Who breathes and smells according to Empedocles?

On the παντα of fr. 96. 1 Gallavotti

Keywords: Empedocles, Theory of respiration, History of medicine, Ethics, Theology


Aristotle (Resp. 473a-474a), Theophrastus (Sens. 9 and 20-22) and Demetrius of Laco (PHerc. 1012, col. 65) preserve Empedocles’ extensive account in verses of the mechanism of breathing and smell. However, this explanation does not explicitly say how many living beings actually possess such a faculty. Empedocles just begins his account with the claim that “everyone” (πάντα) breathes and smells, which is an ambiguous claim. It could mean both that every living being can inhale air and odor, or that only all those living beings whose respiratory organs are structured as outlined in Empedocles’ verses can do so. I will argue in favor of the first hypothesis, by studying Empedocles’ usus scribendi and his use of the word πάντα in other contexts. After this, I will try to defend the possibility that Empedocles’ knowledge of the mechanism of breathing and smell may have been used: 1) to heal men and women, 2) to claim that all living beings are akin, since they inhale the same air, 3) to experience the divine through some special olfactory experiences.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Enrico Piergiacomi, Università di Trento

Ex PhD student at the University of Trento, with a joint supervision with the "Sapienza" University of Rome


ANDÒ, V. (2000) (a cura di). Ippocrate. Natura della donna. Milano, Bur.
ARATA, L. (1995). Sul frammento 100 D.-K. di Empedocle. SCO 45, p. 65-84.
BALTUSSEN, H. (2000). Theophrastus against the Presocratics & Plato. Peripatetic Dialectic in the De sensu. Leiden & Boston & Köln, Brill.
BALTUSSEN, H. (2015). Ancient philosophers on the sense of smell. In: BRADLEY, M. (ed.). Smell and the ancient senses. London & New York. Routledge, p. 30-45.
BARNES, J. (1986). The Presocratic Philosophers. London, Routledge.
BASTIANINI, G.; DECLEVA CAIZZI, F. (1989). Antipho: POxy 1364 + 3647 e POxy 1797: De veritate. In: AA.VV.. Corpus dei papiri filosofici greci e latini (CPF). Parte I: Autori noti. Vol. 1. Firenze, Leo Olschki, p. 176-223.
BERTIER, J. (1972) (éd.). Mnésithée et Dieuchès. Leiden, Brill.
BIGNONE, E. (1916). Empedocle. Torino, Fratelli Bocca.
BODIOUS, L.; MEHL, V. (2008). Sociologie des odeurs en pays Grec. In: BODIOU, L., FRÈRE, D., MEHL, V. (éds.). Parfums et odeurs dans l’antiquité. Rennes, Presses Universitaires des Rennes, p. 141163.
BOLLACK, J. (1965). Empédocle (I). Introduction à l’ancienne physique. Paris, Les Editions de Minuit.
BOLLACK, J. (1969). Empédocle (II, III.1, III.2). Les Origines. Paris, Les Edition de Minuit.
BOOTH, N. B. (1960). Empedocles’ Account of Breathing. JHS 80, p. 10-15.
BOOTH, N. B. (1976). A Mistake to be Avoided in the Interpretation of Empedocles fr. 100. JHS 96, p. 147-148.
BYL, S. (1989). L’odeur végétale dans la thérapeutique gynécologique du Corpus hippocratique. RBPh 67, p. 53-64.
CAMPBELL, G. (2008). ‘And bright was the flame of their friendship’ (Empedocles B130): humans, animals, justice, and friendship, in Lucretius and Empedocles. LCS 7, p. 1-23.
CURD, P. (2005). On the Question of Religion and Natural Philosophy in Empedocles. In: (Pierris, 2005, p. 137-162).
DALFINO, M. C. (1998). La dottrina dell’anima di Eraclide Pontico e le sue implicazioni etiche. Elenchos 19, p. 61-82.
