Michel Onfray and the Counter-History of Philosophy

Read: The Counter-History of Philosophy

This commentary and review is based on the book Las sabidurías de la antigüedad: Contrahistoria de la filosofía, a Spanish-language translation of a book (not yet available in English) by French philosopher Michel Onfray. He is the founder of the Université Populaire de Caen, which provides a free liberal education, and is one of the most prominent public intellectuals in France today.

After witnessing the rise of the right-wing ideology of Le Pen–and the intellectual decadence that led to it–, Onfray felt that the French Republic needed to invest in the formation of new intellectuals. Feeling that the academic world had failed by giving too much undeserved importance to Plato and the idealists, and too little to Epicurus and the materialists, he set out to argue that the West needs a “counter-history of philosophy” from the perspective of the “friends of Epicurus and the enemies of Plato”.

Historiography as Warfare

In our discussion of Nietzsche’s philosophy, I mentioned (and criticized) some Nietzschean views which have had great influence in Onfray and serve, to a great extent, as presuppositions:

To Nietzsche, truth and reality are the concoction of someone who, in the process of positing a narrative of reality, is acting upon and exerting power over reality, creating reality.

… There are no facts, only interpretation.

The influence of Nietzsche in Onfray was also explored in his argument that there is a Nietzschean leftist ideology, a way of philosophizing that is Nietzschean “insofar as it takes Nietzsche as the starting point”.

We must start with Onfray’s Nietzschean influence because Onfray–like Nietzsche–recognizes that narrative is power and declares that we are at war. It is a war of ideas and ideologies, a war between materialists and idealists, between atomists and theologians, between creationists and scientists. Two cosmologies (in their many varieties) that can not be reconciled have been at war for millennia. We may think of them as the “culture wars” today. This is the subject of Onfray’s counter-history, and it frames his way of practicing philosophy.

Onfray says that the writing of history is in itself an act of war, that it is ideological and that there is a strategy, a series of goals, and a variety of methods of writing history that demonstrate the ways in which the intellectual battle is fought. Sometimes war is waged by imposing invisibility and silence on others; at other times it is by accentuating this or that piece of evidence.

Onfray starts with Plato himself, who never mentions Democritus directly, although his entire philosophy is a war-machine against Democritus. Plato’s tactic here is to ignore, to omit, to silence the enemy, so as to diminish and disregard his value. In one passage discussing Aristoxenus, Onfray narrates how Plato once insinuated that the works of Democritus should be burnt, but two Pythagoreans persuaded him not to burn them. At all times, Onfray convicts Plato of knowingly engaging in an ideological battle, a problem which is made worse by the fact that in the “official” history of philosophy, there haven’t been enough attempts to find the real voice of his opponents.

The academic world has adopted the Platonic narrative and delegated Democritus in the history books to the status of a “pre-Socratic”, which trivializes his intellectual achievement as the inventor of atomism, although Democritus lived at the same time as Socrates. Democritus was born in 460, Socrates in 470. Perhaps it’s easy enough for historians to fit facts and people into neat categories, but the myth of the “three classical philosophers”–Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle–has been perpetuated unthinkingly ad nauseam by academia, and has attributed an unfair amount of importance to these three to the detriment of all the others.

Onfray begins his counter-history by setting the record straight: Democritus, the inventor (together with Leucippus) of atomism and the first of the Laughing Philosophers is NOT a pre-Socratic. Democritus is the first anti-Platonist, active at the same time as Plato. Democritus and Plato start two separate philosophical lineages. The counter-history of philosophy gives us the narrative of the “other” lineage.

Plato knew Aristippus–the founder of hedonist doctrine–and was familiar with him and his opinions. Proof of this is that he mentions Aristippus directly when he reproaches his absence at Socrates’ death. But instead of using Aristippus as the mouthpiece of hedonism, he used the (fictional?) character of Philebus, merely a literary figure to embody pleasure in one of his “dialogues”. Plato doesn’t let Philebus talk or defend himself properly. Plato also exhibits ill-will when he exaggerates and caricatures his hedonist opponent, and then in the end portrays the character as going off running after a boy.

Why choose a fictional character to speak for a philosophy that has real proponents with real, coherent doctrines? Here, again, Plato’s war machine uses omission, silencing, ignoring his opponent, as if this demonstrated the validity of Plato’s arguments. We are reminded of how the Socrates that we know is Plato’s Socrates: we never hear of the Socrates that inspired the Cynics, or the Hedonists, or any of the other philosophical lineages that claimed him.

In view of the conflict of ideas that has taken place throughout history, Onfray argues that Mount Vesuvius protected the Herculaneum scrolls from Christian fury and fanaticism; that if the eruption of 79 CE hadn’t charred the papyri, we would have never gotten access to most of the works in Philodemus’ villa.

Striking a Blow for Epicurus

In his exposé of a religious fraud, the Epicurean satirist Lucian of Samosata included a revealing passage about “striking a blow for Epicurus” which demonstrates that the Epicureans, ancient as well as modern, have always seen ourselves as waging an intellectual battle:

… I was still more concerned (a preference which you may be far from resenting) to strike a blow for Epicurus, that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him.

This passage testifies to the fact that in the 2nd Century CE, Lucian saw himself as engaged in a fist-fight through the use of comedy and literature. Contemporary Epicureans generally hold the view that the ONLY way to understand Epicurus in depth is by understanding how rabidly anti-Plato he was: some have even argued that his entire system of philosophy can be understood mostly as a detailed, point-by-point refutation of Plato, who replaced nature with ideas. Ideas are okay, they’re just not “things” existing on their own–without matter–in the ether, or the plethora, or whatever the superstitious Platonists called the ideal realm.

Epicurus’ expulsion from Mitilene by the Platonists who had assumed control of the gymnasium, under threat of being accused of blasphemy, is another pivotal historical incident that usually escapes scrutiny by historians–even by Onfray himself. We know from the sources that this was a difficult season to travel by sea and that his ship capsized and he nearly lost his life. We know that this made Epicurus careful, and that he later on avoided preaching his philosophy in the agora, preferring the privacy of his Garden. But, why were the Platonists so offended by the idea of things being made up of atoms, or by the belief that life should be pleasant? What arguments and discussions can we speculate that they had with Epicurus prior to the expulsion?

Attempts to answer these questions may help to reveal many important issues of controversy, including the Epicureans’ passionate indignation with superstition and with the endless, pointless, irrelevant speculation of the other philosophers. This deserves its own series of imaginary “dialogues”.

Reconciling with Nature

In terms of how materialists and idealists philosophize, the two lineages are either difficult or impossible to reconcile: we philosophize from the body, we value the senses, the instincts, and the faculties–pleasure and aversion. We value emotions: Philodemus treats anger as a source of insight and says it can be rational and natural, whereas the Platonists have carried out a complete denaturalization and decontextualization of morality and philosophy. They invented an unnatural split between body and mind to devalue the body and elevate the imaginary, disembodied “spirit”. This was easily dismantled by Epicurus when he re-integrated the psyche within the body.

Onfray calls Platonism “the great neurosis at the heart of Western civilization”. It’s not just our happiness that suffers as a result of it. There is MUCH more at stake, including our connection with reality. Epicurus is still important and relevant today because his entire system is not only coherent, but also entirely based on the study of nature.

The Individual Versus the Polis

Following the logic of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, Onfray brings many intellectuals from diverse traditions together, whom he sees as fighting the war against Plato. In doing so, I admit that the comparison of hedonists with cynics seems a bit forced at times. But he does note the tension that exists between nature (fisos, body) and law (nomos), between the individual (and her freedom) and the polis (and its culture), as an underlying thread in the culture wars.

The Four Cures are a Philodeman invention, to which Onfray offers an alternative that includes what he calls a “tranquil atheism”. While discussing the Lucretian parable of the fortress of the wise–which is a beautiful defense of individualist ethics as distinct from the vulgarities of the masses–Onfray declares:

Hedonism does not require selfishness, or an evil joy (while seeing the suffering of others), but the construction of one’s self as a citadel, an impregnable fortress.

That the Epicurean chooses to be an individual and to focus on his own self-cultivation is not to be understood as obeying some commandment to be apolitical. Onfray claims that, while Philodemus rejects the autocracy of tyrants and the democracy of the vulgar masses, he prefers a king under the influence of philosophy. The source for this is unclear, but this should not impede us from forming our own ideals for the kind of government that leads most easily to a life of pleasure, of autarchy, and of ataraxia for its individuals, as surely Thomas Jefferson–an Epicurean himself–did when he wrote the words “pursuit of happiness” into the Declaration of Independence.

Perhaps a contemporary “ideal King” might be best embodied by the former President of Uruguay José Mujica, who specifically mentioned Epicurus while speaking to the community of nations, and who was subsequently celebrated at the annual symposium of Epicurean philosophy in Athens. Mujica is known for his moderate leftist-libertarian politics, for his authenticity and simple living in spite of earning a presidential salary, for his avowed atheism, and his call on all Latin Americans and Westerners to rethink the inherited values–most importantly consumerism–as “Christianity has failed us”, he says.

A leader who is adored by people throughout Latin America and the world, Mujica is acutely aware of the importance of disciplining our desires, and of the dangers posed by neoliberalism and by the capitalist model that requires constant growth, preferring instead a sustainable model of capitalist enterprise. Under his leadership, Uruguay has become the most prosperous nation in Latin America. It enjoys today liberal social policies, a high quality of life, and a poverty rate below 2%.

The House of Piso

Philodemus didn’t just challenge the stereotype of Epicureans as apolitical: he developed the Epicurean tradition in other ways, and challenged the stereotype of Epicureans as minimalists who live frugally. Philodemus taught philosophy to wealthy Romans–including Caesar’s own father-in-law. With him, the Epicurean tradition demonstrated–as is consistent with its own teaching–that it was willing to embrace luxuries when no disadvantages ensued from their enjoyment. This is a philosophy for men and women of all social classes.

The House of Piso was not the austere Garden of the original founders. Together with its library and cultural life, it resembled more a grand temple of refined pleasure. The villa at Herculaneum overlooked the Mediterranean Sea and was a fortress of refinement, culture, and luxury. We will get another glimpse into the vibrant cultural life contained within its walls when we study Horace’s Epistle to the Pisos.

Some Counter-History Trivia

The writing of Michel Onfray is peppered with references of interest to the student of Epicurean philosophy. Among some of the trivia points:

  • Philodemus’ library was discovered on the 19th day of October of 1752
  • Timon was the first one to associate Epicureans with the pig
  • While many have argued that De Rerum Natura is an incomplete work, acute observers will notice that Lucretius starts De Rerum Natura with the word “mother”, and ends it with the word “corpse”
  • Epicurus’ name means soccour or assistance, specifically “help during times of war”
  • Antiphon of Athens was a precursor of psychoanalysis and the first to propose that philosophy heals the soul through words. This would later be paraphrased by Philodemus. He was very persuasive, invented therapeutic philosophy, and wrote a work titled “The Art of Combatting Sadness”.
  • Maecenas, the wealthy patron of the arts whose name became synonymous with humanist philanthropy, is believed to have been Epicurean.


Alexander the Oracle Monger

You, my dear Celsus, possibly suppose yourself to be laying upon me quite a trifling task: Write me down in a book and send me the life and adventures, the tricks and frauds, of the impostor Alexander of Abonutichus. In fact, however, it would take as long to do this in full detail as to reduce to writing the achievements of Alexander of Macedon; the one is among villains what the other is among heroes. Nevertheless, if you will promise to read with indulgence, and fill up the gaps in my tale from your imagination, I will essay the task. I may not cleanse that Augean stable completely, but I will do my best, and fetch you out a few loads as samples of the unspeakable filth that three thousand oxen could produce in many years.

I confess to being a little ashamed both on your account and my own. There are you asking that the memory of an arch-scoundrel should be perpetuated in writing; here am I going seriously into an investigation of this sort—the doings of a person whose deserts entitled him not to be read about by the cultivated, but to be torn to pieces in the amphitheater by apes or foxes, with a vast audience looking on. Well, well, if any one does cast reflections of that sort upon us, we shall at least have a precedent to plead. Arrian himself, disciple of Epictetus, distinguished Roman, and product of lifelong culture as he was, had just our experience, and shall make our defense.  He condescended, that is, to put on record the life of the robber Tilliborus.  The robber we propose to immortalize was of a far more pestilent kind, following his profession not in the forests and mountains, but in cities; he was not content to overrun a Mysia or an Ida; his booty came not from a few scantily populated districts of Asia; one may say that the scene of his depredations was the whole Roman Empire.

I will begin with a picture of the man himself, as lifelike (though I am not great at description) as I can make it with nothing better than words.  In person—not to forget that part of him—he was a fine handsome man with a real touch of divinity about him, white-skinned, moderately bearded; he wore besides his own hair artificial additions which matched it so cunningly that they were not generally detected.  His eyes were piercing, and suggested inspiration, his voice at once sweet and sonorous. In fact there was no fault to be found with him in these respects.

So much for externals.  As for his mind and spirit—well, if all the kind Gods who avert disaster will grant a prayer, it shall be that they bring me not within reach of such a one as he; sooner will I face my bitterest enemies, my country’s foes.  In understanding, resource, acuteness, he was far above other men; curiosity, receptiveness, memory, scientific ability—all these were his in overflowing measure.  But he used them for the worst purposes. Endowed with all these instruments of good, he very soon reached a proud pre-eminence among all who have been famous for evil; the Cercopes, Eurybatus, Phrynondas, Aristodemus, Sostratus—all thrown into the shade.  In a letter to his father-in-law Rutilianus, which puts his own pretensions in a truly modest light, he compares himself to Pythagoras.

Well, I should not like to offend the wise, the divine Pythagoras; but if he had been Alexander’s contemporary, I am quite sure he would have been a mere child to him.  Now by all that is admirable, do not take that for an insult to Pythagoras, nor suppose I would draw a parallel between their achievements.  What I mean is: if any one would make a collection of all the vilest and most damaging slanders ever vented against Pythagoras—things whose truth I would not accept for a moment—, the sum of them would not come within measurable distance of Alexander’s cleverness.  You are to set your imagination to work and conceive a temperament curiously compounded of falsehood, trickery, perjury, cunning; it is versatile, audacious, adventurous, yet dogged in execution; it is plausible enough to inspire confidence; it can assume the mask of virtue, and seem to eschew what it most desires.  I suppose no one ever left him after a first interview without the impression that this was the best and kindest of men, aye, and the simplest and most unsophisticated.  Add to all this a certain greatness in his objects; he never made a small plan; his ideas were always large.

While in the bloom of his youthful beauty, which we may assume to have been great both from its later remains and from the report of those who saw it, he traded quite shamelessly upon it.  Among his other patrons was one of the charlatans who deal in magic and mystic incantations; they will smooth your course of love, confound your enemies, find you treasure, or secure you an inheritance.  This person was struck with the lad’s natural qualifications for apprenticeship to his trade, and finding him as much attracted by rascality as attractive in appearance, gave him a regular training as accomplice, satellite, and attendant.  His own ostensible profession was medicine, and his knowledge included, like that of Thoon the Egyptian’s wife, Many a virtuous herb, and many a bane; to all which inheritance our friend succeeded.  This teacher and lover of his was a native of Tyana, an associate of the great Apollonius, and acquainted with all his heroics. And now you know the atmosphere in which Alexander lived.

By the time his beard had come, the Tyanean was dead, and he found himself in straits; for the personal attractions which might once have been a resource were diminished.  He now formed great designs, which he imparted to a Byzantine chronicler of the strolling competitive order, a man of still worse character than himself, called, I believe, Cocconas.  The pair went about living on occult pretensions, shearing ‘fat-heads,’ as they describe ordinary people in the native Magian lingo.  Among these they got hold of a rich Macedonian woman; her youth was past, but not her desire for admiration; they got sufficient supplies out of her, and accompanied her from Bithynia to Macedonia. She came from Pella, which had been a flourishing place under the Macedonian kingdom, but has now a poor and much reduced population.

