Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
97. Pluralism 99. Empedokles as a Politician

From Chapter V., Empedokles of Akragas

98. Date of Empedocles
Empedokles was a citizen of Akragas in Sicily. He was the only native citizen of a Dorian state who plays an important part in the history of philosophy.1 His father's name, according to the best accounts, was Meton.2 His grandfather, also called Empedokles, had won a victory in the horse-race at Olympia in Ol. LXXI. (496-95 B.C.),3 and Apollodoros fixed the floruit of Empedokles himself in Ol. LXXXIV. I (444-43 B.C.). That is the date of the foundation of Thourioi; and it appears from the quotation in Diogenes that the fifth-century biographer, Glaukos of Rhegion,4 said Empedokles visited the new city shortly after its foundation. But we are not bound to believe that he was just forty years old at the time. That is the usual assumption of Apollodoros; but there are reasons for thinking that his date is considerably too late.5 It is more likely that Empedokles did not go to Thourioi till after his banishment from Akragas, and he may well have been more than forty years old when that happened. All, therefore, we can be said to know is, that his grandfather was still alive in 496 B.C.; that he himself was active at Akragas after 472, the date of Theron's death; and that he died later than 444.

Burnet's Notes


1. See, however, Introd. § II (p. 3).

2. Aet. i. 3, 20 (R. P. 164), Apollodoros ap. Diog. viii. 52 (R. P. 162). The details of the life of Empedokles are discussed, with a careful criticism of the sources, by Bidez, La Biographie d'Empedocle (Gand, 1894).

3. For this we have the authority of Apollodoros (Diog. viii. 51, 52; R. P. 162), who follows the Olympic Victors of Eratosthenes, who followed Aristotle. Herakleides, in his Περὶ νόσων (see below, p. 200, n. 5), spoke of the elder Empedokles as a "breeder of horses" (R. P. 162 a); and Timaios mentioned him in his Fifteenth Book. Satyros confused him with his grandson.

4. Glaukos wrote Περὶ τῶν ἀρχαίων ποιητῶν καὶ μουσικῶν, and is said to have been contemporary with Demokritos (Diog. ix. 38). Apollodoros adds (R. P. 162) that, according to Aristotle and Herakleides, Empedokles died at the age of sixty. It is to be observed, however, that the words ἔτι δ' Ἡρακλείδης are Sturz's conjecture, the MSS. having ἔτι δ' Ἡράκλείτον, and Diogenes certainly said (ix. 3) that Herakleitos lived sixty years. On the other hand, if the statement of Aristotle comes from the Περὶ ποιητῶν, it is not obvious why he should mention Herakleitos at all; and Herakleides was one of the chief sources for the biography of Empedokles. The names are often confused.

5. See Diels, "Empedokles and Gorgias," 2 (Berl. Sitzb., 1884). Theophrastos said (Dox. p. 477, 17) that Empedokles was born "not long after Anaxagoras," i.e. not long after 500 B.C. (see below, §120). As he was certainly later than Parmenides, this is a fresh ground for following Plato in making Parmenides some fifteen years older than Apollodoros does (see above, §84). In general it should be noted that the epoch of Thourioi has misled Apollodoros in many cases. Almost every one who had anything to do with Thourioi (e.g. Herodotos, Protagoras) is said to have been born in 484 B.C.

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