Empedocles was a citizen of Agrigentum in Sicily. He was distinguished not only as a philosopher but also for his knowledge of natural history and medicine, and as a poet and statesman. He used his vast knowledge to perform feats that many people thought were miracles, and as a result, he was an object of universal admiration.

He completely accepted the doctrine of Parmenides that what exists is uncreated and indestructible, and he introduced the theory of four elements – fire, air, earth, and water. He also put forth the idea of two more distinct bodies: Love, to explain the attraction of matter, and Strife, to account for the separation of matter. He believed that perception is based on the properties of pores. Objects emit portions of themselves, which mingle with our sense organs and allow us to perceive them. He also estimated that the moon was one-third the distance from the Earth that the Earth is from the Sun.

Quotes:
“For 'tis by Earth we see Earth, by Water Water,
By Ether Ether divine, by Fire destructive Fire,
By Love Love, and Hate by cruel Hate.”

“The kindly Earth in its broad-bosomed moulds
Won of clear Water two parts out of eight,
And four of Fire; and so white bones were formed”

Empedocles (around 495 - 435 BC) Greek philosopher and prophet

Born in Acragas (present Agrigento on Sicily, Italy), Empedocles was doctor, prophet, wise man, philosopher and politician. He was leader of the democrats in Acragas. When he was offered the crown, he refused. A twist in political fortunes drove Empedocles and his followers into exile.

The politician Empedocles however is less significant than the thinker and miracle worker Empedocles. Heracleides Pontikos, one of Plato's students, wrote a story on how Empedocles resurrected his own wife. As a natural philosopher, he was highly rated by Aristotle. In his poem Peri physeos ('About nature') he situated the universe in four roots or elements:

water

air

fire

earth

According to Empedocles, continuously changing combinations of these elements caused the existence of different substances and materials. In this process, hate and love were decisive factors, being both joining and separating forces. In his largely destroyed poetic work Katharmoi ('Cleansings') he shows his thoughts on his development as a human being:

  1. boy
  2. girl
  3. bird
  4. fish
  5. human

Thanks to Diogenes Laërtios we also know how Empedocles came to his end. The prophet wanted his followers to believe he would rise to heaven as a God. To mask his human death, he jumped into the Etna crater when he felt his time was near. There, Laërtios shows us, Empedocles fell terribly short posthumously: the Etna spit out one of his sandals.

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