Empedocles (/ɛmˈpɛdəkliːz/; Greek: Ἐμπεδοκλῆς [empedoklɛ̂ːs], Empedoklēs; c. 494 – c. 434 BC)[5] was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Akragas, a Greek city in Sicily. Empedocles' philosophy is best known for originating the cosmogonic theory of the four classical elements. He also proposed forces he called Love and Strife which would mix and separate the elements, respectively. These physical speculations were part of a history of the universe which also dealt with the origin and development of life.

Influenced by Pythagoras (died c. 495 BC) and the Pythagoreans, Empedocles was a vegetarian who supported the doctrine of reincarnation. 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.

Empedocles in Thomas Stanley History of Philosophy
Empedocles, 17th-century engraving
Bornc. 494 BC[1]
Diedc. 434 BC[2] (aged around 60)
Mount Etna, Sicily
EraPre-Socratic philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolPluralist school
Main interests
Cosmogenesis, ontology, epistemology
Notable ideas
All matter is made up of four elements: water, earth, air and fire
The cosmic principles of
Philotes ("Love") and Neikos ("Repulsion")[3]
Theories about respiration[4]


Temple of Hera - Agrigento - Italy 2015
The temple of Hera at Akragas, built when Empedocles was a young man, c. 470 BC.

Empedocles was born, c. 490 BC, at Akragas in Sicily to a distinguished family.[6] Very little is known about his life. His father Meton seems to have been instrumental in overthrowing the tyrant of Akragas, presumably Thrasydaeus in 470 BC. Empedocles continued this tradition by helping to overthrow the succeeding oligarchic government. He is said to have been magnanimous in his support of the poor;[7] severe in persecuting the overbearing conduct of the oligarchs;[8] and he even declined the sovereignty of the city when it was offered to him.[9]

His brilliant oratory,[10] his penetrating knowledge of nature, and the reputation of his marvellous powers, including the curing of diseases, and averting epidemics,[11] 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[12] (his eromenos[13]) and Acron;[14] with various Pythagoreans; and even, it is said, with Parmenides and Anaxagoras.[15] The only pupil of Empedocles who is mentioned is the sophist and rhetorician Gorgias.[16]

Timaeus and Dicaearchus spoke of the journey of Empedocles to the Peloponnese, and of the admiration, which was paid to him there;[17] others mentioned his stay at Athens, and in the newly founded colony of Thurii, 446 BC;[18] there are also fanciful reports of him travelling far to the east to the lands of the Magi.[19]

According to Aristotle, he died at the age of sixty (c. 430 BC), even though other writers have him living up to the age of one hundred and nine.[20] Likewise, there are myths concerning his death: a tradition, which is traced to Heraclides Ponticus, represented him as having been removed from the Earth; whereas others had him perishing in the flames of Mount Etna. [21]

The contemporary Life of Empedocles by Xanthus has been lost.


Empedokles fragment Physika I 262–300
A piece of the Strasbourg Empedocles papyrus in the Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, Strasbourg

Empedocles is considered the last Greek philosopher to write in verse and the surviving fragments of his teaching are from two poems, Purifications and On Nature. Empedocles was undoubtedly acquainted with the didactic poems of Xenophanes and Parmenides[22]—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 called him the father of rhetoric,[23] and, although he acknowledged only the meter as a point of comparison between the poems of Empedocles and the epics of Homer, he described Empedocles as Homeric and powerful in his diction.[24] Lucretius speaks of him with enthusiasm, and evidently viewed him as his model.[25] The two poems together comprised 5000 lines.[26] About 550 lines of his poetry survive, although because ancient writers rarely mentioned which poem they were quoting, it is not always certain to which poem the quotes belong. Some scholars now believe that there was only one poem, and that the Purifications merely formed the beginning of On Nature.[27]


We possess only about 100 lines that have been ascribed to his Purifications. It seems to have given a mythical account of the world which may, nevertheless, have been part of Empedocles' philosophical system. The first lines of the poem are preserved by Diogenes Laërtius:

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.[28]

It was probably this work which contained a story about souls,[29] 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, reincarnated 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 again.

On Nature

There are about 450 lines of his poem On Nature extant,[23] including 70 lines which have been reconstructed from some papyrus scraps known as the Strasbourg Papyrus. The poem originally consisted of 2000 lines of hexameter verse,[30] and was addressed to Pausanias.[31] 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 elements, but he describes theories on causation, perception, and thought, as well as explanations of terrestrial phenomena and biological processes.


