Socrates and his successors Plato and Aristotle are perhaps the best known and most influential philosophers of ancient Greece. Nevertheless, Greek philosophy had already been flourishing for more than a century prior to the birth of Socrates (said to be in 469 BC). These Greek philosophers who were practicing their craft prior to the arrival of Socrates are today known collectively as the ‘Pre-Socratic philosophers.’ They would strongly influence the thoughts of Socrates himself, as well as other Greek philosophers. One of the most interesting of these Pre-Socratic philosophers was Empedocles of Acragas.
The Many Trades of Empedocles
Empedocles was born in the Greek city of Acragas (also known in Latin as ‘Agrigentum’ and in Italian as ‘Agrigento’), which is located on the southern coast of Sicily, around 490 BC. Empedocles is believed to have come from a wealthy family and he was more than just a philosopher. In the words of a modern scholar:
“Empedocles sparkles like a diamond among the Pre-Socratics – many-faceted and appearing different from different directions. A poet and a politician, a physician and a philosopher, a scientist and a seer, a showman and a charlatan…”