Selections from Ancilla to the Pre-Socratics
Translated by Kathleen Freeman, and now in the public domain

11. Thales of Miletus

12. Anaximander of Miletus

13. Anaximenes of Miletus

21. Xenophanes of Colophon

22. Heracleitus of Ephesus

28. Parmenides of Elea

31. Empedocles of Acragas


Thales of Miletus was in his prime about 585 B.C. 

Whether he ever wrote a book is unknown; if he did, no genuine fragment survives,. 

1. (Title: 'Nautical Astronomy'). 

2. (There are two Hyades, one north and one south). 

Late forgery 

3. The much-discussed four substances—of which we say the chief is Water, making it as it were the one Element—by combination and solidification and coagulation of the substances in the universe mingle with one another. In what way, I have already explained in Book One. 

4. (Titles: 'On the Solstice'. 'On the Equinox'). 


Anaximander of Miletus was in his prime about 560 B.C. The title or titles of any works of his are unknown. 

1. The Non-Limited is the original material of existing things; further, the source from which existing things derive their existence is also that to which they return at their destruction, according to necessity; for they give justice and make reparation to one another for their injustice, according to the arrangement of Time. 

2. This (essential nature, whatever it is, of the Non-Limited) is everlasting and ageless. 

3. (The Non-Limited) is immortal and indestructible. 

4. Nozzle of the bellows. 

5. (The Earth is like) a stone column. 


Anaximenes of Miletus was in his prime about 546 B.C. 

He wrote one book, in 'simple and unextravagant Ionic'. One whole sentence only has survived. 

1. (Paraphrase containing the word) Loose. (= rare). 

2. As our soul, being air, holds us together, so do breath and air surround the whole universe. 

2a. (The sun is broad) like a leaf. 


3. Air is near to the incorporeal; and since we come into being by an efflux from this (air), it is bound to be both non-limited and rich so that it never fails. 


Xenophanes of Colophon was in his prime about 530 B.C. He wrote poems for recitation, in hexameters and elegiacs. 


1. For now, behold, the floor is clean, and so too the hands of all, and the cups. One (attendant) places woven garlands round our heads, another proffers sweet-scented myrrh in a saucer. The mixing-bowl stands there full of good cheer, and another wine is ready in the jar, a wine that promises never to betray us, honeyed, smelling of flowers. In our midst the frankincense gives forth its sacred perfume; and there is cold water, sweet and pure. Golden loaves lie to hand, and the lordly table is laden with cheese and with honey. The altar in the centre is decked with flowers all over, and song and revelry fill the mansion. 

It is proper for men who are enjoying themselves first of all to praise God with decent stories and pure words. But when they have poured a libation and prayed for the power to do what is just—for thus to pray is our foremost need—it is no outrage to drink as much as will enable you to reach home without a guide, unless you are very old. But the man whom one must praise is he who after drinking expresses thoughts that are noble, as well as his memory concerning virtue allows, not treating of the battles of the Titans or of the Giants, figments of our predecessors, nor of violent civil war, in which tales there is nothing useful; but always to have respect for the gods, that is good. 

2. But if anyone were to win a victory with fleetness of foot, or fighting in the Pentathlon, where the precinct of Zeus lies between the springs of Pisa at Olympia, or in wrestling, or in virtue of the painful science of boxing, or in a dread kind of contest called Pancration: to the citizens he would be more glorious to look upon, and he would acquire a conspicuous seat of honour at competitions, and his maintenance would be provided out of the public stores by the City-State, as well as a gift for him to lay aside as treasure. 

So too if he won a prize with his horses, he would obtain all these rewards, though not deserving of them as I am; for my craft (wisdom) is better than the strength of men or of horses. Yet opinion is altogether confused in this matter, and it is not right to prefer physical strength to noble Wisdom. For it is not the presence of a good boxer in the community, nor of one good at the Pentathlon or at wrestling, nor even of one who excels in fleetness of foot—which is highest in honour of all the feats of strength seen in men's athletic contests—it is not these that will give a City-State a better constitution. Small would be the enjoyment that a City-State would reap over the athletic victory of a citizen beside the banks of Pisa! These things do not enrich the treasure-chambers of the State. 

3. (The men of Colophon), having learnt useless forms of luxury from the Lydians, as long as they were free from hateful tyranny, used to go to the place of assembly wearing all-purple robes, not less than a thousand of them in all: haughty, adorned with well-dressed hair, steeped in the scent of skilfully-prepared unguents. 

4. (The Lydians first struck coinage). 

5. Nor would anyone first pour the wine into the cup when mixing it, but rather the water, and on to that the pure wine. 

6. For, having sent a kid's ham, you received in return the fat leg of a bull, a precious prize for a man whose fame shall reach all over Hellas, and shall not cease so long as the race of Hellenic bards exists. 

7. Now again I shall pass to another theme, and shall show the way… 

…And once, they say, passing by when a puppy was being beaten, he pitied it, and spoke as follows: 'Stop! Cease your beating, because this is really the soul of a man who was my friend: I recognised it as I heard it cry aloud.' 

8. By now, seven-and-sixty years have been tossing my care-filled heart over the land of Hellas. From my birth till then (that is, till his exile), there were twenty-five years to be added to these, if indeed I am able to tell correctly of these matters. 

9. Much feebler than an aged man. 


10. Since from the beginning all have learnt in accordance with Homer … 

11. Both Homer and Hesiod have attributed to the gods all things that are shameful and a reproach among mankind: theft, adultery, and mutual deception. 

12. They have narrated every possible wicked story of the gods: theft, adultery, and mutual deception. 

13. (Homer was earlier than Hesiod). 

14. But mortals believe the gods to be created by birth, and to have their own (mortals') raiment, voice and body. 

15. But if oxen (and horses) and lions had hands or could draw with hands and create works of art like those made by men, horses would draw pictures of gods like horses, and oxen of gods like oxen, and they would make the bodies (of their gods) in accordance with the form that each species itself possesses. 

16. Aethiopians have gods with snub noses and black hair, Thracians have gods with grey eyes and red hair. 

17. (The Bacchic branches) of fir-wood stand round the firm-built dwelling. 

18. Truly the gods have not revealed to mortals all things from the beginning; but mortals by long seeking discover what is better. 

19. (Xenophanes admired Thales for having predicted solar eclipses). 

20. (Xenophanes said that he had heard that Epimenides lived to the age of 154). 

21. (Of Simonides). Skinflint. 

21a. Erykos (Eryx, in Sicily). 

22. One should hold such converse by the fire-side in the winter season, lying on a soft couch, well-fed, drinking sweet wine, nibbling peas: 'Who are you among men, and where from? How old are you, my good friend? What age were you when the Mede came?' 

