Ancient History & Civilisation


We have a large number of fragments from the poem (or poems) of Empedocles; more of his work survives than in the case of any other Presocratic. However, the doxographic tradition and other secondary sources attribute a huge, even encyclopedic range of teachings to him, and the resulting impression is that we may only have a small proportion of his work. Ancient sources credited him with a number of works, but almost all the extant fragments are nowadays invariably attributed to either On NatureorPurifications, the division depending on whether the subject of the fragment is Presocratic physical speculation or religious and spiritual claims and advice. In actual fact, though, the evidence for there being two separate poems, rather than two sections of a single poem, is surprisingly weak. It may be that we have the remains of a single work, which covered a variety of topics,1 and some of which was addressed to the people of Acragas in the plural, while some was focused more sharply on a single individual, Pausanias, who is said to have been Empedocles’ beloved. In any case, in what follows I shall speak of a single poem. The highly poetic and emotive language of his verse has led not only to problems of interpretation, but also to a number of textual difficulties. Like Parmenides, by writing in epic verse he was choosing to place himself within the epic didactic tradition.

Probably one of the best-known aspects of Empedocles’ life is the supposed manner of his death, so although generally in this book I have focused on philosophy rather than biography, I here give the main testimonium regarding his death (T1). The story is, in any case, not irrelevant to understanding Empedocles. It is immediately clear that he was a wonder-worker, a man of magic, as much as what we would recognize as a philosopher, and there are clear strands in his poem which bear this out too: in F1, which must have come close to the start of the poem, he singles himself out from the rest of mankind as divine (see also the last line of F15), and F2 too is definitely spoken in prophet mode; in F3 (which probably comes from a stage of the poem when he was expounding the theory of reincarnation), he explains that godhood is the next incarnation up the scale from those who have become ‘prophets, singers of hymns, healers, and leaders’; and in F4 he promises Pausanias that he will learn from him all kinds of magical powers, including raising the dead.

But he also promises knowledge of the origin and constitution of the world (F5). We are lucky to have enough fragments to be able to reconstruct a great deal of Empedocles’ thought in this area without having to rely on testimonia except to supplement the fragments. This is particularly fortunate because in the case of Empedocles, more perhaps than any other Presocratic, the doxographic tradition is tainted by Aristotelian errors. Aristotle was fascinated by Empedocles, and referred to him more than to any other Presocratic, but he failed to understand him, and the great majority of his reports are peevish and unsympathetic (e.g. T2–4). Anyway, Empedocles claims (F6 and F7; see also F20 ll. 61–70) that a judicious use of the senses, combined with a proper use of intelligence, can teach one the truth about the world.2 Presumably the task of a teacher such as Empedocles, then, is to guide one’s thinking until one can see the truth for oneself. F8 is particularly interesting in this context. All we have to do with our insights about things, Empedocles teaches, is not interfere with them with our normal, associative mind; then, just as at the macrocosmic scale everything has intelligence, at least in the minimal sense that it has an innate impulse to seek its proper place in the universe (as it is the natural tendency of fire to move upwards), so on the microcosmic scale our insights will find their own proper place in our minds. In fact, it is quite likely (F9) that even our thoughts about the world have the same constitution as the world itself.

In his physics, Empedocles was a pluralist: he held that there was a plurality of original substances which together account for the physical world. He was the first to come up with the theory of the four elements—earth, water, fire, and air—which (after its revival by Aristotle) was to have such a long and significant history in the West, especially in medicine as the four humours.3 Quite often, as in F10, he speaks about the four elements (or ‘roots’, as he called them) in allegorical terms, calling them by the names of divinities in order to suggest that even they have consciousness (just as the use of ‘roots’ implies their vitality). A comparison between Aëtius’ remarks surrounding F10, and those of Hippolytus which make up T5, will reveal that even in ancient times there was controversy about the precise allocation of Empedocles’ allegorical figures. No one doubts that ‘Nestis’ is water, but of the other three Zeus, lord of the heavens, stands for aither, Empedocles’ choice of word for ‘air’; Hera, the ‘life-bearing’ mother, is earth; and Aidoneus, which is another word for ‘Hades’, must be fire. The idea of subterranean fire is recurrent in Empedocles’ thought (see F31, T28, T29), and so the equation of Hades with fire is not so surprising. Each of the elements is also given other titles by Empedocles—water, for instance, may appear as ‘sea’ or ‘rain’—and fire may appear as ‘sun’: again, the idea that the sun emerged from Hades, the source of its fire, renewed each morning, is traditional.4

As a pluralist, Empedocles faced a particular difficulty. Parmenides had apparently denied the possibility of the real existence of more than one thing, the totality of what-is. Empedocles accepted half of Parmenides’ argument and ignored the rest. He agreed that what-is-not is impossible, but insisted that each of his four elements has an equal claim to existence, none of them being at all reducible to any of the others. So there were four basic existents, and all the things of the world5 were explained as differently proportioned mixtures of these four elements. What we call ‘change’, ‘generation’, ‘destruction’, and so on, are really no more than the rearrangement of these elements. Nothing is generated out of or dies back into what-is-not, as Parmenides insisted; but things can be generated and die back into their constituent elements. Void or non-being does not exist, but motion is still possible if one regards it as one existent thing taking the place of another existent thing, which has just moved on. On these ideas, see F11–17, F19ll. 9–14, F20 ll. 30–35, and T6. Empedocles’ predecessors had come up with a picture of the universe which assigned different parts to the four substances (air, fire, water, and earth), but these were regarded as having more primary qualities—water being cold and wet, fire hot and dry, and so on—and often some were derived from others. Empedocles was the first to give these four equal status and the first to develop the concept of an element—an irreducible, imperishable, underived primitive form of matter.

In addition to the four ‘roots’, Empedocles posited two motivating factors, love and strife (F20, T7). Love’s tendency is to unify things, that of strife to separate them; or, less simplistically and taking account of Empedoclean physics, love causes dissimilar things to come together, and strife causes similar things to come together. Thus, while any static object in the world could be explained as a proportionate mixture of the elements, many processes in the world can be explained as some kind of balance betweenthe action of love and the action of strife. Not all processes need be explained by the action of love and/or strife: fire, for instance, has a natural tendency to move upwards, and Empedocles does not rely on love or strife to explain it. Love and strife seem to be called on above all where the mixing and separation of elements are concerned. Like the elements, love and strife are sometimes given alternative, allegorical names: love, for instance, commonly appears as Aphrodite, Cypris, or Harmony, while strife may be ‘discord’ or ‘wrath’. Like the elements, they too are eternal (F18). F19 is a convenient summary of the basic importance of the four elements, and love and strife. In short, everything is a ‘mortal’ or temporary compound of the four elements, under the influence of more or less love and strife. Empedocles’ clear recognition of the concept of elements and compounds represents an enormous scientific advance over his predecessors.