There is here a breed of large serpents, so tame and gentle that women make pets of them, children take them to bed, they will let you tread on them, have no objection to being squeezed, and will draw milk from the breast like infants. To these facts is probably to be referred the common story about Olympias when she was with child of Alexander; it was doubtless one of these that was her bed-fellow.  Well, the two saw these creatures, and bought the finest they could get for a few pence.

And from this point, as Thucydides might say, the war takes its beginning.  These ambitious scoundrels were quite devoid of scruples, and they had now joined forces; it could not escape their penetration that human life is under the absolute dominion of two mighty principles, fear and hope, and that any one who can make these serve his ends may be sure of a rapid fortune.  They realized that, whether a man is most swayed by the one or by the other, what he must most depend upon and desire is a knowledge of futurity.  So were to be explained the ancient wealth and fame of Delphi, Delos, Clarus, Branchidae; it was at the bidding of the two tyrants aforesaid that men thronged the temples, longed for foreknowledge, and to attain it sacrificed their hecatombs or dedicated their golden ingots.  All this they turned over and debated, and it issued in the resolve to establish an oracle. If it were successful, they looked for immediate wealth and prosperity; the result surpassed their most sanguine expectations.

The next things to be settled were, first the theater of operations, and secondly the plan of campaign.  Cocconas favoured Chalcedon, as a mercantile center convenient both for Thrace and Bithynia, and accessible enough for the province of Asia, Galatia, and tribes still further east.  Alexander, on the other hand, preferred his native place, urging very truly that an enterprise like theirs required congenial soil to give it a start, in the shape of ‘fat-heads’ and simpletons.  That was a fair description, he said, of the Paphlagonians beyond Abonutichus; they were mostly superstitious and well-to-do; one had only to go there with some one to play the flute, the tambourine, or the cymbals, set the proverbial mantic sieve a-spinning, and there they would all be gaping as if he were a God from heaven.

This difference of opinion did not last long, and Alexander prevailed.  Discovering, however, that a use might after all be made of Chalcedon, they went there first, and in the temple of Apollo, the oldest in the place, they buried some brazen tablets, on which was the statement that very shortly Asclepius, with his father Apollo, would pay a visit to Pontus, and take up his abode at Abonutichus.  The discovery of the tablets took place as arranged, and the news flew through Bithynia and Pontus, first of all, naturally, to Abonutichus.  The people of that place at once resolved to raise a temple, and lost no time in digging the foundations.  Cocconas was now left at Chalcedon, engaged in composing certain ambiguous crabbed oracles.  He shortly afterwards died, I believe, of a viper’s bite.

Alexander meanwhile went on in advance; he had now grown his hair and wore it in long curls; his doublet was white and purple striped, his cloak pure white; he carried a scimitar in imitation of Perseus, from whom he now claimed descent through his mother.  The wretched Paphlagonians, who knew perfectly well that his parentage was obscure and mean on both sides, nevertheless gave credence to the oracle, which ran:  Lo, sprung from Perseus, and to Phoebus dear, High Alexander, Podalirius’ son!

Podalirius, it seems, was of so highly amorous a complexion that the distance between Tricca and Paphlagonia was no bar to his union with Alexander’s mother.  A Sibylline prophecy had also been found:

Hard by Sinope on the Euxine shore
Th’ Italic age a fortress prophet sees.
To the first monad let thrice ten be added,
Five monads yet, and then a triple score:
Such the quaternion of th’ alexic name.

This heroic entry into his long-left home placed Alexander conspicuously before the public; he affected madness, and frequently foamed at the mouth— a manifestation easily produced by chewing the herb soap-wort, used by dyers; but it brought him reverence and awe.  The two had long ago manufactured and fitted up a serpent’s head of linen; they had given it a more or less human expression, and painted it very like the real article; by a contrivance of horsehair, the mouth could be opened and shut, and a forked black serpent tongue protruded, working on the same system.  The serpent from Pella was also kept ready in the house, to be produced at the right moment and take its part in the drama—the leading part, indeed.

In the fullness of time, his plan took shape.  He went one night to the temple foundations, still in process of digging, and with standing water in them which had collected from the rainfall or otherwise.  Here he deposited a goose egg, into which, after blowing it, he had inserted some new-born reptile.  He made a resting-place deep down in the mud for this, and departed.  Early next morning he rushed into the market-place, naked except for a gold-spangled loin-cloth; with nothing but this and his scimetar, and shaking his long loose hair, like the fanatics who collect money in the name of Cybele, he climbed on to a lofty altar and delivered a harangue, felicitating the city upon the advent of the God now to bless them with his presence.  In a few minutes nearly the whole population was on the spot, women, old men, and children included; all was awe, prayer, and adoration.  He uttered some unintelligible sounds, which might have been Hebrew or Phoenician, but completed his victory over his audience, who could make nothing of what he said, beyond the constant repetition of the names Apollo and Asclepius.

He then set off at a run for the future temple.  Arrived at the excavation and the already completed sacred fount, he got down into the water, chanted in a loud voice hymns to Asclepius and Apollo, and invited the God to come, a welcome guest, to the city.  He next demanded a bowl, and when this was handed to him, had no difficulty in putting it down at the right place and scooping up, besides water and mud, the egg in which the God had been enclosed; the edges of the aperture had been joined with wax and white lead.  He took the egg in his hand and announced that here he held Asclepius.  The people, who had been sufficiently astonished by the discovery of the egg in the water, were now all eyes for what was to come.  He broke it, and received in his hollowed palm the hardly developed reptile; the crowd could see it stirring and winding about his fingers; they raised a shout, hailed the God, blessed the city, and every mouth was full of prayers—for treasure and wealth and health and all the other good things that he might give.  Our hero now departed homewards, still running, with the new-born Asclepius in his hands—the twice-born, too, whereas ordinary men can be born but once, and born moreover not of Coronis, nor even of her namesake the crow, but of a goose!  After him streamed the whole people, in all the madness of fanatic hopes.

He now kept the house for some days, in hopes that the Paphlagonians would soon be drawn in crowds by the news. He was not disappointed; the city was filled to overflowing with persons who had neither brains nor individuality, who bore no resemblance to men that live by bread, and had only their outward shape to distinguish them from sheep.  In a small room he took his seat, very imposingly attired, upon a couch.  He took into his bosom our Asclepius of Pella (a very fine and large one, as I observed), wound its body round his neck, and let its tail hang down.  There was enough of this not only to fill his lap, but to trail on the ground also; the patient creature’s head he kept hidden in his armpit, showing the linen head on one side of his beard exactly as if it belonged to the visible body.

Picture to yourself a little chamber into which no very brilliant light was admitted, with a crowd of people from all quarters, excited, carefully worked up, all aflutter with expectation.  As they came in, they might naturally find a miracle in the development of that little crawling thing of a few days ago into this great, tame, human-looking serpent.  Then they had to get on at once towards the exit, being pressed forward by the new arrivals before they could have a good look.  An exit had been specially made just opposite the entrance, for all the world like the Macedonian device at Babylon when Alexander was ill.  He was in extremis, you remember, and the crowd round the palace were eager to take their last look and give their last greeting.  Our scoundrel’s exhibition, though, is said to have been given not once, but many times, especially for the benefit of any wealthy new-comers.

And at this point, my dear Celsus, we may, if we will be candid, make some allowance for these Paphlagonians and Pontics.  The poor uneducated ‘fat-heads’ might well be taken in when they handled the serpent—a privilege conceded to all who choose—and saw in that dim light its head with the mouth that opened and shut.  It was an occasion for a Democritus, nay, for an Epicurus or a Metrodorus, perhaps, a man whose intelligence was steeled against such assaults by skepticism and insight, one who, if he could not detect the precise imposture, would at any rate have been perfectly certain that, though this escaped him, the whole thing was a lie and an impossibility.

By degrees Bithynia, Galatia, Thrace, came flocking in, every one who had been present doubtless reporting that he had beheld the birth of the God, and had touched him after his marvelous development in size and in expression. Next came pictures and models, bronze or silver images, and the God acquired a name.  By divine command, metrically expressed, he was to be known as Glycon. For Alexander had delivered the line:  Glycon my name, man’s light, son’s son to Zeus.

And now at last the object to which all this had led up, the giving of oracular answers to all applicants, could be attained.  The cue was taken from Amphilochus in Cilicia.  After the death and disappearance at Thebes of his father Amphiaraus, Amphilochus, driven from his home, made his way to Cilicia, and there did not at all badly by prophesying to the Cilicians at the rate of threepence an oracle.  After this precedent, Alexander proclaimed that on a stated day the God would give answers to all comers.  Each person was to write down his wish and the object of his curiosity, fasten the packet with thread, and seal it with wax, clay, or other such substance.  He would receive these, and enter the holy place (by this time the temple was complete, and the scene all ready), whither the givers should be summoned in order by a herald and an acolyte.  He would learn the God’s mind upon each, and return the packets with their seals intact and the answers attached, the God being ready to give a definite answer to any question that might be put.

The trick here was one which would be seen through easily enough by a person of your intelligence (or, if I may say so without violating modesty, of my own), but which to the ordinary imbecile would have the persuasiveness of what is marvelous and incredible.  He contrived various methods of undoing the seals, read the questions, answered them as seemed good, and then folded, sealed, and returned them, to the great astonishment of the recipients.  And then it was, ‘How could he possibly know what I gave him carefully secured under a seal that defies imitation, unless he were a true God, with a God’s omniscience?’

Perhaps you will ask what these contrivances were; well, then—the information may be useful another time.  One of them was this.  He would heat a needle, melt with it the under part of the wax, lift the seal off, and after reading warm the wax once more with the needle—both that below the thread and that which formed the actual seal—and re-unite the two without difficulty.  Another method employed the substance called collyrium; this is a preparation of Bruttian pitch, bitumen, pounded glass, wax, and mastich.  He kneaded the whole into collyrium, heated it, placed it on the seal, previously moistened with his tongue, and so took a mould.  This soon hardened; he simply opened, read, replaced the wax, and reproduced an excellent imitation of the original seal as from an engraved stone.  One more I will give you.  Adding some gypsum to the glue used in book-binding he produced a sort of wax, which was applied still wet to the seal, and on being taken off solidified at once and provided a matrix harder than horn, or even iron.  There are plenty of other devices for the purpose, to rehearse which would seem like airing one’s knowledge.  Moreover, in your excellent pamphlets against the magicians (most useful and instructive reading they are) you have yourself collected enough of them—many more than those I have mentioned.

So oracles and divine utterances were the order of the day, and much shrewdness he displayed, eking out mechanical ingenuity with obscurity, his answers to some being crabbed and ambiguous, and to others absolutely unintelligible.  He did however distribute warning and encouragement according to his lights, and recommend treatments and diets; for he had, as I originally stated, a wide and serviceable acquaintance with drugs.  He was particularly given to prescribing ‘cytmides,’ which were a salve prepared from goat’s fat, the name being of his own invention.  For the realization of ambitions, advancement, or successions, he took care never to assign early dates; the formula was, ‘All this shall come to pass when it is my will, and when my prophet Alexander shall make prayer and entreaty on your behalf.’

There was a fixed charge of a shilling the oracle.  And, my friend, do not suppose that this would not come to much; he made something like L3,000 per annum; people were insatiable—would take from ten to fifteen oracles at a time.  What he got he did not keep to himself, nor put it by for the future; what with accomplices, attendants, inquiry agents, oracle writers and keepers, amanuenses, seal-forgers, and interpreters, he had now a host of claimants to satisfy.

He had begun sending emissaries abroad to make the shrine known in foreign lands; his prophecies, discovery of runaways, conviction of thieves and robbers, revelations of hidden treasure, cures of the sick, restoration of the dead to life—all these were to be advertised.  This brought them running and crowding from all points of the compass; victims bled, gifts were presented, and the prophet and disciple came off better than the God; for had not the oracle spoken?—

  Give what ye give to my attendant priest; My care is not for gifts, but for my priest.

A time came when a number of sensible people began to shake off their intoxication and combine against him, chief among them the numerous Epicureans; in the cities, the imposture with all its theatrical accessories began to be seen through.  It was now that he resorted to a measure of intimidation; he proclaimed that Pontus was overrun with atheists and Christians, who presumed to spread the most scandalous reports concerning him.  He exhorted Pontus, as it valued the God’s favor, to stone these men.  Touching Epicurus, he gave the following response.  An inquirer had asked how Epicurus fared in Hades, and was told:  Of slime is his bed, And his fetters of lead.

The prosperity of the oracle is perhaps not so wonderful, when one learns what sensible, intelligent questions were in fashion with its votaries.  Well, it was war to the knife between him and Epicurus, and no wonder.  What fitter enemy for a charlatan who patronized miracles and hated truth, than the thinker who had grasped the nature of things and was in solitary possession of that truth?  As for the Platonists, Stoics, Pythagoreans, they were his good friends; he had no quarrel with them.  But the unmitigated Epicurus, as he used to call him, could not but be hateful to him, treating all such pretensions as absurd and puerile.  Alexander consequently loathed Amastris beyond all the cities of Pontus, knowing what a number of Lepidus’s friends and others like-minded it contained.  He would not give oracles to Amastrians; when he once did, to a senator’s brother, he made himself ridiculous, neither hitting upon a presentable oracle for himself, nor finding a deputy equal to the occasion.  The man had complained of colic, and what he meant to prescribe was pig’s foot dressed with mallow. The shape it took was:  In basin hallowed, Be pigments mallowed.

I have mentioned that the serpent was often exhibited by request; he was not completely visible, but the tail and body were exposed, while the head was concealed under the prophet’s dress.  By way of impressing the people still more, he announced that he would induce the God to speak, and give his responses without an intermediary.  His simple device to this end was a tube of cranes’ windpipes, which he passed, with due regard to its matching, through the artificial head, and, having an assistant speaking into the end outside, whose voice issued through the linen Asclepius, thus answered questions.  These oracles were called autophones, and were not vouchsafed casually to any one, but reserved for officials, the rich, and the lavish.

It was an autophone which was given to Severian regarding the invasion of Armenia. He encouraged him with these lines:

 Armenia, Parthia, cowed by thy fierce spear,
To Rome, and Tiber’s shining waves, thou com’st,
Thy brow with leaves and radiant gold encircled.

Then when the foolish Gaul took his advice and invaded, to the total destruction of himself and his army by Othryades, the adviser expunged that oracle from his archives and substituted the following:

 Vex not th’ Armenian land; it shall not thrive;
One in soft raiment clad shall from his bow
Launch death, and cut thee off from life and light.

For it was one of his happy thoughts to issue prophecies after the event as antidotes to those premature utterances which had not gone right.  Frequently he promised recovery to a sick man before his death, and after it was at no loss for second thoughts:

 No longer seek to arrest thy fell disease; Thy fate is manifest, inevitable.

Knowing the fame of Clarus, Didymus, and Mallus for sooth-saying much like his own, he struck up an alliance with them, sending on many of his clients to those places. So Hie thee to Clarus now, and hear my sire.  And again, Draw near to Branchidae and counsel take.  Or  Seek Mallus; be Amphilochus thy counsellor.

So things went within the borders of Ionia, Cilicia, Paphlagonia, and Galatia.  When the fame of the oracle traveled to Italy and entered Rome, the only question was, who should be first; those who did not come in person sent messages, the powerful and respected being the keenest of all.  First and foremost among these was Rutilianus.  He was in most respects an excellent person, and had filled many high offices in Rome; but he suffered from religious mania, holding the most extraordinary beliefs on that matter.  Show him a bit of stone smeared with unguents or crowned with flowers, and he would incontinently fall down and worship, and linger about it praying and asking for blessings.  The reports about our oracle nearly induced him to throw up the appointment he then held, and fly to Abonutichus; he actually did send messenger upon messenger.  His envoys were ignorant servants, easily taken in. They came back having really seen certain things, relating others which they probably thought they had seen and heard, and yet others which they deliberately invented to curry favor with their master.  So they inflamed the poor old man and drove him into confirmed madness.