23. There is one god, among gods and men the greatest, not at all like mortals in body or in mind. 

24. He sees as a whole, thinks as a whole, and hears as a whole. 

25. But without toil he sets everything in motion, by the thought of his mind. 

26. And he always remains in the same place, not moving at all, nor is it fitting for him to change his position at different times. 

27. For everything comes from earth and everything goes back to earth at last. 

28. This is the upper limit of the earth that we see at our feet, in contact with the air; but the part beneath goes down to infinity. 

29. All things that come into being and grow are earth and water. 

30. The sea is the source of water, and the source of wind. For neither could (the force of the wind blowing outwards from within come into being) without the great main (sea), nor the streams of rivers, nor the showery water of the sky; but the mighty main is the begetter of clouds and winds and rivers. 

31. The sun rushing on its way above the earth and giving it warmth. 

32. And she whom they call Iris, she too is actually a cloud, purple and flame-red and yellow to behold. 

33. We all have our origin from earth and water. 

34. And as for certain truth, no man has seen it, nor will there ever be a man who knows about the gods and about all the things I mention. For if he succeeds to the full in saying what is completely true, he himself is nevertheless unaware of it; and Opinion (seeming) is fixed by fate upon all things. 

35. Let these things be stated as conjectural only, similar to the reality. 

36. All appearances which exist for mortals to look at… . 

37. Also, in (certain) caves, water drips down. 

38. If God had not created yellow honey, they would say that figs were far sweeter. 

39. Cherry-tree. 

40. (Ionian dialect-word for a frog). 

41. (Word for) A pit. 


Heracleitus of Ephesus was in his prime about 500 B.C. 

He wrote one book, covering all knowledge, metaphysical, scientific and political, in an oracular style. 

1. The Law (of the universe) is as here explained; but men are always incapable of understanding it, both before they hear it, and when they have heard it for the first time. For though all things come into being in accordance with this Law, men seem as if they had never met with it, when they meet with words (theories) and actions (processes) such as I expound, separating each thing according to its nature and explaining how it is made. As for the rest of mankind, they are unaware of what they are doing after they wake, just as they forget what they did while asleep. 

2. Therefore one must follow (the universal Law, namely) that which is common (to all). But although the Law is universal, the majority live as if they had understanding peculiar to themselves. 

3. (On the size of the sun): the breadth of a man's foot. 

4. If happiness lay in bodily pleasures, we would call oxen happy when they find vetch to eat. 

S. They purify themselves by staining themselves with other blood, as if one were to step into mud in order to wash off mud. But a man would be thought mad if any of his fellow-men should perceive him acting thus. Moreover, they talk to these statues (of theirs) as if one were to hold conversation with houses, in his ignorance of the nature of both gods and heroes. 

6. The sun is new each day. 

7. If all existing things turned to smoke, the nose would be the discriminating organ. 

8. That which is in opposition is in concert, and from things that differ comes the most beautiful harmony. 

9. Donkeys prefer chaff to gold. 

10. Joints: whole and not whole, connected-separate, consonant-dissonant. 

11. Every creature is driven to pasture with a blow. 

12. Anhalation (vaporisation). Those who step into the same river have different waters flowing ever upon them. (Souls also are vaporised from what is wet). 

13. Do not revel in mud. (Swine enjoy mud rather than pure water). 

14. Night-ramblers, magicians, Bacchants, Maenads, Mystics: the rites accepted by mankind in the Mysteries are an unholy performance. 

15. If it were not in honour of Dionysus that they conducted the procession and sang the hymn to the male organ (the phallic hymn), their activity would be completely shameless. But Hades is the same as Dionysus, in whose honour they rave and perform the Bacchic revels. 

16. How could anyone hide from that which never sets? 

17. For many men—those who encounter such things—do not understand them, and do not grasp them after they have learnt; but to themselves they seem (to understand). 

18. If one does not hope, one will not find the unhoped-for, since there is no trail leading to it and no path. 

19. Men who do not know how to listen or how to speak. 

20. When they are born, they are willing to live and accept their fate (death); and they leave behind children to become victims of fate. 

21. All that we see when we have wakened is death; all that we see while slumbering is sleep. 

22. Those who seek gold dig much earth and find little. 

23. They would not know the name of Right, if these things (i.e. the opposite) did not exist. 

24. Gods and men honour those slain in war. 

25. The greater the fate (death), the greater the reward. 

26. In the night, a man kindles a light because his sight is quenched; while living, he approximates to a dead man during sleep; while awake, he approximates to one who sleeps. 

27. There await men after they are dead things which they do not expect or imagine. 

28. The most wise-seeming man knows, (that is), preserves, only what seems; furthermore, retribution will seize the fabricators of lies and the (false) witnesses. 

29. The best men choose one thing rather than all else: everlasting fame among mortal men.4 The majority are satisfied, like well-fed cattle. 

30. This ordered universe (cosmos), which is the same for all, was not created by any one of the gods or of mankind, but it was ever and is and shall be ever-living Fire, kindled in measure and quenched in measure. 

31. The changes of fire: first, sea; and of sea, half is earth and half fiery water-spout … Earth is liquified into sea, and retains its measure according to the same Law as existed before it became earth. 

32. That which alone is wise is one; it is willing and unwilling to be called by the name of Zeus. 

33. To obey the will of one man is also Law (political law, Nomos). 

34. Not understanding, although they have heard, they are like the deaf. The proverb bears witness to them: 'Present yet absent.' 

35. Men who love wisdom must be inquirers into very many things indeed. 

36. To souls, it is death to become water; to water, it is death to become earth. From earth comes water, and from water, soul. 

37. Pigs wash themselves in mud, birds in dust or ashes. 

38. (Thales was the first to study astronomy). 

39. In Priene was born Bias son of Teutamos, whose fame (or, 'worth') is greater than that of the rest. 

40. Much learning does not teach one to have intelligence; for it would have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, and again, Xenophanes and Hecataeus. 

41. That which is wise is one: to understand the purpose which steers all things through all things. 

42. Homer deserves to be flung out of the contests and given a beating; and also Archilochus. 

43. One should quench arrogance rather than a conflagration. 

44. The people should fight for the Law (Nomos) as if for their city-wall. 

45. You could not in your going find the ends of the soul, though you travelled the whole way: so deep is its Law (Logos). 

46. Conceit: the sacred disease (i.e. epilepsy). 

47. Let us not conjecture at random about the greatest things. 

48. The bow is called Life, but its work is death. 

49. One man to me is (worth) ten thousand, if he is the best. 

49a. In the same river, we both step and do not step, we are and we are not. 

50. When you have listened, not to me but to the Law (Logos), it is wise to agree that all things are one. 

51. They do not understand how that which differs with itself is in agreement: harmony consists of opposing tension, like that of the bow and the lyre. 

52. Time is a child playing a game of draughts; the kingship is in the hands of a child. 

53. War is both king of all and father of all, and it has revealed some as gods, others as men; some it has made slaves, others free. 