The action of love and strife on things is not just local. Empedocles saw the whole universe as subject to an endlessly repeating cosmic cycle, like a vast cosmic inbreath and outbreath. At one extreme love is totally dominant, with strife banished to the outermost reaches of the universe; at the opposite extreme, strife has become dominant, and has moved inwards to push love into the centre of the universe. Under the rule of love everything is unified into a mass with none of the four elements distinct; under the rule of strife the four elements are completely unmixed, and occupy four distinct layers or concentric spheres (from the outside: fire, air, water, earth). The way in which strife gradually separates the elements is by generating a rotational movement (the same we see in the whirling of the heavenly bodies), which would act (as Aristotle confirms at On the Heavens 295a9–13) to sort things out according to their relative weights, with the lighter stuffs going towards the circumference and the heavier stuffs towards the centre. On the cosmogonic action of love and strife, see especially the important long fragments F20 and F21, with F22 and F23.

Details of the precise condition at the two extremes are controversial, and so are details of what happens in between, as the universe moves away from the rule of love, gradually towards increasing strife, and then away from total strife back towards the dominance of love again. It seems from T8 that time moves faster during the period of increasing strife, and slower as the power of love increases and things begin to merge again into the sphere of love. The duration of each phase of the cycle is disputed: probably the sphere of love lasts as long as the sum of the two periods of increasing love and increasing strife, while the duration of the total dominance of strife is instantaneous; at any rate, that is one possible interpretation of the evidence of T9, though this could also mean that there are four equal time-periods—the rule of love, the period of increasing strife, the rule of strife, and the period of increasing love.

It seems that a world like ours is possible at two points in the cycle, both during increasing strife and during increasing love (T10).6 However, it also seems likely that Empedocles saw our particular world as occurring during the rule of strife, since the elements are already well advanced in their separation into concentric spheres. He occasionally strikes a note of gloom and speaks of our birth in strife (e.g. F34).7 Most strikingly, F35 makes it clear, with a myth of original sin and fall, that even to be born on this world is a punishment.

Under the rule of love, everything comes together into a single stable sphere, which is described in terms reminiscent of the (probably metaphorical) sphericity of Parmenides’ One (F24, F25). F26 also seems to belong here, as a description of the sphere.8 In the sphere all the elements are mixed in equal proportions, but it is unlikely that the sphere is a homogeneous blend or fusion of the four elements, because the elements are imperishable. On the microcosmic level, an equal proportion of the elements is responsible for clear thinking (F43, with note); so the sphere is described as total mind. Given its permanence and stability, what caused the sphere to begin to break apart? It must be the action of strife. Reminiscent of that aspect of Taoism which is summed up in the yin-yang symbol, even the sphere of love contains the seed of discord. At any rate, the ‘limbs of the god were starting to quiver’ (F27), and gradually the lineaments of our familiar universe began to emerge (T11). Empedocles illustrated the cycle as a whole, somewhat obscurely, by reference to what happens to a body in life and death: see F28 with its note.

Empedocles was certainly not half-hearted in embracing the consequences of the cosmic cycle. If under the rule of strife things are totally disunited, then even while love’s power is on the increase, there is no guarantee that things will be put together in a harmonious fashion. F29–31 describe the various stages of zoogony. At first, while the love’s influence is still strong, ‘whole-natured’ (i.e. undifferentiated) creatures arise. They resemble the description of love’s sphere in F24 and F25, and indeed may well be thought of as gods, suitable creatures to arise while love’s blessed influence is still strong. There was a utopian world of peace and harmony (F32–3), free from abominations such as blood sacrifices and the eating of meat. This is the Golden Age before the fall outlined in F35, and so presumably it was a time when spirits roamed the world not yet in human form, before the corruption of blood sacrifice and meat-eating had occurred. Then humans arise (that is, these spirits suffer corruption and are reborn as humans), and finally, as strife’s power increases, monsters and separate limbs roam the earth. This was the age of legendary beasts such as the Minotaur. In all probability this sequence is reversed in the opposite half of the cosmic cycle, when love is gradually gaining dominance over strife. In our world strife still seems to be more dominant than Empedocles likes: F34.

Perhaps it was at this point in the poem that Empedocles found room for his theory of reincarnation (see the powerful fragment F35, with F36 and also F3), since it connects with his dietary rules: the eating of meat is forbidden, bluntly, because you may be eating a reincarnated relative (F37, F38). Other dietary prohibitions included not eating beans, which were also banned by the Pythagoreans, for both practical and symbolic reasons (F39; see p. 97 for the Pythagorean prohibition).9 Although it is punishment for the incarnated soul to be banished and born on earth, it is possible to re-ascend the ladder of incarnation and eventually to become a god again (F3).10 The means of purification certainly included vegetarianism and abstention from blood sacrifice, but may also have included sexual continence (though not abstinence) and other moderative measures. It also included knowledge of the gods (F40) and presumably clear understanding of the nature of the universe, as Empedocles has taught it in his poem. Of course, given the circumstances, one could not hope to be united with the sphere of love in itself, since that is a thing of the past and the future, not of the present state of the world; but perhaps one could aspire to be united with the power of love that remains in the world.

During the description of the formation of our world, as the cycle moved from strife slowly towards love, Empedocles digressed into an encyclopedic account of many features of the universe. Not only did he concentrate on typically Presocratic subjects such as the nature and behaviour of the heavenly bodies and meteorological phenomena, but he also went into botany and zoology, and especially human biology (remember that in F3 healers are one of the highest human incarnations). F41 is for its time a remarkably accurate description of the human eye; F42 a famous account of breathing as involving not just the nostrils and mouth (for those creatures which are equipped with them), but pores all over the body. Theophrastus preserves a long account of Empedocles’ views on the senses, sense-perception, the perception of pleasure and pain, and understanding (T12), which can be supplemented by F9 and F43. Particularly noteworthy here is the idea that everything gives off emanations: T13 shows how this theory could also be used to explain other phenomena as well, and the last words of T14 suggest that all mixture and dissolution (that is, all apparent creation and destruction —see F13) was explained by means of these channels; Empedocles says in F19 l. 13 (and again in F20 l. 34 and F22 l. 3) that the elements ‘run through one another’, and the reason, Aristotle suggests,11 they are able to do so is that they have channels which can accommodate emanations. He also went in some depth into embryology, a subject of perennial interest to the more mystically and numerologically inclined ancient Greek thinkers (T8, T15–17, F44, and a number of testimonia not here translated), and touched on digestion too (F45).