He had a wide circle of influential friends, to whom he communicated the news brought by his successive messengers, not without additional touches of his own.  All Rome was full of his tales; there was quite a commotion, the gentlemen of the Court being much fluttered, and at once taking measures to learn something of their own fate.  The prophet gave all who came a hearty welcome, gained their goodwill by hospitality and costly gifts, and sent them off ready not merely to report his answers, but to sing the praises of the God and invent miraculous tales of the shrine and its guardian.

This triple rogue now hit upon an idea which would have been too clever for the ordinary robber.  Opening and reading the packets which reached him, whenever he came upon an equivocal, compromising question, he omitted to return the packet.  The sender was to be under his thumb, bound to his service by the terrifying recollection of the question he had written down.  You know the sort of things that wealthy and powerful personages would be likely to ask.  This blackmail brought him in a good income.

I should like to quote you one or two of the answers given to Rutilianus.  He had a son by a former wife, just old enough for advanced teaching. The father asked who should be his tutor, and was told, Pythagoras, and the mighty battle-bard.

When the child died a few days after, the prophet was abashed, and quite unable to account for this summary confutation.  However, dear good Rutilianus very soon restored the oracle’s credit by discovering that this was the very thing the God had foreshown – he had not directed him to choose a living teacher; Pythagoras and Homer were long dead, and doubtless the boy was now enjoying their instructions in Hades.  Small blame to Alexander if he had a taste for dealings with such specimens of humanity as this.

Another of Rutilianus’s questions was, Whose soul he had succeeded to, and the answer:

 First thou wast Peleus’ son, and next Menander;
Then thine own self; next, a sunbeam shalt be;
And nine score annual rounds thy life shall measure.

At seventy, he died of melancholy, not waiting for the God to pay in full.

That was an autophone too.  Another time Rutilianus consulted the oracle on the choice of a wife.  The answer was express:  Wed Alexander’s daughter and Selene’s.

He had long ago spread the report that the daughter he had had was by Selene:  she had once seen him asleep, and fallen in love, as is her way with handsome sleepers.  The sensible Rutilianus lost no time, but sent for the maiden at once, celebrated the nuptials, a sexagenarian bridegroom, and lived with her, propitiating his divine mother-in-law with whole hecatombs, and reckoning himself now one of the heavenly company.

His finger once in the Italian pie, Alexander devoted himself to getting further. Sacred envoys were sent all over the Roman Empire, warning the various cities to be on their guard against pestilence and conflagrations, with the prophet’s offers of security against them.  One oracle in particular, an autophone again, he distributed broadcast at a time of pestilence. It was a single line:  Phoebus long-tressed the plague-cloud shall dispel.

This was everywhere to be seen written up on doors as a prophylactic.  Its effect was generally disappointing; for it somehow happened that the protected houses were just the ones to be desolated.  Not that I would suggest for a moment that the line was their destruction; but, accidentally no doubt, it did so fall out.  Possibly common people put too much confidence in the verse, and lived carelessly without troubling to help the oracle against its foe.  Were there not the words fighting their battle, and long-tressed Phoebus discharging his arrows at the pestilence?

In Rome itself he established an intelligence bureau well manned with his accomplices.  They sent him people’s characters, forecasts of their questions, and hints of their ambitions, so that he had his answers ready before the messengers reached him.

It was with his eye on this Italian propaganda, too, that he took a further step.  This was the institution of mysteries, with hierophants and torch-bearers complete.  The ceremonies occupied three successive days.  On the first, proclamation was made on the Athenian model to this effect:

‘If there be any atheist or Christian or Epicurean here spying upon our rites, let him depart in haste; and let all such as have faith in the God be initiated and all blessing attend them.’ He led the litany with, ‘Christians, avaunt!’ and the crowd responded, ‘Epicureans, avaunt!’

Then was presented the child-bed of Leto and birth of Apollo, the bridal of Coronis, Asclepius born.

The second day, the epiphany and nativity of the God Glycon.

On the third came the wedding of Podalirius and Alexander’s mother; this was called Torch-day, and torches were used.  The finale was the loves of Selene and Alexander, and the birth of Rutilianus’s wife.  The torch- bearer and hierophant was Endymion-Alexander.  He was discovered lying asleep; to him from heaven, represented by the ceiling, enter as Selene one Rutilia, a great beauty, and wife of one of the Imperial procurators.  She and Alexander were lovers off the stage too, and the wretched husband had to look on at their public kissing and embracing.  If there had not been a good supply of torches, things might possibly have gone even further.  Shortly after, he reappeared amidst a profound hush, attired as hierophant; in a loud voice he called, ‘Hail, Glycon!’, whereto the Eumolpidae and Ceryces of Paphlagonia, with their clod-hopping shoes and their garlic breath, made sonorous response, ‘Hail, Alexander!’

The torch ceremony with its ritual skippings often enabled him to bestow a glimpse of his thigh, which was thus discovered to be of gold; it was presumably enveloped in cloth of gold, which glittered in the lamp-light.  This gave rise to a debate between two wiseacres, whether the golden thigh meant that he had inherited Pythagoras’s soul, or merely that their two souls were alike; the question was referred to Alexander himself, and King Glycon relieved their perplexity with an oracle:

 Waxes and wanes Pythagoras’ soul: the seer’s
Is from the mind of Zeus an emanation.
His Father sent him, virtuous men to aid,
And with his bolt one day shall call him home.

I will now give you a conversation between Glycon and one Sacerdos of Tius; the intelligence of the latter you may gauge from his questions. I read it inscribed in golden letters in Sacerdos’s house at Tius.

‘Tell me, lord Glycon,’ said he, ‘who you are.’

‘The new Asclepius.’

‘Another, different from the former one? Is that the meaning?’

‘That it is not lawful for you to learn.’

‘And how many years will you sojourn and prophesy among us?’

‘A thousand and three.’

‘And after that, whither will you go?’

‘To Bactria; for the barbarians too must be blessed with my presence.’

‘The other oracles, at Didymus and Clarus and Delphi, have they still the spirit of your grandsire Apollo, or are the answers that now come from them forgeries?’

‘That, too, desire not to know; it is not lawful.’

‘What shall I be after this life?’

‘A camel; then a horse; then a wise man, no less a prophet than Alexander.’

Such was the conversation. There was added to it an oracle in verse, inspired by the fact that Sacerdos was an associate of Lepidus:  Shun Lepidus; an evil fate awaits him.

As I have said, Alexander was much afraid of Epicurus, and the solvent action of his logic on imposture.

On one occasion, indeed, an Epicurean got himself into great trouble by daring to expose him before a great gathering.  He came up and addressed him in a loud voice.

‘Alexander, it was you who induced So-and-so the Paphlagonian to bring his slaves before the governor of Galatia, charged with the murder of his son who was being educated in Alexandria.  Well, the young man is alive, and has come back, to find that the slaves had been cast to the beasts by your machinations.’

What had happened was this. The lad had sailed up the Nile, gone on to a Red Sea port, found a vessel starting for India, and been persuaded to make the voyage.  He being long overdue, the unfortunate slaves supposed that he had either perished in the Nile or fallen a victim to some of the pirates who infested it at that time; so they came home to report his disappearance.  Then followed the oracle, the sentence, and finally the young man’s return with the story of his absence.

All this the Epicurean recounted.  Alexander was much annoyed by the exposure, and could not stomach so well deserved an affront.  He directed the company to stone the man, on pain of being involved in his impiety and called Epicureans.  However, when they set to work, a distinguished Pontic called Demostratus, who was staying there, rescued him by interposing his own body.  The man had the narrowest possible escape from being stoned to death—as he richly deserved to be; what business had he to be the only sane man in a crowd of madmen, and needlessly make himself the butt of Paphlagonian infatuation?

This was a special case; but it was the practice for the names of applicants to be read out the day before answers were given.  The herald asked whether each was to receive his oracle; and sometimes the reply came from within, To perdition!  One so repulsed could get shelter, fire or water, from no man; he must be driven from land to land as a blasphemer, an atheist, and—lowest depth of all—an Epicurean.

In this connection Alexander once made himself supremely ridiculous. Coming across Epicurus’s Accepted Maxims, the most admirable of his books, as you know, with its terse presentment of his wise conclusions, he brought it into the middle of the market-place, there burned it on a fig-wood fire for the sins of its author, and cast its ashes into the sea. He issued an oracle on the occasion:  The dotard’s maxims to the flames be given.

The fellow had no conception of the blessings conferred by that book upon its readers, of the peace, tranquillity, and independence of mind it produces, of the protection it gives against terrors, phantoms, and marvels, vain hopes and inordinate desires, of the judgment and candor that it fosters, or of its true purging of the spirit, not with torches and squills and such rubbish, but with right reason, truth, and frankness.

Perhaps the greatest example of our rogue’s audacity is what I now come to.  Having easy access to Palace and Court by Rutilianus’s influence, he sent an oracle just at the crisis of the German war, when M. Aurelius was on the point of engaging the Marcomanni and Quadi.  The oracle required that two lions should be flung alive into the Danube, with quantities of sacred herbs and magnificent sacrifices. I had better give the words:

 To rolling Ister, swoln with Heaven’s rain,
Of Cybelean thralls, those mountain beasts,
Fling ye a pair; therewith all flowers and herbs
Of savour sweet that Indian air doth breed.
Hence victory, and fame, and lovely peace.

These directions were precisely followed:  the lions swam across to the enemy’s bank, where they were clubbed to death by the barbarians, who took them for dogs or a new kind of wolves; and our forces immediately after met with a severe defeat, losing some twenty thousand men in one engagement.  This was followed by the Aquileian incident, in the course of which that city was nearly lost.  In view of these results, Alexander warmed up that stale Delphian defense of the Croesus oracle:  the God had foretold a victory, forsooth, but had not stated whether Romans or barbarians should have it.

The constant increase in the number of visitors, the inadequacy of accommodation in the city, and the difficulty of finding provisions for consultants, led to his introducing what he called night oracles.  He received the packets, slept upon them, in his own phrase, and gave answers which the God was supposed to send him in dreams.  These were generally not lucid, but ambiguous and confused, especially when he came to packets sealed with exceptional care.  He did not risk tampering with these, but wrote down any words that came into his head, the results obtained corresponding well enough to his conception of the oracular.  There were regular interpreters in attendance, who made considerable sums out of the recipients by expounding and unriddling these oracles. This office contributed to his revenue, the interpreters paying him L250 each.

Sometimes he stirred the wonder of the silly by answers to persons who had neither brought nor sent questions, and in fact did not exist. Here is a specimen:

 Who is’t, thou askst, that with Calligenia
All secretly defiles thy nuptial bed?
The slave Protogenes, whom most thou trustest.
Him thou enjoyedst: he thy wife enjoys—
The fit return for that thine outrage done.
And know that baleful drugs for thee are brewed,
Lest thou or see or hear their evil deeds.
Close by the wall, at thy bed’s head, make search.
Thy maid Calypso to their plot is privy.

The names and circumstantial details might stagger a Democritus, till a moment’s thought showed him the despicable trick.

He often gave answers in Syriac or Celtic to barbarians who questioned him in their own tongue, though he had difficulty in finding compatriots of theirs in the city.  In these cases there was a long interval between application and response, during which the packet might be securely opened at leisure, and somebody found capable of translating the question.  The following is an answer given to a Scythian:

Morphi ebargulis for night
Chnenchicrank shall leave the light.

Another oracle to some one who neither came nor existed was in prose.  ‘Return the way thou earnest,‘ it ran; ‘for he that sent thee hath this day been slain by his neighbour Diocles, with aid of the robbers Magnus, Celer, and Bubalus, who are taken and in chains.’

I must give you one or two of the answers that fell to my share. I asked whether Alexander was bald, and having sealed it publicly with great care, got a night oracle in reply:  Sabardalachu malach Attis was not he.

Another time I did up the same question—What was Homer’s birthplace?—in two packets given in under different names.  My servant misled him by saying, when asked what he came for, a cure for lung trouble; so the answer to one packet was:  Cytmide and foam of steed the liniment give.

As for the other packet, he got the information that the sender was inquiring whether the land or the sea route to Italy was preferable.  So he answered, without much reference to Homer:  Fare not by sea; land-travel meets thy need.

I laid a good many traps of this kind for him; here is another.  I asked only one question, but wrote outside the packet in the usual form, So- and-so’s eight queries, giving a fictitious name and sending the eight shillings. Satisfied with the payment of the money and the inscription on the packet, he gave me eight answers to my one question.  This was, When will Alexander’s imposture be detected? The answers concerned nothing in heaven or earth, but were all silly and meaningless together.  He afterwards found out about this, and also that I had tried to dissuade Rutilianus both from the marriage and from putting any confidence in the oracle; so he naturally conceived a violent dislike for me. When Rutilianus once put a question to him about me, the answer was:  Night-haunts and foul debauch are all his joy.

It is true his dislike was quite justified.  On a certain occasion I was passing through Abonutichus, with a spearman and a pikeman whom my friend the governor of Cappadocia had lent me as an escort on my way to the sea. Ascertaining that I was the Lucian he knew of, he sent me a very polite and hospitable invitation.  I found him with a numerous company; by good luck I had brought my escort.  He gave me his hand to kiss according to his usual custom.  I took hold of it as if to kiss, but instead bestowed on it a sound bite that must have come near disabling it. The company, who were already offended at my calling him Alexander instead of Prophet, were inclined to throttle and beat me for sacrilege.  But he endured the pain like a man, checked their violence, and assured them that he would easily tame me, and illustrate Glycon’s greatness in converting his bitterest foes to friends.  He then dismissed them all, and argued the matter with me:  he was perfectly aware of my advice to Rutilianus; why had I treated him so, when I might have been preferred by him to great influence in that quarter?  By this time I had realized my dangerous position, and was only too glad to welcome these advances; I presently went my way in all friendship with him.  The rapid change wrought in me greatly impressed the observers.

When I intended to sail, he sent me many parting gifts, and offered to find us (Xenophon and me, that is; I had sent my father and family on to Amastris) a ship and crew—which offer I accepted in all confidence.  When the passage was half over, I observed the master in tears arguing with his men, which made me very uneasy.  It turned out that Alexander’s orders were to seize and fling us overboard; in that case his war with me would have been lightly won. But the crew were prevailed upon by the master’s tears to do us no harm.

‘I am sixty years old, as you can see,’ he said to me; ‘I have lived an honest blameless life so far, and I should not like at my time of life, with a wife and children too, to stain my hands with blood.’ And with that preface he informed us what we were there for, and what Alexander had told him to do.

He landed us at Aegiali, of Homeric fame, and thence sailed home.  Some Bosphoran envoys happened to be passing, on their way to Bithynia with the annual tribute from their king Eupator.  They listened kindly to my account of our dangerous situation, I was taken on board, and reached Amastris safely after my narrow escape. From that time it was war between Alexander and me, and I left no stone unturned to get my revenge.  Even before his plot I had hated him, revolted by his abominable practices, and I now busied myself with the attempt to expose him. I found plenty of allies, especially in the circle of Timocrates the Heracleot philosopher.  But Avitus, the then governor of Bithynia and Pontus, restrained me, I may almost say with prayers and entreaties.  He could not possibly spoil his relations with Rutilianus, he said, by punishing the man, even if he could get clear evidence against him.  Thus arrested in my course, I did not persist in what must have been, considering the disposition of the judge, a fruitless prosecution.

Among instances of Alexander’s presumption, a high place must be given to his petition to the Emperor:  the name of Abonutichus was to be changed to Ionopolis; and a new coin was to be struck, with a representation on the obverse of Glycon, and, on the reverse, Alexander bearing the garlands proper to his paternal grandfather Asclepius, and the famous scimetar of his maternal ancestor Perseus.

He had stated in an oracle that he was destined to live to a hundred and fifty, and then die by a thunderbolt.  He had in fact, before he reached seventy, an end very sad for a son of Podalirius, his leg mortifying from foot to groin and being eaten of worms.  It then proved that he was bald, as he was forced by pain to let the doctors make cooling applications to his head, which they could not do without removing his wig.

