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Empedocles (; grc-gre, Ἐμπεδοκλῆς; , 444–443 BC) was a
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of 2018; Athens is ...
pre-Socratic philosopher Pre-Socratic philosophy is ancient Greek philosophy Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC, at a time when the inhabitants of ancient Greece were struggling to repel devastating invasions from the east. Greek philosophy continued t ...
and a native citizen of
Akragas Agrigento (; scn, Girgenti or ; grc, Ἀκράγας, translit=Akragas; la, Agrigentum or ; ar, script=Latn, Kirkent or ) is a city on the southern coast of Sicily, Italy and capital of the province of Agrigento. It was one of the leading ...
, a Greek city in
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographic ...

Sicily
. Empedocles' philosophy is best known for originating the
cosmogonic Cosmogony is any model concerning the origin of either the cosmos or the universe. Overview Scientific theories In astronomy, cosmogony refers to the study of the origin of particular astrophysical objects or systems, and is most commonly ...
theory of the four classical elements. He also proposed forces he called Love and Strife which would mix and separate the elements, respectively. Influenced by
Pythagoras Pythagoras of Samos, or simply ; in Ionian Greek Ionic Greek ( grc, Ἑλληνική Ἰωνική, Hellēnikē Iōnikē) was a subdialect of the Attic–Ionic or Eastern dialect group of Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the ...

Pythagoras
(died c. 495 BC) and the
Pythagoreans Pythagoreanism originated in the 6th century BC, based on the teachings and beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans. Pythagoras established the first Pythagorean community in Crotone, Italy. Early Pythagorean communities spr ...
, Empedocles challenged the practice of animal sacrifice and killing animals for food. He developed a distinctive doctrine of
reincarnation . Reincarnation, also known as rebirth or transmigration, is the Philosophy, philosophical or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beli ...
. He is generally considered the last Greek philosopher to have recorded his ideas in verse. Some of his work survives, more than is the case for any other pre-Socratic philosopher. Empedocles' death was mythologized by ancient writers, and has been the subject of a number of literary treatments.


Life

Empedocles (Empedoklēs) was a native citizen of
Akragas Agrigento (; scn, Girgenti or ; grc, Ἀκράγας, translit=Akragas; la, Agrigentum or ; ar, script=Latn, Kirkent or ) is a city on the southern coast of Sicily, Italy and capital of the province of Agrigento. It was one of the leading ...
in
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographic ...

Sicily
. He came from a rich and noble family. Very little is known about his life. His grandfather, also called Empedoklēs, had won a victory in the horse-race at Olympia in he 71st OlympiadOL. LXXI (496–95 BC). His father's name, according to the best accounts, was Meton. All that can be said to be known about the dates of Empedocles is, that his grandfather was still alive in 496 BC; that he himself was active at Akragas after 472 BC, the date of Theron’s death; and that he died later than 444 BC. Empedocles "broke up the assembly of the Thousand. perhaps some oligarchical association or club." He is said to have been magnanimous in his support of the poor; severe in persecuting the overbearing conduct of the
oligarchs Oligarch may refer to: Authority * Oligarch, a member of an oligarchy, a power structure where control resides in a small number of people * Oligarch (Kingdom of Hungary), late 13th–14th centuries * Business oligarch, businessmen who quickly acqu ...
; and he even declined the sovereignty of the city when it was offered to him. According to John Burnet: "there is another side to his public character ... He claimed to be a god, and to receive the homage of his fellow-citizens in that capacity. The truth is, Empedokles was not a mere statesman; he had a good deal of the 'medicine-man' about him. ... We can see what this means from the fragments of the ''Purifications''. Empedokles was a preacher of the new religion which sought to secure release from the 'wheel of birth' by purity and abstinence.
Orphicism Orphism (more rarely Orphicism; grc, Ὀρφικά, Orphiká) is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices originating in the ancient Greek and Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history betwe ...
seems to have been strong at Akragas in the days of Theron, and there are even some verbal coincidences between the poems of Empedokles and the Orphicsing Odes which
Pindar Pindar (; grc-gre, Πίνδαρος , ; la, Pindarus; c. 518 – 438 BC) was an Greek lyric, Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes, Greece, Thebes. Of the Western canon, canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserve ...

