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Empedocles - Presocratic Philosopher Empedocles


Empedocles as portrayed in the Nuremberg Chronicle

Empedocles as portrayed in the Nuremberg Chronicle

Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikpedia.

Empedocles of Acragas (c. 495-435 B.C.) was known as a poet, statesman, and physician, as well as philosopher. Empedocles encouraged people to look upon him as a miracle worker. Philosophically he believed in the four elements:

  1. Earth,
  2. Air,
  3. Fire, and
  4. Water

as the basic components of everything. It was once thought that Empedocles had written 2 poems in hexameter, On Nature and Purifications, but a recent discovery, the Strasbourg papyrus, suggests they were one. Aristotle says Empedocles was the first to specify the 4 elements.

Nothing Comes From Nothing

Empedocles rejected the existence of empty space, saying nothing comes from nothing.


Change is a mixture of four roots (earth, air, fire, and water), but some mingle more easily because of their pores. Love and Strife cause motion and change.


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.

Distance to the Sun

Empedocles estimated the moon was one third the distance from the earth to the sun.


In the book (or section of the book) Purifications, Empedocles discusses daimones (spirit entities like demons) who having shed blood are punished by exile from the other gods. They are reincarnated into various creatures until they are finally released and become gods. Eating meat is to be avoided as cannibalism.

Main Source:
Parry, Richard, "Empedocles", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2007 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2007/entries/empedocles/>.

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Empedoles is on the list of Most Important People to Know in Ancient History.

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