Marshall McLuhan (essay date 1975)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: McLuhan, Marshall. “Empedocles and T. S. Eliot.” In Empodocles, by Helle Lambridis, pp. vi-xv. University, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 1976.

[In the following essay, originally written in 1975, McLuhan explores Empedocles's influence on poets T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats, particularly in the preference for auditory imagery and “double truths.”]

The vision of Empedocles may have made its entrée into English literature via Lewis Carroll rather than Matthew Arnold, in the image of Humpty Dumpty (the Sphairos) rather than the haggard suicide of Mount Aetna (Empedocles on Aetna). Lewis Carroll, the non-Euclidean geometer, was a...

(The entire section is 2978 words.)

Helle Lambridis (essay date 1976)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Lambridis, Helle. “Sensation and Knowledge” and “Poetry.” In Empodocles, pp. 73-91 and 136-45. University: The University of Alabama Press, 1976.

[In the following excerpt, Lambridis considers Empedocles's theory of sensation, explains his limited trust in knowledge, and evaluates his work strictly on its poetic merit.]

Although both the theory of the four elements and the notion that the world is periodically destroyed and reborn were current in Empedocles' time, the way in which he envisaged them is original and exclusively his own.

Sensation. Empedocles believed knowledge to be conveyed to the human mind primarily by...

(The entire section is 9889 words.)

Stanley Lombardo (essay date 1982)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Lombardo, Stanley. “Empedocles: Introduction.” In Parmenides and Empedocles: The Fragments in Verse Translation, pp. 23-30. San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1982.

[In the following excerpt, Lombardo provides an overview of Empedocles's subject matter in his poetry.]

Homer and Empedocles have nothing in common except for their meter. If the one is to be called a poet, the other should be called a natural philosopher rather than a poet.

(Aristotle, Poetics 1447)

Aristotle is quibbling, dissembling, or both. In a less celebrated passage (On Poets, fr. 70) he gives credit to...

(The entire section is 1877 words.)

Linda Ray Pratt (essay date 1988)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Pratt, Linda Ray. “Empedocles, Suicide, and the Order of Things.” Victorian Poetry 50, nos. 1-2 (spring-summer 1988): 75-90.

[In the following essay, Pratt examines Matthew Arnold's response to Empedocles's legendary suicide.]

A. A violent order is disorder; and
B. A great disorder is an order. These
Two things are one. (Pages of illustrations.)

from “Connoisseur of Chaos,” Wallace Stevens1

When Matthew Arnold wrote that he was “Wandering between two worlds, one dead, / The other powerless to be born,” he referred to a lost world in which he imagined he would have felt at peace and to a new world in which he...

(The entire section is 7548 words.)

Brad Inwood (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Inwood, Brad. “Part I: Introduction.” In The Poem of Empedocles, translated by Brad Inwood, pp. 3-72. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992.

[In the following excerpt, Inwood examines controversies concerning Empedocles's life and works and offers a broad summary of his philosophy.]


The principal aim of this book is modest: to make available for students with a philosophical interest in Empedocles (whether they read ancient Greek or not) the texts necessary for an exploration of his thought. For no other Presocratic thinker is there so much evidence. The literal quotations of Empedocles' own poetry are...

(The entire section is 31046 words.)

Peter Kingsley (essay date 1994)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Kingsley, Peter. “Empedocles's Sun.” Classical Quarterly 44, no. 2 (1994): 316-24.

[In the following essay, Kingsley explains Empedocles's views regarding astronomical matters and discusses why they were misunderstood by Theophrastus.]

Few things can be more confusing, or confused, than the ancient reports about Empedocles' astronomy. Attempts in the modern literature at resolving the difficulties invariably either add to the confusion, or end by urging the need to ‘acknowledge the insufficiency of our data and suspend judgment’.1 In fact, as we will see, it is possible not only to reconstruct Empedocles' own ideas but also to retrace the...

(The entire section is 5649 words.)

Peter Kingsley (essay date 1995)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Kingsley, Peter. Introduction to Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic, pp. 1-10. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1995.

[In the following excerpt, Kingsley argues that prior evaluations of Empedocles, particularly those based on Aristotle or Theophrastus, should be discarded in favor of new, less problematic perspectives.]

This book covers a wide area in space and time, but takes as its starting-point one man who lived well over two thousand years ago. That man was called Empedocles.

Empedocles was probably born around the start of the fifth century bc.1 He was from the Greek colony of Acragas—modern Agrigento—on the...

(The entire section is 4221 words.)

David Sedley (essay date 1998)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Sedley, David. “The Empedoclean Opening.” In Lucretius and the Transformation of Greek Wisdom, pp. 1-34. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

[In the following excerpt, Sedley demonstrates that Lucretius based the proem of his De rerum natura on the work of Empedocles.]


Lucreti poemata ut scribis ita sunt, multis luminibus ingeni, multae tamen artis. sed cum veneris, virum te putabo si Sallusti Empedoclea legeris, hominem non putabo.

Writing to his brother in 54 bc, Cicero supplies two unique testimonies (Ad Q. fr. ii 9.4). In...

(The entire section is 15383 words.)

John Woolfold (essay date 1999)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Woolford, John. “Arnold on Empedocles.” The Review of English Studies, n.s. 50, no. 197 (February 1999): 32-52.

[In the following essay, Woolford interprets Matthew Arnold's Empedocles on Etna as a philosophical debate between Arnold and Empedocles.]

Much of Empedocles on Etna is spent defining Empedocles' suicide as the outcome of what is represented as at once a personal and a philosophical crisis. Arnold's own gloss, in a note in the Yale Manuscript, stresses the personal element:

his friends are dead: the world is all against him, & incredulous of the truth: his mind is overtasked by the effort to...

(The entire section is 9777 words.)

N. Van Der Ben (essay date 1999)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Van Der Ben, N. “The Strasbourg Papyrus of Empedocles: Some Preliminary Remarks.” Mnemosyne 52, no. 5 (October 1999): 525-44.

[In the following essay, Van Der Ben comments on certain aspects of a recently discovered Empedoclean papyrus and on how it may enable scholars to better resolve problematic areas of previously known Empedoclean texts.]

It was early 1994 when the announcement was made of “un nouveau texte d'Empédocle révélé par un papyrus de la Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg” to be made public at the Strasbourg University Library April 14th 1994.1 As it turned out, the papyrus was ‘new’ in the sense of...

(The entire section is 5291 words.)