For Empedocles’ astronomical theories, in so far as we can reliably reconstruct them, we have to rely largely on testimonia, since the relevant fragments tend to be no more than a line or two in length (e.g. F46, a true explanation of nightfall, and F47, which recognizes that the moon gets its light from the sun). T18–27 sketch some of the details. It seems that on Empedocles’ view the outer heaven is made of a hard ice-like substance; despite its weight, it is prevented from falling down to join the earth at the centre of the universe by its whirling motion. The fixed stars are fragments of fire which remain in the aither after fire (in its property as a hardening agent) had crystallized the aither to create the outer periphery of heaven. This took place at an early stage of the formation of the universe, after which the remaining fire coalesced as our sun. It is clear that he also covered topics such as the nature and phases of the moon, but he may not have tried to explain the apparent motion of the planets.

Finally, Empedocles explained life on earth as a result of heat trapped under the surface of the earth. Coming from Sicily, and living near Mount Etna, he was impressed by the presence of subterranean fire. In our finished world, fire, being light, has mostly moved outwards, towards the periphery, and even the fire trapped inside the earth has an upward tendency. This upward tendency causes life on earth to erupt (F31), and makes the earth ‘sweat’ and produce the sea (T3). The trapped heat is also responsible, in its function as a hardening agent (see also F48 and T24), for other phenomena, such as solidifying stones out of water (T28, T29). Fire clearly had an important part to play in Empedocles’ cosmogony, but it is going too far to complain, with Aristotle (On Generation and Destruction 330b), that in practice he relied on only two elements—fire and the other three. It is just that, as a hardening agent, fire had a particular part to play in the cosmogonical process.

T1 (DK 31A1) There are different accounts of his death. After telling the story about the woman who stopped breathing and how famous Empedocles became for having restored her corpse to life, Heraclides tells how once Empedocles was performing a sacrifice near Peisianax’s farm, and he invited some of his friends, including Pausanias. After the feast everyone else took themselves off to rest (either under the trees of the nearby farm or elsewhere), but Empedocles stayed in the place where he had reclined for the meal. When they got up the next day, he alone was nowhere to be found. They looked for him and questioned the slaves, who said that they had no idea where he was; but one of them said that in the middle of the night he had heard a supernaturally loud voice calling out Empedocles’ name, and then, when he had got out of bed, he had seen a light in the sky and torches shining, but nothing else. His friends were amazed at what had happened, and after Pausanias went home he organized a search party. Later, however, he stopped them from trying to interfere with events, suggested that prayer was the correct response to what had happened, and that they ought to sacrifice to Empedocles as though he had become a god. Hermippus, however, says that it was after Empedocles had cured a woman from Acragas called Pantheia, whom the doctors had declared to be a hopeless case, that he performed the sacrifice, and that there were almost eighty guests at the sacrificial feast. Hippobotus says that after he had got up from his couch he made his way to Mount Etna, where he leapt into the craters of fire and made himself disappear, because he wanted to confirm what people were saying about him—that he had become a god. Later, though, according to Hippobotus, he was found out when one of his sandals was disgorged by the mountain, since he had regularly worn bronze sandals.* (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 8.67.8–69.8 Long)

F1 (DK 31B112; KRS 399; W 102; 1 1)

Friends, inhabitants of the great city of the yellow river Acragas,

Dwelling on the heights of the city, filled with care for good deeds,

Havens of respect for strangers, innocent of hardship,

Greetings! Honoured, it seems, as an immortal god,

Mortal no more, I come and go among all men, 5

Wreathed with ribbons and fresh chaplets.

No sooner do I arrive in flourishing cities than by all

I am revered, both men and women, and they follow me

In their thousands, seeking directions to the path of benefit,

Some in need of prophecies, while others, afflicted by ailments 10

Of all kinds, ask to hear me utter words of healing,

Since they have long been pierced by cruel pains.

(pieced together from: Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 8.61.3–6 Long; Diodorus of Sicily, Universal History 13.83.l9 Vogel; and Clement, Miscellanies 6.30.3 Stählin/Früchtel)

F2 (DK 31B114; W 103; 1 2)

My friends, I know that there is truth in the words

I shall speak; but this truth is hard indeed for men,

And the encroachment of trust is not welcome to them.

(Clement, Miscellanies–5 Stählin/Früchtel)

F3 (DK 31B146; KRS 409; W 132; 1 136)

In the end as prophets, singers of hymns, healers, and leaders

They come among the men of this world,

And then they spring up as gods, highest in honour.

(Clement, Miscellanies–5 Stählin/Früchtel)

F4 (DK 31B111; KRS 345; W 101; 115)

All the potions there are that ward off ills and old age

You shall learn, since for you alone will I fulfil them all.

You will halt the energy of the untiring winds which blast

The earth with their gusts and wither the fields,

And again, if you want, you will bring back compensatory winds. 5

After dark rain you will make dry heat, seasonable for men,

And after the dry heat of summer, to nourish the trees,

You will make streams, which flow through the aither.

And you will bring out of Hades the energy of a man who has died.

(Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 8.59.5–13 Long)

F5 (DK 31B38; KRS 368; W 27; 1 39)

But come, and I will tell you of the source from which in the beginning

The sun and everything else which now we see became manifest

The earth and the surging sea and the moist air,

Titan* and aither which encircles and holds everything together.

(Clement, Miscellanies–6 Stählin/Früchtel)

T2 (DK 31B53; 1 CTXT-29a, F42) Both alternatives are strange, then: either our predecessors did not think there was such a thing as chance, or they recognized its existence but ignored it. And this is especially strange since they do sometimes rely on it, as Empedocles does when he says that air is not always separated off towards the highest region, but as chance would have it. At any rate, in the cosmogonical section of his work, he says:

So chanced it then to run, but often otherwise.

And he also says that the parts of animals mostly came about by chance. (Aristotle, Physics 196a17–24 Ross)

T3 (DK 31A25, B55; KRS 371; W 46; 1 CTXT-44, F59) It is equally absurd for someone to think that in describing the sea as the ‘sweat of the earth’ he has said something clear, as Empedocles does. Although this statement may perhaps be sufficient for the purposes of poetry (since metaphor is a poetic device), it is not sufficient for the purpose of acquiring knowledge about nature.* (Aristotle, On Celestial Phenomena, 357a24–8 Bekker)

T4 (DK 31A22; KRS 339) Homer and Empedocles have nothing in common except for their metre, which is why it is right to call Homer a poet, but Empedocles a natural scientist rather than a poet. (Aristotle, Poetics 1447b17–20 Bekker)

F6 (DK 31B2; KRS 342; W 1; 1 8)

For narrow are the means* spread over their bodies,

And many the afflictions that burst in and blunt their thinking.