Empedocles as portrayed in the Nuremberg Chronicle

Although acquainted with the theories of the Eleatics and the Pythagoreans, Empedocles did not belong to any one definite school.[23] An eclectic in his thinking, he combined much that had been suggested by Parmenides, Pythagoras and the Ionian schools.[23] He was a firm believer in Orphic mysteries, as well as a scientific thinker and a precursor of physics. Aristotle mentions Empedocles among the Ionic philosophers, and he places him in very close relation to the atomist philosophers and to Anaxagoras.[32]

According to House (1956)[33]

Another of the fragments of the dialogue On the Poets (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, 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 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 had explicated the Logos or the "unity of opposites").[34]

The four elements

Empedocles established four ultimate elements which make all the structures in the world—fire, air, water, earth[23][35]— in other words, the several states of matter are represented, being energies, gasses, liquids, and solids. Empedocles called these four elements "roots", which he also identified with the mythical names of Zeus, Hera, Nestis, and Aidoneus[36] (e.g., "Now hear the fourfold roots of everything: enlivening Hera, Hades, shining Zeus. And Nestis, moistening mortal springs with tears."[37]) Empedocles never used the term "element" (στοιχεῖον, stoicheion), which seems to have been first used by Plato.[38] 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.[23] 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.[23] This theory of the four elements became the standard dogma for the next two thousand years.

Love and Strife

Empedocles cosmic cycle concept map
Empedocles cosmic cycle is based on the conflict between 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 and Strife or Hatred.[23] Love (φιλότης) is responsible for the attraction of different forms of matter, and Strife (νεῖκος) is the cause of their separation.[39] 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.

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.[23] 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.[40] Since that time, strife gained more sway[23] and the bond which kept the pure elementary substances together in the 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.[23] The sphere being the embodiment of pure existence is the embodiment or representative of God. Empedocles assumed a cyclical universe whereby the elements return and prepare the formation of the sphere for the next period of the universe.


Empedocles attempted to explain the separation of elements, the formation of earth and sea, of Sun and Moon, of atmosphere.[23] He also dealt with the first origin of plants and animals, and with the physiology of humans.[23] As the elements entered into combinations, there appeared strange results—heads without necks, arms without shoulders.[23][41] 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.[23][42] 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.[23] Thus the organic universe sprang from spontaneous aggregations that suited each other as if this had been intended.[23] Soon various influences reduced creatures of double sex to a male and a female, and the world was replenished with organic life.[23] It is possible to see this theory as an anticipation of Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, although Empedocles was not trying to explain evolution.[43]

Perception and knowledge

Empedocles is credited with the first comprehensive theory of light and vision. 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 would construct some of the most important theories of light, vision, and optics.[44]

Knowledge is explained by the principle that elements in the things outside us are perceived by the corresponding elements in ourselves.[45] Like is known by like. The whole body is full of pores and hence 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 occurs.[4] In vision, certain particles go forth from the eye to meet similar particles given forth from the object, and the resultant contact constitutes vision.[46] Perception is not merely a passive reflection of external objects.[23]

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.[23][47]


In a famous fragment,[4] Empedocles attempted to explain the phenomena of respiration by means of an elaborate analogy with the clepsydra, an ancient device for conveying liquids from one vessel to another.[48] This fragment has sometimes been connected to a passage in Aristotle's Physics where Aristotle refers to people who twisted wineskins and captured air in clepsydras to demonstrate that void does not exist.[49] There is however, no evidence that Empedocles performed any experiment with clepsydras.[48] The fragment certainly implies that Empedocles knew about the corporeality of air, but he says nothing whatever about the void.[48] The clepsydra was a common utensil and everyone who used it must have known, in some sense, that the invisible air could resist liquid.[50]


Like Pythagoras, Empedocles believed in the transmigration of the soul, that souls can be reincarnated between humans, animals and even plants.[51] 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.[23] Empedocles was a vegetarian[52][53] and advocated vegetarianism, since the bodies of animals are the dwelling places of punished souls.[54] Wise people, who have learned the secret of life, are next to the divine,[23][55] and their souls, free from the cycle of reincarnations, are able to rest in happiness for eternity.[56]

