THA'LES, an early Greek philosopher, founder of the Ionic or physical school of philosophy, and one of the seven wise men (q.v.), was a native of Miletus, in Asia Minor, and flourished toward the close of the 7th c. B.C. Very little is known regard ing his life. He is said to have recommended the Ionians, who were menaced by the Persians, to form a federation against their powerful enemy, and to select Teos as the capital. At a later period, we are told lie induced the Milesians to withdraw from a union with Crcesus against Cyrus. He is also said to have predicted the eclipse of the sun which happened in the reign of Alyattes. His claim to the title of sage (as in the case of his compeers) was due to his practical wisdom rather than to his speculative achievements. Nevertheless, Thales has a name in the history of speculative philosophy. He is even regarded by some as the first Greek that speculated on the constitution of the universe. According to him, the original principal of all things is water, from
which everything proceeds, and into which it is again resolved. It would appear also that in. connection with this doctrine lie had some idea of a soul or force in water pro ductive of all the phenomena we see, but it is impossible to ascertain the extent of his belief in an immaterial power. Most probably, his philosophy was a form of pantheism. rather than of theism. None of Thales' speculations were committed to writing, and it is only from the notices of later Greeks,, such as Herodotus, Aristotle, etc., that we can gather an idea of the character of his thinking.—See Ritter's Geschichte der lonischen Philosophze (Berl. 1821), Lewes's Biographical History of Philosophy, and prof. Ch. A. Brandis, in Smith's Die. of Gr. and 1?om. Biog., art.