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Æmbædoklís (Empedocles; Gr. Ἐμπεδοκλῆς, ΕΜΠΕΔΟΚΛΗΣ)  494-434 BCE (approx.)  

Æmbædoklís was the son of Mǽtohn (Meton; Gr. Μέτων) and born of a wealthy and distinguished family of Akrágas (Acragas; Gr. Ἀκράγας = modern-day Agrigento, Sicily). He was a pre-Socratic philosopher (the last to write in verse) and a writer of treatises. Aristotǽlis (Aristotle; Gr. Ἀριστοτέλης), in a fragment of Sophistís (The Sophist; Gr. Σοφιστής), stated that Æmbædoklís invented rhetoric. He is said to have been a healer, whether by means of medicine or otherwise, having, among other things, revived a dead or comatose woman. He is also believed to have possessed some kind of unusual power over phenomenon such as the wind. Some of these powers appear to have been simply utilizing intelligence, such as the curing of the plague of the Greek colony of Sælinous (Selinus; Gr. Σελινοῦς = modern-day Selinunte in Sicily) by diverting the flow of rivers. Thought to be in the tradition of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς), Æmbædoklís believed in reincarnation and, therefore, preached against blood-sacrifice and promoted vegetarianism. He is thought to have regarded himself as a God.

According to the ancient historian Næánthis (Neanthes; Gr. Νεάνθης) of Kýzikos (Cyzicus; Gr. Κύζικος), when his father died, Æmbædoklís persuaded the people of Akrágas to avoid a tyranny and put in place a form of democracy, a form of government that Æmbædoklís is said to have preferred, as documented in several sources.

Æmpædoklís posited the assumption of four eternal roots or elements (strikheion; Gr. στοιχεῖον): Fire, Air, Earth, and Water, apparently influenced by Parmænídis (Parmenides; Gr. Παρμενίδης). Aristotǽlis states (GC 330b20-21, Metaph. 985b1-3, and cf. Alexander in Metaph.34.6-10) that Æmbædoklís talks of four roots, but treats them as though there were only two, treating Air-Earth-Water as one root, opposing the root of Fire. Sometimes Æmbædoklís uses the names of Gods instead of the names of the four elements, or he designates them by their manifestations in the phenomenal world. Thus, Zefs (Gr. Ζεύς) is Fire, Íra (Hera; Gr. Ήρα) is Earth, Ploutohn (Pluto; Gr. Πλούτων) is Air, and Nístis (Gr. Νῆστις = Proserpina = Persephone = Pærsæphóni; Gr. Περσεφόνη) is Water.

Æmbædoklís posited that nothing can be added or taken from what exists: change only occurs through the addition and subtraction of the four eternal substances. This occurs due to the kozmic action of what Æmbædoklís calls Love (bringing things to a unity) and Strife (separating them), even birth and death being simply the mixing and separating of the four roots.

There is much confusion regarding the death of Æmbædoklís. Some say that he hanged himself, or that he broke his thigh and died from the illness, or that he drowned. The most famous version is that he leaped into the volcano of Etna. Later Christian authors used the story as an example of the fate of a man who claimed to be a God. M.R. Wright in his book Empedocles: The Extant Fragments ( translated by M.R. Wright, 1981, Yale, 2001 Bristol Classical Press edition), from which this tiny biography of the philosopher is derived, discounts this story and concludes that the cause of his death is unknown.

SOME FRAGMENTS OF ÆMBÆDOKLÍS may be found on this page: The Deification of the Soul: Sources.

LIFE OF ÆMBÆDOKLÍS as told by Dioyǽnis Laǽrtios (Diogenes Laërtius; Gr. Διογένης Λαέρτιος [1]

I. Empedocles, as Hippobotus (Ἱππόβοτος) relates, was the son of Meton , the son (Μέτων) of Empedocles, and a citizen of Agrigentum (Ἀκράγας = modern-day Agrigento in Sicily).  And Timæus (Τιμαῖος), in the fifteenth book of his Histories, gives the same account, adding that Empedocles, the grandfather of the poet, was also a most eminent man. And Hermippus (Ἕρμιππος) tells the same story as Timæus; and in the same spirit Heraclides (Ἡρακλείδης), in his treatise on Diseases, relates that he was of an illustrious family, since his father bred a fine stud of horses. Erastothenes (Ἐρατοσθένης), in his List of the Conquerors at the Olympic Games, says, that the father of Meton gained the victory in the seventy-first Olympiad (Ὀλυμπιάς), quoting Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης) as his authority for the assertion.