54. The hidden harmony is stronger (or, 'better') than the visible. 

55. Those things of which there is sight, hearing, knowledge: these are what I honour most. 

56. Men are deceived over the recognition of visible things, in the same way as Homer, who was the wisest of all the Hellenes; for he too was deceived by boys killing lice, who said: 'What we saw and grasped, that we leave behind; but what we did not see and did not grasp, that we bring.' 

57. Hesiod is the teacher of very many, he who did not understand day and night: for they are one. 

58. For instance, physicians, who cut and burn, demand payment of a fee, though undeserving, since they produce the same (pains as the disease). 

59. For the fuller's screw, the way, straight and crooked, is one and the same. 

60. The way up and down is one and the same. 

61. Sea water is the purest and most polluted: for fish, it is drinkable and life-giving; for men, not drinkable and destructive. 

62. Immortals are mortal, mortals are immortal: (each) lives the death of the other, and dies their life. 

63. When he (God?) is there, they (the souls in Hades) arise and become watchful guardians of the living and the dead. 

64. The thunder-bolt (i.e. Fire) steers the universe. 

65. Need and satiety. 

66. Fire, having come upon them, will judge and seize upon (condemn) all things. 

67. God is day-night, winter-summer, war-peace, satiety-famine. But he changes like (fire) which when it mingles with the smoke of incense, is named according to each man's pleasure. 

68. (Heracleitus called the shameful rites of the Mysteries) Remedies. 

69. (There are two sorts of sacrifice: one kind offered by men entirely purified, as sometimes occurs, though rarely, in an individual, or a few easy to number; the other kind material).

70. Children's toys (i.e. men's conjectures).

71. (One must remember also) the man who forgets which way the road leads. 

72. The Law (Logos): though men associate with it most closely, yet they are separated from it, and those things which they encounter daily seem to them strange. 

73. We must not act and speak like men asleep. 

74. (We must not act like) children of our parents. 

75. Those who sleep are workers and share in the activities going on in the universe. 

76. Fire lives the death of earth, and air lives the death of fire; water lives the death of air, earth that of water. 

77. It is delight, or rather death, to souls to become wet … We live their (the souls') death, and they (the souls) live our death. 

78. Human nature has no power of understanding; but the divine nature has it. 

79. Man is called childish compared with divinity, just as a boy compared with a man. 

80. One should know that war is general (universal) and jurisdiction is strife, and everything comes about by way of strife and necessity. 

83. (On Pythagoras). Original chief of wranglers. 

82. (The most handsome ape is ugly compared with the human race). 

83. (The wisest man will appear an ape in relation to God, both in wisdom and beauty and everything else). 

84a. It rests from change. (Elemental Fire in the human body). 

84b. It is a weariness to the same (elements forming the human body) to toil and to obey. 

85. It is hard to fight against impulse; whatever it wishes, it buys at the expense of the soul. 

86. (Most of what is divine) escapes recognition through unbelief. 

87. A foolish man is apt to be in a flutter at every word (or, 'theory': Logos). 

88. And what is in us is the same thing: living and dead, awake and sleeping, as well as young and old; for the latter (of each pair of opposites) having changed becomes the former, and this again having changed becomes the latter. 

89. To those who are awake, there is one ordered universe common (to all), whereas in sleep each man turns away (from this world) to one of his own. 

90. There is an exchange: all things for Fire and Fire for all things, like goods for gold and gold for goods. 

91. It is not possible to step twice into the same river. (It is impossible to touch the same mortal substance twice, but through the rapidity of change) they scatter and again combine (or rather, not even 'again' or 'later', but the combination and separation are simultaneous) and approach and separate. 

92. The Sibyl with raving mouth uttering her unlaughing, unadorned, unincensed words reaches out over a thousand years with her voice, through the (inspiration of the) god. 

93. The lord whose oracle is that at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals, but indicates. 

94. The sun will not transgress his measures; otherwise the Furies, ministers of Justice, will find him out. 

95. It is better to hide ignorance (though this is hard in relaxation and over wine). 

96. Corpses are more worthy to be thrown out than dung. 

97. Dogs bark at those whom they do not recognise. 

98. Souls have the sense of smell in Hades.

99. If there were no sun, so far as depended on the other stars it would be night. 

100. (The sun is in charge of the seasonal changes, and) the Hours (Seasons) that bring all things. 

101. I searched into myself. 

101a. The eyes are more exact witnesses than the ears. 

102. To God, all things are beautiful, good and just; but men have assumed some things to be unjust, others just. 

103. Beginning and end are general in the circumference of the circle. 

104. What intelligence or understanding have they? They believe the people's bards, and use as their teacher the populace, not knowing that 'the majority are bad, and the good are few'.

105. Homer was an astrologer. 

106. (Heracleitus reproached Hesiod for regarding some days as bad and others as good). Hesiod was unaware that the nature of every day is one. 

107. The eyes and ears are bad witnesses for men if they have barbarian souls. 

108. Of all those whose discourse I have heard, none arrives at the realisation that that which is wise is set apart from all things. 

109. See 95. 

110. It is not better for men to obtain all that they wish. 

111. Disease makes health pleasant and good, hunger satisfaction, weariness rest. 

I12. Moderation is the greatest virtue, and wisdom is to speak the truth and to act according to nature, paying heed (thereto). 

113. The thinking faculty is common to all. 

114. If we speak with intelligence, we must base our strength on that which is common to all, as the city on the Law (Nomos), and even more strongly. For all human laws are nourished by one, which is divine. For it governs as far as it will, and is sufficient for all, and more than enough. 

115. The soul has its own Law (Logos), which increases itself (i.e. grows according to its needs). 

116. All men have the capacity of knowing themselves and acting with moderation. 

117. A man, when he gets drunk, is led stumbling along by an immature boy, not knowing where he is going, having his soul wet. 

118. A dry (desiccated) soul is the wisest and best. 

119. Character for man is destiny. 

120. The limits of morning and evening are the Bear and, opposite the Bear, the boundary-mark of Zeus god of the clear sky. 

121. The Ephesians would do well to hang themselves, every adult man, and bequeath their City-State to adolescents, since they have expelled Hermodorus, the most valuable man among them, saying: 'Let us not have even one valuable man; but if we do, let him go elsewhere and live among others.' 

122. (Word for) Approximation. 

123. Nature likes to hide. 

124. The fairest universe is but a dust-heap piled up at random. 

125. The 'mixed drink' (Kykeon: mixture of wine, grated cheese and barley-meal) also separates if it is not stirred. 

125a. May wealth not fail you, men of Ephesus, so that you may be convicted of your wickedness! 

126. Cold things grow hot, hot things grow cold, the wet dries, the parched is moistened. 


PARMENIDES of ELEA was in his prime about 475 B.C. 

He wrote a poem in hexameter verse, addressed to his pupil Zeno; it was divided into three parts: the Prologue, the Way of Truth, the Way of Opinion. 