Death and literary treatments

The Death of Empedocles by Salvator Rosa
The Death of Empedocles by Salvator Rosa (1615 – 1673), depicting the legendary alleged suicide of Empedocles jumping into Mount Etna in Sicily

Diogenes Laërtius records the legend that Empedocles died by throwing himself into Mount Etna in Sicily, so that the people would believe his body had vanished and he had turned into an immortal god;[57] 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 also refers the death of Empedocles in his work Ars Poetica and admits poets the right to destroy themselves.[58]

In Icaro-Menippus, a comedic dialogue written by the second century satirist 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'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'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, Bertrand Russell humorously quotes an unnamed poet on the subject – "Great Empedocles, that ardent soul, Leapt into Etna, and was roasted whole."[59]

In J R by William Gaddis, Karl Marx's famous dictum ("From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs") is misattributed to Empedocles.[60]

In 2006, a massive underwater volcano off the coast of Sicily was named Empedocles.[61]

In 2016, Scottish musician Momus wrote and sung the song "The Death of Empedokles" for his album Scobberlotchers.[62]

See also


  1. ^ Wright, M. R. (1981). Empedocles: The Extant Fragments. Yale University Press. p. 6.
  2. ^ Wright, M. R. (1981). Empedocles: The Extant Fragments. Yale University Press. p. 6.
  3. ^ Frank Reynolds, David Tracy (eds.), Myth and Philosophy, SUNY Press, 1990, p. 99.
  4. ^ a b c Frag. B100 (Aristotle, On Respiration, 473b1–474a6)
  5. ^ Wright, M. R. (1981). Empedocles: The Extant Fragments. Yale University Press. p. 6.
  6. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 51
  7. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 73
  8. ^ Timaeus, ap. Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 64, comp. 65, 66
  9. ^ Aristotle ap. Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 63; compare, however, Timaeus, ap. Diogenes Laërtius, 66, 76
  10. ^ Satyrus, ap. Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 78; Timaeus, ap. Diogenes Laërtius, 67
  11. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 60, 70, 69; Plutarch, de Curios. Princ., adv. Colotes; Pliny, H. N. xxxvi. 27, and others
  12. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 60, 61, 65, 69
  13. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 60: "Pausanias, according to Aristippus and Satyrus, was his eromenos"
  14. ^ Pliny, Natural History, xxix.1.4–5; cf. Suda, Akron
  15. ^ Suda, Empedocles; Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 55, 56, etc.
  16. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 58
  17. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 71, 67; Athenaeus, xiv.
  18. ^ Suda, Akron; Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 52
  19. ^ Pliny, H. N. xxx. 1, etc.
  20. ^ Apollonius, ap. Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 52, comp. 74, 73
  21. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 67, 69, 70, 71; Horace, ad Pison. 464, etc. Refer to Arnold (1852), Empedocles on Etna.
  22. ^ Hermippus and Theophrastus, ap. Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 55, 56
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Wikisource Wallace, William (1911). "Empedocles" . In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 344–345.
  24. ^ Aristotle, Poetics, 1, ap. Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 57.
  25. ^ See especially Lucretius, i. 716, etc. Refer to Sedley (1998).
  26. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 77
  27. ^ Simon Trépanier, (2004), Empedocles: An Interpretation, Routledge.
  28. ^ DK frag. B112 (Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 61)
  29. ^ Frag. B115 (Plutarch, On Exile, 607 C–E; Hippolytus, vii. 29)
  30. ^ Suda, Empedocles
  31. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 60
  32. ^ Aristotle, Metaphysics, i. 3, 4, 7, Phys. i. 4, de General, et Corr. i. 8, de Caelo, iii. 7.
  33. ^ House, Humphry (1956). Aristotles Poetics. p. 32.
  34. ^ James Luchte, Early Greek Thought: Before the Dawn, Bloomsbury, 2011.
  35. ^ Frag. B17 (Simplicius, Physics, 157–159)
  36. ^ Frag. B6 (Sextus Empiricus, Against the Mathematicians, x, 315)
  37. ^ Peter Kingsley, in Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic: Empedocles and Pythagorean Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1995).
  38. ^ Plato, Timaeus, 48b–c
  39. ^ Frag. B35, B26 (Simplicius, Physics, 31–34)
  40. ^ Frag. B35 (Simplicius, Physics, 31–34; On the Heavens, 528–530)
  41. ^ Frag. B57 (Simplicius, On the Heavens, 586)
  42. ^ Frag. B61 (Aelian, On Animals, xvi 29)
  43. ^ Ted Everson (2007), The gene: a historical perspective page 5. Greenwood
  44. ^ Let There be Light 7 August 2006 01:50 BBC Four
  45. ^ Frag. B109 (Aristotle, On the Soul, 404b11–15)
  46. ^ Frag. B84 (Aristotle, On the Senses and their Objects, 437b23–438a5)
  47. ^ Frag. B2 (Sextus Empiricus, Against the Mathematicians, vii. 123–125)
  48. ^ a b c Jonathan Barnes (2002), The Presocratic Philosophers, page 313. Routledge
  49. ^ Aristotle, Physics, 213a24–7
  50. ^ W. K. C. Guthrie, (1980), A history of Greek philosophy II: The Presocratic tradition from Parmenides to Democritus, page 224. Cambridge University Press
  51. ^ Frag. B127 (Aelian, On Animals, xii. 7); Frag. B117 (Hippolytus, i. 3.2)
  52. ^ Heath, John (2005-05-12). The Talking Greeks: Speech, Animals, and the Other in Homer, Aeschylus, and Plato. Cambridge University Press. p. 322. ISBN 9781139443913. An excellent study of Empedocles' vegetarianism and the various meanings of sacrifice in its cultural context is that of Rundin (1998).
  53. ^ Plato (1961) [c. 360 BC]. Bluck, Richard Stanley Harold, ed. Meno. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521172288. This suggests that e.g. Empedocles' vegetarianism was partly at least due to the idea that the spilling of blood brings pollution.
  54. ^ Sextus Empiricus, Against the Mathematicians, ix. 127; Hippolytus, vii. 21
  55. ^ Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, iv. 23.150
  56. ^ Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, v. 14.122
  57. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 69
  58. ^ Horace, Ars Poetica, 465–466
  59. ^ Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, 1946, p. 60
  60. ^ JR by William Gaddis, Dalkey Archive, 2012
  61. ^ BBC News, Underwater volcano found by Italy, 23 June 2006
  62. ^ Freeman, Zachary (September 2016). "Albums". Now Then. Retrieved 24 May 2017.


