Ancient Greek and Roman thought began the environmental sciences. Major philosophers advanced differing views that affected others for years to come.To the theory of the four elements, the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) added a fifth: the heavens. After breaking with Plato (429-347 BC),
Aristotle thoroughly investigated the natural world. He thought that the earth could be divided into sections defined by the amount of heat each received, and that people could only live in the more inhabitable areas.
The early Greeks searched for a reasonable understanding of nature. The ideas they developed would
influence Europe in the future.
Thales of Miletus (early 6th c. BC), the founder of the Ionian school, was the initiator of Greek philosophy on the environmental sciences. The Ionian school hoped to discover the nature of the universe, and how it came about. According to Thales, everything was composed of water. The combination of the sun and water was the source of life.
Empedocles (c.493-c.433 BC) argued that the universe was composed of four
elements, earth, air, fire, and water, which combined in different ways to produce different results.
In his Memorabilia, the Greek writer Xenophon (c.428-c.354 BC) contends that the planet exists for people. The climate of the earth, and the living creatures on it, are for the benefit of humanity. Xenophon says the earth was created by a god for people. His work would later influence
In Rome, Cicero (106-43 BC) wrote that nature should be controlled by humans. The earth was designed for humanity, as was each different species.
Aristotle accepted the theory that underground wind caused volcanoes and earthquakes. He understood the origins of rivers and believed in a pattern of rainfall.
Teleology, which explained things in terms of their purpose, was a major part
of Aristotle's theory. It caused him to heavily research reproduction.
Aristotle's Historia Animalium details over 500 species, examining common characteristics between the species.
Throughout the ancient periods, interest in botany grew because of its relation to medicine. Many philosophers advanced varying theories that would affect Europe in later years.
Aristotle on science and human valuesAristotle's influence on biology