So ended Alexander’s heroics.  Such was the catastrophe of his tragedy; one would like to find a special providence in it, though doubtless chance must have the credit.  The funeral celebration was to be worthy of his life, taking the form of a contest—for possession of the oracle.  The most prominent of the impostors his accomplices referred it to Rutilianus’s arbitration which of them should be selected to succeed to the prophetic office and wear the hierophantic oracular garland.  Among these was numbered the grey-haired physician Paetus, dishonoring equally his grey hairs and his profession.  But Steward-of-the-Games Rutilianus sent them about their business ungarlanded, and continued the defunct in possession of his holy office.

My object, dear friend, in making this small selection from a great mass of material has been twofold.  First, I was willing to oblige a friend and comrade who is for me the pattern of wisdom, sincerity, good humor, justice, tranquillity, and geniality. But secondly I was still more concerned (a preference which you will be very far from resenting) to strike a blow for Epicurus, that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him. Yet I think casual readers too may find my essay not unserviceable, since it is not only destructive, but, for men of sense, constructive also.

Essays About Nietzsche’s Will to Power

Nietzsche’s Will to Power: Overview
Nietzsche’s Perspectivism Versus Epicurus’ Physics-Based Realism
On Pleasure as Subservient to Power in Nietzsche
On Autarchy
The Denaturalization of Morality
On the Genesis of Religion
A Critique of Nietzsche’s Aristocratic Ideal
La Gauche Nietzschéene
The Meaning of our Gardens
On Introversion
For What Does One Have to Atone Most
Against Moirolatry
Cosmologies Compared

Also Read:

Reasonings on Thus Spake Zarathustra

All the Past Shall Ye Thus Redeem

On Passing By

The Gods of the Garden, the God of the Mount and the Absolute

The following article was written by Matt Jackson for Society of Epicurus.

When I first began seriously studying theology I was introduced to the concept of the Absolute. The Absolute does not belong to one tradition or religion, but rather it is an axiomatic answer to bottomless metaphysical speculation. The Absolute is the product of idealist philosophy that has overreached its goal and must give all rational and sensible thought to a vortex that absorbs all concepts. Anyone who has meditated on this concept must remain in some way close to a personalized image of God or risk being pulled into a whirling, undifferentiated reality that has no center. This is how one can experience what San Juan De Cruz coined “The Dark Night of the Soul” a feeling of utter existential crisis. To observe the attribute-less and divinely simple One, is to observe nothingness and void.

I can tell you that I experienced this feeling while deeply contemplating the works of Plotinus and the other Neoplatonic philosophers. This feeling repulsed me and I fled from all study and contemplation. I came to Naturalistic view of the physical world that elevated the natural world to what actually IS and not what is imagined. I remained agnostic to the concept of God and only pursued the natural disciplines that are obtainable with my faculties. I came to Epicurean philosophy after reading an introductory book on the subject and discovered an online community of likeminded philosophers seeking happiness as life’s goal. I realized that Natural philosophy’s end is with human happiness and it cannot have a higher goal. The Hedonistic Naturalism of Epicurus has helped me reevaluate what the goal of my life should be and not worry about unverifiable concepts that lead to anxiety

One thing that has come up since I began examining the works of Epicurus is the Epicurean concept of Deity. Since I have spent years studying the deities of various popular religions I feel it is necessary to differentiate between not only the particular deities, but also the philosophical lens in which they are viewed. We can start here in the present and move our way backwards. The God of popular monotheistic religion today bears only superficial resemblance to the deities of ancient cultures. We may start with the Judeo-Christian God who is closely related to the Arabian Islamic Allāh. As this God stands in the present, he has become an Omniscient and Ominpotent deity that has many contradictions within himself. We see this because of the heavy platonic influence on the early Church and Jewish thinkers. The earliest Church Fathers like Clement and Origen were students of Greek Philosophy and tried to fuse Christian thought with Greek concepts, likewise Jewish writers like Philo and Maimonides also elevated the negative theology of platonic and neoplatonic idealism to a very high level.

But this changes a God who is claimed to have attributes and a very particular personality (jealousy, anger, regret). Divine Simplicity becomes absurd when reading about the exploits of God in Genesis or 1 Enoch. The El/YHWH of the Hebrew Bible has far more in common with Ba’al, Marduk, and Indra than he does with the Absolute One of Plotinus and Numenius. The main difference between the El/YHWH and the others is that he has an absolute intolerance for the worship and presence of foreign deities, whether they exist or not, they are not to be thought of or worshipped. Thus it is impossible to reconcile the current theological and philosophical formulas with the earliest scriptures. So we have two different “Gods”, the original archetype that has form/personality that is shared across ancient cultures and the Absolute, divinely simple being that is simply a philosophical answer to a syllogism.

So where does that leave me? Well honestly, I denounce an abstract idealist entity. I find no pleasure in it and it cannot be reconciled with scriptures and the myths. The Epicurean concept of deity appears to be more in line with the original vision of what a god is. The Epicurean gods appear as physical beings that are perfectly happy in their own existence and do not meddle in the affairs of mortals. They are not creators, but rather role models for mortals to aspire to, whether they are truly real or merely allegorical thought objects. They are beings that CAN enjoy pleasure, whereas an attribute-less Absolute has no ability to take pleasure in anything. It is true that the Epicurean belief in deities is the equivalent to an agnostic Deism, basically the gods are recognized as existing, but they are not worried about. But truly an atheistic view is not incompatible and may even be more practical for many.

I am left with the gods of the Epicurean Garden and the old gods of Mount Sinai and Olympus as my only viable choices. The Absolute simply does not exist and any diluted theology that contains any influence of it IS foreign to the gods and is utterly rejected.

Looking at all these gods from the Epicurean lens I see that the natural world is all that exists and that gods (at least today and the last 2300 years) do not come thundering down from the mountains with lightning bolts in hand. So I lean toward the Epicurean view that if the gods are indeed real, then they are utterly absent from human affairs and do not supernaturally intervene. It is simple to see this fact every day. It requires no oracle or priest to confirm it.

So as the first line of the Tetrapharmakos says: Ἄφοβον ὁ θεός”: Don’t Fear God. And truly we shouldn’t, we should enjoy our lives as gods among men and not worry about supernatural superstitions or the complex imaginings of philosophers.

Is it finally time to say goodbye?

The following essay was the final blog entry posted by Jaako, an Epicurean friend who died in recent years. His blog Being Human: secular sermons for free minds is preserved in archive form. We are posting it here as a way to celebrate his memory.

The Being Human -blog that you are reading just now is at the moment a collection of 434 smaller and larger essays. Their subjects range from the nature of our universe to things like the reasons why masturbation is seen as a sin in Christianity. I started this blog in December of 2007, and this blog has since had over 860 000 visitors from all over the world.
During all these years, I have told very little of myself. My aim has been to air my ideas and not promote myself. This blog is not weblog, but a collection of little essays. Not a single posting has been tied to a particular daily event or happening. They try always to be reflections on ideas on a bit wider perspective. How I have succeeded in this, remains for my readers to judge, of course.

Things are about to change. Just now I see a need to record some of my personal history also here in this blog that has always been the favorite child among my blogs. The basic reason for this is that was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in November of 2011. Cancer was by then already deeply embedded in my liver and lungs. It simply cannot be removed from liver without destroying the liver also, anymore.
I am still here thanks to chemotherapy that has given me an additional year and a half, but the therapies were terminated a week ago because their ability to fight my cancer has waned off. I am on my own now, but nobody knows how soon the end will come. However, it is quite certain that I will not see my 56th birthday in January of 2014.

Picture: Jaakko J. Wallenius

However, numbers are just numbers. Of the 55 years that I have had, the last seven ones have been the happiest, most calm and productive period of my life. Most of all, I have loved the thousands of hours that I have spend writing and editing this blog.
A firm base for my current happiness is that we bought a house in 2011 with a fantastic garden. The hours spend in the garden have given me immense pleasure. I also got my own little hideaway, when we built a the old garage into a modern working-space.

This is my very own little world. In there, I can sit in weekends into five in the morning sipping some brandy and watching amazing videos from Beyond Belief -conference or TED-talks. Besides I can be working on any of the eight blogs in two languages and nearly 40 Facebook -fan-pages for secular philosopher, writers and scientists that I have created during the last few years.
I have been a full-time journalist in our local newspaper for 21 years. Besides it, I have been also running a little computer-maintenance business for the last ten years. I have fixed the computers of good inhabitants of Lohja at a very suitable rate of two or three a week. This has kept me in the picture with the digital world. Making a dead computer alive again gives also a great feeling of accomplishment.

There has been also very hard times in my life. After abandoning my university-studies, I had a period when I had, for example, work in chemical factory where even gas-mask was at times unable to protect one from the strong fumes. I have slept in hallways of strange houses for a week, I have been for a while a jobless half-drunkard just drifting around and much more. Happily, I did find a steady career in journalism and soon I had steady jobs again.
Then I found Marjaliisa. We have been married nearly 22 years. She has been the balancing power in my life. In fact, she is the solid base on which my whole life lies. Without her strong prompting we would not have this house, and without this house and the new kind of working environment that it provided there quite probably would not be this blog, either.

(The following was added 16th of April, 2013)

Sam Harris - Wikipedia

My life was changed on another lever just after we had bought our current house in 2004, when I was quite innocently listening in my car a CD that contained talks from an IT-seminar. I used to burn such CD:s as a form of entertainment for the long drives that my work in newspaper sometimes required.

Suddenly there was a speech by some atheist fellow called Sam Harris. This happened even if I had picked up a podcast that had promised views on latest developments in the field of information technology.

I was really surprised when this man told in public the same things about religions that I had been thinking secretly for decades. I remember shouting “Yes, that is just so” (only in Finnish….) with a raised fist every time he opened up a new argument. I listened to that CD at least four or five times in a row.

I also Googled him right away when I got to home and ordered his book “The End of Faith”. Very and soon I had also the books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and many other “new atheists” in my bookshelf.

It was not a moment of religious conversion. In fact, I have never believed in any kind of religion or a religious dogma for a single moment of my life. Even in the elementary school I treated religious teaching as a form of story-telling that adults do to keep children happy and occupied.
Soon I had an urge to have a deeper understanding of the subject and a bit more scientific books by people like Pascal Boyer, Scott Atran and Daniel Dennett did end up in my reading list. I did read every serious book I got hold of on the subject.

However, at this point it should perhaps be told that I was a quite fanatical IT-person at that time when I bumped into Sam Harris. We had bought our first computer in 1997, when my wife needed one for her studies at nursing school she had just started.

The sturdy Packard Bell cost 13 000 Finnish marks or 2200 modern euros. It had 150 megahertz processor, 16 megabits of central memory and 1,6 gigabytes of hard disk… The first night after we got our compute unpacked already went to wee hours. I wanted to know this thing worked. The next day I went to the library and loaned every book I could lay my hands on the subject of computers. In fact, I did also read them from cover to cover them during the following weeks.

The thing got so serious in a couple of years that I started my own computer-related column in our newspaper. In this by-weekly I told column readers about my recent adventures in the world of computers. A bit later (in 2001) I was walking our first dog Osku (a sheltie) when the idea hit me: “Bittitohtori”. In English it could be “A Doctor for Bits” or something like it. Before the walk was over, I had decided to start a firm that would repair the home-computers of good inhabitants of Lohja.
I decided from the outset that it would not become my main occupation. I would do it on the side as much as time would permit. The next week I registered the “Toiminimi Bittitohtori Jaakko Wallenius” officially and started distributing leaflets advertising the new service in our neighborhood.

I have cured about thousand computers during the over ten years that this little operation lasted. The firm did lay waste for a year, as I officially ended it two days ago because of my ongoing illness. (see http://www.bittitohtori.com )

When my condition improved after chemotherapy I started it again early in 2013. This little enterprise gave all these years a good additional income also with its help we could finally afford to buy our current house.

There was also a funny situation where I was for years at first chairman of local journalists union chapter in our newspaper and then the shop steward, but also a private entrepreneur at the same time. I will not dwell on this subject much more, as there would be no end to computer-related stories I could offer. However, I’d like to say (even if it sounds a lot like bloody self-advertisement) that it soon became apparent that the main satisfaction from the computer-repair business did come from the happy customers.
I soon learned three main rules that kept my business going for ten years and made customers return time after time.

1) Never promise something that you cannot do.
2) Always build the timetable for work so that you can do the work faster than customer expects.
3) Always give customers something extra.

The last one was easy. I always installed an extra software-pack. It consisted of free programs, but it made possible to use computer right away after repairs in a home in all typical uses of computer at home. As I said, I could babble on the subject of computer and computer-repairs endlessly, but I must return to my other passions.

After the phase described in the beginning I soon was an extremely vocal and passionate atheist. Besides reading a bookshelf of related books, I did also watch every single video on offer of the fantastic Beyond Belief-conferences and, in fact, every available video-lecture in the Internet and all too many blogs and much, much more.
At this point, I perhaps must explain one thing; why I seem to have so much time on my hands? The answer is simple: during the last 20 years, I have not watched television much. In any case, dwelling in atheism alone soon felt restricting, and I started to explore a little wider. I soon found out that humanistic thinking did offer a sound foundation for an atheist world-view. Then I found Epicureanism and Stoicism or the last and most advanced big schools of philosophy that were not contaminated by the Christianity.

One thing led to another. Soon I was knee-deep in philosophy. My bookshelf took a new direction with books on things like history of philosophy, Epicureanism and similar subjects by fellows like Bertrand Russell, Karl Popper and A.C. Grayling.

Now I would like to call myself a “Secular Humanist Epicurean Stoic Russellian Popperian Democratic Socialist Global Solidarist” if that would be possible. Atheism needs not to even mentioned as it just given fact for me. Atheism it is not a world-view, but just rejection of certain types of superstition and dogma.

That a person is an atheist does say very little about him or her. An atheist can build a world-view based on other important ideologies like humanism, socialism, libertarianism or feminism. A human just always needs higher goals and even if I think that just telling others what atheism is and how religions work is a good hobby, but thinking person needs to have real ideals too.
Things like Humanism, Epicureanism and Stoicism offer a good base for a worldview. However, things like furthering true equality, a sustainable and balanced society, freedom of speech and most of global solidarity of all humans are goals that I just now need have to keep me going. Ah, that all sounds much more pathetic than I though. However, I will let it pass as these sentences really tell about the feelings that I now have at this stage of my life.

(The following was added added 17th of April,2013)

My name is Jaakko, and I am an addict. I am addicted to reading”.

I have written this little piece over my life with all honesty that I have mustered. In the face of death, the need to hide away things seems just to evaporate. I feel free now to tell even the darkest secrets of my life. The other side of coin is that I now feel that I can finally drop all the modesty that has made me not to mention certain facts about my life before. These things simply would sound look like idiotic boasting and self-advertising, if I would tell these things in any company.
However, I finally feel that I have the willpower to do even this disservice for myself now. I will tell this also because I feel that this background is needed to understand my current standing in my creative work. I did learn to read at the age of six all by myself. I probably just looked how my 11 months older “nearly-twin-brother” did it. Suddenly I just saw what these little markings did mean.

The first book that I did read was the ‘Helmikoristeinen kirjanmerkki’ by Hjalmar Nortamo. It was a regular novel for adults and probably it was just the first book in our bookshelf at my height. This bookshelf was an immense one. Every single member of our family of eight was a voracious reader. My journalist-father also did get large amounts of books every year for review. We had also a cellar full of books….
At the second class at the elementary school I did read the 600 pages of “Historian Pikkujättiläinen” or “The Pocket History of the World”. This kick-started my still ongoing love-affair with history. After the second class of elementary school, in the middle school and high school I did not do my homework not even once. For the exams, I did sometimes read the relevant passages the night before in mathematics, physics and the like, but in most subjects I did not do even that.