Further reading

  • Bakalis, Nikolaos (2005). Handbook of Greek Philosophy: From Thales to the Stoics. Victoria, B.C.: Trafford. ISBN 1-4120-4843-5.
  • Burnet, John (2003) [1892]. Early Greek Philosophy. Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger. ISBN 0-7661-2826-1.
  • Gottlieb, Anthony (2000). The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9143-7.
  • Guthrie, W. K. C. (1978) [1965]. A History of Greek Philosophy, vol. 2, ed. The Presocratic Tradition from Parmenides to Democritus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-29421-5.
  • Hoffman, Eric (2018). Presence of Life. Loveland, Ohio: Dos Madres Press. ISBN 978-1-948017-16-9.
  • Inwood, Brad (2001). The Poem of Empedocles (rev. ed.). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-4820-X.
  • Kingsley, Peter (1995). Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic: Empedocles and Pythagorean Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-814988-3.
  • Kirk, G. S.; Raven, J.E.; Schofield, M. (1983). The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-25444-2.
  • Lambridis, Helle (1976). Empedocles : a philosophical investigation. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-6615-6.
  • Long, A. A. (1999). The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-44122-6.
  • Luchte, James (2011). Early Greek Thought: Before the Dawn. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-0567353313.
  • Millerd, Clara Elizabeth (1908). On the interpretation of Empedocles. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • O'Brien, D. (1969). Empedocles' cosmic cycle: a reconstruction from the fragments and secondary sources. London: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-05855-4.
  • Russell, Bertrand (1945). A History of Western Philosophy, and Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-415-07854-7.
  • Wright, M. R. (1995). Empedocles: The Extant Fragments (new ed.). London: Bristol Classical Press. ISBN 1-85399-482-0.

External links

Acrolophus empedocles

Acrolophus empedocles is a moth of the family Acrolophidae. It is found in Brazil.

Camponotus empedocles

Camponotus empedocles is a large and dark species of sugar ant with an extensive range in the Afrotropics.

