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ancient Greek philosopher
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 and pre-Socratic philosopher from the Greek colony of Agrigentum in Sicily.



The FragmentsEdit

Quotations from The First Philosophers of Greece (1898) edited and translated by Arthur Fairbanks, unless otherwise cited.
  • These [elements] never cease changing place continually, now being all united by Love into one, now each borne apart by the hatred engendered of Strife, until they are brought together in the unity of the all, and become subject to it.
    • Bk. 1, line 66; p. 165
  • But come, hear my words, for truly learning causes the mind to grow. For as I said before in declaring the ends of my words: Twofold is the truth I shall speak; for at one time there grew to be the one alone out of many, and at another time it separated so that there were many out of the one; fire and water and earth and boundless height of air, and baneful Strife apart from these, balancing each of them, and Love among them, their equal in length and breadth.
    • Bk. 1, line 74; pp. 167-9
    • Variant translations:
    • A twofold tale I shall tell: at one time it grew to be one alone out of many, at another again it grew apart to be many out of one. Double is the birth of mortal things and double their failing; for one is brought to birth and destroyed by the coming together of all things, the other is nurtured and flies apart as they grow apart again. And these things never cease their continual exchange, now through Love all coming together into one, now again each carried apart by the hatred of Strife. So insofar as it has learned to grow one from many, and again as the one grows apart [there] grow many, thus far do they come into being and have no stable life; but insofar as they never cease their continual interchange, thus far they exist always changeless in the cycle.
  • The sea is the sweat of the earth.
    • Bk. 1, line 165; p. 179
  • There is an utterance of Necessity, an ancient decree of the gods, eternal, sealed fast with broad oaths: whenever any one defiles his body sinfully with bloody gore or perjures himself in regard to wrong-doing, one of those spirits who are heir to long life, thrice ten thousand seasons shall he wander apart from the blessed, being born meantime in all sorts of mortal forms, changing one bitter path of life for another.
    • "On Purifications", line 369; p. 205
  • For before this I was born once a boy, and a maiden, and a plant, and a bird, and a darting fish in the sea.
    • "On Purifications", line 383; p. 207
  • This is not lawful for some and unlawful for others, but what is lawful for all extends on continuously through the wide-ruling air and the boundless light.
    • "On Purifications", line 425; p. 211
  • Hear first the four roots of all things: shining Zeus, life-bringing Hera, Aidoneus[1] and Nestis[2] whose tear-drops are a well-spring to mortals.

Quotes about EmpedoclesEdit

  • 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 linksEdit


  1. Aidoneus corresponds to Hades.
  2. Nestis corresponds to Persephone.