Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
102. Relation to Predecessors 104. Writings

From Chapter V., Empedokles of Akragas

103. Death
We are told that Empedokles leapt into the crater of Etna that he might be deemed a god. This appears to be a malicious version26 of a tale set on foot by his adherents that he had been snatched up to heaven in the night.27 Both stories would easily get accepted; for there was no local tradition. Empedokles did not die in Sicily, but in the Peloponnese, or, perhaps, at Thourioi. It is not at all unlikely that he visited Athens.28 Plato represents Sokrates as familiar with his views in early life, and the elder Kritias adopted one of his characteristic theories.29

Burnet's Notes


26. R. P. 162 h. The story is always told with a hostile purpose.

27. R. P. ib. This was the story told by Herakleides of Pontos, at the end of his romance about the ἄπνους.

28. Timaios refuted the common stories at some length (Diog. viii. 71 sqq.; R. P. ib.). He was quite positive that Empedokles never returned to Sicily after he went to Olympia to have his poem recited to the Hellenes. The plan for the colonisation of Thourioi would, of course; be discussed at Olympia, and we know that Greeks from the Peloponnese and elsewhere joined it. He may very well have gone to Athens in connexion with this.

29. See my edition of the Phaedo, 96 b 4 n., and, for Kritias, Arist. De anima, 405 b 6. This is the Kritias who appears in Plato's Timaeus, and he is certainly not the Kritias who was one of the Thirty, but his grandfather. The Kritias of the Timaeus is a very old man, who remembers the events of his boyhood quite well, but forgets what happened the other day (Tim. 26 b). He also tells us that the poems of Solon were a novelty when he was a boy (ib. 21 b). It is hard to understand how he was ever supposed to be the oligarch, though Diels, Wilamowitz, and E. Meyer seem to have felt no difficulty in the identification. It is clear too that it must have been the grandfather who exchanged poetical compliments with Anakreon (Diels, Vors.3 ii. p. 81 B 1). Kritias of the Thirty did not live to be an old man.

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