1. The mares which carry me conveyed me as far as my desire reached, when the goddesses who were driving had set me on the famous highway which bears a man who has knowledge through all the cities. Along this way I was carried; for by this way the exceedingly intelligent mares bore me, drawing the chariot, and the maidens directed the way. The axle in the naves gave forth a pipe-like sound as it glowed (for it was driven round by the two whirling circles (wheels) at each end) whenever the maidens, daughters of the Sun, having left the Palace of Night, hastened their driving towards the light, having pushed back their veils from their heads with their hands. 

There (in the Palace of Night) are the gates of the paths of Night and Day, and they are enclosed with a lintel above and a stone threshold below. The gates themselves are filled with great folding doors; and of these Justice, mighty to punish, has the interchangeable keys. The maidens, skillfully cajoling her with soft words, persuaded her to push back the bolted bar without delay from the gates; and these, flung open, revealed a wide gaping space, having swung their jambs, richly-wrought in bronze, reciprocally in their sockets. This way, then, straight through them went the maidens, driving chariot and mares along the carriage-road. 

And the goddess received me kindly, and took my right hand in hers, and thus she spoke and addressed me: 

'Young man, companion of immortal charioteers, who comest by the help of the steeds which bring thee to our dwelling: welcome!—since no evil fate has despatched thee on thy journey by this road (for truly it is far from the path trodden by mankind); no, it is divine command and Right. Thou shalt inquire into everything: both the motionless heart of well-rounded Truth, and also the opinions of mortals, in which there is no true reliability. But nevertheless thou shalt learn these things (opinions) also—how one should go through all the things-that-seem, without exception, and test them. 

2. Come, I will tell you—and you must accept my word when you have heard it—the ways of inquiry which alone are to be thought: the one that IT IS, and it is not possible for IT NOT TO BE, is the way of credibility, for it follows Truth; the other, that IT IS NOT, and that IT is bound NOT TO BE: this I tell you is a path that cannot be explored; for you could neither recognise that which is NOT, nor express it. 

3. For it is the same thing to think and to be. 

4. Observe nevertheless how things absent are securely present to the mind; for it will not sever Being from its connection with Being, whether it is scattered everywhere utterly throughout the universe, or whether it is collected together. 

5. It is all the same to me from what point I begin, for I shall return again to this same point. 

6. One should both say and think that Being Is; for To Be is possible, and Nothingness is not possible. This I command you to consider; for from the latter way of search first of all I debar you. But next I debar you from that way along which wander mortals knowing nothing, two-headed, for perplexity in their bosoms steers their intelligence astray, and they are carried along as deaf as they are blind, amazed, uncritical hordes, by whom To Be and Not To Be are regarded as the same and not the same, and (for whom) in everything there is a way of opposing stress. 

7, 8. For this (view) can never predominate, that That Which Is Not exists. You must debar your thought from this way of search, nor let ordinary experience in its variety force you along this way, (namely, that of allowing) the eye, sightless as it is, and the ear, full of sound, and the tongue, to rule; but (you must) judge by means of the Reason (Logos) the much-contested proof which is expounded by me. 

There is only one other description of the way remaining, (namely), that (What Is) Is. To this way there are very many sign-posts: that Being has no coming-into-being and no destruction, for it is whole of limb, without motion, and without end. And it never Was, nor Will Be, because it Is now, a Whole all together, One, continuous; for what creation of it will you look for? How, whence (could it have) sprung? Nor shall I allow you to speak or think of it as springing from Not-Being; for it is neither expressible nor thinkable that What-Is-Not Is. Also, what necessity impelled it, if it did spring from Nothing, to be produced later or earlier? Thus it must Be absolutely, or not at all. Nor will the force of credibility ever admit that anything should come into being, beside Being itself, out of Not-Being. So far as that is concerned, Justice has never released (Being) in its fetters and set it free either to come into being or to perish, but holds it fast. The decision on these matters depends on the following: IT IS, or IT IS NOT. It is therefore decided—as is inevitable—(that one must) ignore the one way as unthinkable and inexpressible (for it is no true way) and take the other as the way of Being and Reality. How could Being perish? How could it come into being? If it came into being, it Is Not; and so too if it is about-to-be at some future time. Thus Coming-into-Being is quenched, and Destruction also into the unseen. 

Nor is Being divisible, since it is all alike. Nor is there anything (here or) there which could prevent it from holding together, nor any lesser thing, but all is full of Being. Therefore it is altogether continuous; for Being is close to Being. 

But it is motionless in the limits of mighty bonds, without beginning, without cease, since Becoming and Destruction have been driven very far away, and true conviction has rejected them. And remaining the same in the same place, it rests by itself and thus remains there fixed; for powerful Necessity holds it in the bonds of a Limit, which constrains it round about, because it is decreed by divine law that Being shall not be without boundary. For it is not lacking; but if it were (spatially infinite), it would be lacking everything. 

To think is the same as the thought that It Is; for you will not find thinking without Being, in (regard to) which there is an expression. For nothing else either is or shall be except Being, since Fate has tied it down to be a whole and motionless; therefore all things that mortals have established, believing in their truth, are just a name: Becoming and Perishing, Being and Not-Being, and Change of position, and alteration of bright colour. 

But since there is a (spatial) Limit, it is complete on every side, like the mass of a well-rounded sphere, equally balanced from its centre in every direction; for it is not bound to be at all either greater or less in this direction or that; nor is there Not-Being which could check it from reaching to the same point, nor is it possible for Being to be more in this direction, less in that, than Being, because it is an inviolate whole. For, in all directions equal to itself, it reaches its limits uniformly. 

At this point I cease my reliable theory (Logos) and thought, concerning Truth; from here onwards you must learn the opinions of mortals, listening to the deceptive order of my words. 

They have established (the custom of) naming two forms, one of which ought not to be (mentioned): that is where they have gone astray. They have distinguished them as opposite in form, and have marked them off from another by giving them different signs: on one side the flaming fire in the heavens, mild, very light (in weight), the same as itself in every direction, and not the same as the other. This (other) also is by itself and opposite: dark Night, a dense and heavy body. This world-order I describe to you throughout as it appears with all its phenomena, in order that no intellect of mortal men may outstrip you. 

9. But since all things are named Light and Night, and names have been given to each class of things according to the power of one or the other (Light or Night), everything is full equally of Light and invisible Night, as both are equal, because to neither of them belongs any share (of the other). 

10. You shall know the nature of the heavens, and all the signs in the heavens, and the destructive works of the pure bright torch of the sun, and whence they came into being. And you shall learn of the wandering works of the round-faced moon, and its nature; and you shall know also the surrounding heaven, whence it sprang and how Necessity brought and constrained it to hold the limits of the stars. 