Pindar
addressed to that prince." His brilliant oratory, his penetrating knowledge of nature, and the reputation of his marvelous powers, including the curing of diseases, and averting epidemics, produced many myths and stories surrounding his name. In his poem "Purifications" he claimed miraculous powers, including the destruction of evil, the curing of old age, and the controlling of wind and rain. Empedocles was acquainted or connected by friendship with the physicians Pausanias, and with various
Pythagoreans Pythagoreanism originated in the 6th century BC, based on the teachings and beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans. Pythagoras established the first Pythagorean community in Crotone, Italy. Early Pythagorean communities spr ...

Pythagoreans
; and even, it is said, with
Parmenides Parmenides of Elea (; grc-gre, Παρμενίδης ὁ Ἐλεάτης; ) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit ...

Parmenides
and
Anaxagoras Anaxagoras (; grc-gre, Ἀναξαγόρας, ''Anaxagoras'', "lord of the assembly";  BC) was a Pre-Socratic philosophy, Pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, Greek philosopher. Born in Clazomenae at a time when Anatolia, Asia Minor was under the ...
. The only pupil of Empedocles who is mentioned is the
sophist A sophist ( el, σοφιστής, ''sophistes'') was a teacher in ancient Greece in the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Sophists specialized in one or more subject areas, such as philosophy, rhetoric, music, athletics, and mathematics. They taught ...
and
rhetorician Rhetoric () is the art of persuasion, which along with grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composi ...
Gorgias Gorgias; (483–375 BC) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the f ...
. Timaeus and
Dicaearchus Dicaearchus of Messana (; grc-gre, Δικαίαρχος ''Dikaiarkhos''; ), also written Dicearchus or Dicearch (), was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially t ...
spoke of the journey of Empedocles to the
Peloponnese The Peloponnese (), Peloponnesia, or Peloponnesus (; el, Πελοπόννησος, Pelopónnēsos, ) is a peninsula and geographic regions of Greece, geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the ...
, and of the admiration, which was paid to him there; others mentioned his stay at
Athens Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is the capital city, capital and List of cities in Greece, largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica (region), Attica region and is one of the List of oldest ...
, and in the newly founded colony of
Thurii Thurii (; grc-gre, Θούριοι, Thoúrioi), called also by some Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Ro ...
, 446 BC; there are also fanciful reports of him travelling far to the east to the lands of the
Magi Magi (; singular magus ; from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the po ...
. The contemporary ''Life of Empedocles'' by Xanthus has been lost.


Death

According to
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit ...

Aristotle
, he died at the age of sixty (), even though other writers have him living up to the age of one hundred and nine. Likewise, there are myths concerning his death: a tradition, which is traced to
Heraclides Ponticus Heraclides Ponticus ( grc-gre, Ἡρακλείδης ὁ Ποντικός ''Herakleides''; c. 390 BC – c. 310 BC) was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the ...
, represented him as having been removed from the Earth; whereas others had him perishing in the flames of Mount Etna. According to Burnet: "We are told that Empedokles leapt into the crater of Etna that he might be deemed a god. This appears to be a malicious version of a tale set on foot by his adherents that he had been snatched up to heaven in the night. Both stories would easily get accepted; for there was no local tradition. Empedokles did not die in Sicily, but in the Peloponnese, or, perhaps, at Thourioi. It is not at all unlikely that he visited Athens. ... Timaios refuted the common stories bout Empedoklesat some length. (Diog. viii. 71 sqq.; Ritter and. Preller 62). He was quite positive that Empedokles never returned to Sicily after he went to Olympia to have his poem recited to the Hellenes. The plan for the colonisation of Thourioi would, of course, be discussed at Olympia, and we know that Greeks from the Peloponnese and elsewhere joined it. He may very well have gone to Athens in connexion with this."


