Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
100. Empedokles as a Religious Teacher 102. Relation to Predecessors

From Chapter V., Empedokles of Akragas

101. Rhetoric and Medicine
Aristotle said that Empedokles was the inventor of Rhetoric;16 and Galen made him the founder of the Italian School of Medicine, which he puts on a level with those of Kos and Knidos.17 Both these statements must be considered in connexion with his political and scientific activity. It is probable that Gorgias was his disciple, and also that the speeches, of which he must have made many, were marked by that euphuism which Gorgias introduced to Athens at a later date, and which gave rise to the idea of an artistic prose.18 His influence on the development of medicine was, however, far more important, as it affected not only medicine itself, but, through it, the whole tendency of scientific thinking. It has been said that Empedokles had no successors,19 and the remark is true if we confine ourselves strictly to philosophy; but the medical school he founded was still living in the days of Plato, and had considerable influence on him, and still more on Aristotle.20 Its fundamental doctrine was the identification of the four elements with the hot and the cold, the moist and the dry. It also held that we breathe through all the pores of the body, and that the act of respiration is closely connected with the motion of the blood. The heart, not the brain, was regarded as the organ of consciousness.21 A more external characteristic of the medicine taught by the followers of Empedokles is that they still clung to ideas of a magical nature. A protest against this by a member of the Koan school has been preserved. He refers to them as "magicians and purifiers and charlatans and quacks, who profess to be very religious."22

Burnet's Notes


16. Diog. viii. 57 (R. P. 162 g).

17. Galen, Meth. Med. i. 1, ἤριζον δ' αὐτοῖς (the schools of Kos and Knidos) . . . καὶ οἱ ἐκ τῆς Ἰταλίας ἰατροί Φιλιστίων τε καὶ Ἐμπεδοκλῆς καὶ Παυσανίας καὶ οἱ τούτων ἑταῖροι. Philistion was the contemporary and friend of Plato; Pausanias is the disciple to whom Empedokles addressed his poem.

18. See Diels, "Empedokles and Gorgias" (Berl. Sitzb., 1884, pp. 343 sqq.). The oldest authority for saying that Gorgias was a disciple of Empedokles is Satyros ap. Diog. viii. 58 (R. P. 162); but he seems to have derived his information from Alkidamas, who was the disciple of Gorgias himself. In Plato's Meno (76 c 4-8) the Empedoklean theory of effluvia and pores is ascribed to Gorgias.

19. Diels (Berl. Sitzb., 1884, p. 343).

20. See M. Wellmann, Fragmentsammlung der griechischen Ärizte, vol. i. (Berlin, 1901). According to Wellmann, both Plato (in the Timaeus) and Diokles of Karystos depend upon Philistion. It is impossible to understand the history of philosophy from this point onwards without keeping the history of medicine constantly in view.

21. For the four elements, cf. Anon. Lond. xx. 25 (Menon's Iatrika), Φιλιστίων δ' οἴεται ἐκ δ' ἰδεῶν συνεστάναι ἡμᾶς, τοῦτ' ἔστιν ἐκ δ' στοιχείων· πυρός, ἀέρος, ὕδατος, γῆς. εἶναι δὲ καὶ ἑκάστου δυνάμεις, τοῦ μὲν πυρὸς τὸ θερμόν, τοῦ δὲ ἀέρος τὸ ψυχρόν, τοῦ δὲ ὕδατος τὸ ὑγρόν, τῆς δὲ γῆς τὸ ξηρόν. For the theory of respiration, see Wellmann, pp, 82 sqq.; and for the heart as the seat of consciousness, ib. pp. 15 sqq.

22. Hippokr. Περὶ ἱερῆς νόσου, C 1, μάγοι τε καὶ καθάρται καὶ ἀγύρται καὶ ἀλαζόνες. The whole passage should be read. Cf. Wellmann, p. 29 n.

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