fire and earth and the elements like them as the material causes of the events in this world (meaning by material what is subject and is affected), but must assign causality in the sense of the originating principle of motion to the influence of the eternally moving bodies."

Here Aristotle discusses the Prime mover principle.

The Four Elements

"…four bodies are fire, air, water, earth."

"Fire occupies the highest place among them all, earth the lowest, and two elements correspond to these in their relation to one another, air being nearest to fire, water to earth."

"Fire, air, water, earth, we assert, originate from one another, and each of them exists potentially in each, as all things do that can be resolved into a common and ultimate substrate."

As translation, Aristotle refers to bodies as elementals. All earthly substances originate from these four elements. When comparing a tree to a rock, different amounts of the four elementals exist in each to create the differences we see or observe.

Atmospheric Physics

Water vapor

"Some of the vapour that is formed by day does not rise high because the ratio of the fire that is raising it to the water that is being raised is small."

"Both dew and hoar-frost are found when the sky is clear and there is no wind. For the vapour could not be raised unless the sky were clear, and if a wind were blowing it could not condense."

"…hoar-frost is not found on mountains contributes to prove that these phenomena occur because the vapour does not rise high. One reason for this is that it rises from hollow and watery places, so that the heat that is raising it, bearing as it were too heavy a burden cannot lift it to a great height but soon lets it fall again."


"When there is a great quantity of exhalation and it is rare and is squeezed out in the cloud itself we get a thunderbolt."

"So the whirlwind originates in the failure of an incipient hurricane to escape from its cloud: it is due to the resistance which generates the eddy, and it consists in the spiral which descends to the earth and drags with it the cloud which it cannot shake off. It moves things by its wind in the direction in which it is blowing in a straight line, and whirls round by its circular motion and forcibly snatches up whatever it meets."

Aristotle describes the properties of a Tornado and lightning.


"So it is clear, since there will be no end to time and the world is eternal, that neither the Tanais nor the Nile has always been flowing, but that the region whence they flow was once dry: for their effect may be fulfilled, but time cannot. And this will be equally true of all other rivers. But if rivers come into existence and perish and the same parts of the earth were not always moist, the sea must needs change correspondingly. And if the sea is always advancing in one place and receding in another it is clear that the same parts of the whole earth are not always either sea or land, but that all this changes in course of time.. "


"The Red Sea, for instance, communicates but slightly with the ocean outside the straits,…"

"The whole of the Mediterranean does actually flow. The direction of this flow is determined by the depth of the basins and by the number of rivers. Maeotis flows into Pontus and Pontus into the Aegean. After that the flow of the remaining seas is not so easy to observe."

The Earth as a Sphere

"The earth is surrounded by water, just as that is by the sphere of air, and that again by the sphere called that of fire."

Here, Aristotle is discussing the source of water and brings up the ideas of lithosphere (earth), hydrosphere (water), atmosphere (air), and a space beyond (fire). Fundamentally, Aristotle is describing a round, or spherical Earth. It is important to note that Aristotle discusses hydrology very thoroughly and simply shows that earth does stick up above water rather than being completely covered by water.

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