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Classical Quarterly 38 (02):428- (1988)
The standard histories give notice of a polemical treatise entitled Letters on Empedocles, 'Eπιστολικ. περ'Eμπεδοκλους in twenty two books by Hermarchus, Epicurus' favourite pupil and successor. The work survives in some twenty fragments of more than probable ascription. The most important of these is an extensive extract preserved by Porphyry at De Abstinentia 1.7–12 on the origin in human history of justice, homicide law, and expiatory purifications, which has been the subject of much discussion. Porphyry himself never names the title of Hermarchus' treatise, though he makes it clear that it was in the form of a polemical attack on the views of Empedocles. A recent papyrus find gives the title not as Letters on Empedocles, but as φρς 'Eμπεδοκλα . In what follows it will be convenient to show that this is no mere variant but in fact the original and correct form of the title, and to determine what can be known with certainty as a result about the make-up of the work
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