Ancient Greece People

Epicurus

Bust of Epicurus leaning against his disciple Metrodorus in the Louvre MuseumBust of Epicurus in the Louvre Museum

Epicurus was an Ancient Greek Philosopher who lived from 341 BC to 270 BC.

Born on the seventh day of the month of Gamelian in 341 BC, according to Apollodorus. His parents were Athenians that emigrated to the Aegean island of Samos.

As a youth he was taught philosophy for four years by Pamphilus, a Platonist teacher. When he reached 18 he went to Athens to complete his military two year term.

When Alexander the Great was killed in 323 BC, Athenian settlers on Samos were then expelled by Perdiccas, to Colophon, where he was reunited with his family.

Epicurus, was forced to leave Mytilene in c. 311 BC, after his teaching believed to have caused strife. This led him to return to Athens in 306 BC, where he founded the school 'The Garden', named after a garden he had between Stoa and the Academy, which was used as for meeting place for his students. As far as we know Epicurus was not married and died in 270 BC in the archonship of Pytharatus , at the age of 72. Reportedly prolonged suffering from kidney stones at the time, he composed Idomeneus.

'For I have been attacked by a painful inability to urinate, and also dysentery, so violent that nothing can be added to the violence of my sufferings. But the cheerfulness of my mind, which comes from the recollection of all my philosophical contemplation, counterbalances all these afflictions.'

He is known to have written over 300 pieces of work, but only little fragments of this remains. The majority of what we know of him comes from people that commentated on him. Epicurus was mostly known as being the creator of 'Epicureanism' which was a popular belief in Hellenistic Philosophy over 600 years.

Epicurus believed we could all find a way to be happy. His philosophy was to accomplish a happy and satisfied life, with without feeling pain and fear. It was by living in 'seclusion', not being involved in politics, a self sufficient life without pursuing wealth or glory. It was also emphasized the importance of a close circle of friends, that you could trust and participate in enjoying the lesser glorified objects in life, such as food and science. Believing pleasure and pain to be measures of what is good and bad. Epicurus (as opposed to Aristotle) believed death is the end of the body and the soul, so it should not be feared.
Epicurus is quoted as believing to have said 'Death is nothing to us'.Meaning when we exist death is not, and when death exists we are not. All sensations and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fear of death arises from the false belief that in death there is awareness.

It is clear that in his teachings he believed gods were not concerned with humans as most commonly thought at the time, that they do not reward or punish humans. When we are not suffering from pain, we are no longer in need of pleasure, and therefore enter a state of 'perfect mental peace'.

Video - Epicurus on Happiness
 

Copyright © 2003-2012 University Press Inc. All Rights Reserved