DIELS, H.; KRANZ, W. (1956) (Hrsg.). Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, griechisch und deutsch, 8 Aufl. Abdruck der dritten mit Nachtragen, Band I-II von H. Diels, Band III Wortregister vom W. Kranz, Stellen und Namenregister von H. Diels. Berlin, Weidmann.
DORANDI, T. (2001). Qualche considerazione di metodo. Aevum(ant) 1, p. 197-203.
DROZDEK, A. (2007). Greek Philosophers as Theologians. The Divine Arche. Aldershot, Ashgate.
FURLEY, D. J. (1957), Empedocles and the Clepsydra. JHS 77, p. 31-34.
FURLEY, D. J.; WILKIE, J.S. (1984) (eds.). Galen. On respiration and the arteries. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
GALLAVOTTI, C. (1975) (a cura di). Empedocle. Poema fisico e lustrale. Milano, Fondazione Lorenzo Valla.
GAROFALO, I. (1988) (a cura di). Erasistrati fragmenta. Pisa, Giardini.
GEMELLI MARCIANO, M. L. (2001). Le ‘demonologie’ empedoclee: problemi di metodo e altro. Aevum(ant) 1, p. 205-235.
GEMELLI MARCIANO, M. L. (2009). Die Vorsokratiker. Band II: Parmenides, Zenon, Empedokles, Düsseldorf, Artemis & Winkler.
GIANNANTONI, G. (1990) (a cura di). I Presocratici: testimonianze e frammenti. Roma-Bari, Laterza.
GOTTSCHALK, H. B. (1988). Heraclides of Pontus. Oxford, Oxford Clarendon Press.
INWOOD, B. (2001) (ed.). The Poem of Empedocles, revised edition. Toronto & Buffalo & London, Toronto University Press.
JAEGER, W. (1967). La teologia dei primi pensatori greci, traduzione di E. Pocar. Firenze, La Nuova Italia.
JONES, W. H. S. (1947) (ed.). The Medical Writings of Anonymus Londinensis. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
JOUANNA, J. (1994). Ippocrate, traduzione italiana di L. Rebaudo. Torino, SEI.
KAHN, C. H. (1960). Religion and Natural Philosophy in Empedocles’ Doctrine of the Soul. AGPh 42, p. 3-35.
KAHN, C. H. (1969). Review of «Jean Bollack: Empédocle. Bd. 1». Gnomon 41, p. 439-447.
KAHN, C. H. (1983) (ed.). The Art and Thought of Heraclitus. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
KINGSLEY, P. (1995). Notes on Air: Four Questions of Meaning in Empedocles and Anaxagoras. CQ 45, p. 26-29.
KIRK, G. S. et al. (1999) (ed.). The Presocratic Philosophers. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
LAKS, A. (2008) (éd.). Diogène d’Apollonie. Deuxième édition revue et augmentée. Sankt Augustin, Academia Verlag.
LAURENTI, R. (1971) (a cura di). Aristotele. I piccoli trattati naturali. Bari, Laterza.
LAURENTI, R. (1999). Empedocle. Napoli, D’Auria.
LLOYD, G. E. R. (1966). Polarità ed analogia. Due modi di argomentazione nel pensiero greco classico. Napoli, Loffredo.
LONG, A. A. (1966). Thinking and Sense-Perception in Empedocles: Mysticism or Materialism?. CQ 16, p. 256-276.
LONIE, I. M. (1965). Medical Theory in Heraclides of Pontus. Mnemosyne 18, p. 126-143.
MANSFELD, J. (1967). Heraclitus on the Psychology and Physiology of Sleep and on Rivers. Mnemosyne 20, p. 1-29.
MANSFELD, J. (1972). Ambiguity in Empedocles B17, 3-5: A Suggestion. Phronesis 17, p. 17-39.
MARCOVICH, M. (1978) (a cura di). Eraclito. Frammenti, traduzione dall’inglese di P. Innocenti. Firenze, La Nuova Italia.
MESSINA, G. (2007). Una nuova lettura di Empedocle 100DK. In: MESSINA, G. Dalla fisica di Senofane all’Empedocle di Strasburgo. Bari. Levante, p. 167-176.
O’BRIEN, D. (2001). Empedocles: the Wandering Daimon and the Two Poems. Aevum(ant) 1, p. 79-179.
