Empedocles

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Blessed is he who has acquired a wealth of divine wisdom, but miserable is he in whom there rests a dim opinion concerning the gods.

Empedocles (c. 490 BC – c. 430 BC) was a poet, statesman, and pre-Socratic philosopher from the Greek colony of Agrigentum in Sicily. Two of his philosophical verse texts, On Nature and Purifications, survived antiquity in fragmentary form; these fragments comprise the only works considered to be of genuine Empedoclean authorship.[1]

Quotes[edit]

On Nature[edit]

  • τέσσαρα γὰρ πάντων ῥιζώματα πρῶτον ἄκουε· Ζεὺς ἀργὴς Ἥρη τε φερέσβιος ἠδ’ Ἀιδωνεύς Νῆστίς θ’, ἥ δακρύοις τέγγει κρούνωμα βρότειον.
    • Hear first the four roots of all things: shining Zeus, life-bringing Hera, Aidoneus,[2] and Nestis,[3] who wets with tears the mortal wellspring.
    • fr. 6
  • ἄλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω· φύσις οὐδενός ἐστιν ἁπάντων θνητῶν, οὐδέ τις οὐλομένου θανάτοιο τελευτή, ἀλλὰ μόνον μίξις τε διάλλαξίς τε μιγέντων ἐστί, φύσις δ’ἐπὶ τοῖς ὀνομάζεται ἀνθρώποισιν.
    • And I will tell you something else: there is no birth of all mortal things, nor any end in wretched death, but only a mixing and dissolution of mixtures; 'birth' is so called on the part of mankind.
    • fr. 8
  • νήπιοι· οὐ γάρ σφιν δολιχόφρονές εἰσι μέριμναι, οἵ δὴ γίγνεσθαι πάρος οὐκ ἐὸν ἐλπίζουσιν ἤ τι καταθνήισκειν τε καὶ ἐξόλλυσθαι ἁπάντηι.
    • Fools -- for their thoughts are not well-considered who suppose that not-being exists or that anything dies and is wholly annihilated.
    • fr. 11
  • οὐδέ τι τοῦ παντὸς κενεὸν πέλει οὐδὲ περισσόν.
    • Nothing of the All is either empty or superfluous.
    • fr. 13
  • ἧι γὰρ καὶ πάρος ἔσκε, καὶ ἔσσεται, οὐδέ ποτ’, οἴω,/τούτων ἀμφοτέρων κενεώσεται ἄσπετος αἰών.
    • As it has long been and shall be, not ever, I think, will unfathomable time be emptied of either.
    • This quote refers to Love and Strife, the fundamental opposing and ordering forces in Empedocles' model of the cosmos.
    • fr. 16
  • ἀλλ’ ἄγε μύθων κλῦθι· μάθη γάρ τοι φρένας αὔξει· ὡς γὰρ καὶ πρὶν ἔειπα πιφαύσκων πείρατα μύθων, δίπλ’ ἐρέω· τοτὲ μὲν γὰρ ἕν ηὐξήθη μόνον ῏ειναι ἐκ πλεόνων, τοτὲ δ’ αὖ διέφυ πλέον’ ἐξ ἑνὸς εἶναι, πῦρ καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ γαῖα καὶ ἠέρος ἄπλετον ὕψος, Νεῖκος τ’ οὐλόμενον δίχα τῶν, ἀτάλαντον ἁπάντηι. καὶ Φιλότης ἐν τοῖσιν, ἴση μῆκός τε πλάτος τε· τὴν σὺ νόωι δέρκευ, μηδ’ ὄμμασιν ἧσο τεθηπώς· ἥτις καὶ θνητοῖσι νομίζεται ἔμφυτος ἄρθροις, τῆι τε φίλα φρονέουσι καὶ ἄρθμια ἔργα τελοῦσι, Γηθοσύνην καλέοντες ἐπώνυμον ἠδ’ Ἀφροδίτην·
    • But come, hear my words, since indeed learning improves the spirit. Now as I said before, setting out the bounds of my words, I shall speak twice over. As upon a time One came to be alone out of many, so at another time it divided to be many out of One: fire and water and earth and the limitless vault of air, and wretched Strife apart from these, in equal measure to everything, and Love among them, equal in length and breadth. Consider [Love] in mind, you, and don't sit there with eyes glazing over. It is a thing considered inborn in mortals, to their very bones; through it they form affections and accomplish peaceful acts, calling it Joy or Aphrodite by name.
    • from fr. 17
      • Variant translations:
      • But come! but hear my words! For knowledge gained/Makes strong thy soul. For as before I spake/Naming the utter goal of these my words/I will report a twofold truth. Now grows/The One from Many into being, now/Even from one disparting come the Many--/Fire, Water, Earth, and awful heights of Air;/And shut from them apart, the deadly Strife/In equipoise, and Love within their midst/In all her being in length and breadth the same/Behold her now with mind, and sit not there/With eyes astonished, for 'tis she inborn/Abides established in the limbs of men/Through her they cherish thoughts of love, through her/Perfect the works of concord, calling her/By name Delight, or Aphrodite clear.
        • tr. William E. Leonard[4]
  • …καὶ δὶς γάρ, ὅ δεῖ, καλόν ἐστιν ἐνισπεῖν.
    • What needs [saying] is worth saying twice.
    • fr. 25
  • πάντα γὰρ ἑξείης πελεμίζετο γυῖα θεοῖο.
    • For one by one did quake the limbs of God.
      • tr. William Leonard[5]
    • fr. 31
  • αἰθήρ [δ’ αὖ] μακρῆισι κατὰ χθόνα δύετο ῥίζαις.
    • With deep roots Ether plunged into earth.
    • fr. 54
  • γῆς ἱδρῶτα θάλασσαν.
    • The earth's sweat, the sea.
    • fr. 55
  • μία γίγνεται ἀμφοτέρων ὄψ.
    • The sight of both [eyes] becomes one.
    • fr. 88

