Empedocles

, an eminent philosopher, poet, orator, historian, and physician, was of S. of Sicily, of various fortune, and still showing traces of its ancient grandeur.">Agrigentum, in Sicily, and flourished about the eighty-fourth olympiad, or B. C. 44-4. He appears from his doctrine to have been of the Italic school; but under what master he studied philosophy is uncertain. After the death of his father Meto, who was a wealthy citizen of S. of Sicily, of various fortune, and still showing traces of its ancient grandeur.">Agrigentum, he acquired great weight among his fellow-citizens, by espousing the popular party, and favouring democratic measures. He employed a large share of his paternal estate in giving dowries to young women, and marrying them to men of superior rank. His consequence in the state became at length so great, that he ventured to assume several of the distinctions of royalty, particularly a purple robe, a golden girdle, a Delphic crown, and a train of attendants; always retaining a grave and commanding aspect. He was a determined enemy to tyranny, and is said to have employed his influence in establishing and defending the rights of his countrymen.

The skill which Empedocles possessed in medicine and natural philosophy enabled him to perform many wonders, which he passed upon the superstitious and credulous multitude for miracles. He pretended to drive away noxious winds from his country, and hereby put a stop to epidemical diseases. He is said to have checked, by the power of music, the madness of a young man, who was threatening his enemy with instant death; to have cured Pantha, a woman of S. of Sicily, of various fortune, and still showing traces of its ancient grandeur.">Agrigentum, whom all the physicians had declared incurable; to have restored a woman to life, who | had lain breathless for thirty days; and to have done many other things equally astonishing, after the manner of Pythagoras: on account of which he was an object of universal admiration, so that when he came to the Olympic games, the eyes of all the people were fixed upon him. Besides medical skill, Empedocles possessed poetical talents. The fragments of his verses, which are dispersed through various ancient writers, have been in part collected by Henry Stephens, in the “Poesis philosophica,1574, 8vo. This circumstance affords some ground for the opinion of Fabricius, that Empedocles was the real author of that ancient fragment which bears the name of “The Golden Verses of Pythagoras.” He is said also to have been a dramatic poet; but Empedocles the tragedian was another person; Suidas, upon some unknown authority, calls him the grandson of the philosopher. Georgias Leontinus, a celebrated orator, was his pupil; whence it may seem reasonable to infer, that he was an eminent master of the art of eloquence. The particulars of his death are variously related. Some report, that during the night, after a sacred festival, he was conveyed away towards the heavens, amidst the splendour of celestial light; others that he threw himself into the burning crater of Mount E. coast of Sicily, 10,840 ft. high; a striking feature is the immense ravine, the Val del Bove, splitting the eastern side of the mountain, and about 5 m. in diameter; on…">Etna. Much reliance cannot be placed on either of these stories. There is more probability that towards the close of his life he went into S. Europe occupying the southern portion of a peninsula which projects into the Mediterranean between the peninsula of Italy and the mainland of Turkey…">Greece, and died there, at what time is uncertain. Aristotle says he died at sixty years of age. The substance of his philosophy, according to Brucker, is this: It is impossible to judge of truth by the senses without the assistance of reason; which is. led, by the intervention of the senses, to the contemplation of the real nature, and immutable essences, of things. The first principles of nature are of two kinds, active and passive the active is unity, or God the passive, matter. The active principle is a subtle, ethereal fire, intelligent and divine, which gives being to all things, and animates all things, and into which all things will be at last resolved. Many daemons, portions of the divine nature, wander through the region of the air, and administer human affairs. Man, and also all brute animals, are allied to the divinity; and it is therefore unlawful to kill or eat animals. The world is one whole, circumscribed by the revolution of the sun, and surrounded, not by a vacuum, but by a. mass of inactive matter. The first material principles of | the four elements are similar atoms, indefinitely small, and of a round form. Matter, thus divided into corpuscles, possessed the primary qualities of friendship and discord, by means of which, upon the first agitation of the original chaotic mass, homogeneous parts were united, and heterogeneous separated, and the four elements composed, of which all bodies are generated. The motion of the corpuscles, which excites the qualities of friendship and discord, is produced by the energy of intellectual fire, or divine mind; all motion, and consequently all life and being, must therefore be ascribed to God. The first principles of the elements are eternal nothing can begin to exist, or be annihilated but all the varieties of nature are produced by combination or separation. In the formation of the world, ether was first secreted from chaos, then fire, then earth; by the agitation of which were produced water and air. The heavens are a solid body of air, crystallized by fire. The stars are bodies composed of fire, they are fixed in the crystal of heaven; but the planets wander freely beneath it. The sun is a fiery mass, larger than the moon, which is in the form of a hollow plate, and twice as far from the sun as from the earth. The soul of man consists of two parts, the sensitive, produced from the same principles with the elements; and the rational, which is a daemon sprung from the divine soul of the world, and sent down into the body as a punishment for its crimes in a former state, where it transmigrates till it is sufficiently purified to return to God. 1

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Brucker.—Gen. Dict.—Stanley’s Hist. of Philosophy.