The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

Empedocles Recycled

Catherine Osborne

It is no longer generally believed that Empedocles was the divided character portrayed by nineteenth-century scholars, a man whose scientific and religious views were incompatible but untouched by each other. Yet it is still widely held that, however unitary his thought, nevertheless he still wrote more than one poem, and that his poems can be clearly divided between those which do, and those which do not, concern ‘religious matters’.1 Once this assumption can be shown to be shaky or actually false, the grounds for dividing the quotations of Empedocles into two poems by subject matter disappear; and without that division our interpretation of Empedocles stands in need of radical revision. This paper startswith the modest task of showing that Empedocles may have written only one philosophical poem and not two, and goes on to suggest some of the ways in which we have to rethink the whole story if he did. If all our material belongs to one poem we are bound to link the cycle of the daimones with that of the elements, and this has far-reaching consequences for our interpretation.