11. (I will describe) how earth and sun and moon, and the aether common to all, and the Milky Way in the heavens, and outermost Olympus, and the hot power of the stars, hastened to come into being. 

12. For the narrower rings were filled with unmixed Fire, and those next to them with Night, but between (these) rushes the portion of Flame. And in the centre of these is the goddess who guides everything; for throughout she rules over cruel Birth and Mating, sending the female to mate with the male, and conversely again the male with the female. 

13. First of all the gods she devised Love. 

14. (The moon): Shining by night with a light not her own, wandering round the earth. 

15. (The moon): Always gazing towards the rays of the sun. 

15a. (Earth): Rooted in water. 

16. For according to the mixture of much-wandering limbs which each man has, so is the mind which is associated with mankind: for it is the same thing which thinks, namely the constitution of the limbs in men, all and individually; for it is excess which makes Thought. 

17. On the right, boys, on the left, girls … (in the womb). 

18. When a woman and a man mix the seeds of Love together, the power (of the seeds) which shapes (the embryo) in the veins out of different blood can mould well-constituted bodies only if it preserves proportion. For if the powers war (with each other) when the seed is mixed, and do not make a unity in the body formed by the mixture, they will terribly harass the growing (embryo) through the twofold seed of the (two) sexes. 

19. Thus, therefore, according to opinion, were these things created, and are now, and shall hereafter from henceforth grow and then come to an end. And for these things men have established a name as a distinguishing mark for each. 


Empedocles of Acragas was in his prime about 450 B.C. 

He wrote two poems in hexameter verses: On Nature, addressed to his pupil Pausanias, and Katharmoi (Purifications), addressed to his fellow-citizens of Acragas.


1. Pausanias, but you must listen, son of wise Anchites! 

2. For limited are the means of grasping (i.e. the organs of sense perception) which are scattered throughout their limbs, and many are the miseries that press in and blunt the thoughts. And having looked at (only) a small part of existence during their lives, doomed to perish swiftly like smoke they are carried aloft and wafted away, believing only that upon which as individuals they chance to hit as they wander in all directions; but every man preens himself on having found the Whole: so little are these things to be seen by men or to be heard, or to be comprehended by the mind! But you, since you have come here into retirement, shall learn—not more than mortal intellect can attain. 

3. But, ye gods, avert from my tongue the madness of those men, and guide forth from my reverent lips a pure stream! I beseech thee also, much-wooed white-armed maiden Muse, convey (to me) such knowledge as divine law allows us creatures of a day to hear, driving the well-harnessed car from (the realm of) Piety! 

Nor shall the flowers of honour paid to fame by mortals force you at least to accept them on condition that you rashly say more than is holy—and are thereupon enthroned on the heights of wisdom! 

But come, observe with every means, to see by which way each thing is clear, and do not hold any (percept of) sight higher in credibility than (those) according to hearing, nor (set) the loud-sounding hearing above the evidence of the tongue (taste); nor refuse credence at all to any of the other limbs where there exists a path for perception, but use whatever way of perception makes each thing clear. 

4. But it is of great concern to the lower orders to mistrust the powerful; however, as the trustworthy evidence of my Muse commands, grasp (these things), when my reasoned argument has been sifted in your innermost heart! 

5. To protect it within your silent bosom. 

6. Hear, first, the four roots of things: bright Zeus, and life-bearing Hera, and Aidoneus, and Nestis who causes a mortal spring of moisture to flow with her tears. 

7. (The Elements): uncreated. 

8. And I shall tell you another thing: there is no creation of substance in any one of mortal existences, nor any end in execrable death, but only mixing and exchange of what has been mixed; and the name 'substance' (Phusis, 'nature') is applied to them by mankind. 

9. But men, when these (the Elements) have been mixed in the form of a man and come into the light, or in the form of a species of wild animals, or plants, or birds, then say that this has 'come into being'; and when they separate, this men call sad fate (death). The terms that Right demands they do not use; but through custom I myself also apply these names. 

10. Death the Avenger. 

11. Fools!—for they have no long-sighted thoughts, since they imagine that what previously did not exist comes into being, or that a thing dies and is utterly destroyed. 

12. From what in no wise exists, it is impossible for anything to come into being; and for Being to perish completely is incapable of fulfilment and unthinkable; for it will always be there, wherever anyone may place it on any occasion. 

13. Nor is there any part of the Whole that is empty or overfull. 

14. No part of the Whole is empty; so whence could anything additional come? 

15. A wise man would not conjecture such things in his heart, namely, that so long as they are alive (which they call Life), they exist, and experience bad and good fortune; but that before mortals were combined (out of the Elements) and after they were dissolved, they are nothing at all. 

16. (Love and Hate): As they were formerly, so also will they be, and never, I think, shall infinite Time be emptied of these two. 

17. I shall tell of a double (process): at one time it increased so as to be a single One out of Many; at another time again it grew apart so as to be Many out of One. There is a double creation of mortals and a double decline: the union of all things causes the birth and destruction of the one (race of mortals), the other is reared as the elements grow apart, and then flies asunder. And these (elements) never cease their continuous exchange, sometimes uniting under the influence of Love, so that all become One, at other times again each moving apart through the hostile force of Hate. Thus in so far as they have the power to grow into One out of Many, and again, when the One grows apart and Many are formed, in this sense they come into being and have no stable life; but in so far as they never cease their continuous exchange, in this sense they remain always unmoved (unaltered) as they follow the cyclic process. 

But come, listen to my discourse! For be assured, learning will increase your understanding. As I said before, revealing the aims of my discourse, I shall tell you of a double process. At one time it increased so as to be a single One out of Many; at another time it grew apart so as to be Many out of One—Fire and Water and Earth and the boundless height of Air, and also execrable Hate apart from these, of equal weight in all directions, and Love in their midst, their equal in length and breadth. Observe her with your mind, and do not sit with wondering eyes! She it is who is believed to be implanted in mortal limbs also; through her they think friendly thoughts and perform harmonious actions, calling her Joy and Aphrodite. No mortal man has perceived her as she moves in and out among them. But you must listen to the undeceitful progress of my argument. 

All these (Elements) are equal and of the same age in their creation; but each presides over its own office, and each has its own character, and they prevail in turn in the course of Time. And besides these, nothing else comes into being, nor does anything cease. For if they had been perishing continuously, they would Be no more; and what could increase the Whole? And whence could it have come? In what direction could it perish, since nothing is empty of these things? No, but these things alone exist, and running through one another they become different things at different times, and are ever continuously the same. 

18. Love (Philia). 

19. Adhesive Love (Philotes). 

20. This process is clearly to be seen throughout the mass of mortal limbs: sometimes through Love all the limbs which the body has as its lot come together into One, in the prime of flourishing life; at another time again, sundered by evil feuds, they wander severally by the breakers of the shore of life. Likewise too with shrub-plants and fish in their watery dwelling, and beasts with mountain lairs and diver-birds that travel on wings. 

