What did the Ancient Greeks think about alien life and the universe's beginning?

Ancient Greek art

When we think of extraterrestrial life we evoke images of Roswell or the X-files, BUT we cannot forget that even the ancients pondered about alien life.

The Ancient Greeks were no exception, despite the Aristotelian worldview of a unified, finite cosmos without extraterrestrials.

In fact, this idea was very influential in ancient Greek thought.

However, the possibility of life beyond the Earth is one that the ancient Greek world thought about, originating at least as far back as the 4th century BC.

Anaximander (c. 610- c. 546 BC), a philosopher who lived in Miletus, contributed one key idea: He was the first to propose that Earth is a body floating in an infinite void, held up by nothing, which was a primitive take on the structure of our universe.

Furthermore, he speculated about the beginnings and origin of animal life, and that humans came from other animals who had been living in waters.

According to his evolutionary theory, animals sprang out of the sea long ago, born trapped in a spiny bark, but as they got older, the bark would dry up and animals would be able to break it.

Such ideas were so ahead of Anaximander’s time that one might think it was impossible for man to understand so much about the origin of humans.

Ancient Greece: Introduction to the idea of extraterrestrial life

The first speculations on extraterrestrial life that became popular in ancient Greece were among Epicurean philosophers.

Democritus and Epicurus believed that the universe was the result of a chance collision of atoms and considered it not only was it highly likely that there were other worlds in the cosmos but also that they were inhabited.

Epicurus’ disciple Metrodorus of Lampascus considered the idea of our “world” being the only one as unlikely, akin to “if a single ear of wheat grew on a vast plain.”

These hypothetical “other earths” were faraway planets beyond ours.

Aristotle, on the other hand, believed that the existence of other worlds was impossible.

The followers of Aristotle found the concept of multiple worlds too abstract. They wanted to observe things, not just imagine them.

There are theories that the famous Antikythera Mechanism dated to the 2nd century BC could not have been made by man of the time, but by a higher intelligence, presumably from extraterrestrials.

Also, the poet Pindar in the 5th century BC wrote about statues that came to life like moving and breathing creatures. Robots, we would say today, but what actually inspired Pindar to write about those statues?

Pythagoras and Astraios

The story of Pythagoras and Astraios stands out in Greek mythology. It is said that one day Mnesarchus, the father of the philosopher, found an abandoned infant under a tree, staring at the sun.

Mnesarchus named the mysterious child Astraios, literally meaning “star child” in Greek. He then gave the child to Pythagoras to be his servant and apprentice.

Some said that the child had actually been sent to Earth by extraterrestrials to teach the genius Greek mathematician his great theories in mathematics and trigonometry, which still apply today.

The Romans followed the Greeks, as they so often did, expanding on the Greeks’ concept of extraterrestrial life.

The Roman Epicurean poet Lucretius wrote: “Nothing in the universe is unique and alone and therefore in other regions there must be other earths inhabited by different tribes of men and breeds of beasts.”

“Greek gods were extraterrestrial beings”

In his book “Odyssey of the Gods: The Alien History of Ancient Greece”, Swiss author Erich Von Daniken suggests that the Greek gods were actually extraterrestrial beings who arrived on Earth thousands of years ago.

Using dubious archaeological evidence and the writings of the ancients, including Aristotle, Von Daniken tries to prove that the alien gods of Olympus interbred with humans, performed genetic experiments, and bred mythical creatures, such as centaurs and Cyclops.

In the book, the Swiss author, who wrote two dozen books on extraterrestrial beings intermingling with people and shaping human civilization, suggests that what we call Greek mythology in fact actual history.

He claims that the site of the Oracle of Delphi was an aircraft refueling station. And that Jason’s pursuit of the golden fleece was a search for an essential aircraft component.

Another of his theories is that the ancient cities of Troy and Atlantis were one and the same and it was destroyed in a war between aliens or their descendants.

READ MORE: Greeks are Everywhere: The Greek History Behind the Sicilian Flag.