Purifications[edit]

  • ὄλβιος, ὅς θείων πραπίδων ἐκτήσατο πλοῦτον,/δειλὸς δ’, ὧι σκοτόεσσα θεῶν πέρι δόξα μέμηλεν.
    • Fortunate is he who has acquired a wealth of divine understanding, but wretched the one whose interest lies in shadowy conjectures about divinities.
    • fr. 132
    • Variant translations:
  • ἔστιν ἀνάγκης χρῆμα, θεῶν ψήφισμα παλαιόν, εὖτέ τις ἀμπλακίῃσι φόνῳ φίλα γυῖα μιήνῃ, δαίμονες οἵ τε μακραίωνος λελάχασι βίοιο, τρίς μιν μυρίας ὥρας ἀπὸ μακάρων ἀλάλησθαι, τὴν καὶ ἐγὼ νῦν εἶμι, φυγὰς θεόθεν καὶ ἀλήτης
    • A law there is, an oracle of Doom, Of old enacted by the assembled gods, That if a Daemon—such as live for ages— Defile himself with foul and sinful murder, He must for seasons thrice ten thousand roam Far from the Blest; such is the path I tread, I too a wanderer and exile from heaven.
    • fr. 115, as paraphrased in Plutarch's Moralia
  • ἤδη γάρ ποτ’ ἐγὼ γενόμην κοῦρός τε κόρη τε/θάμνος τ’ οἰωνός τε καὶ ἔξαλος ἔλλοπος ἰχθύς.
    • For already, sometime, I have been a boy and a girl, a shrub, a bird, and a silent fish in the sea.
    • fr. 117
    • Variant translations:
      • Once on a time a youth was I, and I was a maiden/A bush, a bird, and a fish with scales that gleam in the ocean.
        • tr. Jane Ellen Harrison[8]
  • ἐξ οἵης τιμῆς τε καὶ ὅσσου μήκεος ὄλβου/ὧδε [πεσὼν κατὰ γαῖαν] ἀναστρέφομαι μετὰ θνητοῖς.
    • From such honor and such a height of fortune am I, thus fallen to earth, cast down amongst mortals.
    • fr. 119
  • ἀλλὰ τὸ μὲν πάντων νόμιμον διάτ᾽ εὐρυμέδοντος/αἰθέρος ἠνεκέως τέταται διά τ᾽ ἀπλέτου αὐγῆς
    • But what is lawful for all extends across wide-ruling aether and, without cease, through endless sunshine.
    • fr. 135, as quoted in Aristotle's Rhetoric, 1373 b16
  • νηστεῦσαι κακότητος.
    • Fast from vice.
    • fr. 144