At his point, I should perhaps tell that I was also once in summer-school learning mathematics before I was allowed to proceed to the next class. I passed the test with the lowest possible grade or 5- minus after a harsh month-long training with a private teacher. Mathematics just was something that I did not ever get. I know now that I can not ever learn it, no matter what I do. Still, I am very good at basic arithmetic’s….
All in all, I graduated from high school with the second highest ‘Magna Cum Laude Laudatur’ as my overall grade if I remember right. It could have been a ‘Laudatur’ also, as I faintly remember it being in a border-case, but I don’t know where the diploma is… I did this without opening a single school-book in the three years of high school and without any preparation for the final exams. This was mostly because the things that were asked in exams I knew most of them already from other sources.

All in all, classes in school were always a severe form of Chinese water-torture for me. Time passed immensely slowly, when the teacher mumbled at the blackboard about things that I so often already knew very well. I developed a kind of utter numbness to endure the classes. I saw that they were the price I had to pay to get to my loved books waiting patiently in home.
When I got home I could read 7-8 hours in a row about the wonders of our world and our universe. Non-fiction was always my priority number one. However, I consumed also a lot of novels. I simply loved the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, Miguel Angel Asturias, Gabriel Garcia Marques, Mario Vargas Llosa and Italo Calvino. In fact, I did read most of the ‘Keltainen Kirjasto’ or ‘The Yellow Library’ that did publish the best modern novels of that time.

Keltainen kirjasto

I faintly remember counting once that had read over one hundred books from this series. However, I must admit that the more esoteric ones were often left unfinished, as I could never stand just playing with words for the sake of it. I now notice that I loved crisp and straight-forward writers. By strange (or not….) coincidence all my most favourite writers seem to have been agnostics or atheists also, even if I did not know it then….
My first love was Mika Waltari. His novels that were set in medieval history made a deep impression to at the age of 8 or 9. I did naturally read all of the big Finnish authors. I did read Väinö Linna’s ‘Tuntematon Sotilas’ or ‘Unknown Soldier’ for 10 or 11 times at least. In fact, we do quote this book very often still in daily situations with my wife. She has just the same kind of relationship with this book as me. Strange co-incidence is that I courted just this woman for many years and did not give up until I got her, is it not?

I must admit that the lectures in university were similar painful torture for me as school-classes had been; they were just longer and often even duller. Of course there were a few interesting lectures also, but they were few and far between. However, the library of Turku City and university-library did open up all new vistas for me. I simply had consumed all of the interesting books in my little hometown library by the time I was 18 and new books did arrive painfully slowly.

Especially during my bouts of severe depression I now spent all my free time with books. In the worst days of depression I did go nowhere but to and did read 15-16 hours a day. I consumed all interesting books on history, autobiographies and all kinds of books on science.
Science fiction was also near my heart and I now also bought my first books, as the paperback science fiction was cheap. With a student-loan I had my real amounts of my own money, the first time in my life.


But now, now, I quite forget; I had paid employment before, as I had worked all three years of high-school in the newspaper where my father worked, I worked for 1,5 hours a day five days a week. I did answer the phones and I did write a few little news-stories every night that were stolen from the Finnish news agency STT.
I just tape-recorded the 17.30 -news and wrote 4-5 stories from this material and the STT never got a hang of this activity, as I changed the style of the stories always a bit. However, the newspaper paid a pittance for me also for this service. In any case, I did spend it mostly on stamps that I also collected at that time.

At this point, I would like also to tell about my hobbies. They were also an important part of my education. I did learn English when aviation and modelling were my hobbies, German when I collected stamps and Swedish when I was an enthusiastic follower of track and field -sports.
At the age of six or seven, I found a series of books called “The Fighters of The Second World War” from a cupboard at our home. My eldest brother had left them when he moved from home. During the following years, I did read them time after time and every time I understood a bit more, until 5-6 years later I could read them quite well.

Of course, I did learn English also at school at the same time. I started also a hobby of modeling and did build a dozens and dozens models of aeroplanes with my nearly-twin-brother. Btw. I still know that a Messerschmitt Bf-109G-6 had a 1475 horse-power Daimler-Benz water-cooled engine, a 20 mm cannon and two 13 mm machine guns and a top speed of 390 miles per hour…
As a militant pacifist nowadays it is sometimes hard to admit now that military history has been always been one of my pet subjects in history…. German was the lingua franca of the stamp-collecting world. The major catalogues or the Swiss Zumstein and a German big catalogue Michel were published in that language. I just had to learn the basics to be able to use them.


This was a bit more troublesome. I had had no classes in German before high school and I just had to jump into the cold waters of that language with no aid. In the end, I did write a ‘Cum Laude Approbatur’ in German also in the final exams, and that is all thanks to stamp-collecting.
Track and field was my other hobby for many years. The only good year-book with good statistics in this sport was a Swedish one and reading all the existing 30 year-books a few times did help me learn also Swedish, in spite of the fact that I detested it as a subject in school with all of its idiotic and irrational grammatical rules. Btw. Swedish is a compulsory subject for all Finnish people in school as it is minority-language here, even if only 6 per cent of Finnish people speak it at home.
However, Finland was part of Sweden for over 600 years. The ruling elite was largely Swedish-speaking even after 100 years of Russian rule in 1917, when Finland become independent. So, Swedish language did became a sacred cow that was given a position that no minority-language has nowhere else in the world.

Back to the main story. After dropping out of the university after four years of ups and downs, I had varying time to read during the next decade. I had some periods of unemployment also, when I did spend 10-16 hours just reading again. Even when I was in the windy west coast town as a reporter in the 1980’s I did not have any television, but I did go to library two or three times a week. I did not have one when I spent the unfortunate year in Tampere studying journalism.
History, biology, geography, space exploration, travel, you name it. I did read anything which told about the real world and had a factual base. I did grow out of fiction for reasons that I don’t really know. The awful bouts of depression caused me to avoid things that did come too close to my own reality, as learning new facts was also a way to escape my own life that was just miserable at times.

After Marjaliisa finally accepted my desperate courting 22 years ago and after finding a steady job 21 years ago in Lohja in the local newspaper as economics editor, my reading habits did not change much. Marjaliisa and I found a balanced situation where she could watch the things in television that she liked, and I spent my free time reading in the bedroom.
However, reading did give some (or a lot, sometimes) room for computer-maintenance after I started that side-business ten years ago. Blogging in eight blogs and maintaining my 40 fan-pages for secular greats in Facebook took some time off my favorite pastime more later on. Also, the source of reading matter did change, when we got out student loans paid and economy on a stronger footing. I finally started buying new books instead of loaning them from the library.


Now I have a good library of my own in the subjects I most like, even if I have started ordering Kindle-books also for my Samsung Android-phone. I can now read them when sitting and waiting for a doctors appointment and the like.
I freely admit this addiction, but at the same time I think that this habit offers a firm base for my current activity as a thinker and writer. I have always loved to read about out real world, our real societies and our reality. I think that this offers a solid base for a thinker and writer who wants to explore from new points of view how all this works.

My name is Jaakko and I am an addict. I am addicted to reading”.


Selections from the classic compilation of Hermann Usener (1834-1905)Originally compiled and published in 1887. This arrangement produced by Erik Anderson, 2005, 2006, in consultation with translations from a wide variety of sources.




Fragments from known works (U1 – U218)

Fragments from uncertain sources (U219 – U607)


Concerning Epicurus’ Books

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.26: Epicurus was quite a prolific author, surpassing all in the quantity of books produced.  He authored, in fact, some three hundred books, and he never cited any other authors – all the words contained in them were Epicurus’ own.  Chrysippus tried to match his vast literary output, but Carneades denounced him as a literary parasite: “Indeed, if Epicurus had written something, Chrysippus would vie to write just as much.  To accomplish this, he wrote down whatever popped into his head and often repeated himself.  In his haste, he neglected to do any editing, and he used many lengthy citations to the point of filling his entire books with them, not unlike Zeno and Aristotle.”  Among the writings of Epicurus, the following are his best:

  • On Nature, in thirty-seven books
  • On the Atoms and the Void
  • On Love
  • Summary of Objections to the Physicists
  • Against the Megarians
  • Problems
  • Principal Doctrines
  • On Choices and Avoidances
  • On the End-Goal
  • On the Criterion, or The Canon
  • Chaeredemus
  • On the Gods
  • On Holiness
  • Hegesianax
  • On Lifecourses, in four books
  • On Fair Dealing
  • Neocles, Dedicated to Themista
  • Symposium
  • Eurylochus, Dedicated to Metrodorus
  • On Vision
  • On the Angle of the Atom
  • On the Sensation of Touch
  • On Destiny
  • Theories of the Passions, against Timocrates
  • Prognostication
  • Exhortation to Study Philosophy
  • On Images
  • On Sensory Presentation
  • Aristobulus
  • On Music
  • On Justice and Other Virtues
  • On Gifts and Gratitude
  • Polymedes
  • Timocrates, in three books
  • Metrodorus, in five books
  • Antidorus, in two books
  • Theories about Diseases [and Death], Dedicated to Mithres
  • Callistolas
  • On Kingship
  • Anaximenes
  • Letters

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, I.16 (Prologue): Many books were written by Zeno, even more by Xenophanes, even more by Democritus, even more by Aristotle, even more by Epicurus, and even more by Chrysippus.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, VII.181 (Chrysippus): Apollodorus of Athens, in his “Collection of Philosophical Doctrines,” wanting to show that the works of Epicurus (written by his own efforts rather than propped up with citations) were infinitely more numerous than those of Chrysippus, said in the precise terms, “Indeed if one were to remove from Chrysippus’ books all the citations taken from elsewhere, nothing but a blank page would remain.”

Suda, “Epicurus” {epsilon-2404}: His writings, in sum, are numerous.

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, I.20.19: Why, Epicurus, do you even light a lamp and labor for our sake, and write so many books?  Ibid, II.20.9: Dear fellow, why do you bother yourself about us?  Why do you keep up a vigil on our account, for which you light a lamp?  Why do you get up?  Why do you write so many big books?  Is it to keep one or another of us from being tricked into believing that the gods care for men, or is it to keep one or another of us from supposing that the nature of good is other than pleasure?  If this is indeed so, then back to your bed and go to sleep!

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 46.1: I received your book that you had promised me… how well I find it written, you can know this much: it strikes me as light and elegant, though bulkier than we are accustomed to, so that at first glance it seems to resemble Livy or Epicurus.  However, it caught and charmed me so much that I read it from beginning to end in one sitting.

Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept? 3, p. 1129A: {Rhetorically addressing Epicurus} Don’t send books everywhere to advertise your wisdom to every man and woman …  What sense is there in so many tens of thousands of lines honoring Metrodorus, Aristobulus, and Chaeredemus, and published with so much industry that they cannot remain unknown even after they’re dead?  Who are you to call for the obliteration of virtue, the uselessness of skills, silence to philosophy, and forgetfulness of good deeds?

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, II.3.8: Everyone, even those who do not accept their teaching or are not enthusiastic disciples, reads Plato and the rest of the Socratic school and after them their followers, while scarcely anyone beyond their own adherents takes up the works of Epicurus and Metrodorus.
On the Language and Style of Epicurus

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.13: He uses plain language in his works throughout, which is unusual, and Aristophanes, the grammarian, reproaches him for it. He was so intent on clarity that even in his treatise On Rhetoric, he didn’t bother demanding anything else but clarity.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.5.14, (Torquatus to Cicero): “I think that you, like our friend Triarius, are displeased with Epicurus because he neglected the rhetorical embellishments of Plato, Aristotle, and Theophrastus. I find it hard indeed to figure out why you think his opinions untrue.” (Cicero to Torquatus): “You will see, Torquatus,” said I, “how mistaken you are. I am not annoyed by this philosopher’s style. He is straightforward, expressing simple and plain concepts in a way that is easy to understand; though I do not despise eloquence in a philosopher either – but if he doesn’t have it, I do not insist on it.  It’s in the contents where he does not satisfy me, and in many places.”

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, II.9.4:  In the same book {Book II of the Essays On Homer}, Plutarch finds fault again with Epicurus for using an inappropriate word and giving it an incorrect meaning. Now Epicurus wrote as follows: “The pinnacle of pleasure is the removal of everything that pains.” Plutarch declares that he ought not have said “of everything that pains,” but “of everything that is painful;” for it is the removal of pain, he explains, that should be indicated, not of that which causes pain. In bringing this charge against Epicurus, Plutarch is “word-chasing” with excessive nit-picking and almost with frigidity; for rather than hunting up such verbal meticulousness and such refinements of diction, Epicurus hunts them down {implying that Epicurus deliberately eliminates them}.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.4.12: You Epicureans frequently tell us we do not correctly understand what pleasure might be which Epicurus refers to…  Ibid. II.5.15  Nevertheless, supposing that I don’t understand Epicurus’ intended meaning… then he himself might possibly be at fault, for speaking in such a way that defies understanding.  Obscurity may be excused for two reasons: it might be intentional, like with Heraclitus… or it may reflect the difficulty of the material, rather than the rhetoric, as, for example, in Plato’s Timaeus.  But Epicurus, as far as I can tell, neither refuses to speak in a simple and explicit manner whenever he can, nor does he speak here about an obscure subject, such as physics, or an artificial and technical subject, like mathematics.  Pleasure is an easy topic that everyone can relate to.

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.31.85 (Cotta speaking): Regarding the formulation of this maxim {Epicurus’ first Principal Doctrine}, there are those who think that this simple man was deliberately vague, when in fact the ambiguity arose from his inability to express himself plainly.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.6.18: Epicurus, by despising the dialectic, which encompasses the whole science of discovering the nature of things, judging their qualities, and how to do it with methodic rationality, stumbles, I say.  He fails to even half-way distinguish what he desires to convey. Ibid, II.9.27: Epicurus despises expressive eloquence; he speaks in confused manner.

Cicero, On Divination, II.50.18: Epicurus, whom the Stoics usually describe as stupid and crude…

Aelius Theon, Preliminary Exercises, Rh. W. 1 p. 169, Sp. II p. 71.7 {II.154 Butts}:  One must also pay attention to the arrangement of words, by providing instruction about all the ways in which they will avoid faulty arrangement, but especially metrical and rhythmical style, like many of the phrases of the orator Hegesias and the orators call Asianist, as well as some of the phrases of Epicurus, such as… {continued at U131 & U105}

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, V p. 187C: What need is there even to speak of the lack of proportion which pervades his style?

Cleomedes, Lectures on Astronomy, II.1 [p. 112 Bak.] {p. 489 Bowen and Todd}: Epicurus claims that he alone has found the truth through his vast wisdom and knowledge, and so thinks it right that he should also take first prize.  That is why I would believe it to be quite wrong for someone to say to him: “Babbling Thersites, clear orator though you are, hold off!” {Homer, Iliad 2.246-247}.  For I would not also call this Thersites “clear,” as Odysseus does the Homeric one, when on top of everything else his mode of expression is also elaborately corrupt.  He speaks of “tranquil conditions of flesh” and “the confident expectations regarding it” and describes a tear as a “glistening of the eyes,” and speaks of  “sacred ululations” and “titillations of the body” and “debaucheries” and other such dreadful horrors.  Some of these expressions might be said to have brothels as their source, others to resemble the language of women celebrating the rites of Demeter at the Thesmorphoria, still others to come from the synagogue and its suppliants – debased Jew talk, far lower than the reptiles!

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors, I.1: In his ignorance, Epicurus is subject to blame in many respects; even in ordinary conversation his speech was not correct.

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, II.17.46 (Balbus speaking): Epicurus may make a joke of this if he likes, although humor was never his strong point – an Athenian without the “Attic salt!”

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.44.123 (Cotta speaking): Epicurus himself wrote a book on the sanctity of the gods.  In this book the reader is fooled by a man who wrote not so much with irony as with wild abandon!

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On the Composition of Words, 24, p. 188: I ask for the indulgence of the Epicurean company, who have no regard for these things.  The dictum that “writing presents no difficulties to those who do not aim at a constantly changing standard,” which Epicurus himself propounded, was intended as a talisman to ward off the charge of extreme sloth and stupidity.

Cicero, Brutus, I.35.131: Titus Albucius grew up in Athens and left there a perfect Epicurean, typically lacking the capacity for eloquence.