But Apollodorus (Ἀπολλόδωρος), the grammarian, in his Chronicles, says that he was the son of Meton (Μέτων); and Glaucus (Γλαῦκος) says that he came to Thurii (Θούριοι, in Italy) when the city was only just completed. And then proceeding a little further, he adds:

And some relate that he did flee from thence,
And came to Syracuse (Συρακοῦσαι), and on their side
Did fight in horrid war against th' Athenians;
But those men seem to me completely wrong–
For by this time he must have been deceased,
Or very old, which is not much believed;
For Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης), and Heraclides (Ἡρακλείδης) too,
Say that he died at sixty years of age.

But certainly the person who got the victory with a single horse in the seventy-first Olympiad was a namesake of this man, and that it is which deceived Apollodorus as to the age of this philosopher.

But Satyrus (Σάτυρος Καλλατις), in his Lives, asserts, that Empedocles was the son of Exænetus (Ἐξαίνετος), and that he also left a son who was named Exænetus. And that in the same Olympiad, he himself gained the victory with the single horse; and his son, in wrestling, or, as Heraclides says in his Abridgment, in running. But I have found in the Commentaries of Phavorinus (Favorinus of Arelate, Roman sophist and philosopher), that Empedocles sacrificed, and gave as a feast to the spectators of the games, an ox made of honey and flour, and that he had a brother named Callicratidas (Καλλικρατίδας).

But Jelanges, the son of Pythagoras (Πυθαγόρας), in his letters to Philolaus (Φιλόλαος), says that Empedocles was the son of Archinomus (Αρχινόμος); and that he was a citizen of Agrigentum (Ἀκράγας), he himself asserts at the beginning of his Purifications.

Friends, who the mighty citadel inhabit,
Which crowns the golden waves of Acragas (Ἀκράγας).

And this is enough to say about his family.

II. Timæus (ed. Timaios) , in his ninth book, relates that he was a pupil of Pythagoras (ed. Πυθαγόρας), saying that he was afterwards convicted of having divulged his doctrines, in the same way as Plato (ed. Platohn; Gr. Πλάτων) was, and therefore that he was forbidden from thenceforth to attend his school. And they say that Pythagoras himself mentions him when he says:

And in that band there was a learned man,
Of wondrous wisdom; one, who of all men
Had the profoundest wealth of intellect.

But some say that when the philosopher says this, he is referring to Parmenides (Παρμενίδης).

Neanthes (Νεάνθης) relates, that till the time of Philolaus (Φιλόλαος) and Empedocles, the Pythagoreans used to admit all persons indiscriminately into their school; but when Empedocles made their doctrines public by means of his poems, then they made a law to admit no Epic poet. And they say that the same thing happened to Plato; for that he too was excluded from the school. But who was the teacher of the Pythagorean school that Empedocles was a pupil of, they do not say; for, as for the letter of Jelanges, in which he is stated to have been a pupil of Hippasus (Ἵππασος) and Brontinus (Βροντῖνος), that is not worthy of belief. But Theophrastus (Θεόφραστος) says that he was an imitator and a rival of Parmenides (Παρμενίδης), in his poems, for that he too had delivered his opinions on natural philosophy in epic verse.

