Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Fragments” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.19  ·  Rating details ·  5,802 ratings  ·  242 reviews
Fragments of wisdom from the ancient world

In the sixth century b.c.—twenty-five hundred years before Einstein—Heraclitus of Ephesus declared that energy is the essence of matter, that everything becomes energy in flux, in relativity. His great book, On Nature, the world's first coherent philosophical treatise and touchstone for Plato, Aristotle, and Marcus Aurelius, has lo
Paperback, 97 pages
Published October 28th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published -500)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Fragments, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Fragments

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,802 ratings  ·  242 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Fragments
Aug 09, 2007 rated it did not like it
Heraclitus' FRAGMENTS come here in the original with a facing-page translation by Brooks Haxton that tries to do to the pre-Socratic philosopher what no earlier translator has done, make him a New-Ageish wisdom poet in tune with our modern needs. It is a disastrous experiment, and I cannot recommend it either to students of Greek or readers interested in the pre-Socratics.

The problems here are legion. For one, Haxton doesn't use Diels' numbering scheme, favouring Bywater's dinosaur-era numbers,
Riku Sayuj


Heraclitus is all rolled into one. His fragments are tantalizing, hinting at a wisdom lost to us, but I am sure that he meant them to be fragmentary, so that all he does for the reader is a quick nod in the direction of a distant window, leaving the reader to make the journey, to peep out, and to make of the sight what he will. In the sure knowledge that Heraclitus had pointed him there and whatever he sees there is worth interpreting.

“Things keep their secr
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it

Heraclitus flourished about 500 BC.
He is the third of the ‘Pre-Socratic’ Philosophers known to us.
The first being Thales (around 585 BC) the second Pythagoras (about 532 BC).

Thales believed that the primordial element out of which everything was made, was water.
Anaximenes thought the air was the fundamental element.
Empedocles suggested that in compromise, earth, air, fire and water where the four primitive elements.

Heraclitus preferred fire.

Heraclitus also believed in perpe
Nov 03, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys thinking about it all
Recommended to Wayne by: a gift from Alfonso


Never twice,
so hardly thrice,
will you step
into the cooling waters
and find the stream
the same.

Pass on
with gladness,
not looking back
expecting permanence.
immerse yourself
in the ever-flux.
when you must,
with the tide.
Do not fight
what you cannot change-
the Changeless Everchanging.

9th March,1985.

The mightiest rock is withering away;
A tiny mound growing to a famous hill.
Becoming and becoming shapes the world.
Becoming and becoming
Shivam Chaturvedi
Remarkable coherent thoughts, musings and ramblings for something written so long ago. Heraclitus is one of those guys who sees everything in everything else, i.e. old is young, young is old - because its all relative, and so on. Which can get a little repetitive at times, but the depth of those thoughts is not lost nevertheless.

And every once in a while, a gem pops out. Like a person never stepping in the same river twice, or that dogs too bark at things they don't understand, or mixtures tend
Obviously 5 stars for Heraclitus's fragments, but this translation is complete garbage and should not be read by anyone. Haxton is a terrible poet and a terrible translator; he adds lines that do not exist in Heraclitus, apparently does not own a Greek-English lexicon, etc.

Fragment 80, Ἐδιζησαόμην εμεωυτοόν, would be translated by any sane person as "I have sought myself," "I explored myself," "I sought to know myself," "I have inquired of myself," etc., which obviously refers to the Oracle at
Leopold Benedict
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Heraklit is the prototype of a dark, cranky and cynical philosopher which is later embodied by Schopenhauer and Taleb; which is a type that speaks to me. His fragments are so profound on a melancholic, misanthropic level that I can't help to rate it five stars. ...more
Apr 16, 2017 rated it liked it
It's so funny when he bashes on Homer... the highlight of the book in my onion ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Heraclitus ("the glory of Hera"), contemporary of Buddha, Lao Tzu and Confucius, was one of the first philosophers of Ancient Greece. He was the one who said "one can't step into the same river twice". These fragments, mostly in Greek but a few times in Latin (which are printed on the left-side page alongside the English of the right-side page), once were parts of a very often quoted book "On Nature", which since has gone missing. But just from the few bits that are here can be gained very deep ...more
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
such clear thinking from such an ancient time makes me wonder why basic political structures didn't develop along more reasonable lines much much earlier than they did.
Viji (Bookish endeavors)
“The cosmos works
by harmony of tensions,
like the lyre and bow.