21. But come, observe the following witness to my previous discourse, lest in my former statements there was any substance of which the form was missing. Observe the sun, bright to see and hot everywhere, and all the immortal things (heavenly bodies) drenched with its heat and brilliant light; and (observe) the rain, dark and chill over everything; and from the Earth issue forth things based on the soil and solid. But in (the reign of) Wrath they are all different in form and separate, while in (the reign of) Love they come together and long for one another. For from these (Elements) come all things that were and are and will be; and trees spring up, and men and women, and beasts and birds and water-nurtured fish, and even the long-lived gods who are highest in honour. For these (Elements) alone exist, but by running through one another they become different; to such a degree does mixing change them. 

22. For all these things—beaming Sun and Earth and Heaven and Sea—are connected in harmony with their own parts: all those (parts) which have been sundered from them and exist in mortal limbs. Similarly all those things which are more suitable for mixture are made like one another and united in affection by Aphrodite. But those things which differ most from one another in origin and mixture and the forms in which they are moulded are completely unaccustomed to combine, and are very baneful because of the commands of Hate, in that Hate has wrought their origin. 

23. As when painters decorate temple-offerings with colours—men who, following their intelligence, are well-skilled in their craft—these, when they take many-coloured pigments in their hands, and have mixed them in a harmony, taking more of some, less of another, create from them forms like to all things, making trees and men and women and animals and birds and fish nurtured in water, and even long-lived gods, who are highest in honour; so let not Deception compel your mind (to believe) that there is any other source for mortals, as many as are to be seen existing in countless numbers. But know this for certain, since you have the account from a divinity. 

24. …Touching on summit after summit, not to follow a single path of discourse to the end. 

25. For what is right can well be uttered even twice. 

26. In turn they get the upper hand in the revolving cycle, and perish into one another and increase in the turn appointed by Fate. For they alone exist, but running through one another they become men and the tribes of other animals, sometimes uniting under the influence of Love into one ordered Whole, at other times again each moving apart through the hostile force of Hate, until growing together into the Whole which is One, they are quelled. Thus in so far as they have the power to grow into One out of Many, and again, when the One grows apart and Many are formed, in this sense they come into being and have no stable life; but in so far as they never cease their continuous exchange, in this sense they remain always unmoved (unaltered) as they follow the cyclic process. 

27. (The Sphere under the dominion of Love): Therein are articulated neither the swift limbs of the sun, nor the shaggy might of Earth, nor the sea: so firmly is it (the Whole) fixed in a close-set secrecy, a rounded Sphere enjoying a circular solitude. 

27a. There is no strife nor unseemly war in his limbs. 

28. But he (God) is equal in all directions to himself and altogether eternal, a rounded Sphere enjoying a circular solitude. 

29. For there do not start two branches from his back; (he has) no feet, no swift knees, no organs of reproduction; but he was a Sphere, and in all directions equal to himself. 

30. But when great Hate had been nourished in its limbs, and had rushed up into honour, when the time was fulfilled which, alternating, is fixed for them (Love and Hate) by a broad oath… 

31. For all the limbs of the god trembled in succession. 

32. The joint connects two things. 

33. As when fig juice binds white milk… 

34. Having kneaded together barley-meal with water… 

35. But I will go back to the path of song which I formerly laid down, drawing one argument from another: that (path which shows how) when Hate has reached the bottommost abyss of the eddy, and when Love reaches the middle of the whirl, then in it (the whirl) all these things come together so as to be One—not all at once, but voluntarily uniting, some from one quarter, others from another. And as they mixed, there poured forth countless races of mortals. But many things stand unmixed side by side with the things mixing—all those which Hate (still) aloft checked, since it had not yet faultlessly withdrawn from the Whole to the outermost limits of the circle, but was remaining in some places, and in other places departing from the limbs (of the Sphere). But in so far as it went on quietly streaming out, to the same extent there was entering a benevolent immortal inrush of faultless Love. And swiftly those things became mortal which previously had experienced immortality, and things formerly unmixed became mixed, changing their paths. And as they mixed, there poured forth countless races of mortals, equipped with forms of every sort, a marvel to behold. 

36. As they came together, Hate returned to the outermost (bound). 

37. (Fire increases Fire), Earth increases its own substance, Aether (increases) Aether. 

38. Come now, I will first tell you of (the sun) the beginning, (the Elements) from which all the things we now look upon came forth into view: Earth, and the sea with many waves, and damp Air, and the Titan Aether which clasps the circle all round. 

39. If the depths of the earth were unlimited, and also the vast Aether, a doctrine which has foolishly issued forth off the tongues of many, and has been spread abroad out of their mouths, since they have seen only a little of the Whole … 

40. Sharp-shooting sun and gracious moon. 

41. But (the sun) collected in a ball travels round the great sky. 

42. (The moon) cuts off his (the sun's) rays, whenever she goes below him, and she throws a shadow on as much of the Earth as is the breadth of the bright-eyed moon. 

43. Thus the ray (of sunshine) having struck the broad surface of the moon (returns at once in order that, running, it may reach the heavens). 

44. (The Sun, having been round the Earth, by reflection from the heavenly light) flashes back to Olympus with serene countenance. 

45. There whirls round the Earth a circular borrowed light. 

46. As the nave of the chariot (-wheel) whirls round the goal, (so does the moon circle closely round the Earth). 

47. She gazes at the sacred circle of her lord (the sun) opposite. 

48. It is the Earth that makes night by coming in the way of the (sun's) rays. 

49. Of night, lonely, blind-eyed. 

50. Iris brings from the sea a wind or a great rain-storm. 

51. Mightily upwards (rushes Fire). 

52. Many fires burn below the surface (of the Earth). 

53. For so (the Aether) chanced to be running at that time, though often differently. 

54. (Fire by nature rose upwards), but Aether sank down with long roots upon the Earth. 

55. Sea, the sweat of Earth. 

56. Salt was solidified, pressed by the forceful rays (of the sun). 

57. On it (Earth) many foreheads without necks sprang forth, and arms wandered unattached, bereft of shoulders, and eyes strayed about alone, needing brows. 

58. Limbs wandered alone. 

59. But as the one divinity became more and more mingled with the other (i.e. Love and Hate), these things fell together as each chanced, and many other things in addition to these were continuously produced. 

60. Creatures with rolling gait and innumerable hands. 

61. Many creatures were created with a face and breast on both sides; offspring of cattle with the fronts of men, and again there arose offspring of men with heads of cattle; and (creatures made of elements) mixed in part from men, in part of female sex, furnished with hairy limbs. 

62. Come now, hear how the Fire as it was separated sent up the night-produced shoots of men and much-lamenting women; for my tale is not wide of the mark nor ill-informed. At first, undifferentiated shapes of earth arose, having a share of both elements Water and Heat. These the Fire sent up, wishing to reach its like, but they did not yet exhibit a lovely body with limbs, nor the voice and organ such as is proper to men. 

