Fragments and Commentary
Arthur Fairbanks, ed. and trans.
The First Philosophers of Greece
(London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1898), 157-234.

Hanover Historical Texts Project
Scanned and proofread by Aaron Gulyas, May 1998.
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.

Translation of the Fragments: Book I
. . .
Translation of the Fragments: Book III
Translation of the Fragments: On Purifications
. . .

[Abridged by GZ]

Translation of [Selected] Fragments: Book I

[Page 159] 1. And do thou hear me, Pausanias, son of wise Anchites.

19. . . .  come, examine by every means each thing how it is clear, neither putting greater faith in anything seen than in what is heard, nor in a thundering sound more than in the clear assertions of the tongue, nor keep from trusting any of the other members in which there lies means of knowledge, but know each thing in the way in which it is clear.

24. Cures for evils whatever there are, and protection against old age shalt thou learn, since for thee alone will I accomplish all these things. Thou shalt break the power of untiring gales which rising against the earth blow down the crops and destroy them; and, again, whenever thou wilt, thou shalt bring their blasts back; and thou shalt bring seasonable drought out of dark storm for men, and out of summer drought thou shalt bring streams pouring down from heaven to nurture the trees; and thou shalt lead out of Hades the spirit of a man that is dead.

33. Hear first the four roots of all things: bright Zeus, life-giving Hera (air), and Aidoneus (earth), and Nestis who moistens the springs of men with her tears. [Cf. Dox. p.99, n. 3.]

[Page 163] 36. And a second thing I will tell thee: There is no origination of anything that is mortal, nor yet any end in baneful death; but only mixture and separation of what is mixed, but men call this 'origination.'

40. But when light is mingled with air in human form, or in form like the race of wild beasts or of plants or of birds, then men say that these things have come into being; and when they are separated, they call them evil fate; this is the established practice, and I myself also call it so in accordance with the custom.

45. Fools! for they have no far-reaching studious thoughts who think that what was not before comes into being or that anything dies and perishes utterly.

48. For from what does not exist at all it is impossible that anything come into being, and it is neither possible nor perceivable that being should perish completely; for things will always stand wherever one in each case shall put them.

[Page 165] 51. A man of wise mind could not divine such things as these, that so long as men live what indeed they call life, so long they exist and share what is evil and what is excellent, but before they are formed and after they are dissolved, they are really nothing at all.

60. Twofold is the truth I shall speak; for at one time there grew to be one alone out of many, and at another time, however, it separated so that there were many out of the one. Twofold is the coming into being, twofold the passing away, of perishable things; for the latter (i.e. passing away) the combining of [Page 167] all things both begets and destroys, and the former (i.e. coming into being), which was nurtured again out of parts that were being separated, is itself scattered.

66. And these (elements) never cease changing place continually, now being all united by Love into one, now each borne apart by the hatred engendered of Strife, until they are brought together in the unity of the all, and become subject to it. Thus inasmuch as one has been wont to arise out of many and again with the separation of the one the many arise, so things are continually coming into being and there is no fixed age for them; and farther inasmuch as they [the elements] never cease changing place continually, so they always exist within an immovable circle.

74. But come, hear my words, for truly learning causes the mind to grow. For as I said before in declaring the ends of my words: Twofold is the truth I shall speak; for at one time there grew to be the one

[Page 169] alone out of many, and at another time it separated so that there were many out of the one; fire and water and earth and boundless height of air, and baneful Strife apart from these, balancing each of them, and Love among them, their equal in length and breadth.

81. Upon her do thou gaze with thy mind, nor yet sit dazed in thine eyes; for she is wont to be implanted in men's members, and through her they have thoughts of love and accomplish deeds of union, and call her by the names of Delight, and Aphrodite; no mortal man has discerned her with them (the elements) as she moves on her way. But do thou listen to the undeceiving course of my words.[Cf. Parmenides v. 112]...

87. For these (elements) are equal, all of them, and of like ancient race; and one holds one office, another another, and each has his own nature. . . . For nothing is added to them, nor yet does anything pass away from them; for if they were continually perishing they would no longer exist. . . Neither is any part of this all empty, nor over full. For how should anything cause this all to increase, and whence should it come? And whither should they (the elements) perish, since no place is empty of them? And in their turn they prevail as the cycle comes round, and they disappear before.

[Page 171] each other, and they increase each in its allotted turn. But these (elements) are the same; and penetrating through each other they become one thing in one place and another in another, while ever they remain alike (i.e. the same).

110. For they two (Love and Strife) were before and shall be, nor yet, I think, will there ever be an unutterably long time without them both.