Works

Empedocles is considered the last Greek philosopher to write in verse. There is a debate about whether the surviving fragments of his teaching should be attributed to two separate poems, "Purifications" and "On Nature", with different subject matter, or whether they may all derive from one poem with two titles, or whether one title refers to part of the whole poem. Some scholars argue that the title "Purifications" refers to the first part of a larger work called (as a whole) "On Nature". There is also a debate about which fragments should be attributed to each of the poems, if there are two poems, or if part of it is called "Purifications"; because ancient writers rarely mentioned which poem they were quoting. Empedocles was undoubtedly acquainted with the didactic poems of
Xenophanes Xenophanes of Colophon (city), Colophon (; grc, wikt:Ξενοφάνης, Ξενοφάνης ὁ Κολοφώνιος ; c. 570 – c. 478 BC) was a Greece, Greek philosopher, theologian, poet, and critic of religious polytheism. Xenophanes is see ...
and
Parmenides Parmenides of Elea (; grc-gre, Παρμενίδης ὁ Ἐλεάτης; ) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit ...

Parmenides
—allusions to the latter can be found in the fragments—but he seems to have surpassed them in the animation and richness of his style, and in the clearness of his descriptions and diction.
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit ...

Aristotle
called him the father of
rhetoric Rhetoric () is the art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas. There is no generally agreed definition ...
, and, although he acknowledged only the
meter The metre ( Commonwealth spelling) or meter ( American spelling; see spelling differences) (from the French unit , from the Greek noun , "measure", and cognate with Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, no ...
as a point of comparison between the poems of Empedocles and the epics of
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was the presumed author of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', two epic poems that are the foundational works of ancient Greek literature. The ''Iliad'' is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year s ...

Homer
, he described Empedocles as Homeric and powerful in his diction.
Lucretius Titus Lucretius Carus ( , ; 99 – c. 55 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman Roman literature, poet and Ancient Roman philosophy, philosopher. His only known work is the philosophical poem ''De rerum natura'', a didactic work about the tenets and ...
speaks of him with enthusiasm, and evidently viewed him as his model. The two poems together comprised 5000 lines. About 550 lines of his poetry survive.


Purifications

In the old editions of Empedocles, only about 100 lines were typically ascribed to his "Purifications", which was taken to be a poem about ritual purification, or the poem that contained all his religious and ethical thought. Early editors supposed that it was a poem that offered a mythical account of the world which may, nevertheless, have been part of Empedocles' philosophical system. According to
Diogenes Laërtius Diogenes Laërtius ( ; grc-gre, Διογένης Λαέρτιος, Dīogénēs Lāértios; ) was a biographer of the Ancient Greece, Greek philosophers. Nothing is definitively known about his life, but his surviving ''Lives and Opinions of Emi ...
it began with the following verses:
Friends who inhabit the mighty town by tawny Acragas which crowns the citadel, caring for good deeds, greetings; I, an immortal God, no longer mortal, wander among you, honoured by all, adorned with holy diadems and blooming garlands. To whatever illustrious towns I go, I am praised by men and women, and accompanied by thousands, who thirst for deliverance, some ask for prophecies, and some entreat, for remedies against all kinds of disease.
In the older editions, it is to this work that editors attributed the story about
soul In many religious, philosophical, and myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods, o ...

soul
s, where we are told that there were once spirits who lived in a state of bliss, but having committed a crime (the nature of which is unknown) they were punished by being forced to become mortal beings,
reincarnate . Reincarnation, also known as rebirth or transmigration, is the Philosophy, philosophical or Religion, religious belief that the non-physical essence of a living being begins a new life in a different physical form or physical body, body after b ...
d from body to body. Humans, animals, and even plants are such spirits. The moral conduct recommended in the poem may allow us to become like
gods A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polytheistic religion)", or anything revered as divine. C. Scott Littlet ...
again. If, as is now widely held, this title "Purifications" refers to the poem "On Nature", or to a part of that poem, this story will have been at the beginning of the main work on nature and the cosmic cycle. The relevant verses are also sometimes attributed to the poem of "On Nature", even by those who think that there was a separate poem called "Purifications".


