The fragments of Empedocles; (1908) Translated by William Ellery Leonard

The fragments of Empedocles;

The fragments of Empedocles;



This translation was made at the suggestion of my friend, Dr W. R. Newbold, Professor of Greek Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, in the hope of interesting here and there a student of thought or a lover of poetry. The introduction and notes are intended merely to illustrate the text: they touch only incidentally on the topographical material and give thus by no means a complete account of all it is possible to know about Empedocles's philosophy. My indebtedness to the critics is frequently attested in the references, but I have in all points tried to exercise an independent judgment. Most citations from works not accessible in English are given in translation. 

It is a genuine pleasure to acknowledge my special obligations to Professor Newbold and to Professor E. B. Mc- Gilvary of the philosophical department at Wisconsin for their kindness in reading the manuscript and adding several valuable suggestions. I am indebted to Dr J. R. Blackman of the department of physiology at the University of Wisconsin for medical references. 

 The philosopher Empedocles, according to the common tradition of antiquity, was born at Agrigentum in Sicily and flourished just before the Peloponnesian war, the contemporary of the great Athenians about Pericles. He might have heard the Prometheus in the theatre of Dionysus and have talked with Euripides in the Agora; or have seen with Phidias the bright Pallas Athene on the Acropolis; or have listened in the groves beyond the city while Anaxagoras unfolded to him those half-spiritual guesses at the nature of the universe, so different from his own. He might: but the de- tails of his life are all too imperfectly recorded. The brief references in other philosophers and the vita of Diogenes Laertius contain much that is contradictory or legendary. Though apparently of a wealthy and conservative family, he took the lead among his fellow citizens against the encroachments of the aristocracy; but, as it seems, falling at last from popular favour, he left Agrigentum and died in the Peloponnesus — his famous leap into Mount Aetna being as mythical as his reputed translation after a sacrificial meal... But time restores the exiles: Florence at last set the image of Dante before the gates of Santa Croce;.and now, after two thousand years, the hardy democrats of Agrigentum begin to cherish (so I have read) the honest memory of Empedocles with that of Mazzini and Garibaldi.
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