In their lives they see a meagre portion of life, and then,

Doomed to a swift death, like smoke they fly away on high,

Trusting only in whatever each has encountered as he was driven 5

Here and there; yet he falsely claims to have discovered the whole.

Not thus are these things to be seen by men, nor heard,

Nor grasped with the mind. But since you have withdrawn here,

You shall learn. Mortal wisdom has aroused no more than this.†*

(pieced together from Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 7.123.3–10 and 124.5–6 Bury)

F7 (DK 31B3B; KRS 343; W 5; 1 14)

Nor let it force you to take from mortal men the flowers

Of fair-famed honour. If you happen to speak more than is holy,

Have no fear, and then seat yourself on the heights of wisdom.

But come, consider by whatever means it takes to make anything clear.

Think not that sight is ever more reliable than what comes to hearing, 5

Nor rate echoing hearing above the pores of the tongue, nor keep

Your trust from any of the other organs by which there is a channel

For understanding, but use whatever it takes to make things clear to the mind.

(Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 7.125.7–14 Bury)

F8 (DK 31B110; KRS 398; W 100; 1 16)

For if you plant them too down under your agitated mind

And observe them kindly with episodes of untainted attention,

All of them will remain with you throughout your life, and from them

You will gain many others.* For these things will themselves

Cause each thing to grow into its rightful place, according to its nature. 5

But if you reach out for things of a different kind, such as the countless

Afflictions there are among men which blunt their thinking,

Be assured that, as time goes around, they will suddenly leave you,

Since they desire to attain the family proper to themselves.

For know that everything has intelligence and a share of understanding. 10

(Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 7.29.26 Marcovich)

F9 (DK 31B109; KRS 393; W 77; 1 17)

For with earth we see earth, water with water,

Bright aither with aither, and baneful fire with fire,

Love with love, and strife with grim strife.*

(Aristotle, On the Soul 404b13–15 Ross)

F10 (DK 31A33, B6; KRS 346; W 7; I 12) Empedocles the son of Meton, from Acragas, says that there are four elements—fire, air, water, and earth—and two initiatory forces, love and strife, of which the former is unificatory, the latter divisive. He speaks as follows:

For hear first the four roots of all things:

Bright Zeus, life-bearing Hera, Aidoneus,

And Nestis, who soaks men’s springs with her tears.*

‘Zeus’ is his name for the seething [zesis] of heavenly fire, ‘life-bearing Hera’ for air [aēr], ‘Aidoneus’ for earth, and ‘Nestis’ and ‘the springs of mortals’ for seed, so to speak, and water. (Aëtius, Opinions 1.3.20 Diels)

T5 (DK 31A33)[After quotingF10] ‘Zeus’ is fire; ‘life-bearing Hera’ is earth, which bears the crops necessary for life; ‘Aidoneus’ is air, because although we look at everything through air the only thing we do not see is air itself;* and ‘Nestis’ is water, because water is the only thing which, while being a medium for nourishment for everything which is nourished, cannot nourish them by itself. For, he says, if water did nourish creatures by itself, they would never have died of starvation, since there is always plenty of water in the world. And so he calls water ‘Nestis’ because although it is responsible for nourishment it does not have the ability to nourish things which are nourished. (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 7.29.5–6 Marcovich)

F11 (DK 31B12; KRS 353; W 9; 1 18)

For there is no way for what-is-not to be born,

And for what-is to perish is impossible and inconceivable,

Since wherever it is planted at any time, there it will always be.*

(Ps.-Aristotle, On Melissus, Xenophanes, and Gorgias 975b1–4 Bekker)

F12 (DK 31B13; W 10; 1 19)

Nor in the totality is there anything empty or overfull.

(Aëtius, Opinions 1.18.2 Diels)

F13 (DK 31B8; KRS 350; W 12; 1 21)

Listen now to a further point: no mortal thing

Has a beginning, nor does it end in death and obliteration;

There is only a mixing and then a separating of what was mixed,

But by mortal men these processes are named ‘beginnings’.

(Aëtius, Opinions 1.30.1 Diels)

F14 (DK 31B9; KRS 351; W 13;1 22)

But when fire meets with aither,* mixed in the form of a man,

Or in the form of the race of wild beasts, or in that of shrubs,

Or in that of birds, then men talk of things ‘being born’;

And again, when separation occurs, they talk of ‘grim death’.

Their language follows their rules, and I too assent to convention. 5

(Plutarch, Against Colotes 1113a11-b2 Einarson/de Lacy)

F15 (DK 31B23; KRS 356; W 15; 1 27)

Consider two painters, men well versed by wisdom

In their craft, at work decorating votive offerings:

With their hands they take hold of the colourful pigments,

And mix them harmoniously, using more of some, less of others.

With these pigments there is nothing whose likeness 5

They cannot reproduce: they give us trees, men and women,

Animals, birds, and water-dwelling fish, and long-lived gods,

Highest in honour.* In the same way let not your mind be cowed

Into accepting the falsehood that there is any other source

For all the countless mortal things that have become manifest; 10

But know this clearly, since you have heard the tale from a god.

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG IX, 160.1–11 Diels)

F16 (DK 31B96; KRS 374; W 48; 1 62)

And the kindly earth in her well-built cauldrons

Received, out of a total of eight, two parts of bright Nestis

And four of Hephaestus, and they became white bones

Put together with the divine glues of Harmony.*

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG IX, 300.21–4 Diels)

F17 (DK 31B22; KRS 388; W 25; I 37)

For all these things—the flash of fire, earth, sky,

And sea—are one with those portions of themselves

Which have separate existence in the midst of mortal things.

And they, if strongly suited for blending, have likewise

Been made by Aphrodite to resemble and cleave to one another, 5

But if hostile, they draw far apart from one another, especially

In their birth and their blending and the moulding of their forms,

In no way accustomed to union, and filled with misery

Under the influence of strife, because it was responsible for their birth.*

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG IX, 160.28–161.7 Diels)

T6 (DK 31A78) Empedocles says that flesh is the product of an equal blend of the four elements and sinews of fire and earth mixed with double the amount of water; that creatures’ nails and claws are the product of sinews which have been cooled down by meeting with air; that bones are the product of two parts of water and earth, and four of fire, when these parts have become mixed together inside earth; and that sweat and tears occur when blood dissolves and is diffused in addition to thinning out. (Aëtius,Opinions5.22.1 Diels)

T7 (DK 31A28; 1 CTXT-19b) Empedocles makes the corporeal elements four—fire, air, water, and earth. They are eternal, but change in respect of quantity and fewness by combination and separation. But the things which most deserve to be called principles, in the sense that these four elements are set in motion by them, are love and strife. For the elements are bound to be in constant alternating motion as they are at one time combined by love and at another separated by strife. The upshot is that, according to Empedocles, there are six first principles. (Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG IX, 25.21–6 Diels)

F18 (DK 31B16; W 11; 1 20)

For they are as they were and will be, and never, I think,

Will boundless time be emptied of the two of them.

(Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies–5 Marcovich)

F19 (DK 31B21; KRS 355; W 14; 1 26)

But come, consider this evidence for my former account,

If any aspect of it was left defective and unformed -

The sun, with its white appearance and pervasive warmth;

The immortals,* bathed in heat and bright light;

Rain water, dark and cold wherever it is found; 5

And from the earth there flow things dense and solid.

Under wrath they are all distinct in form and separate,

Under love they come together and are desired by one another.

They are the roots of all that was and is and will be;

From them trees sprang, and men and women, 10

Animals, birds, and water-dwelling fish, and long-lived gods,

Highest in honour. For they are just themselves,

And by running through one another they gain

Different characteristics. So great is the change that mixing causes.*

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG IX, 159.10.3–16 Diels)

F20 (DK 31B17; KRS 348, 349; W 8; 1 25)

A double tale shall I tell. For at one time they grew to be one, alone,

Instead of many, and then again they divided into many instead of one.

The birth of mortal things is twofold, and twofold their departure.

When the roots all meet the one is born and destroyed,

And when they divide again the other is nourished and dispersed. 5

The roots never cease from continuous alternation:

Now are they brought together by love until all are one,

Now all are borne asunder by the hostility of strife,

Until they grow together as one and the totality is overcome. 8a

Thus, in that they have learnt to become one from many

And turn into many again when the one is divided, 10

In this sense they come to be and have an impermanent life;

But in that they never cease from continuous alternation,

They are for ever unchanging in a cycle.

But come, hear my words! For learning will extend your mind.

As I have already said, in explaining the limits of my words, 15

A double tale shall I tell. For at one time they grew to be one, alone,

Instead of many, and then again they divided into many instead of one—

Fire and water and earth and the boundless height of aither,

And, separate from them, deadly strife, alike on every side,

And, among them, love, equal in length and breadth. 20

Look on her with your mind; do not use your eyes and sit bewildered.

She is regarded even by mortals as inherent in their bodies,

And thanks to her they can feel affection and perform deeds of unity;

The names by which they call her are Joy and Aphrodite.

No mortal man has seen her whirling among the roots, 25

But I would have you attend to the true course of my account.

The roots are all equal and just as old as one another,

But each has a different domain and its own rightful place,

And they rule in turn, one after the other, as time goes around.

Nothing comes into existence or ceases to exist; there is only them. 30

For if they were constantly perishing, they would no longer exist.

What might increase this totality? Where might such a thing come from?

And how could it perish, since there is nothing that lacks them?

No, they are just themselves, and by running through one another

They become now this and now that, and remain for ever the same. 35

But under love we unite into a single ordered whole,

Which under strife once again becomes, instead of one, many,

From which arise all that was and is and will be hereafter.

From them trees sprang, and men and women,

Animals and birds and water-dwelling fish, and long-lived gods, 40

Highest in honour. Under strife they never cease

From shooting up in frequent swirls …

[some lines of fragmentary or disconnected text]

Try to ensure that my tale reaches not just your ears, 61

And as you listen perceive the truth that is all around you.

I will show your eyes too that the elements meet a larger body.

First there is the gathering and the disclosure of the stock—

Of however many still remain today of this generation, 65

Not only among the wild beasts that roam the mountains,

But among human beings of both genders, and also among the crops

Of the root-bearing fields and the grapes that cluster on the vine.

Let these tales bring undeceitful proofs to your mind:

For you will see the gathering and the disclosure of the stock. 70

(pieced together from: Simplicius: Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG IX, 158.1–159 4 Diels; P. Strasb. gr. Inv. 1665–1666, a(i)6-a(ii)4; and P. Strasb. gr. Inv. 1665–1666, a(ii)21–30)

F21 (DK 31B35; KRS 360; W 47; 1 61)

But now I shall return to a part of my song whose course

I went through before, and I shall channel this account

From that one. When strife had come to the innermost depths

Of the whirl, and love had reached the centre of the vortex,

Where all these things come together to be one, alone, 5

Not suddenly, but combining reluctantly from various directions,

Their mixture caused countless species of mortal things to pour forth;

But among those being mixed were many which remained unmixed,

All those which strife still curbed from above; for not yet had it moved

Entirely and blamelessly to the outer limits of the circle, 10

But partly it remained within and partly it had left the body of the universe.

Anywhere hastily abandoned by strife immediately saw the invasion

Of blameless love, the encroachment of the gentle and immortal one.

Suddenly there was a change of ways: things which before were immortal

Began to grow as mortal, things formerly unmixed as mixed. 15

As they were being mixed, countless species of mortal things poured forth,

Put together with all kinds of forms, a wonder to behold.

(pieced together from: Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘On the Heavens’, CAG VII, 529.1–15 Heiberg; and Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG IX, 32.13–33.2 Diels)

F22 (DK 31B26; W 16; 1 28)

One after another the roots prevail as the cycle goes around,

Fading into one another and increasing as their appointed turn arrives.

For they are just themselves, and by running through one another

They become men and all the other kinds of creatures,

Now being brought together by love into a single orderly arrangement, 5

Now being borne asunder by the hostility of strife,

Until they grow together as one and the totality is overcome.

Thus, in that they have learnt to become one from many

And turn into many again when the one is divided,

In this sense they come to be and have an impermanent life; 10

But in that they never cease from alternation,

They are for ever unchanging in a cycle.

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG IX, 33.19–34.3 Diels)

F23 (DK 31B36; W20; 1 32)

As the roots were coming together, strife was withdrawing to the extremity.

(Aristotle, Metaphysics 1000b2a Ross)

T8 (DK 31A75; KRS 382) Empedocles said that when the human race was first born from the earth, a day took as long to pass as a ten-month period does now, because the sun’s motion was slow. As time went on, a day came to be as long as a present seven-month period. That is why both ten-month and seven-month foetuses are viable, since the nature of the universe has seen to it that a baby grows in the single day on which it is also born. (Aëtius, Opinions 5.18.1 Diels)

T9 [In the course of a sustained criticism of Empedocles] And then he needs an argument to support his contention that they [love and strife] occupy equal periods of time. (Aristotle, Physics 252a31–2 Ross)

T10 (DK 31A42) He also says that the universe is in the same state now under strife as it was before under love.* (Aristotle, On Generation and Destruction 334a5–7 Joachim)

F24 (DK 31B27; KRS 358; W 21; 1 33)

There neither the swift limbs of the sun are distinct

<Nor …>†*

And so it is kept fast by the firm lid of Harmony,

A rounded sphere, delighting in its blessed stability.