Hermippus (Ἕρμιππος), however, says that he was an imitator, not of Parmenides, but of Xenophanes (Ξενοφάνης) with whom he lived; and that he imitated his epic style, and that it was at a later period that he fell in with the Pythagoreans. But Alcidamas (Αλκιδάμας), in his Natural Philosophy, says, that Zeno (Ζήνων) and Empedocles were pupils of Parmenides (Παρμενίδης), about the same time; and that they subsequently seceded from him; and that Zeno adopted a philosophical system peculiar to himself; but that Empedocles became a pupil of Anaxagoras (Ἀναξαγόρας) and Pythagoras (Πυθαγόρας), and that he imitated the pompous demeanour, and way of life, and gestures of the one, and the system of Natural Philosophy of the other.

III. And Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης), in his Sophist, says that Empedocles was the first person who invented rhetoric, and Zeno (Ζήνωνthe first person who invented Dialectics. And in his book on Poetry, he says, that Empedocles was a man of Homeric genius, and endowed with great power of language, and a great master of metaphor, and a man who employed all the successful artifices of poetry, and also that when he had written several poems, and among them one on the passage of the Hellespont (Ἑλλήσποντος, i.e. the Dardanelles), by Xerxes (Ξέρξης), and also the prooemium (προοίμιον, i.e. a preface or introduction) of a hymn to Apollo (Ἀπόλλων), his sister, burning the prooemium unintentionally, but the Persian poem on purpose, because it was incomplete. And speaking generally, he says that he wrote tragedies and political treatises.

But Heraclides (Ἡρακλείδης), the son of Sarapion, says that the tragedies were the work of some other Empedocles; and Hieronymus (Ιερώνυμος) says that he had met with forty-three. Neanthes (Νεάνθης ), too, affirms that when he was a young man, he wrote tragedies, and that he himself had subsequently met with them; and Satyrus (Σάτυρος), in his Lives, states that he was a physician, and also a most excellent orator. And accordingly, that Gorgias of Leontini (Γοργίας Λεοντῖνοι), was his pupil, a man of the greatest eminence as a rhetorician, and one who left behind him a treatise containing a complete system of the art; and who, as we are told by Apollodorus (Ἀπολλόδωρος), in his Chronicles, lived to the age of a hundred and nine years.

IV. Satyrus (Σάτυρος) tells us that he used to say that he had been present when Empedocles was practising magic; and that he professes this science, and many others too in his poems when he says:

And all the drugs which can relieve disease,
Or soften the approach of age, shall be
Revealed to your inquiries; I do know them,
And I to you alone will them disclose.
You shall restrain the fierce unbridled winds,
Which, rushing o'er the earth, bow down the corn,
And crush the farmer's hopes. And when you will,
You shall recall them back to sweep the land:
Then you shall learn to dry the rainy clouds,
And bid warm summer cheer the heart of men.
Again at your behest, the drought shall yield
To wholesome show'r: when you give the word
Hell shall restore its dead.

V.  And Timæus (Τιμαῖος), in his eighteenth book, says, that this man was held in great esteem on many accounts; for that once, when the Etesian gales (ed. annual winds which blow from the north over the Mediterranean during July and August.) were blowing violently, so as to injure the crops, he ordered some asses to be flayed, and some bladders to be made of their hides, and these he placed on the hills and high places to catch the wind. And so, when the wind ceased, he was called wind-forbidder (ϰωλυσανέμας, i.e. he who rebukes the winds). And Heraclides (Ἡρακλείδης), in his treatise on Diseases, says that he dictated to Pausanias (Παυσανίας) the statement which he made about the dead woman. Now Pausanias, as both Aristippus (Ἀρίστιππος) and Satyrus (Σάτυρος) agree, was much attached to him; and he dedicated to him the works which he wrote on Natural Philosophy, in the following terms:

Hear, O Pausanias, son of wise Anchites.

He also wrote an epigram upon him:—

Gela (Γέλα, in Sicily), his native land, does boast the birth
Of wise Anchites' son, that great physician,
So fitly named Pausanias, [2] from his skill;
A genuine son of Aesculapius (Ἀσκληπιός),
Who has stopped many men whom fell disease
Marked for its own, from treading those dark paths
Which lead to Proserpine's (Περσεφόνη) infernal realms.