96. But come, gaze on the things that bear farther witness to my former words, if in what was said before there be anything defective in form. Behold the sun, warm and bright on all sides, and whatever is immortal and is bathed in its bright ray, and behold the rain-cloud, dark and cold on all sides; from the earth there proceed the foundations of things and solid bodies. In Strife all things are, endued with form and separate from each other, but they come together in Love and are desired by each other. 104. For from these (elements) come all things that are or have been or shall be; from these there grew up trees and men and women, wild beasts and birds and water-nourished fishes, and the very gods, long-lived, highest in honour.

121. And as when painters are preparing elaborate votive offerings-men well taught by wisdom in their [Page 173] art - they take many-coloured pigments to work with, and blend together harmoniously more of one and less of another till they produce likenesses of all things; so let not error overcome thy mind to make thee think there is any other source of mortal things that have likewise come into distinct existence in unspeakable numbers; but know these (elements), for thou didst hear from a god the account of them.

130. But come, I will tell thee now the first principle of the sun, even the sources of all things now visible, earth and billowy sea and damp mist and Titan aether (i.e. air) binding all things in its embrace.

135. Then neither is the bright orb of the sun greeted, nor yet either the shaggy might of earth or sea; thus, then, in the firm vessel of harmony is fixed God, a sphere, round, rejoicing in complete solitude.

[Page 175] 139. But when mighty Strife - was nurtured in its members and leaped up to honour at the completion of the time, which has been driven on by them both in turn under a mighty oath. . . .

142. For the limbs of the god were made to tremble, all of them in turn.

143. For all the heavy (he put) by itself, the light by itself.

144. Without affection and not mixed together.

145. Heaped together in greatness.

146. If there were no limit to the depths of the earth and the abundant air, as is poured out in foolish words from the mouths of many mortals who see but little of the all.

149. Swift-darting sun and kindly moon.

150. But gathered together it advances around the great heavens.

151. It shines back to Olympos with untroubled face.

[Page 177] 152. The kindly light has a brief period of shining.

153. As sunlight striking the broad circle of the moon.

154. A borrowed light, circular in form, it revolves about the earth, as if following the track of a chariot.

156. For she beholds opposite to her the sacred circle of her lord.

157. And she scatters his rays into the sky above, and spreads darkness over as much of the earth as the breadth of the gleaming-eyed moon.

160. And night the earth makes by coming in front of the lights.

169. But now I shall go back over the course of my verses, which I set out in order before, drawing my present discourse from that discourse. When Strife reached the lowest depth of the eddy and Love comes to be in the midst of the whirl, then all these things come together at this point so as to be one alone, yet not immediately, but joining together at their pleasure, one from one place, another from another. And as they were joining together Strife departed to the utmost boundary. But many things remained unmixed, [Page 181] alternating with those that were mixed, even as many as Strife, remaining aloft, still retained; for not yet had it entirely departed to the utmost boundaries of the circle, but some of its members were remaining within, and others had gone outside. 180. But, just as far as it is constantly rushing forth, just so far there ever kept coming in a gentle immortal stream of perfect Love; and all at once what before I learned were immortal were coming into being as mortal things,1 what before were unmixed as mixed, changing their courses. And as they (the elements) were mingled together there flowed forth the myriad species of mortal things, patterned in every sort of form, a wonder to behold.

186. For all things are united, themselves with parts of themselves - the beaming sun and earth and sky and sea - whatever things are friendly but have separated in mortal things. And so, in the same way, whatever things are the more adapted for mixing, these are loved by each other and made alike by Aphrodite. But what ever things are hostile are separated as far as possible from each other, both in their origin and in their mixing and in the forms impressed on them, absolutely unwonted to unite and very baneful, at the suggestion of Strife, since it has wrought their birth.

Translation of [Selected] Fragments: Book III

[Page 201] 338. Would that in behalf of perishable beings thou, immortal Muse, mightest take thought at all for our thought to come by reason of our cares! Hear me now and be present again by my side, Kalliopeia, as I utter noble discourse about the blessed gods.

342. Blessed is he who has acquired a wealth of divine wisdom, but miserable he in whom there rests a dim opinion concerning the gods.

344. It is not possible to draw near (to god) even with the eyes, or to take hold of him with our hands, which in truth is the best highway of persuasion into the mind of man; for he has no human head fitted to a body, nor do two shoots branch out from the trunk, nor has he feet, nor swift legs, nor hairy parts, but he is sacred and ineffable mind alone, darting through the whole world with swift thoughts.