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG X, 1183.30–1184.1 Diels)

F25 (DK 31B29, 28; KRS 357; W 22; 1 34)

For from its back no two branches spring and rush;

It has no feet, no nimble knees, no genitals for procreation,

But is equal to itself from every direction, and entirely boundless,*

A rounded sphere, delighting in its encircling solitude.*

(Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies–5 Marcovich)

F26 (DK 31B134; KRS 397; W 97; 1 110)

For its body is not equipped with a humanoid head;

From its back no two branches spring and shoot,

Neither do feet, nor nimble knees, nor hairy genitals,

But it is only mind, sacred and inexpressibly vast,

Rushing through the whole world with swift thoughts.* 5

(Ammonius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘On Interpretation’, CAG IV.5, 249.6–10 Busse)

F27 (DK 31B31; W 24; 136)

For one by one all the limbs of the god were starting to quiver.

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG X, 1184.4 Diels)

T11 (DK 31A49; 1 40) For as aither was separated off, it was raised upwards by wind and fire, and it was what it came to be: the broad, vast, encircling heaven. As for the fire, it remained a short distance inside the heaven, and it grew to become the rays of the sun. Earth withdrew into one place and when solidified by necessity it emerged and settled in the middle. Moreover, aither, being much lighter, moves all around it without diversion.* (Philo, On Providence 2.60)

F28 (DK 31B20; W 26; 1 38)

… First in the case of the glorious mass of the human body:

Now we are joined together and united by love as limbs

Which have all obtained a body at the prime of life,

Only later to be torn asunder by evil discord,

And they each wander separately by the shore of life. 5

And the same goes for shrubs, for fish in their watery homes,

For mountain-dwelling wild beasts, and for winged gulls.*

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG X, 1124.12–18 Diels)

F29 (DK 31B57; KRS 376; W 50; 1 64)

Here many heads sprang up without necks,

Mere arms were wandering around without shoulders,

And single eyes, lacking foreheads, roamed around.

(pieced together from Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘On the Heavens’, CAG VII, 586.12 and 587.1–2 Heiberg

F30 (DK 31B61; KRS 379; W 52; 1 66)

Many grew with faces and breasts on both sides,

And man-headed bull-natured creatures, and again there arose

Bull-headed man-natured creatures, and mixtures of male

And female, equipped with shade-giving limbs.*

(Aelian, On the Nature of Animals 16.29.5–8 Hercher)

F31 (DK 31B62; KRS 381; w 53; 167)

But now hear the account that follows of how the shoots

Of the wretched human race, men and women, were raised at night

By fire as it separated. The tale is true and informative.

First there arose from the earth whole-natured shapes

With a portion of both water and heat, 5

Their arising forced by the urge of fire to reach its kin.

Not yet did they display bodies fair with limbs,

Nor voices, nor again the human characteristic of speech.

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG IX, 381.31–382.3 Diels)

F32 (DK 31B128; KRS 411; W 118; 1 122)

They did not worship Ares or the battle’s rage,

Their gods were not Zeus and Cronus and Poseidon,

But the lady Cypris <…>

They sought her blessing with pious statues,

With animal paintings and infinitely varied fragrances, 5

With offerings of pure myrrh and scented frankincense,

And by pouring on to the ground libations of yellow honey.

No altar was bathed with the unspeakable slaughter of bulls;

In fact, there was no greater abomination among men

Than to deprive a creature of life and to eat brave limbs. 10

(Porphyry, On Abstinence 2.21.7–9, 2.27.39–41 Nauck)

F33 (DK 31B130; KRS 412; W 119; 1 123)

Every creature and every bird was tame and amenable

To men, and everywhere kindness blazed forth.

(Scholiast on Nicander, Creatures of the Wild 452, Keil 36)

F34 (DK 31B124; KRS 403; w 114; 1 118)

Alas! Poor wretched race of mortal creatures!

What discord and grief have given you birth!

(Clement, Miscellanies–7

F35 (DK 31B115; KRS 401; W 107; 1 11)

It is an oracle of Necessity, an ancient decree of the gods,

Eternal and securely sealed with broad oaths,

That when one goes astray and pollutes his body with murder—

One of the spirits to whom long life has been allotted—5

For thirty thousand seasons he wanders far from the blessed ones.

In time he assumes all the various forms of mortal things

And exchanges one hard path of life for another.

For the power of aither pursues him into the sea,

And the sea spits him on to dry land, and the earth into the beams 10

Of the blazing sun, and the sun casts him into the whirling aither.

Each in turn receives him, but to all he is loathsome.

Now I too am one of these, an exile from the gods, a wanderer,

Putting my trust in the insanities of strife.*

(pieced together from: Plutarch, On Exile 607c10-d1 de Lacy/Einarson; and Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 7.29.14–23 passim Marcovich)

F36 (DK 31B117; KRS 417; W 108; 1 111)

For in the past I have already been a boy and a girl,

A shrub and a bird and the fish that leaps from the sea as it travels.†*

(Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies–4 Marcovich)

F37 (DK 31B136; KRS 414; W 122; 1 127)

Will you not end the terrible sounds of your murder? Do you not see

That in your thoughtlessness you are eating one another?

(Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 9.129.2–3 Bury)

F38 (DK 31B137; KRS 415; W 124; 1 128)

A father raises up his own son in a different form and slaughters him

With a prayer, the utter fool, while the son sheds bitter tears

And begs for mercy from the sacrificer. Deaf to his reproaches, the father

Slaughters the victim in his home and prepares a vile meal,

And likewise a son takes his father, children their mother, 5

Deprive them of life and consume their own flesh.

(Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 9.129.5–10 Bury)

F39 (DK 31B141; KRS 419; W 128; 1 132)

Wretches, utter wretches, keep your hands off beans!

(Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights Marshall)

F40 (DK 31B132; W 95; 14)

Prosperous is the man who has gained the wealth of divine thinking,

Wretched is he who cares not for clear thinking about the gods.

(Clement, Miscellanies–4 Stählin/Früchtel)

F41 (DK 31B84; KRS 389; W 88; 1 103)

Think of someone who plans a journey on a winter’s night,

And prepares a lamp, a burning source of fire’s gleam;

He attaches linen screens against winds from all quarters,

And they scatter the breath of the winds as they blow,

But as much of the light as is finer pierces through the screens 5

And keeps shining with its untiring rays across the threshold.

So at that time she* gave birth to the round-faced eye,

Primal fire enclosed within membranes and fine linens,

Which protected the fire against the depths of the surrounding water, 10

But let through to the outside as much of the fire as was finer.

