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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

A History of Greek Philosophy / THE ATOMISTS / EMPEDOCLES


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Elpenor's note Empedocles : The Sphere

Empedocles was a native of Agrigentum, a Greek colony in Sicily. At the time when he flourished in his native city (circa 440 B.C.) it was one of the wealthiest and most powerful communities in that wealthy and powerful island. It had, however, been infested, like its neighbours, by the designs of tyrants and the dissensions of rival factions. Empedocles was a man of high family, and he exercised the influence which his position and his abilities secured him in promoting and maintaining the liberty of his fellow-countrymen.

Partly on this account, partly from a reputation which with or without his own will he acquired for an almost miraculous skill in healing and necromantic arts, Empedocles attained to a position of singular personal power over his contemporaries, and was indeed regarded as semi-divine. His death was hedged about with mystery. According to one story he gave a great feast to his friends and offered a sacrifice; then when his friends went to rest he disappeared, and was no more seen. According to a story less dignified and better known—

Deus immortalis haberi Dum cupit Empedocles, ardentem frigidus Aetnam Insiluit. HOR. Ad Pisones, 464 sqq.

“Eager to be deemed a god, Empedocles coldly threw himself in burning Etna.”

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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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