On Nature

There are about 450 lines of his poem "On Nature" extant, including 70 lines which have been reconstructed from some papyrus scraps known as the Strasbourg papyrus. The poem originally consisted of 2000 lines of
hexameterHexameter is a metrical line of verses consisting of six feet (a "foot" here is the pulse, or major accent, of words in an English line of poetry; in Greek and Latin a "foot" is not an accent, but describes various combinations of syllables). It wa ...

hexameter
verse, and was addressed to
PausaniasPausanias (; Greek language, Greek: Παυσανίας) is the name of several people: *Pausanias of Athens, lover of the poet Agathon and a character in Plato's ''Symposium'' *Pausanias (general), Spartan general and regent of the 5th century BC *Pa ...
. It was this poem which outlined his philosophical system. In it, Empedocles explains not only the nature and history of the universe, including his theory of the four
classical element Classical elements typically refer to water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constitu ...
s, but he describes theories on causation, perception, and thought, as well as explanations of terrestrial phenomena and biological processes.


Philosophy

Although acquainted with the theories of the
Eleatics The Eleatics were a pre-Socratic school of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of min ...
and the
Pythagoreans Pythagoreanism originated in the 6th century BC, based on the teachings and beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans. Pythagoras established the first Pythagorean community in Crotone, Italy. Early Pythagorean communities spr ...
, Empedocles did not belong to any one definite school. An
eclectic Eclectic may refer to: Music * Eclectic (Eric Johnson and Mike Stern album), ''Eclectic'' (Eric Johnson and Mike Stern album), 2014 * Eclectic (Big Country album), ''Eclectic'' (Big Country album), 1996 * Eclectic Method, name of an audio-visual ...
in his thinking, he combined much that had been suggested by
Parmenides Parmenides of Elea (; grc-gre, Παρμενίδης ὁ Ἐλεάτης; ) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit ...

Parmenides
,
Pythagoras Pythagoras of Samos, or simply ; in Ionian Greek Ionic Greek ( grc, Ἑλληνική Ἰωνική, Hellēnikē Iōnikē) was a subdialect of the Attic–Ionic or Eastern dialect group of Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the ...

Pythagoras
and the Ionian schools. He was a firm believer in
Orphic mysteries Orphism (more rarely Orphicism; grc, Ὀρφικά, Orphiká) is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices originating in the ancient Greek and Hellenistic The Hellenistic period covers the period of Mediterranean history betwe ...
, as well as a scientific thinker and a precursor of
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical scien ...

physics
. Aristotle mentions Empedocles among the Ionic philosophers, and he places him in very close relation to the
atomist Atomism (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million ...
philosophers and to
Anaxagoras Anaxagoras (; grc-gre, Ἀναξαγόρας, ''Anaxagoras'', "lord of the assembly";  BC) was a Pre-Socratic philosophy, Pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, Greek philosopher. Born in Clazomenae at a time when Anatolia, Asia Minor was under the ...
. According to House (1956)
Another of the fragments of the dialogue ''On the Poets'' (
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit ...

Aristotle
) treats more fully what is said in Poetics ch. i about ''Empedocles'', for though clearly implying that he was not a poet, Aristotle there says he is
Homeric Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was the presumed author of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', two epic poems that are the foundational works of ancient Greek literature. The ''Iliad'' is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year s ...
, and an artist in language, skilled in metaphor and in the other devices of poetry.
Empedocles, like the Ionian philosophers and the atomists, continued the tradition of tragic thought which tried to find the basis of the relationship of the One and the Many. Each of the various philosophers, following Parmenides, derived from the Eleatics, the conviction that an existence could not pass into non-existence, and vice versa. Yet, each one had his peculiar way of describing this relation of Divine and mortal thought and thus of the relation of the One and the Many. In order to account for change in the world, in accordance with the ontological requirements of the Eleatics, they viewed changes as the result of mixture and separation of unalterable fundamental realities. Empedocles held that the four elements (Water, Air, Earth, and Fire) were those unchangeable fundamental realities, which were themselves transfigured into successive worlds by the powers of Love and Strife (
Heraclitus Heraclitus of Ephesus (; grc-gre, wikt:Ἡράκλειτος, Ἡράκλειτος ; , ) was an Ancient Greece, Ancient Greek, Pre-Socratic philosophy, pre-Socratic, Ionian School (philosophy), Ionian philosopher and a native of the city of Eph ...