Classical element

Classical elements typically refer to the concepts in ancient Greece of earth, water, air, fire, and (later) aether, which were proposed to explain the nature and complexity of all matter in terms of simpler substances. Ancient cultures in Babylonia, Japan, Tibet, and India had similar lists, sometimes referring in local languages to "air" as "wind" and the fifth element as "void". The Chinese Wu Xing system lists Wood (木 mù), Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 tǔ), Metal (金 jīn), and Water (水 shuǐ), though these are described more as energies or transitions rather than as types of material.

These different cultures and even individual philosophers had widely varying explanations concerning their attributes and how they related to observable phenomena as well as cosmology. Sometimes these theories overlapped with mythology and were personified in deities. Some of these interpretations included atomism (the idea of very small, indivisible portions of matter) but other interpretations considered the elements to be divisible into infinitely small pieces without changing their nature.

While the classification of the material world in ancient Indian, Hellenistic Egypt, and ancient Greece into Air, Earth, Fire and Water was more philosophical, during the Islamic Golden Age medieval middle eastern scientists used practical, experimental observation to classify materials. In Europe, the Ancient Greek system of Aristotle evolved slightly into the medieval system, which for the first time in Europe became subject to experimental verification in the 1600s, during the Scientific Revolution.

Modern science does not support the classical elements as the material basis of the physical world. Atomic theory classifies atoms into more than a hundred chemical elements such as oxygen, iron, and mercury. These elements form chemical compounds and mixtures, and under different temperatures and pressures, these substances can adopt different states of matter. The most commonly observed states of solid, liquid, gas, and plasma share many attributes with the classical elements of earth, water, air, and fire, respectively, but these states are due to similar behavior of different types of atoms at similar energy levels, and not due to containing a certain type of atom or a certain type of substance.

Empedocles (The X-Files)

"Empedocles" is the seventeenth episode of the eighth season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files. It premiered on the Fox network on April 22, 2001. The episode was written by Greg Walker and directed by Barry K. Thomas. "Empedocles" is a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, unconnected to the series' wider mythology. The episode received a Nielsen rating of 7.3 and was viewed by 7.46 million households and over 12.46 million viewers. Overall, the episode received mixed reviews from critics.

The show centers on FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and John Doggett (Robert Patrick), who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. In this episode, Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) enlists Mulder's help investigating a killer's connection to the unsolved murder of Doggett's son, but Mulder soon finds himself clashing with Doggett.

"Empedocles" was named after the famed Greek pre-Socratic philosopher of the same name. The episode marked the return of Special Agent Monica Reyes, who was first introduced in the earlier season eight episode "This is Not Happening". Reyes would later become Doggett's partner, in the show's ninth season. The episode included an elaborate special effects sequence wherein actor Jay Underwood rips off his face to reveal fire underneath his skin, which was created via green screen technology.

Empedocles (disambiguation)

Empedocles was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Agrigentum.

Empedocles may also refer to:

6152 Empedocles, a main-belt asteroid

Empedocles (volcano), a large underwater volcano

"Empedocles" (The X-Files), an episode of The X-Files

Empedocles (volcano)

Empedocles is a large underwater volcano located 40 km off the southern coast of Sicily named after the Greek philosopher Empedocles who believed that everything on Earth was made up of the four elements.

According to Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, the volcanic structure is around 400 meters high, with a base 30 km long and 25 km wide. Located in the Campi Flegrei del Mar di Sicilia (Phlegraean Fields of the Strait of Sicily), Empedocles is composed of what was once believed to be separate volcanic centers, including Graham Island (Ferdinandea).The volcano shows no sign of erupting in the near future. While the volcano's top is now 7 meters below sea level, it was once visible above the water. In 1831 Empedocles broke the surface as Graham Island (Ferdinandea) and almost caused a major international incident when several countries tried to claim ownership of it. It disappeared into the water again five months later.

Heraclitus (commentator)

Heraclitus (Greek: Ἡράκλειτος; fl. 1st century AD) was a grammarian and rhetorician who wrote a Greek commentary on Homer which is still extant.