VI. The case of the dead woman above mentioned, Heraclides (Ἡρακλείδης) says, was something of this sort; that he kept her corpse for thirty days dead, and yet free from corruption; on which account he has called himself a physician and a prophet, taking it also from these verses :--

Friends who the mighty citadel inhabit,
Which crowns the golden waves of Acragas (Ἀκράγας).
Votaries of noble actions, Hail to ye;
I, an immortal God, no longer mortal,
Now live among you well revered by all,
As is my due, crowned with holy fillets (ed. headband)
And rosy garlands. And whene'er I come
To wealthy cities, then from men and women
Due honours meets me; and crowds follow me,
Seeking the way which leads to gainful glory.
Some ask for oracles, and some entreat,
For remedies against all kinds of sickness.

VII. And he says that Agrigentum (Ἀκράγας) was a very large city, since it had eight hundred thousand inhabitants; on which account Empedocles, seeing the people immersed in luxury, said, "The men of Agrigentum devote themselves wholly to luxury as if they were to die to-morrow, but they furnish their houses as if they were to live for ever."

VIII. It is said that Cleomenes (Κλεομένης), the rhapsodist, sung this very poem, called the Purifications, at Olympia (Ολυμπία); at least this is the account given by Phavorinus (Favorinus of Arelate), in his Commentaries.

IX. And Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης) says, that he was a most liberal man, and far removed from anything like a domineering spirit; since he constantly refused the sovereign power when it was offered to him, as Xanthus (Ξάνθος) assures us in his account of him, showing plainly that he preferred a simple style of living. And Timæus (Τιμαῖος) tells the same story, giving at the same time the reason why he was so very popular. For he says that when on one occasion, he was invited to a banquet, by one of the magistrates, the wine was carried about, but the supper was not served up. And as every one else kept silence, he, disapproving of what he saw, bade the servants bring in the supper; but the person who had invited him said that he was waiting for the secretary of the council. And when he came he was appointed master of the feast, at the instigation of the giver of it, and then he gave a plain intimation of his tyrannical inclinations, for he ordered all the guests to drink, and those who did not drink were to have the wine poured over their heads. Empedocles said nothing at the moment, but the next day he summoned them before the court, and procured the execution of both the entertainer and the master of the feast.

And this was the beginning of his political career. And at another time, when Acron (Ἄκρον), the physician, asked of the council a place where he might erect a monument to his father, on account of his eminence as a physician, Empedocles came forward and opposed any such grant, adducing many arguments on the ground of equality, and also putting the following question :-- "And what elegy shall we inscribe upon it? Shall we say:-

Ακρον ιητρὀν Ακρων' Ακραγαντῖνον πατρὁς ακρου
κρύπτει κρημνος ἄκρος πατρίδος ἀκροτάτις. [3]

But some give the second line thus :-

'Ακροτάτης κορυϕῆς τύμβος ἄκρος κατέχει.

And others assert that it is the composition of Simonides (Σιμωνίδης).

But afterwards Empedocles abolished the assembly of a thousand, and established a council in which the magistrates were to hold office for three years, on such a footing that it should consist not only of rich men, but of those who were favourers of the interests of the people. Timæus (Τιμαῖος), however, in his first and second book (For he often mentions him), says that he appeared to entertain opinions adverse to a republic. And, as far as his poetry goes, any one may see that he was arrogant and self-satisfied.

Accordingly, he says :

Hail to ye,
I, an immortal God, no longer mortal,
Now live among you.

And so on.

But when he went to the Olympic games he was considered a worthy object of general attention; so that there was no mention made of any one else in comparison of Empedocles.

X. Afterwards indeed, when Agrigentum (Ἀκράγας) was settled, the descendants of his enemies opposed his return; on which account he retired to Peloponnesus (Πελοπόννησος), where he died. And Timon (Τίμων) has not let even Empedocles escape, but satirises him in this style, saying:

And then Empedocles, the honeyed speaker
Of soft forensic speeches; he did take
As many offices as he was able,
Creating magistrates who wanted helpers.

But there are two accounts of the manner of his death.