Heraclitus
had explicated the Logos or the "unity of opposites").


The four elements

Empedocles established four ultimate elements which make all the structures in the world—
fire BBQ. Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction Product (chemistry), products. Fire is hot because the conversion of the weak double bond in molecula ...
,
air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosphere (0.04402961% at April 2019 concentration ). Number ...
,
water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere and the fluids of all known living organisms (in which it acts ...
,
earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 70.8% is Water distribution on Earth, covered wit ...
. Empedocles called these four elements "roots", which he also identified with the mythical names of
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' compos ...

Zeus
,
Hera Hera (; grc-gre, Ἥρᾱ, ''Hērā''; , ''Hērē'' in Ionic and Homeric Greek) is the goddess of women, marriage, family and childbirth in ancient Greek religion and mythology, one of the Twelve Olympians and the sister and wife of Zeus ...

Hera
, , and
Aidoneus :''For the Greek mythology, Greek god who sometimes went by this name, see Hades.'' Aidoneus (Ancient Greek: ) was a mythical king of the Molossians in Epirus, who is represented as the husband of Persephone. After Theseus, with the assistance of P ...
(e.g., "Now hear the fourfold roots of everything: enlivening Hera, Hades, shining Zeus. And Nestis, moistening mortal springs with tears"). Empedocles never used the term "element" (, ''stoicheion''), which seems to have been first used by
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the ...

Plato
. According to the different proportions in which these four indestructible and unchangeable elements are combined with each other the difference of the structure is produced. It is in the aggregation and segregation of elements thus arising, that Empedocles, like the atomists, found the real process which corresponds to what is popularly termed growth, increase or decrease. Nothing new comes or can come into being; the only change that can occur is a change in the juxtaposition of element with element. This theory of the four elements became the standard
dogma Dogma in the broad sense is any belief held unquestioningly and with undefended certainty. It may be in the form of an official system of principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it ...
for the next two thousand years.


Love and Strife

The four elements, however, are simple, eternal, and unalterable, and as change is the consequence of their mixture and separation, it was also necessary to suppose the existence of moving powers that bring about mixture and separation. The four elements are both eternally brought into union and parted from one another by two divine powers,
Love Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest Interpersonal relationship, interpersonal affection, to the simplest pleasure. An example of this range of m ...

Love
and
Strife Strife may refer to: Mythology *Eris (mythology), in Greek mythology the goddess of discord, whose name means 'strife' *Bellona (goddess), Roman counterpart of Eris, and a war goddess *Enyalius, a son of Eris and god of strife Fiction and entertai ...
(''
Philotes In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of t ...
'' and '' Neikos''). Love () is responsible for the attraction of different forms of what we now call
matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimately composed of atoms, which are made up of interacting subatomic particl ...
, and Strife () is the cause of their separation. If the four elements make up the universe, then Love and Strife explain their variation and harmony. Love and Strife are attractive and repulsive forces, respectively, which are plainly observable in human behavior, but also pervade the universe. The two forces wax and wane in their dominance, but neither force ever wholly escapes the imposition of the other. According to Burnet: "Empedokles sometimes gave an efficient power to Love and Strife, and sometimes put them on a level with the other four. The fragments leave no room for doubt that they were thought of as spatial and corporeal. ... Love is said to be "equal in length and breadth" to the others, and Strife is described as equal to each of them in weight (fr. 17). These physical speculations were part of a history of the universe which also dealt with the origin and development of life."


The sphere of Empedocles

As the best and original state, there was a time when the pure elements and the two powers co-existed in a condition of rest and inertness in the form of a sphere. The elements existed together in their purity, without mixture and separation, and the uniting power of Love predominated in the sphere: the separating power of Strife guarded the extreme edges of the sphere. Since that time, strife gained more sway and the bond which kept the pure elementary substances together in the
sphere A sphere (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 m ...

sphere
was dissolved. The elements became the world of phenomena we see today, full of contrasts and oppositions, operated on by both Love and Strife. The sphere of Empedocles being the embodiment of pure existence is the embodiment or representative of
God God, in monotheistic thought, is conceived of as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith Faith, derived from Latin ''fides'' and Old French ''feid'', is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or In the context of religio ...