Little is known about Heraclitus. It is generally accepted that he lived sometime around the 1st century AD. His one surviving work has variously been called Homeric Problems, Homeric Questions, or Homeric Allegories.In his work, Heraclitus defended Homer against those who denounced him for his immoral portrayals of the gods. Heraclitus based his defense of Homer on allegorical interpretation. He gives interpretations of major episodes from the Iliad and the Odyssey, particularly those that received the greatest criticism, such as the battles between the gods and the love affair between Aphrodite and Ares.Many of his allegories are physical, claiming that the poems represent elemental forces; or ethical, that they contain edifying concealed messages. An important example of physical allegory is Heraclitus' interpretation of the love affair between Aphrodite and Ares. He argues that Aphrodite and Ares represent Love and Strife, the forces responsible for the mixture and separation of the elements in Empedocles' philosophy, which were "united together after their ancient rivalry {philoneikia} in one accord". Because "everything was joined together {harmosthenai} tranquilly and harmoniously", Heraclitus argues, "[it] was reasonable for all the gods to laugh and rejoice together at this because their individual inclinations were not at variance over immoral acts, but were enjoying peaceful accord". He also interprets the affair as an allegory for the art of metalworking. His work contains a good deal of philosophical knowledge, especially Stoicism.


Hermarchus or Hermarch (Greek: Ἕρμαρχoς, Hermarkhos; c. 325-c. 250 BC), sometimes incorrectly written Hermachus (Greek: Ἕρμαχoς, Hermakhos), was an Epicurean philosopher. He was the disciple and successor of Epicurus as head of the school. None of his writings survive. He wrote works directed against Plato, Aristotle, and Empedocles. A fragment from his Against Empedocles, preserved by Porphyry, discusses the need for law in society. His views on the nature of the gods are quoted by Philodemus.


Inherence refers to Empedocles' idea that the qualities of matter come from the relative proportions of each of the four elements entering into a thing. The idea was further developed by Plato and Aristotle.

Magic in the Graeco-Roman world

The study of magic in the Greco-Roman world is a branch of the disciplines of classics, ancient history and religious studies. In classical antiquity, including the Hellenistic world of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, historians and archaeologists view the public and private rituals associated with religion as part of everyday life. Examples of this phenomenon are found in the various state and cult temples, Jewish synagogues and churches. These were important hubs for ancient peoples, representing a connection between the heavenly realms (the divine) and the earthly planes (the dwelling place of humanity). This context of magic has become an academic study, especially in the last twenty years.

On the Pathos of Truth

"On the Pathos of Truth" (German: Über das Pathos der Wahrheit) is a short essay by Friedrich Nietzsche concerning the motivation of philosophers to seek knowledge as an end in itself. Nietzsche identifies this motivation with pride. On this point the essay prefigures theories concerning a destructive "will to truth" that Nietzsche discusses in On the Genealogy of Morals, Beyond Good and Evil, and The Gay Science.As an illustration of a motivated seeker of truth, Nietzsche takes Heraclitus, although he also discusses Pythagoras and Empedocles. He recounts Heraclitus as being psychologically distant from other people, due to being aware of truth while others are not:

"...no one will be able to imagine such regal self-esteem, such boundless conviction that one is the sole fortunate wooer of truth. Men of this sort live within their own solar system, and that is where they must be sought....Such a being might seem more comprehensible in a remote shrine, among images of the gods and amidst cold, sublime architecture."

Nietzsche's focus is on the psychology and social life of the philosopher, identifying misanthropy and seclusion as the result of being motivated toward knowledge itself, regardless of any features of the philosopher's cosmology, physics, or epistemology.Nietzsche concludes the essay by identifying a need to have art along with knowledge. Art is necessary because it adds emotion and purpose to society. Knowledge is limited; for example, a knowledge of matter and motion will not reveal any purpose in the universe. While the motivation for knowledge in itself brings about insights which help society, art allows constant variation which can affirm a sense a purposiveness, which is an emotional need of individuals."On the Pathos of Truth" was written in 1872, and was intended to be a preface or foreword, but no book was ever written to follow it. Nietzsche, however, did collect it, along with four other such prefaces to unwritten books, and gave the edition to Cosima Wagner as a Christmas present.

Peter Kingsley (scholar)

Peter Kingsley (born 1953) is the author of five books and numerous articles on ancient philosophy, including Ancient Philosophy, Mystery and Magic, In the Dark Places of Wisdom, Reality, A Story Waiting to Pierce You: Mongolia, Tibet and the Destiny of the Western World, and Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity. He has written extensively on the pre-Socratic philosophers Parmenides and Empedocles and the world they lived in.


In Greek mythology, Philotes (Greek: Φιλότης) was a minor goddess or spirit (daimones) personifying affection, friendship, and sex. She was a daughter of the goddess Nyx.