(Aristotle, On the Senses 437b26–438a3 Bekker)

F42 (DK 31B100; W 91; 1 106)

This is the way that all creatures inhale and exhale: spread over

The surfaces of all their bodies are thinly blooded channels of flesh,

And at the mouths of these channels the outer extremities of the skin

Have been pierced right through by numerous furrows,* so that the blood

Is contained, but a clear route has been cut with passages for aither. 5

Then, at the back-rush of the glistening blood from these furrows

There is an inrush of aither, turbulent in a surging swell;

And when the blood leaps back, aither is exhaled again. It is just like when

A young girl plays with a clepsydra of shiny bronze:

When she covers the mouth of the pipe with her pretty hand 10

And dips it into the glistening body of sparkling water,

No water enters the vessel, but the bulk of the aither from inside

Presses against the numerous holes and holds the water back,

As long as it covers the dense current. But then,

As the wind leaves, a due amount of water enters.* 15

It is the same when she holds water in the depths of the vessel,

With the mouth and the channel blocked by mortal flesh:

By its inward impulse the aither outside restrains the water

At the gates of the ill-sounding vessel whose extremities it controls,

Until she removes her hand, and then, contrary to what happened before, 20

As the wind pours in, a due amount of water rushes out.

Thus, when in its swift course along its paths the glistening blood

Rushes back again towards the inner recesses, immediately

A current of aither enters in a seething swell, but when the blood

Leaps back, aither is exhaled back out again in equal measure. 25

(Aristotle, On Breathing 473a9–474a6 Bekker)

T12 (DK 31A86; KRS 391, 392) Empedocles gives a similar account of all the senses, explaining perception by means of the accommodation of things into the channels of each sense organ. That, he says, is why they cannot discern one another’s proper objects: the channels of some of the senses are too wide, of others too narrow, for the object of perception, so that some objects of perception make their way through without any contact, while others cannot enter at all.*

He also tries to describe the organ of sight. He says that its interior is fire, and that this inner fire is surrounded by earth and air, which the fire can penetrate (think of the light in lanterns) because it is rarefied. There are alternate channels of fire and water in the eye, and we recognize pale things by means of the channels of fire and dark things by means of the channels of water, since each of those kinds of channels can accommodate each of those kinds of things. The colours travel to the eye thanks to the emanations which objects give off.

Not all creatures’ eyes have the same composition, but some are made of the same elements, while others are made of the opposite elements, and some have fire in the middle, while others have fire on the outside. That is why some creatures can see better by day and others at night; those which have less fire see better by day, because the inner fire in their eyes is brought up to par by the external fire, while those which have less of the opposite element see better at night, because their deficiency too is supplemented. And under the opposite conditions the opposite is true: those with an excess of fire cannot see well in the daytime, because when their inner fire is increased still further during the day it spreads and covers the channels of water; while those with an excess of water are in the same situation by night, because the fire in them is covered by the water. This goes on until, in the one case, the water is extracted by the external light, and in the other case the fire is extracted by the external air. For in each case the opposite is the cure. The best blend for an eye is when it is a compound of both fire and water in equal proportions; this is the most effective eye. This is more or less what he says about vision.

He says that hearing is a result of noises from outside, when the inside is set in motion by the voice and resonates. For the organ of hearing (which he calls a ‘fleshy offshoot’) is like a bell for sounds of equal size,* and the air, when set in motion, strikes against the solid part of the ear and creates a sound.

Smell, he says, is due to the act of breathing, and that is why the people with the keenest sense of smell are those in whom the movement involved in breathing is strongest. The strongest odour emanates from rarefied and light objects. He does not devote separate analyses of how and thanks to what organs taste and touch occur, except in so far as he gives the account common to all the senses that perception occurs by the accommodation of objects to channels. And he says that we feel pleasure thanks to things which are similar in respect of both their parts and their blend, and pain thanks to things which are dissimilar.

He gives the same kind of account of thinking and ignorance as well, in the sense that he says that thinking occurs thanks to similars and ignorance thanks to dissimilars; in other words, he is assuming that thinking is either identical to or very similar to sense-perception. For after giving a list of how we recognize each element thanks to each element,* he adds at the end that from these elements

all things have been firmly fitted together,

And by means of them they think and feel pleasure and pain.*

Hence, he says, it is principally thanks to blood that we think, because it is in blood, more than in any of the other bodily parts, that the elements are equally blended.

Those people in whom the elements are equally or almost equally blended, and in whom they are not widely spaced, nor again small or too large, are the most intelligent and have the keenest senses; then those who most closely approximate to this condition are proportionately less intelligent and perceptive, and those who are in the opposite state are the most unintelligent. Those whose elements are in a widely spaced and loosely textured condition are slow and laborious in their thinking, while those whose elements are compact and broken up into fine particles are quick and throw themselves into a lot of projects, but achieve little because of the rapidity of the motion of their blood. Those who have a temperate blend in one part only are clever in this one respect; so, for instance, some are good speakers, while others are craftsmen, depending on whether this blend occurs in their hands or in their tongues. And the same goes for other abilities. (Theophrastus, On the Senses 7–11 Stratton)

F43 (DK 31B105; KRS 394; W 94; 1 96)

The heart, nourished in the ebb and flow of seas of blood,

Is the main seat of what men call understanding,

For understanding is the blood around the heart.*

(John of Stobi, Anthology 1.49.53 Wachsmuth/Hense)

T13 (DK 31A89) On why the Heraclean stone attracts iron.* Empedocles says that iron moves towards the stone thanks to the emanations which flow from both the two objects, and thanks to the fact that the stone’s channels are commensurate with the emanations from the iron. For the stone’s emanations displace and stir the air which is in the iron’s channels, blocking them up, and once this air has been removed the emanation flows all at once and the iron follows. As these emanations travel from the iron to the stone’s channels, because they are commensurate with the channels and fit in with them, the iron too follows and moves along with the emanations. (Alexander of Aphrodisias, Questions, 2.23.1–8 Bruns)

T14 (DK 31A87) Some believe that anything that is acted upon is acted upon when the agent (that is, the proximate agent, which is the agent in the strictest sense of the word) enters it through certain channels, and they say that this is how we see and hear and so on for all the other senses, and moreover that things are visible through transparent media such as air and water because such media have channels which are too small to see, but of which there are many, arranged in rows, and the more transparent a thing is, the more of these channels it has. In addition to proposing this theory in certain cases, those involving agents and the things they act upon, some, including Empedocles, say that mixture takes place between things whose channels are mutually accommodating. (Aristotle, On Generation and Destruction 324b25–35 Joachim)

