Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2021
This chapter begins by tracing the implications of Empedocles’ philosophy for poetry, arguing that he valorises the medium against criticisms expressed by earlier Presocratics. His cosmology provides systematic explanation for poetic beauty as deriving from Love. He uses the imagery of craftsmanship for the composition of his poetry, making it seem analogous to the products of Love, the divine craftswoman. This point is significant for the history of Greek poetics, since some scholars have argued that the artisanal conception of poetry emerges only at a later period. The chapter then focuses on Empedocles’ use of narrative, arguing that two particular plot-types structure the surviving fragments: the wandering exile who arrives in triumph at a new destination and the process of mystic initiation. Finally, it explores the significance and effects of Empedocles’ use of these narratives. He expands to cosmic proportions the familiar pattern of the blood-exile who achieves purification on arrival at a new location through the instigation of new institutions. The process of being ‘initiated’ into Empedocles’ philosophy involves an initially fearsome but ultimately exhilarating and sublime emotional trajectory which results in the student/initiate gaining a deeper insight into the workings of the universe.