About our staff
Dr Simon Trépanier
Senior Lecturer; Classics
I grew up in Québec, just on the French side of the border between French and English Canada. Up to and including my undergraduate years, all my studies were in French. My high school did not offer any classics courses, but I enrolled to study Classical archaeology at the University of Ottawa, where I soon switched to Greek and Latin. During graduate studies in Classics at the University of Toronto, I chose to specialise in ancient philosophy. After a one-year replacement post at UMass Boston in 2001/02, in 2003 I moved to the UK to do post-doctoral research at the University of Oxford. This in turn led to a post at the University of Edinburgh in 2005.
Co-Organizer, with M.M. McCabe, of the A. G. Leventis Conference: Re‐Reading Plato’s Republic, 21‐24 Nov. 2019
Member of The International Association of Presocratic Studies, (IAPS) since 2008; Host and organizer of 2nd meeting held in Edinburgh July 28th-31st 2010. Member of the Board of IAPS at 3rd Meeting in Merida, Mexico, Jan. 2012; on the organizing committee for 4th meeting (2014), 5th meeting (2016), 6th meeting (2018), 7th Meeting (2020).
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Language & Literature
- Medicine, Science & Technology
My main research interest is ancient philosophy. My specialties include early Greek philosophy, also known as the Presocratics, Plato, literary papyrology and, more recently, Epicureanism and Lucretius. I am especially interested in the emergence of philosophy and its relation to literature and wider society, and in ancient philosophical religion.
So far my main efforts have been devoted to the philosopher-poet Empedocles. Thanks to a major papyrus find, which appeared in 1999, at the time described as the ‘the find of the century’ for ancient philosophy, we not only have more text to work with, but much of what we thought we knew about him needs to be rethought. My first book (2004) argued that the new evidence reinforces the case for there being only one poem, against the dominant modern editorial division of his poetic output between two poems. More recent articles are either contributions to the papyrus text or try to show how the Pythagorean side of his thought, reincarnation and the nature of the gods, can be squared with his materialist physics.
Current research activities
My current project, ‘The New Empedocles’, attempts to pull these different strands together. Its first part is an edition and commentary of Book 1 of the On Nature, integrating the papyrus and a number of other fragments known to us from the Aristotelian commentator Simplicius. Beyond several new suggestions for restoring the text, I try to show how close study of Empedocles’ poetic exposition can help us understand the larger structure and organization of Book 1. The second part is a series of essays on his philosophy, twith emphasis on the unity of his thought. The first two essays study his reply to Parmenides’ denial of change and his vindication of perception. From that I then reconstruct his biology and physiology, including his theory of perception. Finally, I consider his views on reincarnation and the place of the soul and the gods within the order of nature. The third part revisits the case for the single work by showing how the material traditionally attributed to the ‘religious’ poem can be best explained as the opening or proem to the On Nature. In particular, these sections, though clearly located at the start of the poem by our sources, contain a number of forward hints to Empedocles’ specific doctrines. Although these are not recognizable on their own, they can be understood in hindsight, through study of the full poem. In this way, Empedocles likens his teachings to an initiation, where only the fully initiated can recognize and understand the shared secret symbols.
Lucretius and the New Empedocles
Related to my work on Empedocles is a large study on the Latin didactic poet Lucretius, now in partial draft. While the Greek philosopher Epicurus is Lucretius’ doctrinal master, Empedocles is the master of his poetic genre, philosophical didactic epic. The goal is to investigate how the new, post-papyrus Empedocles affects our understanding of Lucretius. What the new Empedocles shows is that Lucretius’ two masters are much more similar than we previously suspected: both are mortal gods teaching a reformed theology based on physics, including how to become a god. On the level of philosophical content, Lucretius’ use of Empedocles resonates against a highly contested Hellenistic reception of Empedocles, so far largely unstudied. While both the Stoics and Epicureans recognize Empedocles as an important ‘materialist’ predecessor, against Platonic metaphysics, the Stoics appropriate many of his cosmological themes while the Epicureans reject the appropriation. The study will also consider many more tangible Lucretian poetic debts to Empedocles, including his use and subversion of Empedoclean cosmic-religious imagery to his Epicurean ends.
Greek philosophy and ancient theology
Finally, I have longer-term plans for a wider treatment of the gods in Greek philosophy. For a first survey of the issues, see my 2010 article in the list of publications.
- Greek 1C/2A/1D/2B (intermediate level, incl. Euripides, Menander, Xenophon, Thucydides)
- Early Greek Philosophy (Greek GREE10014; in Translation CLTR10015)
- Socrates and Plato: (Greek U03602; in Translation U03603)
- Greek Comedy (GREE10011)
- Classical Literature 2A: Ancient Epic (CLTR08008)
- Homer, Iliad (GREE10002)
- Lucretius De Rerum Natura (LATI10022)
- Tragedy in Translation (CLTR10003)
- Greek Language A and B (advanced language instruction, incl. unseens)
- Epicurus and Epicureanism (P01651)
- Greek Philosophy (Plato's Republic) (PGHC11022)
|Name||Degree||Thesis topic||Supervision type||Link|
|Graham Blackbourne||PhD||Self, Witness and Perception in Archaic Greece||Primary|
|Name||Degree||Thesis topic||Supervision type||Completion year||Link|
|Cas Valachova||PhD||The Political and philosophical strategies of Roman Epicureans in the Late Republic||Secondary||2018||link|
|Manuel De Zubiria||PhD||Communication in Heraclitus||Primary||2018||link|
|Orton, Jane||PhD||Plato On Dianoetic Reasoning||Primary||2013|
Trepanier, S. (2004) Empedocle: Les Pommes de la discorde. Phoenix - The Journal of the Classical Association of Canada, 58, pp. 130-142
Trepanier, S. (2003) 'We and Empedocles' Cosmic Lottery: P. Strasb. Gr. INV.1665-1666 ensemble a. Mnemosyne, 56, pp. 385-419DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/156852503769173039
Trepanier, S. (2020) The spirit in the flesh: Empedocles on embodied soul. In: Bartoš , H. and Guthrie King, C. (eds.) Heat, Pneuma, and Soul in Ancient Philosophy and Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 80-105DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108651714
Trepanier, S. (2019) Empedocles on the Origin of Plants: P. Strasb. gr. Inv. 1665-1666, sections d, b and f. In: Vassallo, C. (ed.) Presocratics and Papyrological Tradition: A Philosophical Reappraisal of the Sources. Berlin; Boston: de Gruyter, pp. 271-297DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110666106-012
Trepanier, S. (2010) Early Greek theology: God as Nature and Natural Gods. In: Erskine, A. and Bremner, J. (eds.) The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations. Edinburgh University Press, pp. 273-317
Trepanier, S. (2007) 'The Didactic Plot of Lucretius, De Rerum Natura and its Empedoclean Model' in R. Sorabji, R.W. Sharples, eds Greek and Roman Philosophy 100 BC to 200 AD, (Institute of Classical Studies London). In: Greek and Roman Philosophy 100 BC to 200 AD, vol. 1. London: Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, pp. 243
Trepanier, S. (2003) Empedocles on the Ultimate Symmetry of the World. In: Sedley, D. (ed.) Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy Volume XXIV. Oxford University Press, pp. 01-58