63. But the substance of (the child's) limbs is divided (between them), part in the man's (body and part in the woman's). 

64. Upon him comes Desire also, reminding him through sight. 

65. And they (male and female seed) were poured into the pure parts. Some of it forms women, (namely) that which has encountered Cold, (and conversely that which encounters Hot produces males). 

66. The divided meadows of Aphrodite. 

67. For in the warmer part the stomach (i.e. the womb) is productive of the male, and for this reason men are swarthy and more powerfully built and more shaggy. 

68. On the tenth day of the eighth month (the blood) becomes a white putrefaction (milk). 

69. Double-bearing: (women, as bearing in both the seventh and the ninth months). 

70. Sheepskin: (the membrane, or caul, round the unborn child). 

71. But if your belief concerning these matters was at all lacking—how from the mixture of Water, Earth, Aether and Sun (Fire) there came into being the forms and colours of mortal things in such numbers as now exist fitted together by Aphrodite… 

72. How also tall trees and fish of the sea…

73. And as at that time Cypris, when she had drenched earth with rain-water, busying herself in preparation of the forms, gave them to swift Fire to strengthen them…

74. (Aphrodite): bringing the tuneless tribe of prolific fish. 

75. Of (the animals), those that are of dense composition on the outside and rare within, having received this flabbiness under the hands of Cypris … 

76. This is (found) in the hard-backed shells of the sea-dwellers, especially the sea-snails and the stone-skinned turtles. There you will see earth dwelling on the surface of the flesh. 

77, 78. (Trees) retentive of their leaves and retentive of their fruit, flourish with abundance of fruit all the year round, in accordance with the Air (i.e. Vapour, Moisture, in their composition). 

79. Thus eggs are borne, first by the tall olive trees … 

80… .Which is the reason why pomegranates are late-ripening and apples remain juicy for so long(?). 

81. Wine is the water from the bark, after it has fermented in the wood. 

82. Hair, and leaves, and the close feathers of birds, and the scales that grow on stout limbs, are the same thing. 

83. But hedgehogs have sharp-shooting hairs that bristle on their backs. 

84. As when a man, thinking to make an excursion through a stormy night, prepares a lantern, a flame of burning fire, fitting lantern-plates to keep out every sort of winds, and these plates disperse the breath of the blowing winds; but the light leaps out through them, in so far as it is finer, and shines across the threshold with unwearying beams: so at that time did the aboriginal Fire, confined in membranes and in fine tissues, hide itself in the round pupils; and these (tissues) were pierced throughout with marvellous passages. They kept out the deep reservoir of water surrounding the pupil, but let the Fire through (from within) outwards, since it was so much finer. 

85. But the benevolent flame (of the eye) happened to obtain only a slight admixture of Earth. 

86… . Out of which (Elements) divine Aphrodite built tireless eyes. 

87. Aphrodite, having fastened them (eyes) together with clamps of affection … 

88. One vision is produced by both (eyes). 

89. Realising that from all created things there are effluences … 

90. Thus sweet seized on sweet, bitter rushed towards bitter, sour moved towards sour, and hot settled upon hot. 

91. (Water is) more able to agree with wine, but unwilling (to mix) with oil. 

92. (The sterility of mules is due to the quality of their seed: both the male and female seed are soft substances which when mixed produce a hard substance, as when) brass is mixed with tin. 

93. The berry of the grey elder mingles with the linen. 

94. And the black colour in the bottom of a river arises from the shadow, and the same thing is seen in deep caves. 

95. When first they (the eyes) grew together in the hands of Cypris … (explanation of why some creatures see better by day, others by night). 

96. But the Earth obligingly in its broad vessels received two parts out of the eight of shining Nestis, four of Hephaestus. And these became the white bones fitted together by the cementing of Harmony, divinely originated. 

97. The spine (acquired its present form by being broken when the animal turned its neck). 

98. The Earth, having been finally moored in the harbours of Love, joined with these in about equal proportions: with Hephaestus, with moisture, and with all-shining Aether, either a little more (of Earth) or a little less to their more. And from these came blood and the forms of other flesh. 

99. (The ear is a kind of) bell. (It is) a fleshy shoot. 

100. The way everything breathes in and out is as follows: all (creatures) have tubes of flesh, empty of blood, which extend over the surface of the body; and at the mouths of these tubes the outermost surface of the skin is perforated with frequent pores, so as to keep in the blood while a free way is cut for the passage of the air. Thus, when the thin blood flows back from here, the air, bubbling, rushes in in a mighty wave; and when the blood leaps up (to the surface), there is an expiration of air. As when a girl, playing with a water-catcher of shining brass—when, having placed the mouth of the pipe on her well-shaped hand she dips the vessel into the yielding substance of silvery water, still the volume of air pressing from inside on the many holes keeps out the water, until she uncovers the condensed stream (of air). Then at once when the air flows out, the water flows in in an equal quantity. Similarly, when water occupies the depths of the brazen vessel, and the opening or passage is stopped by the human flesh (hand), and the air outside, striving to get in, checks the water, by controlling the surface at the entrance of the noisy strainer until she lets go with her hand: then again, in exactly the opposite way from what happened before, as the air rushes in, the water flows out in equal volume. Similarly when the thin blood, rushing through the limbs, flows back into the interior, straightway a stream of air flows in with a rush; and when the blood flows up again, again there is a breathing-out in equal volume. 

101… . Tracking down with its nostrils the portions of animal limbs, all those (portions) that, when living, they left behind from their feet on the tender grass. 

102. Thus all (creatures) have a share of breathing and smell. 

103. Thus all (creatures) have intelligence, by the will of Fortune. 

104. And in so far as the rarest things came together in their fall … 

105. (The heart) nourished in the seas of blood which courses in two opposite directions: this is the place where is found for the most part what men call Thought; for the blood round the heart is Thought in mankind. 

106. The intelligence of Man grows towards the material that is present. 

107. For from these (Elements) are all things fitted and fixed together, and by means of these do men think, and feel pleasure and sorrow. 

108. In so far as their natures have changed (during the day), so does it befall men to think changed thoughts (in their dreams). 

109. We see Earth by means of Earth, Water by means of Water, divine Air by means of Air, and destructive Fire by means of Fire; Affection by means of Affection, Hate by means of baneful Hate. 

109a. (Reflections are emanations on to the mirror from the objects mirrored). 

110. If you press them (these truths?) deep into your firm mind, and contemplate them with good will and a studious care that is pure, these things will all assuredly remain with you throughout your life; and you will obtain many other things from them; for these things of themselves cause each (element) to increase in the character, according to the way of each man's nature. But if you intend to grasp after different things such as dwell among men in countless numbers and blunt their thoughts, miserable (trifles), certainly these things will quickly desert you in the course of time, longing to return to their own original kind. For all things, be assured, have intelligence and a portion of Thought. 

