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A Defence of Aristotle, Meteorologica, 3, 375a6ff.

  • Brigid. E. Harry (a1)
Extract

Aristotle believed that there were actually only three colours present in the rainbow, : of these, the first is produced by the dulling of white light when it is reflected in or obscured by a dark medium such as smoke, cloud, or water, and exemplified in the redness of the sun as seen through haze around the horizon. Successive failures of sight weaken the colour further, first to πράσινov and then to άλoυργóν. Between the first two colours a fourth, ξανθóν, is often apparent, being the result of the juxtaposition of the two colours. This last statement, where it has not been ignored as one of the inexplicable or misguided things Aristotle says from time to time, has met with considerable criticism

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page 397 note 1 Unless they accept the (probably corrupt) text of Thphr. De Sensu 77, which gives πράσινoν as the colour of sulphur (τò θєîoν).

page 399 note 1 It works best at a distance of several feet, and with light pink rather than red—cf. Merker G. S., ‘The Rainbow Mosaic at Pergamon and Aristotelian Color Theory’, AJA lxxi (1967), pp. 81–2. It is even better for myopes without glasses: Aristotle could well have been myopic, but this is not the place to go into the question.

page 399 note 2 One might quote back Olympiodorus ad loc, Stüve 243: inline-graphicinline-graphicinline-graphic. But then Olympiodorus rebukes Alexander for saying that the rainbow is caused by refraction, not reflection, which Alexander quite definitely did not. How reliable is Olympiodorus, therefore, as an interpreter of other, earlier, authors ?

page 400 note 1 The flickering after-images which cause this are the reason why certain black-and-white striped or checked patterns may be almost painful to look at.

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The Classical Quarterly
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