God
. Empedocles assumed a cyclical universe whereby the elements return and prepare the formation of the sphere for the next period of the universe.


Cosmogony

Empedocles attempted to explain the separation of elements, the formation of earth and sea, of Sun and Moon, of atmosphere. He also dealt with the first origin of plants and animals, and with the
physiology Physiology (; ) is the scientific study of functions and mechanisms in a living system. As a sub-discipline of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, B ...
of humans. As the elements entered into combinations, there appeared strange results—heads without necks, arms without shoulders. Then as these fragmentary structures met, there were seen horned heads on human bodies, bodies of oxen with human heads, and figures of double sex. But most of these products of natural forces disappeared as suddenly as they arose; only in those rare cases where the parts were found to be adapted to each other did the complex structures last. Thus the organic universe sprang from spontaneous aggregations that suited each other as if this had been intended. Soon various influences reduced creatures of double sex to a male and a female, and the world was replenished with organic life. It is possible to see this theory as an anticipation of
Charles Darwin Charles Robert Darwin (; ; 12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English natural history#Before 1900, naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all spe ...

Charles Darwin
's theory of
natural selection Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype. It is a key mechanism of evolution, the change in the Heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait, traits characteristic of a populatio ...
, although Empedocles was not trying to explain
evolution Evolution is change in the heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their offspring; either through asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction, ...

evolution
.


Perception and knowledge

Empedocles is credited with the first comprehensive theory of light and vision. Historian
Will Durant William James Durant (; November 5, 1885 – November 7, 1981) was an American writer, historian, and philosopher. He became best known for his work ''The Story of Civilization'', 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife, Ariel Durant, ...

Will Durant
noted that "Empedocles suggested that light takes time to pass from one point to another.". He put forward the idea that we see objects because light streams out of our eyes and touches them. While flawed, this became the fundamental basis on which later Greek philosophers and mathematicians like
Euclid Euclid (; grc-gre, Wikt:Εὐκλείδης, Εὐκλείδης ; 300 BC), sometimes called Euclid of Alexandria to distinguish him from Euclid of Megara, was a Greek mathematics, Greek mathematician, often referred to as the "founder of ge ...

Euclid
would construct some of the most important theories of light, vision, and optics.''
Let There be Light "Let there be light" is an English translation of the Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the lan ...

Let There be Light
'' 7 August 2006 01:50 BBC Four
Knowledge is explained by the principle that elements in the things outside us are perceived by the corresponding elements in ourselves. Like is known by like. The whole body is full of pores and hence
respiration Respiration may refer to: Biology * Cellular respiration, the process in which nutrients are converted into useful energy in a cell ** Anaerobic respiration, cellular respiration without oxygen ** Maintenance respiration, the amount of cellular ...

respiration
takes place over the whole frame. In the organs of sense these pores are specially adapted to receive the effluences which are continually rising from bodies around us; thus
perception Perception (from the Latin ''perceptio'', meaning gathering or receiving) is the organization, identification, and interpretation of Sense, sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information or environment. ...

perception
occurs.Frag. B100
(Aristotle, ''On Respiration'', 473b1–474a6)
In vision, certain particles go forth from the eye to meet similar particles given forth from the object, and the resultant contact constitutes vision. Perception is not merely a passive reflection of external objects. Empedocles noted the limitation and narrowness of human perceptions. We see only a part but fancy that we have grasped the whole. But the senses cannot lead to truth; thought and reflection must look at the thing from every side. It is the business of a philosopher, while laying bare the fundamental difference of elements, to show the identity that exists between what seem unconnected parts of the universe.