Translation of the Fragments: On Purifications

352. 0 friends, ye who inhabit the great city of sacred Akragas up to the acropolis, whose care is good deeds, who harbour strangers deserving of respect, who know not how to do baseness, hail! I go about among you an immortal god, no longer a mortal, honoured by all, as is fitting, crowned with fillets and luxuriant garlands. With these on my head, so soon as I come to flourishing cities I am reverenced by men and by women; and they follow after me in countless numbers, inquiring of me what is the way to gain, some in want of oracles, others of help in diseases, long time in truth pierced with grievous pains, they seek to hear from me keen-edged account of all sorts of things.

364. But why do I lay weight on these things, as though I were doing some great thing, if I be superior to mortal, perishing men?

[Page 205] 366. Friends, I know indeed when truth lies in the discourses that I utter; but truly the entrance of assurance into the mind of man is difficult and hindered by jealousy.

369. There is an utterance of Necessity, an ancient decree of the gods, eternal, sealed fast with broad oaths whenever any one defiles his body sinfully with bloody gore or perjures himself in regard to wrong-doing, one of those spirits who are heir to long life, thrice ten thousand seasons shall he wander apart from the blessed, being born meantime in all sorts of mortal forms, changing one bitter path of life for another. For mighty Air pursues him Seaward, and Sea spews him forth on the threshold of Earth, and Earth casts him into the rays of the unwearying Sun, and Sun into the eddies of Air; one receives him from the other, and all hate him. One of these now am I too, a fugitive from the gods and a wanderer, at the mercy of raging Strife.

383. For before this I was born once a boy, and a maiden, and a plant, and a bird, and a darting fish in the sea.

385. And I wept and shrieked on beholding the unwonted land where are Murder and Wrath, and other species of Fates, and wasting diseases, and putrefaction and fluxes.

388. In darkness they roam over the meadow of Ate.

389. Deprived of life.

390. From what honour and how great a degree of blessedness have I fallen here on the earth to consort with mortal beings!

392. We enter beneath this over-roofed cave.

393. Where were Chthonie and far-seeing Heliope (i.e. Earth and Sun?), bloody Contention and Harmony of sedate face, Beauty and Ugliness, Speed and Loitering, lovely Truth and dark-eyed Obscurity, Birth and Death, and Sleep and Waking, Motion and Stability, many-crowned Greatness and Lowness, and Silence and Voice.

400. Alas, ye wretched, ye unblessed race of mortal beings, of what strifes and of what groans were ye born!

402. She wraps about them a strange garment of flesh.

403. Man-surrounding earth.

404. For from being living he made them assume the form of death by a change. . . .

405. Nor had they any god Ares, nor Kydoimos (Uproar), nor king Zeus, nor Kronos, nor Poseidon, but queen Kypris. Her they worshipped with hallowed offerings, with painted figures, and perfumes of skilfully made odour, and sacrifices of unmixed myrrh and fragrant frankincense, casting on the ground libations from tawny bees. And her altar was not moistened with pure blood of bulls, but it was the greatest defilement among men, to deprive animals of life and to eat their goodly bodies.

[Page 211] 415. And there was among them a man of unusual knowledge, and master especially of all sorts of wise deeds, who in truth possessed greatest wealth of mind for whenever he reached out with all his mind, easily he beheld each one of all the things that are, even for ten and twenty generations of men.

421. For all were gentle and obedient toward men, both animals and birds, and they burned with kindly love; and trees grew with leaves and fruit ever on them, burdened with abundant fruit all the year.

425. This is not lawful for some and unlawful for others, but what is lawful for all extends on continuously through the wide-ruling air and the boundless light.

427. Will ye not cease from evil slaughter? See ye not that ye are devouring each other in heedlessness of mind?

430. A father takes up his dear son who has changed his form and slays him with a prayer, so great is his folly! They are borne along beseeching the sacrificer; but he does not hear their cries of reproach, but slays them and makes ready the evil feast. Then in the same manner son takes father and daughters their mother, and devour the dear flesh when they have deprived them of life.

436. Alas that no ruthless day destroyed me before I devised base deeds of devouring with the lips!

438. Among beasts they become lions haunting the mountains, whose couch is the ground, and among fair-foliaged trees they become laurels.

440. Refrain entirely from laurel leaves.

441. Miserable men, wholly miserable, restrain your hands from beans.

442. Compounding the water from five springs in unyielding brass, cleanse the hands.

444. Fast from evil.

445. Accordingly ye are frantic with evil hard to bear, nor ever shall ye ease your soul from bitter woes.

447. But at last are they prophets and hymn-writers and physicians and chieftains among men dwelling on the earth ; and from this they grow to be gods, receiving the greatest honours, sharing the same hearth with the other immortals, their table companions, free from human woes, beyond the power of death and harm.

. . .

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