XI. For Heraclides (Ἡρακλείδης), relating the story about the dead woman, how Empedocles got great glory from sending away a dead woman restored to life, says that he celebrated a sacrifice in the field of Pisianax, and that some of his friends were invited, among whom was Pausanias (Παυσανίας). And then, after the banquet, they lay down, some going a little way off, and some lying under the trees close by in the field, and some wherever they happened to choose. But Empedocles himself remained in the place where he had been sitting. But when day broke, and they arose, he alone was not found. And when he was sought for, and the servants were examined and said that they did not know, one of them said, that at midnight he had heard a loud voice calling Empedocles; and that then he himself rose up and saw a great light from heaven, but nothing else. And as they were all amazed at what had taken place, Pausanias descended and sent some people to look for him; but afterwards he was commanded not to busy himself about the matter, as he was informed that what had happened was deserving of thankfulness, and that they behoved to sacrifice to Empedocles as to one who had become a God.

Hermippus (Ἕρμιππος) says also, that a woman of the name of Panthea, a native of Agrigentum (Ἀκράγας), who had been given over by the physicians, was cured by him, and that it was on this account that he celebrated a sacrifice; and that the guests invited were about eighty in number. But Hippobotus (Ἱππόβοτος) says that he rose up and went away as if he were going to mount Ætna (Αἴτνη, in Sicily); and that when he arrived at the crater of fire he leaped in, and disappeared, wishing to establish a belief that he had become a God. But afterwards the truth was detected by one of his slippers having been dropped. For he used to wear slippers with brazen soles. Pausanias (Παυσανίας), however, contradicts this statement. [4]

But Diodorus (Διόδωρος), of Ephesus (Ἔφεσος), writing about Anaximander (Ἀναξίμανδρος), says that Empedocles imitated him; indulging in a tragic sort of pride and wearing magnificent apparel. And when a pestilence attacked the people of Selinus (Σελινοῦς, in Sicily), by reason of the bad smells arising from the adjacent river, so that the men died and the women bore dead children, Empedocles contrived a plan, and brought into the same channel two other rivers at his own expense; and so, by mixing their waters with that of the other river, he sweetened the stream. And as the pestilence was removed in this way, when the people of Selinus were on one occasion holding a festival on the bank of the river, Empedocles appeared among them; and they rising up, offered him adoration, and prayed to him as to a God. And he, wishing to confirm this idea which they had adopted of him, leaped into the fire.

But Timæus (Τιμαῖος) contradicts all these stories; saying expressly, that he departed into Peloponnesus (Πελοπόννησος), and never returned at all, on which account the manner of his death is uncertain. And he especially denies the tale of Heraclides (Ἡρακλείδης) in his fourth book; for he says that Pisianax was a Syracusan, and had no field in the district of Agrigentum (Ἀκράγας); but that Pausanias (Παυσανίας) erected a monument in honour of his friend, since such a report had got about concerning him; and, as he was a rich man, made it a statue and little chapel, as one might erect to a God. "How then," adds Timæus, "could he have leaped into a crater, of which, though they were in the neighbourhood, he had never made any mention? He died then in Peloponnesus; and there is nothing extraordinary in there being no tomb of his to be seen; for there are many other men who have no tomb visible." These are the words of Timæus; and he adds further, "But Heraclides is altogether a man fond of strange stories, and one who would assert that a man had fallen from the moon."

Hippobotus (Ἱππόβοτος) says, that there was a clothed statue of Empedocles which lay formerly in Agrigentum (Ἀκράγας), but which was afterwards placed in front of the Senate House of the Romans divested of its clothing, as the Romans had carried it off and erected it there. And there are traces of some inscriptions or reliefs still discernible on it.

