Volume 6, Issue 2, 2019

David Hernández Castro
Pages 129-146

Empedocles without Horseshoes
Delphi’s Criticism of Large Sacrifices

Scholars have generally analysed Empedocles’ criticism of sacrifices through a Pythagorean interpretation context. However, Empedocles’ doctrinal affiliation with this school is problematic and also not needed to explain his rejection of the ‘unspeakable slaughter of bulls.’ His position is consistent with the wisdom tradition that emanated from the Sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi, an institution that underwent significant political and religious changes at the end of the 6th Century B.C., the impact of which was felt all over Magna Graecia. The ritual practice of sacrifice played an important role in Delphi, but the sanctuary also gave birth to a school of wisdom that was highly critical of the arrogance (hybris) of large sacrifices. Asocio-cultural analysis of the Akragas of the first half of the 5th Century B.C. provides new arguments that support this interpretation. The work of Empedocles contains more evidence of being influenced by the Delphi school of wisdom than by Orphism or Pythagoreanism.