T15 (DK 31B69; W 141; 1 CTXT-61) That Empedocles too is aware that there are two periods of gestation is shown by the fact that he called women ‘twice-bearing’, mentioned the amount by which the number of days of one gestation exceeds the other, and described eight-month embryos as unviable. (Proclus, Commentary on Plato’s ‘Republic’ 2.34.25–8 Kroll)

T16 (DK 31A81) Others, like Empedocles, say that sexual differentiation happens in the womb. They say that seeds which enter the womb when it is warm become males, and those which enter a cold womb become females, and that the cause of heat or coldness in the womb is the menstrual flow, which can be either cooler or warmer, and either more in the past or more recent. (Aristotle, On the Generation of Animals 764a1–6 Bekker)

T17 (DK 31A81) Anaxagoras and Empedocles agree that males are born when the seed flows from the right side and females when it flows from the left side, but although they agree on this issue, they are at odds on the question of how children come to resemble their parents. On this matter Empedocles has the following to say, after discussing the subject: If both parents’ seeds* were equally warm, the offspring is a male which resembles the father; if both parents’ seeds were equally cold, the offspring is a female which resembles the mother. However, if the father’s seed is warmer and the mother’s cooler, a boy will be born whose features resemble those of the mother; but if the mother’s is warmer and the father’s cooler, a girl will be born who resembles the father … [On twins] Empedocles did not state reasons why division takes place, but only said that separation occurs, and that if both seeds came to occupy equally warm locations, they would both be born male; if they came to occupy equally cool locations they would both be born female; and if they occupied locations of which one was warmer, the other cooler, the offspring would be of different sexes. (Censorinus, On Birthdays 6.6–10 Jahn)

F44 (DK 31B98; KRS 373; W 83; 1 98)

And anchored in the perfect harbours of Cypris*

Earth encountered, in more or less equal proportions,

Hephaestus and water and bright-shining aither—

Perhaps a little more of one or, relatively, less of another

Which gave rise to blood and the forms of flesh in general.* 5

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’, CAG IX, 32.6–10 Diels)

F45 (DK 31B90; W 75; 1 90)

Thus sweet fastens on to sweet, bitter seeks out bitter,

Sour goes to sour, and spicy quickly seizes on spicy.

(Plutarch, Table Talk 663a8–9 Hoffleit)

F46 (DK 31B48; W 42; 155)

The earth makes night by getting in the way of the sun’s beams.

(Plutarch, Platonic Questions 1006e13 Cherniss)

F47 (DK 31A55, B45; W 39; CTXT-38, F52) There are some who say that the sun is first [in order from the earth], the moon second, and Saturn third. But the more usual view is that the moon is first, since they say that it is in fact a fragment of the sun. Hence Empedocles says:

A round, derived light, it whirls around the earth.

(Achilles, Introduction to Aratus’ ‘Phanomena’ 16.43.2–6 Maass)

T18 (DK 31A50) Empedocles says that the lateral distance of the world is greater than the height from the earth to the sky—that is, than the vertical extension from us here on earth, the sky being more spread out in this direction, since the world lies very much like an egg.* (Aëtius, Opinions 2.31.4 Diels)

T19 (DK 31A50) Empedocles says that in its circuit the sun circumscribes the boundary of the world. (Aëtius, Opinions 2.1.4 Diels)

T20 (DK 31A50) Empedocles says that the summer solstice lies to the right of the world and the winter solstice to the left. (Aëtius, Opinions 2.10.2 Diels)

T21 (DK 31A51) Empedocles says that the heavens are ice-like as a result of having been compounded from what is frost-like. (Achilles, Introduction to Aratus’ ‘Phanomena’ 5.34.29–30 Maass)

T22 (DK 31A49 Nachtrag) Nor, on the other hand, should we follow Empedocles, who says that the heaven has been preserved for all this time and still is because its rotational motion happens to be faster than its innate downward tendency. (Aristotle, On the Heavens 284a24–6 Allan)

T23 (DK 31A53) Empedocles says that the fiery nature of the heavenly bodies is a result of the fire-like stuff which the air contained within itself and then squeezed out at the time of the original separation. (Aëtius, Opinions 2.13.2 Diels)

T24 (DK 31A54) Empedocles says that the fixed stars are fastened to the ice, while the planets are free. (Aëtius, Opinions 2.13.11 Diels)

T25 (DK 31A59) According to Empedocles a solar eclipse is the result of the moon moving beneath the sun. (Aëtius, Opinions 2.24.7 Diels)

T26 (DK 31A60) Empedocles says that the moon is condensed cloud-like air, and is solidified by fire, with the result that it is impure. (Aëtius, Opinions 2.25.15 Diels)

T27 (DK 31A60) When the moon is in its first quarter it appears to be shaped not like a sphere but a lentil or a discus, and on Empedocles’ view that is its basic shape. (Plutarch, Roman Questions 288b11–14 Babbit)

F48 (DK 31B73; W 62; 1 76)

Just as then Cypris, busy about the forms, after moistening

The earth with water gave it swift fire to harden it up.

(Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s ‘On the Heavens’, CAG VII, 530.6–7 Heiberg)

T28 (DK 31A68) Empedocles thinks water is heated by the fires which the earth keeps hidden inside itself in many places, if the fires are adjacent to ground through which a fiery flash can pass by means of the waters. We are accustomed to make ‘snakes’ and ‘milestones’* and devices of all kinds of shapes, inside which we build pipes which are surrounded by thin bronze and which coil around in such a way that water, by repeatedly circling around the same fire, can flow for the distance needed to produce heat; and so the water enters cold and flows out hot. Empedocles thinks that the same thing goes on underground. (Seneca, Questions about Nature–3.2 Oltramare)

T29 (DK 31A69) Why are stones solidified by hot water more than they are by cold? Is it because stone is the result of the removal of moisture, and moisture is removed more thoroughly by heat than it is by cold? If so, petrifaction is a result of heat, and Empedocles is right when he says that rocks and stones are produced by hot waters. (Ps.-Aristotle, Puzzles 937a11–16 Bekker)

H. E. Barnes, ‘Unity in the Thought of Empedocles’, Classical Journal, 63 (1967), 18–23.

M. van der Ben, The Proem of Empedocles’ Peri Physeos: Towards a New Edition of All the Fragments (Amsterdam: Grüner, 1975).

—— ‘Empedocles’ Cycle and Fragment 17.3–5 DK’, Hermes, 112 (1984), 281–96.

N. B. Booth, ‘Empedocles’ Account of Breathing’, Journal of Hellenic Studies, 80 (1960), 10–16.

A. Chitwood, ‘The Death of Empedocles’, American Journal of Philology, 107 (1986), 175–91.

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