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Epicurus of Samos

Epicurus, drawing of a roman sculpture, a copy of an original around 270 BC. New York, Metropolitan Museum Inv. 11.90..

Epicurus of Samos ( Επίκουρος ο Σάμιος )(342/1-271/0 BC), son of Neocles and Chaerestrate, was born seven years after Plato's death. He was an ancient sage who left us an enduring message of optimism. He grew up in the Athenian colony of Samos. He was a student of Pamphilus and probably also of Praxiphanes. He was about 19 years old when Aristotle died, and he studied philosophy under followers of Democritus and Plato. Epicurus founded his first philosophical schools in Mytilene and Lampsacus, before moving to Athens around 306 BC. There Epicurus founded the Garden, a combination of philosophical community and school. The residents of the Garden put Epicurus' teachings into practice. Epicurus died from kidney stones according to references I have found (Did the Greeks have a knowledge about kidney stones and how?) around 271 or 270 BC. His philosophy conveyed the ultimate conviction that individuals can live in serene happiness, fortified by the continual experience of easily obtainable pleasures.

Life is not eternal but limited but even with this limitation there is no reason to fear death. “Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not..

According to Diogenes Laertius Epicurus was the author of around 300 writings from which only three letters survived. The Letter to Herodotus is considered to be a summary of his philosophy. Diogenes Laertius and Lucretius are the main indirect sources of the life and work of Epicurus.

Laertius says that the work of Epicurus is divided in three main parts:

....canonic, physics, ethics. Canonic forms the introduction to the system and is contained in a single work entitled The Canon. The physical part includes the entire theory of Nature: it is contained in the thirty-seven books of Of Nature and, in a summary form, in the letters. The ethical part deals with the facts of choice and aversion; this may be found in the books On Human Life, in the letters, and in his treatise Of the End.


Epicurus in Raphael's School of Athens

Epicurus tried to explain phenomena in terms of the atoms and void, an idea from Democritus. He also supported the idea of evolution and believed that the universe is infinite using the argument of Archytas. Epicurus explains perception in terms of the interaction of atoms with the sense-organs. Objects continually throw off one-atom-thick layers, like the skin peeling off of an onion. These images, or "eidola," fly through the air and bang into one's eyes, from which one learns about the properties of the objects that threw off these eidola. This explains vision. Other senses are analyzed in similar terms; e.g., the soothing action of smooth atoms on the tongue causes the sensation of sweetness.

After Epicurus' death, Epicureanism continued to flourish as a philosophical movement. Communities of Epicureans sprang up throughout the Hellenistic world; along with Stoicism, it was one of the major philosophical schools competing for people's allegiances. Epicureanism went into decline with the rise of Christianity. His idea to explain everything mechanistically avoiding direct causes by gods was a reason that he was considered as an atheist.


Epicurus died in 270 BC of a painful urinary blockage and an associated dysentery infection. In the last few hours of his life he wrote a moving Letter to Idomeneus where he rates the pleasures of the remembrance of his friendship with him ahead of the pains he was suffering. He met his end when he entered a bronze bath of lukewarm water and asked for some wine, which he swallowed and then with his last breath urged his followers to remember his doctrines: "Farewell my friends, the truths I taught hold fast." from Epicurean History

Quotes of Epicurus from Vatican

Epicurus , Greek Texts

Letter to Menoeceus

Epicurus: Letter to Herodotus (a summary of his atomic theory)

Epicurus: Letter to Pythocles

Thomas Jefferson to William Short... I too am an Epicurean

Epicurus Website Epicurean History

http://www.olavodecarvalho.org/traducoes/epicurus.htm Epicurus and Marx (for the few still alive ideologists)

Epicurus (342-270 B.C.E.) and Victorian Aesthetes

Gordon Ziniewicz's lecture on Epicureanism.

http://www.epicurus.org/home/index/epic/ Another interpretation of Epicurus Philosophy :-) (Greek Website)

The Molecular Biology of Paradise ( A Paradise on Earth.. for what are we doing the whole research ???)

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