Therefore, good
and ill are one.”

To look beyond the ordinary understandings on the basis of limited human rationality, that seems to be what Heraclitus is preaching. ‘Seems to be’, I emphasise, since in the forward to the book it is clearly mentioned that “as Haxton says in his admirably condensed introduction, it is mainly from philosophers (ancient writers and Church Fathers) that the fragments have been culled and passed on. Th
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Enlightening and inspirational, one of few ancient philosophers who truly spoke wisdom. For Heraclitus, wisdom, much like fire, is the very essence of the cosmos.

The early Greek philosophers sought the substance which the universe was fashioned. Thales, embraced water; Anaximenes, tackled air, Anaximander, dived into a combination of hot and cold. Empedocles developed the stuff to four indestructible elemental principles, while Anaxagoras is said to have offered innumerable generative seeds comp
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, but not enlightening. Good points about change, skepticism, open-mindedness, rising above petty worldliness and not being too deferential to authority are embedded in this book.

However, I feel these points are only to be found there because the reader is forced to find some content to justify the worth of these fragments.

Many of these ideas will already be known or familiar in more developed forms to any reasonably versed reader of those philosophers and writers who followed Heracl
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
In terms of the presocratics of whom we have fragments, these are among the best in terms of fleshing out the ideas of the philosopher and his system. He outlines a notion of dialectics within these which is primitive but have to considered within their context. Some fragments are from questionable sources such as Clement whose quotes appear to be straight up illogical in parts or not relevant to Heraclitus' system. As such this is an interesting and necessary reading experience for any philosop ...more
Billy Dean
Jun 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
One star for Heraclitus?

The low rating has nothing to do with Heraclitus himself and everything to do with this translation. Laughable.
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
One of my favourite aspects of the wisdom texts that I read is the mountains of meaning behind aphorism. In many cases, a lifetime of experience will have led to one sentence. This sentence can be interpreted in a number of ways, but those that do not respect the lifetime of experience will take it to be obvious, a given, a platitude. I try to respect the history of a person’s experiencing, and coupled with that, realize that all we have of Heraclitus are fragments. Lord, some of these are beaut ...more
Kyle van Oosterum
Mar 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Heraclitus was the father of the aphorism, of the pithy and fragmentary expression of knowledge. Most pre-Socratic philosophers have been relegated to obscurity, but he is really an exception, having inspired philosophers from Plato up until Nietzsche.

Heraclitus believed that everything was made of fire; everything is in flux and the meaning of truth shifts and fluctuates over time. Nothing is permanent except change. Everything changes: "by cosmic rule, as day yields night, so winter summer, w
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Sep 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy

"Even sleepers are workers and collaborators on what goes on in the universe."

"Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony."

And a real personal favorite:

"We are most nearly ourselves when we achieve the seriousness of the child at play."

"Unlike most other early philosophers, Heraclitus is usually seen as independent of the several schools and movements later students (somewhat anachronistically) assigned to the ancients, and he himself implies that he is self-taught (B101
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The best amongst the greek era. A father figure for existentialism for sure. Intelligently written and can only be intelligently understood. A strong

recommendation for those who believe that philosophy was only from Socrates to aristotle and nothing more.

The first thinker to use intuition.

Feb 22, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

A philosophy that is miserable and obsolete compared to most Greek philosophers.
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heraclitus of Ephesus  (c. 535 – 475 BC) was a pre-Socratic philosopher, otherwise labeled as a "physical" or "natural" thinker in antiquity. As those labels suggest, pre-Socratics rejected mythical explanations of natural phenomena in favor of logical analysis. Socrates later employed a similar approach in his exploration of humanity and its institutions. Pre-Socratic areas of inquiry were often dauntingly elemental: What is the origins of things? Of what are things made? Can we understand the ...more
Apr 21, 2016 rated it liked it
(For those reading Haxton's translation and reading Hillman's intro.)