Quotes about Empedocles[edit]

  • Alcmaeon was, says [J.] Wachtler, the first who attempted to explain the phenomenon of sound and our perception of it by reference to the structure of the ear itself. Empedocles to some extent follows or agrees with him. ...Empedocles teaches that hearing is caused by the impact of the air-wave against the cartilage which is suspended within the ear, oscillating as it is struck, like a gong.
  • The Greeks elaborated several theories of vision. According to the Pythagoreans, Democritus, and others vision is caused by the projection of particles from the object seen, into the pupil of the eye. On the other hand Empedocles, the Platonists, and Euclid held the strange doctrine of ocular beams, according to which the eye itself sends out something which causes sight as soon as it meets something else emanated by the object.
  • His teachings formed a series of poems some five thousand verses in length. Only a hundred and fifty verses have survived from... On Nature yet, the relics are more substantial than those from any other Greek philosopher. From them we can extract a theory which... tackles all three problems of Greek science. ...(a) What are the stable principles behind the flux? (b) What process is responsible for the changes in the flux? (c) What agencies control this process? To these questions Empedokles replied... (a) The enduring principles in the natural world are the four basic types of matter—solid, liquid, fiery and aeriform. ...they are conserved in all material transformations. (b) Change comes about through the mingling and separation of these... which unite in different proportions to produce... familiar objects... (c) The agents responsible... are the two universal powers acting in opposition, which he called allegorically, Love and Strife. ...[T]his [as an explicit theory] was the first appearance in our scientific tradition of an important intellectual model. ...[A]ll material things are organized mixtures of different elementary substances ...And, as developed by his contemporary Anaxagoras, and later by the atomists, this type of matter-theory has been in circulation ever since.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia
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Ancient Greek schools of philosophy
Pre-Socratic AnaxagorasAnaximanderAnaximenesDemocritusEmpedoclesHeraclitusLeucippusMelissusParmenidesProtagorasPythagorasThalesZeno of Elea
Socratic AntisthenesAristippusAristotleDiogenes of SinopeEuclid of MegaraPhaedo of ElisPlatoSocrates
Hellenistic Apollonius of TyanaAugustineEpictetusEpicurusJohn PhiloponusLucretiusPlotinusProclusPyrrhoSextus EmpiricusZeno of Citium


Notes[edit]

  1. Leonard, William E. (1908). The Fragments of Empedocles. The Open Court Publishing Company. p. 3.
  2. Aidoneus corresponds to Hades.
  3. Nestis corresponds to Persephone.
  4. Leonard, William E. (1908). The Fragments of Empedocles. The Open Court Publishing Company. p. 23.
  5. Leonard, William E. (1908). The Fragments of Empedocles. The Open Court Publishing Company. p. 30.
  6. Fairbanks, Arthur. (1898). The First Philosophers of Greece. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd. p. 201.
  7. De Lacy, Philip H. and Benedict Einarson. Moralia: On Exile. Loeb Classical Library 405. Harvard University Press, 1959. p. 568-9.
  8. Harrison, Jane Ellen. (1903). Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion. Princeton University Press. p. 590.