It's known that Aristarchus was the first to propose heliocentrism, and Wikipedia also says so, as quoted in this site at Does Heliocentrism predate Copernicus?

But in a different place in Wikipedia it says:

Heraclides proposed that the apparent daily motion of the stars was created by the rotation of the Earth on its axis once a day. This view contradicted the accepted Aristotelian model of the universe, which said that the Earth was fixed and that the stars and planets in their respective spheres might also be fixed. Simplicius says that Heraclides proposed that the irregular movements of the planets can be explained if the Earth moves while the Sun stays still.

So Aristarchus was not the first then (Heraclides lived 390-310 B.C., Aristarchus lived 310-230 B.C.).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So you are not asking about what may have been proposed in India or China or ... ?? $\endgroup$ May 1, 2023 at 10:07
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You seem to confuse "heliocentrism" (the Earth rotation around the Sun) with Earth diurnal rotation. $\endgroup$ May 1, 2023 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko See the last part of the quote. $\endgroup$
    – new editor
    May 1, 2023 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


Surviving ancient sources are scarce and often unreliable, we do not know and will never know who was "first". Aristarchus's is the earliest heliocentric proposal we have solid evidence for, Seleucus possibly supported it a century later. The partially heliocentric proposals reported by Adrastus and Theon for the inner planets (Mercury and Venus) also postdate Aristarchus and even Hipparchus, see Keyser, Heliocentrism in or out of Heraclides.

In the older history books it was suggested that Heraclides and Ecphantus had the inner planets circle the Sun. The meme dates back to the end of 19th century when Schiaparelli, the discoverer of Martian "channels", promoted it. That is not full heliocentrism, and even that is not supported by modern scholarship. The Wikipedia article linked in the OP quotes Eastwood's Heraclides and Heliocentrism to that effect a few lines down. Here is a fuller Eastwood's quote:

"Only two sources have ever been cited to support the connection of Heraclides's name with a heliocentrical motion. These are Simplicius's commentary on Aristotle's Physics and Calcidius's commentary on Plato's Timaeus. I deal below with both, the first more briefly, the second in full detail... What I propose to show is that Calcidius's commentary (and incidentally Simplicius's work as well) offers no ground whatever for attributing to Heraclides of Pontus an idea of circumsolar orbits for Mercury and Venus. This idea came into the Middle Ages only through Martianus Capella.

Nowhere in the ancient literature mentioning Heraclides of Pontus is there a clear reference to his support for any kind of heliocentrical planetary motion. Even more to the point, in none of the places where we find Heraclides's well known proposal of the hypothesis of Earth's diurnal rotation do we find any suggestion of some further revolutionary idea such as heliocentric motion for any of the planets. The conclusion should be clear - modern proposals for an ancient Heraclidean heliocentrism have come from post-Copernican expectations rather than from a dispassionate reading of the texts."

However, there were older Pythagorean models that we know of where the Earth was moving... but not around the Sun, see Danezis et al., From Pythagoreans to Kepler. In the model of Philolaus they both moved around the "central fire", a.k.a. the "hearth of the universe". Hicetas had an even stranger idea, as reported by Cicero:

"The Syracusan Hicetas, as Theophrastus asserts, holds the view that the heaven, the Sun, the Moon, the stars, and in short all the things on high are stationery, and that nothing in the world is in motion except the Earth, which by revolving and twisting round its axis with extreme velocity produces all the same result as would be produced if the Earth were stationery and the heavens in motion"

Some historians believe that Pythagorean models influenced Aristarchus.

  • $\begingroup$ I understand that there's no evidence that he proposed planetary orbits around the sun. But regarding Earth, did he propose that it orbits the sun? $\endgroup$
    – new editor
    May 1, 2023 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ @neweditor Regarding the Earth there wasn't even a meme, it would have been even more radical. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    May 1, 2023 at 17:56

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