Homer Hesiod Hymns Tragedy Remythologizing Tools Blackboard Info
A Greek philosopher and poet, born of a rich and noble family at Agrigentum in Sicily, about 490 B.C. Like his father, Meton, who had taken part in the expulsion of the tyrant Thrasydaeeus, he was an ardent supporter of the democracy. He lent his aid in destroying the aristocracy and setting up a democratic constitution, although his fellow-citizens offered him the kingly dignity. He was content with the powerful influence which he derived from his wealth, his eloquence, and extraordinary knowledge. His acquaintance with medicine and natural science was so great as to win him the reputation of a wonder-worker in his lifetime, and the position of a hero after his death. It was probably a political revolution which caused him, in advanced age, to leave his country and settle in the Peloponnese. He died about 430 B.C., away from Sicily. A later story represented him as having thrown himself into the crater of Aetna, that his sudden disappearance might make the people believe him a god. The truth, however, was said to have been revealed by the appearance of his shoes, thrown up by the volcano. He was the author of propitiatory hymns, probably of a mystical and religious character; of a didactic poem on medicine; and of an epic poem in three books upon Nature. This last was his <italisc>chef d'oeuvre, and had a high reputation in antiquity, both for its contents, and for its form, in which the writer took Homer for his master. Considerable fragments of it remain, written in a sublime and pregnant style. His system is grounded upon the assumption of four unchangeable elements, fire (the noblest of all), air, earth, and water, and two opposing forces, Love which binds and attracts, and Hate which separates and repels. The formation of the world began when the elements, held together by Love, and separated by Hate, again tended to union under the influence of Love. The manifold minglings and separations of the elements originated the different species, that of man included. Our perceptions arise from the particles which are thrown off by things, and stream in upon us through special pores or passages. As in our persons all the fundamental elements are united, we are enabled by their means to recognise what is homogeneous outside us. Our ideas are not pure but compounded of the particles which pour in upon us and go out from us. The system of Empedocles often agreed with that of Pythagoras. Both adopted the theory of transmigration, and the moral and ascetic doctrines connected with it. The propitia. tory hymns above mentioned may well have been in harmony with these ideas.
Type: Standard
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