Fragments from Known Works

1. Peri Airesewn kai Fugwn
On Choices and Avoidances
U1 – U2
2. AnaximenhV
3. AnafwnhseiV
4. AntidwroV A B
Antidorus, in 2 Books
~ Peri Aretwn
On the Virtues
5. AristobouloV
6. Peri Atomwn kai Kenou
On the Atoms and the Void
7. Peri ths en thi Atomwi GwniaV
On the Angle of the Atom
8. Peri AfhV
On the Sensation of Touch
9. Peri BasileiaV
On Kingship
U5 – U6
10. Peri Biwn D
On Lifecourses, in 4 Books
U7 – U15
11. ProV Dhmokriton
Against Democritus
U16 – U17
12. Diaporiai
U18 – U21
13. Peri DikaiopragiaV
On Fair Dealing
14. Peri DikaiosunhV kai twn Allwn Aretwn
On Justice and the Other Virtues
15. Peri Dwrwn kai CaritoV
On Gifts and Gratitude
16. Peri Eidwlwn
On Images
17. Peri EimarmenhV
On Destiny
18. Meganh Epitomh
The Big Summary
U24 – U26
19. Mikra Epitomh
The Small Summary
20. Peri ErwtoV
On Love
21. EurulocoV proV Mhtrodwron
Eurylochus, Dedicated to Metrodorus
22. Peri EusebeiaV
On Piety
23. Hghsianax
24. Peri HdonhV
On Pleasure
25. Qemista
26. ProV Qeofraston
Against Theophrastus (at least 2 books)
U29 – U30
27. Peri Qeon
On the Gods
U31 – U34
28. KallistolaV
29. Peri Kriteriou h Kanwn
On the Criterion, or The Canon
U35 – U36
30. ProV touV MegarikouV
Against the Megarians
31. MhtrodwroV, E
Metrodorus, in 5 Books
32. Peri MousikhV
On Music
33. NeoklhV proV Qemistan
Neocles, Dedicated to Themista
34. Peri Notwn Doxai proV Miqrhn
Theories about Diseases [and Death], Dedicated to Mithres
35. Peri tou Oran
On Vision
36. Peri OsiothtoV
On Holiness
U38 – U40
37. Peri PaqwV Doxai proV Timokrathn
Theories on the Passions, against Timocrates
38. Peri Ploutou
On Wealth
U42 – U45
39. PolimedeV
40. Prognwstikon
41. ProtreptikoV
Exhortation to Study Philosophy
42. Peri RhtorikhV
On Rhetoric
U46 – U55
43. EtoiceiwseiV DwDeka
Doctrine of the Elements (12 Books)
44. Sumposion
U57 – U65
45. Peri TeloV
On the End-Goal
U66 – U71
46. TimokrathV G
Timocrates, in 3 Books
U72 – U73
47. Peri FantasiaV
On Sensory Presentation
48. Peri FusewV LZ
On Nature, in 37 Books
U74 – U94
49. Epitomh ton proV touV FusikouV
Summary of Objections to the Physicists
50. CaipedhmoV
51. Epistolai
Letters, which include…
1. Letters to Important Persons2. Spurious Letters

3. To Friends Living in Egypt

4. To Friends Living in Asia

5. To Friends Living in Lampsacus

6. Letter to the Philosophers of Mytilene

7. To Athenaeus

8. Against Anaxarchus

9. To Apelles

10. To Apollonides

11. To Aristobulus

12. To Dositheus

13. To Hermarchus

14. (To a Heteras)

15. To Eurylochus

16. To Herodotus

17. To Themista

18. To Idomeneus

19. To Craterus

20. To Colotes

21. To Leontium

22. To Metrodorus

23. To Mithres

24. To Mys

25. To Polyaenus

26. To Pythocles

27. To Timocrates

28. To Phyrson

29. To Carmides

30. Letter on Vocations

31. Letter on Stilpo

32. Letter to a young boy or girl

33. Letter from his last days


Epicurus’ remarks on private problems

Regarding Epicurus’ Disciples

Regarding the Stoics


U95 – U216
52. Diaqhkh
U217 – U218

1. On Choices and Avoidances


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.136: Regarding pleasure, he differs from the Cyrenaics, who do not recognize katastematic pleasures, but only pleasures in motion.  But he recognizes both: that of the mind, and that of the body, as he states in his work On Choices and Avoidances, in his treatment On the End-Goal, in the first book On Lifecourses and in his Letter to the Philosophers of Mytilene.

And Epicurus in his book On Choices… remarks, “Indeed, freedom from anxiety and the absence of pain are katastematic pleasures, while joy and delight are regarded as pleasures in motion and in action.”

2. Anaximenes

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

3. Declarations


Philodemus, On Anger, Vol. Herc. (2) I.68 [p. 149 Gomperz]

4. Antidorus, in 2 Books

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

cf. Plutarch, Against Colotes, 32, p. 1126A: If, he (Colotes) had directed a book against Antidorus or the sophist Bion, regarding laws and government and ordinances, no one would have retorted, “Oh poor wretch, lie still in your blankets {Euripides, Orestes, 258}, and cover your miserable flesh; accuse me of these things only after having real-life experience managing a household and political service.”  But such are exactly whom Colotes has insulted.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.8: And he called Antidorus “Sannidorus” {a fawning gift-bearer}.

~. On the Virtues

cf. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: On justice and the other virtues (XIV).

5. Aristobulus

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 22, p. 1103A: Metrodorus, Polyaenus, and Aristobulus were sources of “confidence” and “joy” to Epicurus; indeed he continually cared for them when they were ill and mourned them when they died.

6. On the Atoms and the Void

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

7. On the Angle of the Atom

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

8. On the Sensation of Touch

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

9. On Kingship

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 13, p. 1095C: Epicurus …  allows no place, even over wine, for questions about music and the inquires of critics and scholars and actually advises a cultivated monarch to put up with recitals of stratagems and with vulgar buffooneries at his drinking parties sooner than with the discussion of problems in music and poetry.  Such is what he is presumed to have written in his book On Kingship.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 33, p. 1127A: For when these men write to each other, they write … [in] On Kingship to avoid the company of kings.

10. On Lifecourses, in 4 Books

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.30: His ethical doctrine deals with choice and avoidance, which may be found in the books On Lifecourses, in the letters, and in the book On the End-Goal.

Book I


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.136: (noted above)


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119: The Sage will not get involved in politics, as he relates in his first book On Lifecourses, nor will he make himself a tyrant.

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, XIV.20.5: You mention Epicurus and dare to say “stay out of politics.”

Cicero, Letters to Friends, VII.12: {February, 53 BCE} My dear friend Pansa {Caius Vibius Pansa} has informed me that you {Caius Trebatius Testa} have become an Epicurean … what shall ever become of your people of Ulubrae if you lay it down that it is improper to “to occupy oneself in politics?”

Cicero, On the Laws, I.13.39: Those {Epicurean} philosophers …  test the desirability or undesirability of everything on the basis of pleasure and pain.  Let us, even if they are right (for there is no need to quarrel with them here), bid them to carry on their discussions in their own little gardens, and even request them to abstain for a while from taking any part in matters affecting the State, which they do not acknowledge, never have they ever wanted to.

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 34, p. 1127D: As they banished laws and governments, they banished human life.  This is what Epicurus and Metrodorus do when the dissuade their disciples from politics, and dispute those engaged in it.

Ibid.,  33, p. 1127A: … but these men, if they write about such matters at all, write on government to deter us from taking part in it, on oratory to deter us from public speaking, and about kingship to make us shun the company of kings.

Ibid., 31, p. 1125C: Who are these men that nullify these things, overthrowing the state and utterly abolishing the laws?  Is it not those who withdraw themselves and their disciples from participation in the state?

Plutarch, Advice about Keeping Well 22, p. 135C: Xenocrates did not keep in better health than Phocion, nor Theophrastus than Demetrius, and the running away from every activity that smacked of ambition did not help Epicurus and his followers at all to attain their much-talked-of condition of “perfect bodily health.”

Ibid., 22, p. 135B: {It does not befit a man to be} … far removed from the duties of citizenship.

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 90.35: The philosophy I speak of is not the one {Epicureanism} which takes the citizen out of public life and the gods out of the world we live in, and hands morality over to pleasure…

Commentary on Lucan, Pharsalia (The Civil War), II.380, p. 75.13: Epicurus, saying that everything is done for the sake of pleasure, dissuades the Sage from duty and political activity, and asserts that he need only live for himself.


Seneca, On Leisure (to Serenus), 3.2: The two sects, the Epicureans and the Stoics, are at variance, as in most things, in this matter also; they both direct us to leisure, but by different roads.  Epicurus says “The Sage will not engage in public affairs except in an emergency.”  Zeno says “He will engage in public affairs unless something prevents him.”  The one seeks leisure by fixed purpose, the other for a special cause.


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, IV.77 [Oxon. II.85]:  ……..  Epicurus wrote exactly this in his first book On Lifecourses and in his work On Wealth, and Metrodorus in his work Against Those Who Claim that Natural Philosophers are Talented Rhetoricians.


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, IV.107 [Oxon. II.115] & Vol. Herc. 2, V.44

Book II


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.108 [p. 126.26 Gomperz] {Obbink I.31.896}: And concerning obeisance in his {“second book,” Usener renders} On Lifecourses, {saying of Epicurus presumed to follow}


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.110 [p. 128.5 Gomperz] {Obbink I.26.730}: Furthermore, it will appear that Epicurus loyally observed all the forms of worship and enjoined his friends to observe them, not only because of the laws but for physical causes as well.  For in On Lifecourseshe says that to pray is natural for us, not because the gods would be hostile if we did not pray, but in order that, according to the understanding of beings surpassing in power and excellence, we may realize our fulfillments and social conformity with the laws.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119: As Epicurus says in the second book On Lifecourses, the Sage doesn’t behave like a Cynic, nor becomes a beggar.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119: But even if he loses his eyesight, the Sage must esteem himself worthy of life, as Epicurus says in the same book.

11. Against Democritus

Cf., Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 18, p. 1100A:  Indeed, was he not himself so impatient for renown that he not only disowned his teachers, clashed with Democritus (whose doctrines he filched word for word) about syllables and serifs, but also said that except for himself and his pupils, no one had ever been a Sage?


Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2, fragment. 20: … treating with moderate words, because of their eagerness and their benefit to us, if they were able, and further because of the pardon meted out for the things in which they slipped up, as Epicurus consistently maintains both in his book Against Democritus and against Heraclides in …


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, I.34.82: Suppose that the soul perishes like the body: is there then any definite sense of pain or sensation at all in the body after death?  There is no one who says so, though Epicurus accuses Democritus of this, but the followers of Democritus deny it.  And so there is no sensation in the soul either, for the soul is nowhere.

12. Problems

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 34, p. 1127D:  That their war, moreover, was not with lawgivers but with laws we may learn from Epicurus, who asks himself in his Problems whether the Sage who knows that he will not be found out will do certain things that the laws forbid.  He answers, “an unqualified prediction is not free of difficulty” – which means, “I shall do it but I do not wish to admit it.”

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.9.28: Epicurus often seems unduly eager to approve of pleasure in the common definition of term, and this occasionally lands him in a very awkward position.  It conveys the impression that that no action is so base that he wouldn’t do it for the sake of pleasure, as long as a guarantee of secrecy was provided.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119: Nor, again, will the Sage marry and rear a family– so Epicurus says in his Problems and in the work On Nature.  Though occasionally he may marry in accordance with special circumstances in his life.

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, I.33.3: Why, oh Epicurus, do you dissuade the Sage from raising children?  What do you fear, that doing so would bury you in pains?  (6): Yet, he dares to say “we must not raise children.”

Seneca, (On Marriage Fragment 45 [Haase]) by way of St. Jerome, Against Jovinianus, I.48 [p. 317 Vall.]: Epicurus, champion of pleasure, though his disciple Metrodorus had Leontium as his wife, maintained that the Sage need only marry in rare cases, seeing that marriage entails many nuisances.  And as riches, honors, bodily health, and other things which we call indifferent, are neither good nor bad, but stand “midway,” so to speak, and become good and bad according to the use and issue, so wives stand on the border line of good and ill. It is, moreover, a serious matter for a Sage to ponder whether he is going to marry a good or a bad woman.  {cf. Clement of Alexandria, Proof of the Gospels II.23 p. 181, 27 [Sylb.]; Theodoretus, Remedies for the Errors of the Greeks, [p. 479 Gaisf.]}


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 13, p. 1095C:  The absurdity of what Epicurus says!  On the one hand, he declares in his Problems that the Sage is a lover of spectacles and yields to none in the enjoyment of theatrical recitals and shows; but on the other, he allows no place, even over wine, for questions about music and the inquires of critics and scholars and actually advises a cultivated monarch to put up with recitals of stratagems and with vulgar buffooneries at his drinking parties sooner than with the discussion of problems in music and poetry. [cf. U5]


Ibid., 12, p. 1094E: Now it has not escaped Epicurus that bodily pleasures, like the Etesian winds, after reaching their full force, slacken and fail; thus he raises the Problem whether the Sage when old and impotent still delights in touching and fingering the fair.  In this he is not of the same mind as Sophocles, who was as glad to have got beyond reach of this pleasure as of a savage and furious master.

13. On Fair Dealing

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

14. On Justice and the Other Virtues

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

Cf. U4 On Virtues (above)

15. On Gifts and Gratitude

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors, I.49: … Epicurus, although he seems to be bitterly hostile to the Professors of Arts and Sciences, tries to prove in his book On Gifts and Gratitude that it is necessary for the wise to learn literacy.

16. On Images

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

17. On Destiny

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.106 [p. 124.18 Gomperz] {I.37.1061 Obbink}: And in his book On Destiny there is an exposition concerning the assistance provided by them {the gods}.

18. The Big Summary


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.39: “Everything is comprised of bodies and space.”  This he says also in The Big Summary near the beginning and in his first book On Nature.


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.40: “Again, some bodies are composites, while others are elements from which composite bodies are made.”  He repeats this in the first book On Nature, and in books 14 and 15, and in The Big Summary.


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.73: “We ascribe the attribute of time to days and nights and their parts, and likewise to feelings of pleasure and pain and to neutral states, to states of movement and states of rest, conceiving a peculiar accident of these to be this very characteristic which we express by the word time.”  He says this both in the second book On Nature and in The Big Summary.

19. The Small Summary


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.135: In other places, he refutes every type of prognostication, as in The Small Summary, saying that “Prognostication doesn’t exist, and if even if it did, we must regard whatever it predicts as nothing to us.”

20. On Love

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

21. Eurylochus, Dedicated to Metrodorus

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

22. On Piety

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.14.115 (Cotta speaking): It is true that Epicurus wrote books about the sanctity of the gods and the need for reverence towards them.  But what does he actually say?  He writes in such a style that one would imagine that one was listening to some high priest such as Cronucianus or Scaevola and not to the man who destroyed the whole foundation of religious faith and overturned the altars and the temples of the gods – not by brute force, as Xerxes did, but by force of argument.  How can you say that mankind should revere the gods, if the gods themselves not only have no care for man, but care for nothing whatsoever and have no influence on anything?

Ibid., I.14.123: But, you will say, Epicurus himself wrote a book on the sanctity of the gods.  In this book the reader is fooled by a man who wrote not so much with irony as with wild abandon!  For what have we to do with holiness, if the gods have no concern with us?

23. Hegesianax

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

24. On Pleasure

Cicero, On Divination, II.27.59: But are we simple and thoughtless enough to think it a portent for mice to gnaw something, when gnawing is their one business in life? …  Hence, if one follows this type of reasoning, the fact that, at my house, mice recently gnawed my Plato’s Republic should fill me with alarm for the Roman republic; or if they had gnawed my Epicurus On Pleasure I should have expected a rise in the market price of food.

25. Themista

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.21.67: In your discourses, history is dumb.  In the school of Epicurus, I never heard one mention of Lycurgus, Solon, Miltiades, Themistocles, Epaminondas, who are always on the lips of the other philosophers.  (68) Would it not be better to talk of these than to devote those bulky volumes to Themista?