Respiration

In a famous fragment, Empedocles attempted to explain the phenomenon of
respiration Respiration may refer to: Biology * Cellular respiration, the process in which nutrients are converted into useful energy in a cell ** Anaerobic respiration, cellular respiration without oxygen ** Maintenance respiration, the amount of cellular ...
by means of an elaborate analogy with the
clepsydra Clepsydra may refer to: * Clepsydra (literally "water thief"), the Greek word for water clock. Also, in ancient Greece, a device (water thief) for drawing liquids from vats too large to pour, which utilized the principles of air pressure to transpo ...
, an ancient device for conveying liquids from one vessel to another.
Jonathan Barnes Jonathan Barnes, FBA (born 26 December 1942 in Wenlock, Shropshire) is an English scholar of Aristotelian and ancient philosophy. Education and career He was educated at the City of London School , established = , closed = , type = Pub ...
(2002), ''The Presocratic Philosophers'', Routledge, p. 313.
This fragment has sometimes been connected to a passage in
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit ...

Aristotle
's ''
Physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical scien ...
'' where Aristotle refers to people who twisted wineskins and captured air in clepsydras to demonstrate that
void Void may refer to: Science, engineering, and technology * Void (astronomy), the spaces between galaxy filaments that contain no galaxies * Void (composites), a pore that remains unoccupied in a composite material * Void, synonym for vacuum, a sp ...

void
does not exist. There is, however, no evidence that Empedocles performed any experiment with clepsydras. The fragment certainly implies that Empedocles knew about the corporeality of air, but he says nothing whatever about the void. The clepsydra was a common utensil and everyone who used it must have known, in some sense, that the invisible air could resist liquid. W. K. C. Guthrie, (1980), ''A history of Greek philosophy II: The Presocratic tradition from Parmenides to Democritus'', Cambridge University Press, p. 224.


Reincarnation

Like
Pythagoras Pythagoras of Samos, or simply ; in Ionian Greek Ionic Greek ( grc, Ἑλληνική Ἰωνική, Hellēnikē Iōnikē) was a subdialect of the Attic–Ionic or Eastern dialect group of Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the ...

Pythagoras
, Empedocles believed in the
transmigration of the soul . Reincarnation, also known as rebirth or transmigration, is the Philosophy, philosophical or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beli ...
/
metempsychosis Metempsychosis ( grc-gre, μετεμψύχωσις), in philosophy, refers to transmigration of the soul In many religious, philosophical, and myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a socie ...
, that souls can be reincarnated between humans, animals and even plants. For Empedocles, all living things were on the same spiritual plane; plants and animals are links in a chain where humans are a link too. Empedocles was a
vegetarian Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat Meat is animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. With few exc ...
and advocated vegetarianism, since the bodies of animals are the dwelling places of punished souls. Wise people, who have learned the secret of life, are next to the
divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity.divine
, and their souls, free from the cycle of reincarnations, are able to rest in happiness for eternity.


Legend of his death and literary treatments

Diogenes Laërtius Diogenes Laërtius ( ; grc-gre, Διογένης Λαέρτιος, Dīogénēs Lāértios; ) was a biographer of the Ancient Greece, Greek philosophers. Nothing is definitively known about his life, but his surviving ''Lives and Opinions of Emi ...
records the legend that Empedocles died by throwing himself into
Mount Etna Mount Etna, or Etna ( it, Etna or ; scn, Mungibeddu or ; la, Aetna; el, Αἴτνα), is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily (masculine) it, Siciliana (feminine) , population_note = , populati ...

Mount Etna
in Sicily, so that the people would believe his body had vanished and he had turned into an immortal god; the volcano, however, threw back one of his bronze sandals, revealing the deceit. Another legend maintains that he threw himself into the volcano to prove to his disciples that he was immortal; he believed he would come back as a god after being consumed by the fire.
Horace Quintus Horatius Flaccus (; 8 December 65 – 27 November 8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace (), was the leading Roman Empire, Roman Lyric poetry, lyric poet during the time of Augustus (also known as Octavian). The rhetorician ...