Neanthes (Νεάνθης), of Cyzicus (Κύζικος), who also wrote about the Pythagoreans, says, that when Meton (Μέτων) was dead, the seeds of tyrannical power began to appear; and that then Empedocles persuaded the Agrigentines to desist from their factious disputes, and to establish political equality. And besides, as there were many of the female citizens destitute of dowry, he portioned them out of his own private fortune. And relying on these actions of his, he assumed a purple robe and wore a golden circlet on his hand, as Phavorinus (Favorinus of Arelate) relates in the first book of his Commentaries. He also wore slippers with brazen soles, and a Delphian garland. His hair was let grow very long, and he had boys to follow him; and he himself always preserved a solemn countenance, and a uniformly grave deportment. And he marched about in such style, that he seemed to all the citizens, who met him and who admired his deportment, to exhibit a sort of likeness to kingly power. And afterwards, it happened that as on the occasion of some festival he was going in a chariot to Messene (Μεσσήνη), he was upset and broke his thigh ; and he was taken ill in consequence, and so died, at the age of seventy-seven. And his tomb is in Megara (Μέγαρα).

But as to his age, Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης) differs from this account of Neanthes (Νεάνθης); for he asserts that he died at sixty years of age; others again say, that he was a hundred and nine when he died. He flourished about the eighty-fourth Olympiad. Demetrius (Δημήτριος), of Træzen, in his book against the Sophists, reports that, as the lines of Homer (Ὅμηρος) say :--

He now, self-murdered, from a beam depends,
And his mad soul to blackest hell descends.  [5]

But in the letter of Telauges (Τηλαύγης), which has been mentioned before, it is said that he slipped down through old age, and fell into the sea, and so died.

And this is enough to say about his death.

There is also a jesting epigram of ours upon him, in our collection of Poems in all Metres, which runs thus:

You too, Empedocles, essayed to purge
Your body in the rapid flames, and drank
The liquid fire from the restless crater;
I say not that you threw yourself at once
Into the stream of Ætna's (Αἴτνη, in Sicily) fiery flood.
But seeking to conceal yourself you fell,
And so you met with unintended death.

And another:—

'Tis said the wise Empedocles did fall
Out of his chariot, and so broke his thigh:
But if he leapt into the flames of Ætna,
How could his tomb be shown in Megara (Μέγαρα)?

XII. The following were some of his doctrines. He used to assert that there were four elements, fire, water, earth, and air. And that that is friendship by which they are united, and discord by which they are separated. And he speaks thus on this subject:

Bright Jove (Ζεύς), life-giving Juno (Ήρα), Pluto (
) dark,
And Nestis (Νῆστις = Water Περσεφόνη)who fills mortal eyes with tears.

Meaning by Jove fire, by Juno the earth, by Pluto the air, and by Nestis water. And these things, says he, never cease alternating with one another; inasmuch as this arrangement is perpetual. Accordingly, he says subsequently:

Sometimes in friendship bound they coalesce,
Sometimes they're parted by fell discord's hate.

And he asserts that the sun is a vast assemblage of fire, and that it is larger than the moon. And the moon is disk-shaped; and that the heaven itself is like crystal; and that the soul inhabits every kind of form of animals and plants. Accordingly, he thus expresses himself:

For once I was a boy, and once a girl.
A bush, a bird, a fish who swims the sea,

XIII. His writings on Natural Philosophy and his Purifications extend to five thousand verses; and his Medical Poem to six hundred; and his Tragedies we have spoken of previously.


[1] Dioyǽnis Laǽrtios (Diogenes Laërtius; Gr. Διογένης Λαέρτιος) The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers: The Life of Empedocles trans. C. D. Yonge, 1853, London, Henry G. Bohn, pp. 359-368.

[2] From παύω, to cause to cease, ἀνία, sorrow.

[3] It is impossible to give the force of this epigram in any other language. It is a pun on ΑκρωνἈκράγας, and ακρος.  The last word meaning not only highlofty, but also eminent, very skilful. The plain English would be - "The lofty height of a most eminent country conceals Acron, a skilful physician of Acraga, the son of a skilful father."  The variation would be -"A high tomb on a very high summit, conceals," &c.

[4] This story is mentioned by Horace -- 
Siculique poetæ,
Narrabo interitum; deus immortalis haberi,
Dum cupit Empedocles ardentem frigidus Ætnam,
Insiluit. A. P. 466.

[5] This is slightly parodied from Homer.  Od. xi.278.  Pope's Version, 337.

The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς).

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as


, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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