PIERRIS, A. L. (2005) (ed.). The Empedoclean Κόσμος: Structure, Process and the Question of Cyclicity. Part 1: Papers. Patras, Institute for Philosophical Research.
PRIMAVESI, O. (2001). La daimonologia della fisica empedoclea. Aevum(ant) 1, p. 3-68.
PUGLIA, E. (1988) (a cura di). Demetrio Lacone. Aporie testuali ed esegetiche in Epicuro (PHerc. 1012), precedono testimonianze su Demetrio Lacone ordinate da M. Gigante. Napoli, Bibliopolis.
ROLLAND, R. (1918). Empédocle d’Agrigente et l’âge de la Haine. Paris, La Maison Française d’Art et d’Edition.
ROSSETTI, L. (2004). Empedocle scienziato. In: ROSSETTI, L.; SANTANIELLO, L. (a cura di). Studi sul pensiero e sulla lingua di Empedocle. Bari. Levante, p. 95-108.
SASSI, M. M. (2015). Parmenides and Empedocles on Krasis and Knowledge. Apeiron 45, p. 1-19.
SCHÜTRUMPF, E. (2008) (ed.). Heraclides of Pontus. Text and translation. New Brunschwig & London, Transactions.
SEDLEY, D. N. (2011). Creazionismo. Il dibattito antico da Anassagora a Galeno, edizione italiana a cura di F. Verde. Roma, Carocci.
SENZASONO, L. (1983). Il frammento 98 D.-K. e la cosiddetta “escatologia” eraclitea. In: ROSSETTI, L. (a cura di). Atti del Symposium Heracliteum 1981. Volume primo: Studi. Roma. Edizioni dell’Ateneo, p. 265-272.
SHAW, M.M. (2014). Aither and the Four Roots in Empedocles. Research in Phenomenology 44, p. 170-193.
SCHWABL, H. (1956). Empedokles fr. B 110. WS 69, p. 49-56.
SCHWABL, H. (1957). Zur “Theogonie” bei Parmenides und Empedokles. WS 70, p. 278-289.
SEECK, G. A. (1967). Empedokles B17, 9-13 (=26,8-12), B8, B 100 bei Aristoteles. Hermes 95, p. 28-53.
SQUILLACE, G. (2010). Il profumo nel mondo antico, con la prima traduzione italiana del Sugli odori di Teofrasto. Firenze, Olschki.
SQUILLACE, G. (2014). I balsami di Afrodite. Medici, malattie e farmaci nel mondo antico. Sansepolcro, Società Agricola.
STECKEL, F. (1958) (ed.). The fragments of Praxagoras of Cos and his school. Leiden, Brill.
TECUSAN, M. (2004). The Fragments of the Methodists. Methodism Outside Soranus. Leiden & Boston, Brill.
THIVEL, A. (2005). Air, Pneuma and Breathing from Homer to Hippocrates. In: VAN DER EIJK, P. (ed.). Hippocrates in Context. Leiden & Boston. Brill, p. 239-249.
TONELLI, A. (2005). Cosmology is Psychogony is Ethics. Some Thoughts about Empedocles’ Fragments 17; 110; 115; 134 DK, and P. Strasb. gr. inv. 1665-1666d, vv. 1-9. In: (Pierris, 2005, p. 309-330).
TRAGLIA, A. (1952). Studi sulla lingua di Empedocle. Bari, Adriatica.
TUGWELL, S. (1971). Fragment 98 (DK). QC 21, p. 32.
VEGETTI, M. (1998). Empedocle «medico e sofista» (Antica medicina 20). Elenchos 19, p. 345-359.
VAN DER EIJK, P. (2008). The Woman Not Breathing. In: FORTENBAUGH, W. W.; PENDER, E. (eds.). Heraclides of Pontus. Discussion. New Brunswick & London. Transaction, p. 237-250.
WEHRLI, F. R. (1969) (Hrsg.). Die Schule des Aristoteles. Band 7: Herakleides Pontikos. Basel & Stuttgart, Schwabe.
WELLMANN, M. (1901) (Hrsg.). Die Fragmente der sikelischen Ärzte Akron, Philistion und des Diokles von Karystos. Berlin, Weidmannsche Buchhandlung.
WORTHEN, T. D. (1970). Pneumatic Action in the Klepsydra and Empedocles’ Account of Breathing. Isis 61, p. 520-530.
ZAFIROPULO, J. (1953). Empédocle d’Agrigente. Paris, Les Belles Lettres.
How to Cite
PiergiacomiE. (2018). Who breathes and smells according to Empedocles?. Archai: The Origins of Western Thought, (23), 135. https://doi.org/10.14195/1984-249X_23_5