Cicero, Against Lucius Calpurnius Piso, 26.62:  A short while ago you waxed sarcastic upon Marcus Piso’s desire for a triumph… and you despise the things which those “ignoramuses,” as you are pleased to call them, deemed glorious. … You, who have conquered nations so mighty, and done deeds so doughty, ought to have been the last to despise the fruit of your labors, the rewards of your risks, and the decoration due to your heroism.  Nor indeed did you despise them, wiser than Themista though you be; but your shrank from exposing your face of steel to the lash of the senate’s reproach.

Ibid., 25.60: Your disposition will then take another theme, and you will take triumphs as your subject. “What,” you will ask, “is the use of yon chariot, of the generals that walk in chains before it, of the models of towns, of the gold and the silver, of the lieutenants and the tribunes on horseback, of the shouting of the troops, and of all the pageantry of the show?  Vanity, mere vanity I tell you  – scarce more than a child’s diversion – to hunt applause, to drive through the city, to wish to be a gazing-stock.  In none of them is there anything substantial, anything that you can grasp, anything that you can associate with bodily pleasure.”

Ibid., 27.65: Trust yourself to the people; make your venture at these games.  Are you afraid of hisses?  Where are your disquisitions?  Do you fear to be hooted?  That again is no matter to worry a philosopher.  Do you fear physical violence?  Aye, there’s the rub; pain is an evil, according to your view.

26. Against Theophrastus (at least 2 books)

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.33.93 (Cotta speaking): Was it on the basis of dreams like this that Epicurus and Metrodorus and Hermarchus attacked Pythagoras, Plato and Empedocles, and that little harlot Leontium dared to write criticisms of Theophrastus?  Perhaps she did write good Greek: but all the same…! Such was the degree of license tolerated in the Garden of Epicurus!

Pliny, Inquiry on Nature, Preface 29: I am informed that both the Stoics and the Academy, and also the Epicureans – as for the philologists, I always expected it from them – are in travail with a reply to my publications on Philology, and for the last ten years have been having a series of miscarriages – for not even elephants take so long to bring their offspring to birth!

Cf. Philodemus, Vol. Herc. 2, I.149: Boasting that Leontium and another {Themista} are mentioned in the treatise… {cf. Pliny, Inquiry on Nature, XXXV.114}

Book II


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 7, p. 1110C {citing Epicurus} “But, apart from this, I don’t know how one might affirm that these objects placed in the dark have color.” {cf. U30}

Aetius, Doxography, I.15.9 [p. 314.11 Diels]: Epicurus and Aristarchus maintain that objects placed in the dark have no color.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 7, p. 1110C: It is not hard to see that this reasoning may be applied to every object called or commonly held to be biter, sweet, cathartic, soporific, or luminous: that none has a self-contained quality or potency or is more active than passive on entering the body, but acquires different properties as it blends with different bodies.  Accordingly, Epicurus himself in the second book Against Theophrastus, when he says that colors are not intrinsic to bodies but a result of certain arrangements and positions relative to the eye, is asserting by this reasoning that body is no more colorless than colored.  Earlier in the word, he writes word for word as follows: “{= U29}, True, it often happens that when objects are enveloped in air of the same degree of darkness, some people perceive a distinction of color while others whose eyesight is weak do not; again, on first entering a dark room we see no color, but do after waiting a short time.”  Therefore no body will any more be said to have color than not.  If color is relative, white and blue will be relative; and if these, then also sweet and bitter, so that of every quality we can truly say, “It is no more this than it is not this;” for to those affected in a certain way the thing will be this, but not to these not so affected.

27. On the Gods

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 21, p. 1102B: Out of fear of public opinion, Epicurus goes through a mummery of prayers and obeisance that he has no use for and pronounces words that run counter to his philosophy; when he sacrifices, the priest at his side who immolates the victim is to him a butcher; and when it is over he goes away with Menander’s words on his lips: “I sacrificed to gods who heed me not.”  For this is the comedy that Epicurus thinks we should play, and not spoil the pleasure of the multitude or make ourselves unpopular with them by showing dislike ourselves for what others delight in doing.  … Here, the Epicureans are themselves no better than they, since they do the same form fear and do not even get the measure of happy anticipation that the others have, but are merely scared and worried that this deception and fooling of the public might be found out, with an eye to whom their books On the Gods and On Piety have been composed, “in twisted spirals, slanted and askew” {Euripides, Andromeda, 448}, as in fear they cover up and conceal their real beliefs.


Philodemus, On the Life of the Gods, Vol. Herc. 1, VI fr. 5: Epicurus also gave definitions for these in the book On the Gods.  Thus, whereas he also affirms that body and flesh are susceptible to decay, the assumption…


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.122 [p. 137, 17 Gomperz] {Obbink I.7.190}: And according to Epicurus in On the Gods, that which does not have in its nature the sensitive constitution is consistent with its divinity; and divine nature appears to be that which is not of the nature that partakes of pains (so that it necessarily creates many weaknesses).


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.104 [p. 122, 13 Gomperz] {Obbink I.44.1258}: … and to dispel what is foreign to its nature, and to marshal all its overpowering strength, nor in On the Gods does he say anything conflicting with one’s doing these things.


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.117 [p. 133, 17 Gomperz] {Obbink I.14.381}: … in his book On the Gods indisputably …… not to consider among whole entities or …..

28. Callistolas

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

29. On the Criterion, or The Canon

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

Damoxenes (comic poet), The Cook, by way of Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, III p. 102B:

In case you meet an uneducated cook
That might not know all of Democritus by heart
Spurn him as an empty fool
And if he knows not Epicurus’ Canon,
Dismiss him with contempt
As being beyond the pale of philosophy.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.30: Thus, the philosophy of Epicurus is subdivided into three parts: Canonics, Physics, and Ethics.  Canonics forms the introduction to the system and is contained in a single work entitled The Canon.

Ibid., X.14: Ariston {of Alexandria} says in his Life of Epicurus that he derived his work entitled The Canon from the Tripod of Nausiphanes, adding that Epicurus had been a pupil of this man as well as of the Platonist Pamphilus in Samos.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.19.63 (Torquatus to Cicero): Besides, it is only by firmly grasping a well-established scientific system, observing the standard or Canon that has fallen as it were from heaven, so that all men may know it – only by making that Canon the test of all our judgments, that we can hope always to stand fast in our belief, unshaken by the eloquence of any man.

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.16.43 (Velleius speaking): What race of men or nation is there which does not have some untaught apprehension of the gods?  Such an innate idea Epicurus calls prolepsis, that is to say, a certain form of knowledge which is inborn in the mind and without which there can be no other knowledge, not rational thought or argument.  The force and value of this doctrine we can see from his own inspired work on The Canon.

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 9, p. 1118A: Reading the heaven-sent Canons did not make bread appear as bread to Colotes and grass appear as grass, whereas Socrates’ charlatanism gave bread to him the appearance of grass and grass the appearance of bread.

Ibid., 28, p. 1123F: For if men not laden with drink or stupefied by strong medicine and out of their right minds, but sober and in perfect health, writing books on truth and norms and standards of judgment…

Alciphron, Letters (Letters of Courtesans), 17.II.2 (Leontium depicted writing to Lamia):  How long can one suffer this philosopher? Let him keep his books On Nature, the Principal Doctrines, The Canon, and, my lady, let me be mistress to myself, as Nature intended, without anger and abuse.

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, II.23.21: Even if the flesh itself called itself most excellent, one would not have tolerated such a statement.  So what is it, Epicurus, that makes such a declaration? that composed the treatise On the End-Goal, or On Nature, or On the Criterion? that caused you to let your beard grown long?


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.31: In The Canon Epicurus states that the sensations, the prolepses, and the passions are the criteria of truth.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.31: They reject the dialectic as superfluous; holding that in their inquiries the physicists should be content to employ the ordinary terms for things. Now in The Canon Epicurus states that the sensations, the prolepses, and the passions are the criteria of truth [= U35]; the Epicureans generally make perceptions of mental presentations to be also standards.  …  Every sensation, he says, is devoid of reason and incapable of memory; for neither is it self-caused nor regarded as having an external cause, can it add anything thereto or take anything therefrom.  Nor is there anything which can refute sensations or convict them of error: one sensation cannot convict another and kindred sensation, for they are equally valid; nor can one sensation refute another which is not kindred but heterogeneous, for the objects which the two senses judge are not the same; nor again can reason refute them, for reason is wholly dependent on sensation; nor can one sense refute another, since we pay equal heed to all.  And the reality of separate perceptions guarantees the truth of our senses.  But seeing  and hearing are just as real as feeling pain.  Hence it is from plain facts that we must start when we draw inferences about the unknown.   For all our notions are derived from perceptions, either by actual contact or by analogy, or resemblance, or composition, with some slight aid from reasoning.  And the objects presented to madmen and to people in dreams are true, for they produce effects – i.e., movements in the mind – which that which is unreal never does.

30. Against the Megarians

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

31. Metrodorus, in 5 Books

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

Cf. Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept? 3, p. 1129A: Of the tens of thousands of lines written to honor Metrodorus, Aristobulus, Chaeredemus, and composed with no small labor…

Book I


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.23: He {Metrodorus} showed dauntless courage in meeting troubles and death, as Epicurus declares in the first book of his Metrodorus memoirs.

32. On Music

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

33. Neocles, Dedicated to Themista

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

34. Theories about Diseases [and Death], Dedicated to Mithres

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

35. On Vision

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

36. On Holiness

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 21, p. 1102C: The books On the Gods and On Holiness.  [cf. U30]

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.41.115 (Cotta speaking): … Epicurus also wrote books On Holiness and and On Devotion.  (noted above)


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.104-105 [pp. 122- Gomperz] {Obbink I.44.1258 + I.40.1130}: And in On Holiness he calls the life of perfection the most pleasant and most blessed, and instructs us to guard against all defilement, with our intellect comprehensively viewing the best psychosomatic dispositions, for the sake of fitting all that happens to us to blessedness. || …manner, on account of these things impiously does away with the whole notion of divinity together with the preservation of common beliefs, and that, as those who are said to be religious think, it hurls us into unsurpassable impiety.  For pious is the person who preserves the immortality and consummate blessedness of a god together with all the things included by us; but impious is the person who banishes wither where a god is concerned.  And the person who sees also that the good and ill sent us by a god come without any unhealthy anger or benevolence, declares that a god has no need of human things…


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.83 [p. 113.3 Gomperz] {Obbink I.8.205}: And having written another book On Holiness, in it too he makes clear that not only that thing which exists indestructibly, but also (that which) continually exists in perfection as one and the same entity, are termed in the common usage “unified entities,” some of which entities are perfected out of the same elements and others from similar elements.


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.80 [p. 110.3 Gomperz] {Obbink I.13.350}: For it is possible for beings constituted out of similarity for ever to have perfect happiness, since unified entities can be formed no less out of identical than out of similar elements and both kinds of entity are recognized by Epicurus as being exactly the same things, for example in his book On Holiness.  The demonstration that this involves no contradiction may be passed over.  Therefore he was wont to say that nature brought all these things to completion alike.  And that for the most part they come about when they are formed from an aggregation of various similar particles, …


Uncertain Author, Vol. Herc. 2, X.201 fr. XLIV: … in other places, such as in his work On Holiness, and in the 12th and 13th books On Nature, and in the first of his books On Timocrates.

37. Theories on the Passions, against Timocrates

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

38. On Wealth


Philodemus, On Wealth, Vol. Herc. 2, III.101

Cf. Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.17.55: According to your {Epicurean} school, it is right to try to get money even at some risk; for money procures many very delightful pleasures.


Philodemus, On Wealth, Vol. Herc. 2, III.98


Philodemus, On Wealth, Vol. Herc. 2, III.91


Philodemus, On Wealth, Vol. Herc. 2, III.96

39. Polymedes

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

40. Prognostication

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

41. Exhortation to Study Philosophy

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

42. On Rhetoric

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 33, p. 1127A: …they write on rhetoric to deter us from oratory…

Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, II.17, 15: As for Epicurus, who shirked all disciplines, his statements on the subject do not surprise me at all {because he had written against the use of rhetoric}. [Cf. XII 2, 24 (fr. 156).]


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, V.54


Metrodorus, On Poems, I, by way of Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, V.58


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, V.48

Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, V.51: … to truly establish that, according to Epicurus, rhetoric is an art.


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, IV.73 [= Oxon. II.81]: According to Epicurus’ disciples, they say that argument is the art of composing lectures and of apodictic oratory, while the articulation of legal proceedings and political harangues are not arts.

Philodemus, Commentary On Rhetoric, I, col. VII, Vol. Herc. V.35

Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, IV.106 [= Oxon. II.144 & Vol. Herc. 2, V.43]

Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, V.51


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, IV.93 [= Oxon. II.101]


Ammianus Marcellinus, History of Rome, XXX 4, 3: The rich genius of Plato defines this calling, pogitikês moríon eídolon, i.e., forensic oratory, as an image of a part of politics; but Epicurus calls it kakotechnía “a vile technique.”


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, IV.78


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 1, IV (chapters 3-6, pages 210-, Gros edition)


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.13: …in his On Rhetoric, he demands clarity above all.


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, V.57

43. Doctrine of the Elements (12 Books)


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.44: He says below that atoms have no quality at all except shape, size, and weight, while in his twelve books of the Elements he states that color varies with the arrangement of the atoms.

44. Symposium

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

Plutarch, Table Talk, I, proem, p. 612D: This most famous philosophers, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Speusippus, Epicurus, Prytanis, Hieronymus, and Dio of the Academy, who all considered the recording of conversations held at table a task worth some effort.

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, V p. 186E: We will now talk about the Homeric symposia.  In these, namely, the poet distinguishes times, persons, and occasions.  This feature Xenophon and Plato rightly copied, for at the beginning of their treatises they explain the occasion of the symposium, and who are present.  But Epicurus specifies no place, no time; he has no introduction whatsoever.  One has to guess, therefore, how it comes about that a man with cup in hand suddenly propounds questions as though he were lecturing before a class.

Ibid., 187B: Homer introduces guests who differ in their ages and views of life – Nestor, Ajax, Odysseus – all of whom, speaking generally, strive after excellence, but have set out in specifically diverse paths to find it.  Epicurus on the other hand, introduced none but prophets of atoms, although he had before him these as his models, such as the variety of symposia of the Poet {Homer}, and the charm of Plato and Xenophon as well.  177B: Epicurus, however, portrayed a symposium solely of philosophers.

Ibid., 179B:  Again, Homer tells us what we are to do before we begin to eat, namely, we are to offer as first-fruits some of the food to the gods. … Homer also shows us the feaster at least offering libations … all of which Plato also retains in his symposium.  But with Epicurus there is no libation, no preliminary offering to the gods; on the contrary, it is like what Simonides says of the lawless woman: “Oftentimes she eats up the offerings before they are consecrated.”

Ibid., 182A: In the Symposium of Epicurus there is an assemblage of flatterers praising one another, while the symposium of Plato is full of men who turn their noses up in jeers at one another.  …  In Homer, on the other hand, only sober symposia are organized.


Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, V p. 187C: Again, Epicurus in his Symposium investigates the subject of indigestion  in order to get omens from it; following that, he asks about fevers. What need is there even to speak of the lack of proportion which pervades his style?


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 6, p. 1109E: Consider the discussion that Epicurus holds in his Symposium with Polyaenus about the heat in wine.  When Polyaenus asks, “Do you deny, Epicurus, the great heating effect of wine?”, he replies, “What need is there to generalize that wine produces heat?” Further on, he says, “For it appears that it is not a general fact that wine produces heat, but a given quantity of wine may be said to produce heat for a given person.”


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 6, p. 1109F: Again, after assigning as one cause the crowding and dispersal of atoms, and as another, the mixture and alignment of these with others, when the wine is mingled with the body, he adds in conclusion, “Thus, one should not generalize that wine is productive of heat, but only say that a particular amount produces heat for a particular body in a particular condition, or that such an amount results in chilling for another.  For in an aggregate such as wine there are also certain natural substances of such a sort that coolness might be formed of them, or such that, when aligned with others, they would produce a real coolness.  Hence, deceived by this, some generalize that wine is cooling, others, that it is heating.”