Horace
also refers to the death of Empedocles in his work '' Ars Poetica'' and admits poets the right to destroy themselves. In ', a comedic dialogue written by the second century satirist
Lucian of Samosata Lucian of Samosata, '; la, Lucianus Samosatensis ( 125 – after 180) was a Syrian satirist and rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persuasion, which along with grammar and logic (or dialectic – see Martianus C ...

Lucian of Samosata
, Empedocles' final fate is re-evaluated. Rather than being incinerated in the fires of Mount Etna, he was carried up into the heavens by a volcanic eruption. Although a bit singed by the ordeal, Empedocles survives and continues his life on the Moon, surviving by feeding on dew. Empedocles' death has inspired two major modern literary treatments. Empedocles' death is the subject of
Friedrich Hölderlin Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (, ; ; 20 March 1770 – 7 June 1843) was a Germans, German poet and philosopher. Described by Norbert von Hellingrath as "the most German of Germans", Hölderlin was a key figure of German Romanticism. ...
's play ''Tod des Empedokles'' ('' The Death of Empedocles''), two versions of which were written between the years 1798 and 1800. A third version was made public in 1826. In
Matthew Arnold Matthew Arnold (24 December 1822 – 15 April 1888) was an English poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. He was the son of Thomas Arnold, the celebrated headmaster of Rugby School, and brother to both Tom Arnold (acade ...

Matthew Arnold
's poem ''Empedocles on Etna'', a narrative of the philosopher's last hours before he jumps to his death in the crater first published in 1852, Empedocles predicts:
To the elements it came from Everything will return. Our bodies to earth, Our blood to water, Heat to fire, Breath to air.
In his ''
History of Western Philosophy History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past. Events occurring before the invention of writing systems are considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term that relat ...
'',
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, ', "having learned much"; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the It ...
humorously quotes an unnamed poet on the subject – "Great Empedocles, that ardent soul, Leapt into Etna, and was roasted whole." In ''
J R ''J R'' is a novel by William Gaddis William Thomas Gaddis, Jr. (December 29, 1922 – December 16, 1998) was an American novelist. The first and longest of his five novels, '' The Recognitions'', was named one of TIME magazine's 100 bes ...
'' by
William Gaddis William Thomas Gaddis, Jr. (December 29, 1922 – December 16, 1998) was an American novelist. The first and longest of his five novels, '' The Recognitions'', was named one of TIME magazine's 100 best novels from 1923 to 2005 and two other ...
, Karl Marx's famous dictum ("From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs") is misattributed to Empedocles. In 2006, a massive underwater volcano off the coast of Sicily was named
Empedocles Empedocles (; grc-gre, wikt:Ἐμπεδοκλῆς, Ἐμπεδοκλῆς; , 444–443 BC) was a Ancient Greece, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a native citizen of Akragas, a Greek city in Sicily. Empedocles' philosophy is best known for ...
.BBC News
''Underwater volcano found by Italy''
23 June 2006
In 2016, Scottish musician
Momus Momus (; grc-gre, Μῶμος ''Momos'') was in Greek mythology the personification of satire and mockery, two stories about whom figure among Aesop's Fables. During the Renaissance, several literary works used him as a mouthpiece for their criti ...
wrote and sang the song "The Death of Empedokles" for his album ''
Scobberlotchers ''Scobberlotchers'' is a 2016 album by Scottish musician Momus. It was released on 9 September 2016 by independent record label An independent record label (or indie label) is a record label that operates without the funding of major record la ...
''.


See also

* List of vegetarians


Notes


Citations


References

* * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * *
Review by John Bussanich



Review by J.-C Picot
* * * * * * * *


External links

* *

translated by Arthur Fairbanks, 1898.
Empedocles
by Jean-Claude Picot with an extended and updated bibliography
Empedocles: Fragments
a
demonax.info
* * * {{Authority control Deaths from fire 5th-century BC Greek people 5th-century BC philosophers 5th-century BC poets Ancient Acragantines Ancient Greek shamans Pluralist philosophers Ancient Greek physicists Philosophers of Magna Graecia Natural philosophers Philosophers of science Presocratic philosophers Philosophers of love Sicilian Greeks 490s BC births 430s BC deaths