111. You shall learn all the drugs that exist as a defence against illness and old age; for you alone will I accomplish all this. You shall check the force of the unwearying winds which rush upon the earth with their blasts and lay waste the cultivated fields. And again, if you wish, you shall conduct the breezes back again. You shall create a seasonable dryness after the dark rain for mankind, and again you shall create after summer drought the streams that nourish the trees and [which will flow in the sky]. And you shall bring out of Hades a dead man restored to strength. 


112. Friends, who dwell in the great town on the city's heights, looking down on yellow Acragas, you who are occupied with good deeds, who are harbours (of refuge) treating foreigners with respect, and who are unacquainted with wickedness: greeting! I go about among you as an immortal god, no longer a mortal, held in honour by all, as I seem (to them to deserve), crowned with fillets and flowing garlands. When I come to them in their flourishing towns, to men and women, I am honoured; and they follow me in thousands, to inquire where is the path of advantage, some desiring oracles, while others ask to hear a word of healing for their manifold diseases, since they have long been pierced with cruel pains. 

113. But why do I lay stress on these things, as if I were achieving something great in that I surpass mortal men who are liable to many forms of destruction? 

114. Friends, I know that Truth is present in the story that I shall tell; but it is actually very difficult for men, and the impact of conviction on their minds is unwelcome. 

115. There is an oracle of Necessity, an ancient decree of the gods, eternal, sealed fast with broad oaths, that when one of the divine spirits whose portion is long life sinfully stains his own limbs with bloodshed, and following Hate has sworn a false oath—these must wander for thrice ten thousand seasons far from the company of the blessed, being born throughout the period into all kinds of mortal shapes, which exchange one hard way of life for another. For the mighty Air chases them into the Sea, and the Sea spews them forth on to the dry land, and the Earth (drives them) towards the rays of the blazing Sun; and the Sun hurls them into the eddies of the Aether. One (Element) receives them from the other, and all loathe them. Of this number am I too now, a fugitive from heaven and a wanderer, because I trusted in raging Hate. 

116. (The Grace) loathes intolerable Necessity. 

117. For by now I have been born as boy, girl, plant, bird, and dumb sea-fish. 

118. I wept and wailed when I saw the unfamiliar land (at birth). 

119. How great the honour, how deep the happiness from which (I am exiled)! 

120. 'We have come into this roofed cavern.' (Spoken by those who escort the souls to Earth). 

121. … The joyless land where are Murder and Wrath and the tribes of other Dooms, and Wasting Diseases and Corruptions and the Works of Dissolution wander over the Meadow of Disaster in the darkness. 

122. Here were the Earth-Mother (Chthonie) and the farseeing Sunshine-Nymph (Heliope), bloody Discord, and Harmony with her serious mien, Beauty and Ugliness, the Speed-Nymph and the Nymph of Delay; and lovely Infallibility and dark-eyed Uncertainty. 

123. (The female figures) Growth and Decay, Rest and Waking, Movement and Immobility, much-crowned Majesty, and Defilement, Silence and Voice. 

124. Alas, oh wretched race of mortals, direly unblessed! Such are the conflicts and groanings from which you have been born! 

125. For from living creatures he made them dead, changing their forms, (and from dead, living). 

126. (A female divinity) clothing (the soul) in the unfamiliar tunic of flesh. 

127. In the (realm of) animals they become lions that have their lair in the mountains, and their bed on the ground; and in (the realm of) fair-tressed trees, (they become) laurels. 

128. And for them there was no god Ares, nor Battle-Din, nor Zeus the King, nor Cronos nor Poseidon, but only Cypris the Queen. These men sought to please her with pious gifts—with painted animals and perfumes of cunningly-devised smell, with sacrifice of unmixed myrrh and of fragrant incense, and by casting libations of yellow honey on the ground. And the altar was not drenched with the unmixed blood of bulls, but this was the greatest pollution among men, to devour the goodly limbs (of animals) whose life they had reft from them. 

129. There was living among them a man of surpassing knowledge, who had acquired the extremest wealth of the intellect, one expert in every kind of skilled activity. For whenever he reached out with his whole intellect, he easily discerned each one of existing things, in ten and even twenty lifetimes of mankind. 

130. And all creatures, both animals and birds, were tame and gentle towards men, and friendliness glowed between them. 

131. If for the sake of any mortal, immortal Muse, it has pleased thee that my poetic endeavours should be of concern to thee, now once again, in answer to my prayer, stand beside me, Calliopeia, as I expound a good theory concerning the blessed gods! 

132. Happy is he who has acquired the riches of divine thoughts, but wretched the man in whose mind dwells an obscure opinion about the gods! 

133. It is not possible to bring God near within reach of our eyes, nor to grasp him with our hands, by which route the broadest road of Persuasion runs into the human mind. 

134. For he is not equipped with a human head on his body, nor from his back do two branches start; (he has) no feet, no swift knees, no hairy genital organs; but he is Mind, holy and ineffable, and only Mind, which darts through the whole universe with its swift thoughts. 

135. But that which is lawful for all extends continuously through the broad-ruling Air and through the boundless Light. 

136. Will ye not cease from this harsh-sounding slaughter? Do you not see that you are devouring one another in the thoughtlessness of your minds? 

137. The father having lifted up the son slaughters him with a prayer, in his great folly. But they are troubled at sacrificing one who begs for mercy. But he, on the other hand, deaf to (the victim's) cries, slaughters him in his halls and prepares the evil feast. Likewise son takes father, and children their mother, and tearing out the life, eat the flesh of their own kin. 

138. Having drained off their life with bronze … 

139. (Hymn of repentance for sins of diet): 'Alas that a pitiless day did not destroy me before I planned evil deeds of eating with my lips!' 

140. Keep entirely away from laurel-leaves! 

141. Wretches, utter wretches, keep your hands off beans! 

142. Him will the roofed palace of aegis-bearing Zeus never receive, nor yet the roof of Hades and of the piteous voice. [*1] 

143. (Wash the hands) cutting off (water) from five springs into (a vessel of) enduring bronze. 

144. To fast from sin. 

145. Therefore you are distraught with dire sins, and shall never ease your heart of your grievous sorrows! 

146. And at the last they become seers, and bards, and physicians, and princes among earth-dwelling men, from which (state) they blossom forth as gods highest in honour. 

147. Sharing the hearth of the other immortals, sharing the same table, freed from the lot of human griefs, indestructible. 

148. Earth that envelops mortals (the body). 

149. Cloud-gathering Air. 

150. Full-blooded liver.

151. Life-giving Aphrodite. 

152. (Old age, the evening of life; evening, the old age of the day: a similar metaphor in Empedocles) 

153a. In seven times seven days (the unborn child is formed).