A bad introduction to Heraclitus by Hillman and a bad free verse interpretation/translation, skip James Hillman post-modernist rubbish preface and find alternative translations to all fragments (in many cases literal translations of greek words and fragments are more adequate and reliable to the original idea than interpretations of possible meanings verted into "contemporary" free verse readings of Heraclitus. The irony is tha
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A short collection of fragments covering a wide variety of topics. I think the most valuable insights to be taken from the work are Heraclitus' commitment to a dialectical conception of the world. A world in which development and process are the natural state of being (fragment 84a), formed from the constant opposition of opposites (fragment 10) which develop into one another and vice versa: united and whole rather than static and separate (fragments 76a, 88, 126).

Heraclitus promotes the unity
Nadine Jones
What was cold soon warms,
and warmth soon cools.
So moisture dries,
and dry things drown.


What was scattered
What was gathered
blows apart.


The river
where you set
your foot just now
is gone -
those waters
giving way to this,
now this.


Time is a game
played beautifully
by children.


Applicants for wisdom
do what I have done:
inquire within.


Just as the river where I step
is not the same, and is,
so I am as I am not.

I read Heraclitus's fragments many (many!) years ago, in college. They really resonate
Feb 20, 2018 added it
Shelves: from-my-loulou

Things keep their secrets.


Pythagoras may well have been
the deepest in his learning of all men.
And still he claimed to recollect
details of former lives,
being in one a cucumber
and one time a sardine.


By cosmic rule,
as day yields night,
so winter summer,
war peace, plenty famine.
All things change.
Fire penetrates the lump
of myrrh, until the joining
bodies die and rise again
in smoke called incense.


If everything
were turned to smoke,
the nose would
be the seat of judgment.


Thus in the abysmal dark
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
4* instead of 5, because the translation in the penguin edition is willfully misleading. The translator explains his choices, and it is very interesting to explore his interpretative leaps and the creative use of the English language. However, sometimes it gets a little too far; he uses his admittedly advanced skills a little too liberally. The original syntax outshines the translation, making it sound a bit like the cousin from the provinces but only in comparison. Otherwise, a very good effort ...more
Jun 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Guillermo wrote this guy's name on our pizza box and said I had to read his book. I guess some people think the beginning of the gospel of John is based on the first few of these fragments, which could be true, whatever, but John's version seems a little stranger and more beautiful and more coherent to me. Think I found some Silver Jews lyrics in here though. ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
475 BC? mans was philosophising in 2075.
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I'm suspicious of the translation (especially given that Haxton is a poet rather than a philosopher or classics scholar), but Heraclitus himself is astonishing, It's completely worth reading this in any form. ...more
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: antiquities
I really wish that there was more footnotes in this translation. The footnotes that do exist are quite sparse and provide little context (maybe I'm reading the wrong translation for that...). I would have loved a little index that showed the context that each fragment was found in. Otherwise it was an enjoyable read and has really made me rethink what I believed the presocratics to be like. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Parmenides of Elea: Fragments
  • Parmenides
  • Crito
  • Timaeus and Critias
  • G. W. Leibniz's Monadology: An Edition for Students
  • Essays and Aphorisms
  • Ethics
  • The Symposium
  • Phaedrus
  • Phaedo
  • Protagoras
  • Apology
  • Meno
  • Euthyphro
  • Nietzsche and Philosophy
  • De Anima (On the Soul)
  • Ion
  • The Enneads
See similar books…
Heraclitus of Ephesus (Greek: Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος,c.535 – c.475 BCE) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom. From the lonely life he led, and still more from the apparently riddle ...more

Related Articles

Thirty-four years after the publication of her dystopian classic, The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood returns to continue the story of Offred. We talked...
367 likes · 59 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Time is a game played beautifully by children.” 1452 likes
“Even a soul submerged in sleep
is hard at work and helps
make something of the world.”
More quotes…