According to Hesiod's Theogony, she represented sexual and social intercourse. Her siblings are said to be, among others, Apate (Deceit) and Nemesis (Indignation). She was described by Empedocles as one of the driving forces behind creation, being paired together with Neikea (Feuds); Philotes being the force behind good things and Neikea being the force of bad things. He also identifies her with Kypris and mentions that Philotes feels hurt and offended by life-destroying offerings and demands the abstention from animal sacrifices.

Pluralist school

The Pluralist school was a school of pre-Socratic philosophers who attempted to reconcile Parmenides' rejection of change with the apparently changing world of sense experience. The school consisted of Anaxagoras, Archelaus, and Empedocles. It can also be said to have included the Atomists, Leucippus and Democritus. The Pluralists rejected the idea that the diversity of nature can be reduced to a single principle (monism). Anaxagoras posited that nature contained an innumerable number of principles, while Empedocles reduced nature to four elements (fire, air, earth, and water) which could not be reduced to one another and which would be sufficient to explain change and diversity.

Porto Empedocle

Porto Empedocle (Sicilian: Marina) is a town and comune in Italy on the coast of the Strait of Sicily, administratively part of the province of Agrigento. It is the namesake of Empedocles, a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of the city of Agrigentum (present-day Agrigento), in his day a Greek colony in Sicily. The primary industries of Porto Empedocle are agriculture, fishing, ironworking, pharmaceuticals and rock salt refining.

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, ordered a tower built to protect the territory's reserves of harvested grain in the sixteenth century. The tower was later converted to a prison and is now a social and cultural center.

Trade increased in the area after the completion of the harbor wall in 1763. The comune became autonomous in 1853. Its early names were Marina di Girgenti (seashore of Agrigento) and, after the artificial harbor was built, Molo di Girgenti (wharf of Agrigento). The town took its present name in 1863, after the Agrigentine philosopher Empedocles.

In 2003, the town changed its official denomination to Porto Empedocle Vigata, after the name of the fictional town where the popular novels by Andrea Camilleri, Italian writer and native of Porto Empedocle, about detective Inspector Montalbano are placed. However, the decision was revoked in 2009.

The main church is Parrocchia Maria SS.del Buon Consiglio, which is located in the center of the town. The marl Scala dei Turchi is located nearby, on the coast of Realmonte.

Satyrus the Peripatetic

Satyrus (Greek: Σάτυρος) of Callatis was a distinguished peripatetic philosopher and historian, whose biographies (Lives) of famous people are frequently referred to by Diogenes Laërtius and Athenaeus. He came from Callatis Pontica, as we learn from a Herculaneum papyrus. He lived earlier than the reign of Ptolemy VI Philometor (181–146 BC) when his Lives were epitomized by Heraclides Lembus, probably during the 3rd century BC. Athenaeus frequently refers to him as a Peripatetic, but his connection to the Peripatetic school is otherwise unknown. His biographies dealt with many eminent people including kings (Dionysius the Younger, Philip), statesmen (Alcibiades), orators (Demosthenes), poets (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides), and philosophers (Bias of Priene, Chilon of Sparta, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Zeno of Elea, Anaxagoras, Socrates, Diogenes, Anaxarchus, Stilpo). He also wrote on the population of Alexandria, and a work On Characters (Περὶ χαρακτήρων). Fragments of his biography of the Athenian dramatist Euripides were found at the end of a papyrus scroll discovered at Oxyrhynchus in the early twentieth century.

The Death of Empedocles

The Death of Empedocles (German: Der Tod des Empedokles) is an unfinished drama by Friedrich Hölderlin. It exists in three versions written from 1797 to 1800, the first of which is the most complete. The third version was published by itself in 1826, but all three did not appear in print together until 1846, three years after Hölderlin's death.The play is about the final days of pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Empedocles, who, according to legend, threw himself into Mount Etna. Hölderlin's main source of the story was Diogenes Laërtius's Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. The first act sees Empedocles take leave of Agrigentum, and the second is set entirely at Etna.

The Death of Empedocles (film)

The Death of Empedocles (German: Der Tod des Empedokles) is a 1987 West German drama film directed by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub. It was entered into the 37th Berlin International Film Festival.

Water (classical element)

Water is one of the elements in ancient Greek philosophy, in the Asian Indian system Panchamahabhuta, and in the Chinese cosmological and physiological system Wu Xing. In contemporary esoteric traditions, it is commonly associated with the qualities of emotion and intuition.

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