Empedocles (//; Greek: Ἐμπεδοκλῆς Empedocles (//; Greek: Ἐμπεδοκλῆς [empedoklɛ̂ːs], Empedoklēs; c. 494 – c. 434 BC, fl. 444–443 BC) was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a native 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.
Influenced by Pythagoras (died c. 495 BC) and the Pythagoreans, Empedocles challenged the practice of animal sacrifice and killing animals for food. He developed a distinctive 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.
In his History of Western Philosophy, 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 <
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."
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.
In 2006, a massive underwater volcano off the coast of Sicily was named Empedocles.
In 2016, Scottish musician Momus wrote and sang the song "The Death of Empedokles" for his album Scobberlotchers.