The magnetic stone received its name “magnes”, Nicander informs us, from the person who was the first to discover it, upon Ida. It is found, too, in various other countries, as in Spain, for example. Magnes, it is said, made this discovery, when, upon taking his herds to pasture, he found that the nails of his shoes and the iron ferrel of his staff adhered to the ground.

Pliny the Elder (The Natural History, Book XXXVI, Chapter 25, translated by John Bostock) is  the one who hands down the anecdote of the shepherd Magnes. He derived the story from Nicander of Colophon, who composed didactic poems in the second century BC, most of which are lost.

The other day Magnes did not have the chance to quote Pliny. Magnes by the way is at Headfarm a figure of thought, which is engaged with a research on his becoming.

Realometer is someone at Headfarm who reduces or stretches everything by talking about writing. For him writing is an invitation to overcome mankind’s limitations. Yesterday, he wanted to add that the poem Magnes is essentially connected to the idea of particles or atoms. When Claudian uses  words like ‘semina’ in his poem he refers to other texts. For example to Lucretius (94–55 BC): On the Nature of Things, Book VI, translated by William Ellery Leonard). Lucretius was a reader of the greek atomists or natural philosophers Empedocles (495 BC–435 BC) and Democritus (460 BC–370 BC). Both make use of indivisible elements called “atoma”. These elements behave like stones and balls that push against each other. In contrast to the stones and balls that can be perceived by the human eye, atoms can neither be perceived nor divided. Even before Plato, Empedocles and Democritus explain the magnetic power of iron caused by the displacement of air particles, it is not believed that a magnet could possess a soul, but an attempt is made to explain the attraction by referring to impacts or thrusts. (This is taken up by Plato when he first writes about respiration (Plato, Plato, Timaeus, 60b-61c.) Here a reason is given why Claudian writes in his poem about food. Magnes’ food is made of particles of iron. This makes him breath.

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