I can’t help but admire excellent work. This translation of Empedocles is precisely that. Brad Inwood has gathered together the extant text of this presocratic philosopher in a volume that is bound to remain the authoritative version for quite some time. What makes it so authoritative? Good organization, thorough treatment, and excessive care. On the first point, Inwood has organized the text to include Empedocles’ fragments assembled together, in the contexts they inhabit in the text of early commentators (such as Aristotle and Simplicius), as well as a section of testimonia. Inwood has also taken care to examine nearly all the leading translations and commentaries available, no matter in what language they appear, and has taken care to consider them in his own treatment. He avoids taking speculative leaps in his translation (and interpretation), and thus we are given an excellent basis upon which to make our own speculations. His introduction is also thematically varied, balanced, and just thoughtful enough to provide a reasoned entry into this ancient philosophy. Altogether, this is a fabulous piece of work, and while Inwood leaves quite a bit of latitude for people to disagree with him, I think this in itself is a mark of just how good his efforts have turned out to be.

The poem and philosophy itself? Fascinating. I can’t help but feel like I’ve been waiting most of my life to discover Empedocles. At least I can be happy that I can now live the rest of my life familiar with his ideas.

Best quote: “Wretches, utter wretches, keep your hands off beans!” That’s ancient philosophy gold, right there.