Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
99. Empedokles as a Politician 101. Rhetoric and Medicine

From Chapter V., Empedokles of Akragas

100. Empedocles as a Religious Teacher
But there is another side to his public character which Timaios found it hard to reconcile with his political views. He claimed to be a god, and to receive the homage of his fellow-citizens in that capacity. The truth is, Empedokles was not a mere statesman; he had a good deal of the "medicine-man" about him. According to Satyros,10 Gorgias affirmed that he had been present when his master was performing sorceries. We can see what this means from the fragments of the Purifications. Empedokles was a preacher of the new religion which sought to secure release from the "wheel of birth" by purity and abstinence. Orphicism seems to have been strong at Akragas in the days of Theron, and there are even some verbal coincidences between the poems of Empedokles and the Orphicising Odes which Pindar addressed to that prince.11 On the other hand, there is no reason to doubt the statement of Ammonios that fr. 134 refers to Apollo;12 and, if that is so, it points to his having been an adherent of the Ionic form of the mystic doctrine, as we have seen (§39) Pythagoras was. Further, Timaios already knew the story that Empedokles had been expelled from the Pythagorean Order for "stealing discourses,"13 and it is probable on the whole that fr. 129 refers to Pythagoras.14 It seems most likely, then, that Empedokles preached a form of Pythagoreanism which was not considered orthodox by the heads of the Society. The actual marvels related of him seem to be mere developments of hints in his poems.15

Burnet's Notes


10. Diog. viii. 59 (R. P. 162). Satyros probably followed Alkidamas. Diels suggests (Emp. u. Gorg. p. 358) that the φυσικός of Alkidamas was a dialogue in which Gorgias was the chief speaker.

11. See Bidez, p. 115, n. 1.

12. See below, note in loc.

13. Diog. viii. 54 (R. P. 162).

14. See below, note in loc.

15. Timaios told, for instance (ap. Diog. viii. 60), how he weakened the force of the etesian winds by hanging bags of asses' skins on the trees to catch them. In fr. 111 he says that knowledge of science as taught by him will enable his disciples to control the winds. We are also told how he brought back to life a woman who had been breathless and pulseless for thirty days. In fr. 111 he tells Pausanias that his teaching will enable him to bring the dead back from Hades. The story of the ἄπνους was given at length in the Περὶ νόσων of Herakleides of Pontos, and Diogenes says that it was related to Pausanias by Empedokles. That gives us a hint of the way in which these stories were worked up. Cf. the very similar anecdotes about Herakleitos, p. 131, n. 4.

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