THE philosopher Empedocles, according to the common tradition of antiquity, was born at Agrigentum in Sicily, and flourished just before the Peloponnesian war, the contemporary of the great Athenians about Pericles. He might have heard the Prometheus in the theatre of Dionysus and have talked with Euripides in the Agora; or have seen with Phidias the bright Pallas Athene on the Acropolis; or have listened in the groves beyond the city while Anaxagoras unfolded to him those half-spiritual guesses at the nature of the universe, so different from his own. He might: but the details of his life are all too imperfectly recorded. The brief references in other philosophers and the vita of Diogenes Laertius contain much that is contradictory or legendary. Though apparently of a wealthy and conservative family, he took the lead among his fellow citizens against the encroachments of the aristocracy; but, as it seems, falling at last from popular favor, he left Agrigentum and died in the Peloponnesus--his famous leap into Mount Aetna being as mythical as his reputed


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The Fragments of Empedocles


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