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 6, p. 1110A: If then the man who asserts that the majority are deceived in supposing that what heats is heating or what cools is cooling should refuse to recognize “Everything is no more this than that” as a conclusion from his premises, he is himself deceived.  He proceeds to add, “And often the wine does not even possess the property of heating or cooling as it enters the body.  Rather, the bodily mass is so set in motion that the corpuscle shift their position: the heat-producing atoms are at one time concentrated, becoming numerous enough to impart warmth and heat to the body, but at another time are driven out, producing a chill.”


Plutarch, Table Talk, III 6, 1, p. 653B: Certain young men with no long experience in the ancient literature were attacking Epicurus on the ground that he had introduced in his Symposium an unseemly and unnecessary discussion about the proper time for coition.  For an older man to talk about sex in the presence of youths at a dinner-party and weigh the pros and cons of whether one should make love before dinner or after dinner was, they claimed, the extreme of indecency.  At this, some of our company brought up Xenophon, who, so to speak, took his guests home after dinner, not on foot, but on horseback, to make love to their wives.  And Zopyrus the physician, who was very well acquainted with the works of Epicurus, added that they had not read Epicurus’ Symposium with attention; for Epicurus did not propose the problem as one involving a principle or a settled procedure and then proceed with his discussion of it; but he took the young men for a walk after dinner, conversed with them for the purpose of moral instruction, and restrained them from their lust on the ground that intercourse is always precarious and harmful, and affects worse those who engage in it when the have been eating and drinking.  “Indeed,” said he {Zopyrus}, “even if intercourse were the chief topic of his inquiry, would it be to the philosopher’s credit to have refrained entirely from all consideration of the right time and hour for coition?  Would it not be better for him to engage, at the proper moment, in rational discussion of such matters?  And would it be to his credit that he consider this stage of his discussion not inappropriate to any occasion except drinking and dining, and there shameful?”…  This put the young men out of countenance, and they sat in silence.  The rest of the company asked Zopyrus to give them an account of what Epicurus had to say about this matter, and he replied that he did not remember the particulars accurately, but thought that the man feared the afflictions resulting from coition, due to the disturbance caused by our bodies entering into the tumult and turmoil of such activity.  For wine is generally a brawler, an instigator of tumult, and unsettles our body from its base; and if tranquility and sleep do not take possession of our body when it is in this condition, but the new disturbances of coition supervene, the forces which naturally tie together and cement the body are crushed and dislodged, and there is danger that the body be unseated, like a house shifted from its foundations – for the seed does not flow easily at this time, repletion blocking it, but with effort it is extracted in a clotted mass.  Consequently our man says that we must engage in such activity when the body is quiet and ended are the assimilations and fluxes of the nourishment which traverses and quits the body, and must do so before the body is again in need of further nourishment. 654B: Let us consider, if you will, whether it is proper and fitting, or contrary to all justice, for Epicurus to deprive Aphrodite of night … 655A: Surely the body would not suffer greater harm by coition after dinner, as Epicurus thinks it does, provided a man does not make love when he is over-burdened, drunk or stuffed full to the point of bursting.  For of course, if that is the case, the thing is precarious and harmful.  But if a man is sufficiently himself and moderately relaxed, his body at ease and his spirit disposed and if then after an interval he makes love, he neither causes his body great disturbance, nor does he bring on any morbid excitement or unsettling of atoms, as Epicurus claims.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.118: Sexual intimacy, say the Epicureans, never does anyone any good, and one should feel fortunate if it does no harm.

Clement of Alexandria, Instructor, II 10, p. 84, 41: It’s a good saying that has come down to us which affirms: “Sexual intimacy never does anyone any good, and one should feel fortunate if it does no harm.”

Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.52: It is not surprising that ordinary people think meat-eating contributes to health, for they are just people who think that enjoyment and sex preserve health, whereas these things have never profited anyone, and one must be content if they have done no harm.

Galen, Art of Medicine c.  24 t. I [p. 371 K.]: Sexual intercourse, according to Epicurus, is not ever beneficial.

Galen, comment on The Epidemics of Hippocrates III, I 4, Art of Medicine XVII, 1, p. 521: What need is there to write … as Epicurus affirms … that sexual intimacy never does anyone any good, and one should feel fortunate if it does no harm?


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119:  Epicurus says in his Symposium that the Sage will not lecture when in a state of drunkenness, nor transact business in an unjust manner.


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, VII.184


Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, IV.106 [= Oxon. II.114 & Vol. Herc. 2, V.43]: {cf. U49}

Philodemus, On Rhetoric, Vol. Herc. 2, V.44 & IV.107 [= Oxon. II.115]: {cf. U11}

45. On the End-Goal

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.30: The ethical part deals with the facts of choice and avoidance.  This may be found in the books On Lifecourses, in the Letters, and in his treatise On the End-Goal. (noted above)

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.18.41: In that book which embraces all your {Epicurus’} teaching … the whole book, which deals with the highest good, is packed with words and sentiments of similar character.

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.19.44: These admissions Epicurus must make or else remove from his book all that I have rendered word for word, or preferably the whole book should be flung away, for it is brimful of pleasures.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.7.20: Such is the language that he uses in the lecture dealing solely with the topic of the Chief Good.

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, I.23.21 {= Arrian @ U34}:  Even if the flesh itself called itself most excellent, one would not have tolerated such a statement.  So what is it, Epicurus, that makes such a declaration? that composed the treatise On the End-Goal, or On Nature, or On the Criterion? that caused you to let your beard grown long?


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.137: As proof that pleasure is the end he adduces the fact that living things, so soon as they are born, are well content with pleasure and are at enmity with pain, by the prompting of nature and apart from reason.  Left to our own feelings, then we shun pain; as when even Heracles, devoured by the poisoned robe, cries aloud: “And bites and yells, and rock to rock resounds; Headlands of Locris and Euboean cliffs.” {Sophocles, The Women of Trachis, 786-87}


Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, XII p. 546E: Not only Aristippus and his followers, but also Epicurus and his welcomed kinetic pleasure; I will mention what follows, to avoid speaking of the “storms” {of passion} and the “delicacies” which Epicurus often cites, and the “stimuli” which he mentions in his On the End-Goal.  For he says “For I at least do not even know what I should conceive the good to be, if I eliminate the pleasures of taste, and eliminate the pleasures of sex, and eliminate the pleasures of listening, and eliminate the pleasant motions caused in our vision by a visible form.”

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, VII p. 280A: Again, in the work On the End-Goal, he says something like this: “As for myself, I cannot conceive of the good if exclude the pleasures derived from taste, or those derived from sexual intercourse, or those derived from entertainments to which we listen, or those derived from the motions of a figure delightful to the eye.”

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, VII p. 278F: For Epicurus does not speak with face muffled, but in a loud voice he declares: “As for myself, I cannot conceive of the good if exclude the pleasures derived from taste, or those derived from sexual intercourse.”

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.6: It is observed too that in his treatise On the End-Goal, he writes in these terms: “I know not how to conceive the good, apart from the pleasures of taste, sexual pleasures, the pleasures of sound, and the pleasures of beautiful form.”

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.18.41: Why do we shirk the question, Epicurus, and why do we not confess that we mean by pleasure what you habitually say it is, when you have thrown off all sense of shame?  Are these your words or not?  For instance, in that book which embraces all your teaching (for I shall now play the part of translator, so no one may think I am inventing) you say this: “For my part I find no meaning which I can attach to what is termed good, if I take away from it the pleasures obtained by taste, if I take away the pleasures which come from listening to music, if I take away too the charm derived by the eyes from the sight of figures in movement, or other pleasures by any of the senses in the whole man.  Nor indeed is it possible to make such a statement as this – that it is joy of the mind which is alone to be reckoned as a good; for I understand by a mind in a state of joy, that it is so, when it has the hope of all the pleasures I have named – that is to say the hope that nature will be free to enjoy them without any blending of pain.”  And this much he says in the words I have quoted, so that anyone you please may realize what Epicurus understands by pleasure.

Ibid., III.20.46: For he has not only used the term pleasure, but stated clearly what he meant by it.   “Taste,” he says, “and embraces and spectacles and music and the shapes of objects fitted to give a pleasant impression to the eyes,”

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.3.7 (Torquatus to Cicero): “Does not Epicurus recognize pleasure in your sense?” (Cicero): “Not always,” said I,  “now and then, I admit, he recognizes it only too fully, for he solemnly avows that he cannot even understand what good there can be or where it can be found, apart form that which is derived from food and drink, the delight of the ears, and the grosser forms of gratification.  Do I misrepresent his words?” Ibid., II.7.20: In a number of passages where he is commending that real pleasure which all of us call by the same name, he goes so far as to say that he cannot even imagine any Good that is not connected with pleasure of the kind intended by Aristippus.  Such is the language that he uses in the lecture dealing solely with the topic of the Chief Good.  II.8.23:  Men of taste and refinement, with first-rate chefs…  the accompaniment of dramatic performances and their usual sequel  – these are pleasures without which Epicurus, as he loudly proclaims, does not know what Good is.  II.10.29:  But fancy his failing to see how strong a proof it is that the sort of pleasure, without which he declares he has no idea at all what Good means (and he defines it in detail as the pleasure of the palate, of the ears, and subjoins the other kinds of pleasure, which cannot be specified without an apology).  I.10.30: the kinetic sort of pleasure … he extols it so much that he tells us he is incapable even of imagining what other good there can be.  II.20:64:  … Nor did he forgo those other indulgences in the absence of which Epicurus declares that he cannot understand what good is.

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.40.111 (Cotta speaking):  Your school recognizes no pleasure of the mind which does not have its beginning and end in the physical body.  I take it that you, Velleius, are not like the rest of our Epicureans, who are ashamed of those sayings of Epicurus in which he states that he does not understand how there can be anything good except sensual and sexual pleasures.  And he then goes on quite unashamed to enumerate these pleasures one by one.

Cicero, Against Lucius Calpurnius Piso, 28.69: {Piso} would have it that Epicurus was an eloquent fellow; and indeed he does, I believe, assert that he cannot conceive any good apart from bodily pleasure.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 4, p. 1089D: It is this, I believe, that has driven them, seeing for themselves the absurdities to which they were reduced, to take refuge in the “painlessness” and the “stable condition of the flesh,” supposing that the pleasurable life is found in thinking of this state as about to occur in people or as being achieved; for the “stable and settled condition of the flesh,” and the  “trustworthy expectation” of this condition contain, they say, the highest and the most assured delight for men who are able to reflect.  Now to begin with, observe their conduct here, how they keep decanting this “pleasure” or “painlessness” or “stable condition” of theirs back and forth, from body to mind and then once more from mind to body.

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, IX.5.2: Epicurus makes pleasure the highest good but defines it as sarkos eustathes katastema, or “a well-balanced condition of the body.”


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.18.42:  Then {Epicurus writes} a little lower: “I have often,” he says, “asked men who were called wise what content could be left in a good, if they took away the advantages named, unless it were to be supposed that it was their wish to utter sentences destitute of meaning; I have been able to learn nothing form these men; if they choose to go on babbling about ‘virtues’ or ‘wisdoms’ they will mean nothing but the way in which the pleasures I have named are brought about.”  What follows is to the same effect, and the whole book, which deals with the highest good, is packed with words and sentiments of similar character.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.15.48: Your Epicurus tells us that he is utterly at a loss to know what nature of qualities are assigned to this morality by those who make it the measure of the chief good.  For if morality be the standard to which all things are referred, while yet they will not allow that pleasure forms any part of it, he declares that they are uttering sounds devoid of sense (those are his actual words), and that he has no notion or perception whatsoever of any meaning that this term morality can have attached to it.  In common parlance, moral (honorable) means merely that which ranks high in popular esteem.  And popular esteem, says Epicurus, though often in itself more agreeable than certain forms of pleasure, is yet desired simply as a means to pleasure.


Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, XII p. 546F: And in his On the End-Goal, he says again: “one must honor the noble, and the virtues and things like that, if they produce pleasure.  But if they do not, one must bid them goodbye.”  With these statements he clearly makes virtue the minister of pleasure – occupying the station of a handmaid.

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, VII p. 280B: {= U67, Again, in the work On the End-Goal…}


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.136: (noted above)

46. Timocrates, in 3 Books

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.33.93 (Cotta speaking): Epicurus … heaped whole volumes of invective on Timocrates, the brother of his own colleague Metrodorus, because of some petty disagreement on a philosophical point.

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 32, p. 1126C: Epicurus, in fact, sent people off to Asia to rail at Timocrates, meaning to drive the man from court because he had fallen out with Metrodorus, whose brother he was –and this is published in their books.


Book 1

Uncertain Author, Vol. Herc. 2, X.201, fr. XLIV: And in his first of those books on Timocrates


Book 3

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.23: His {Metrodorus’} goodness was proved in all ways, as Epicurus testifies in the {dedicatory} introductions to his works and in the third book ofTimocrates.

47. On Sensory Presentation

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

48. On Nature, in 37 Books

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.30: The physical part includes the entire theory of nature: it is contained in the thirty-seven books On Nature and, in a summary form, in the letters.

Ibid, X.7: Timocrates… also alleges that in his thirty-seven books On Nature, Epicurus uses much repetition and writes largely in sheer opposition to others, especially Nausiphanes… [U93]

Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.35: For those unable to study point-by-point all my physical writings or to go into the longer treatises at all…

Epicurus, Letter to Pythocles, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.84: … you ask me for a clear and concise statement respecting celestial phenomena; for what we have written on this subject elsewhere is, you tell me, hard to remember, although you have my books constantly with you.

Ibid. X.91: Every objection to this will be easily annihilated, as long as one pays attention to the evidence, which is demonstrated in the books On Nature.

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, I.23.21 {= Arrian @ U34}:  Even if the flesh itself called itself most excellent, one would not have tolerated such a statement.  So what is it, Epicurus, that makes such a declaration? that composed the treatise On the End-Goal, or On Nature, or On the Criterion? that caused you to let your beard grown long?

Alciphron, Letters (Letters of Courtesans), II.2.2 (Leontium depicted writing to Lamia): How long can one suffer this philosopher? Let him keep his books On Nature, the Principal Doctrines, The Canon, and, my lady, let me be mistress to myself, as Nature intended, without anger and abuse.

Galen, comment on The Epidemics of Hippocrates III, I 4, On Human Nature I, C.M.G XV [p. 5 K.]: Some composed not just one book, but quite a few on the science of nature.  Certain others, however, composed truly a great many of them – such as Epicurus; he also, like all the rest, begins with the question of what might be most simple and universal thing that we can find in nature, or rather, what might the most fundamental and simple things be like, which the successors to the ancient philosophers were in the habit of calling “elements.”

Book 1


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 13, p. 1114A: When he proposes at the beginning of his treatise that “the nature of existence is atoms and void,” he treats that nature as one, dividing it into two parts, one of them actually nothing, but termed by you and your company “intangible,” “empty,” and “incorporeal.”


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Physicists (Against the Dogmatists, III) 333: Epicurus was in the habit of using the terms holon (whole universe) and pan (all existence) equivalently when describing the nature of bodies and of the void.  For at one point he says, “the nature of the whole universe is atoms and void.”

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, II.32,82 (Cotta speaking): There are others, such as Epicurus, who use the term nature to mean everything which exists, and derive all natural phenomena from the movements of material bodies in space.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 11, p. 1112E: When Epicurus says “nature of existing things is atoms and void,” do we taken him to mean that “nature” is distinct from “existing things,” or simply indicate “existing things,” and nothing more, just as it is his habit for instance to use the expression “the nature of void,” for “void,” and indeed “the nature of all existence,” for “all existence?”

Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.39: “Everything is comprised of bodies and space.”  This he says also in the Big Summary near the beginning and in his first book On Nature.


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.40: “Again, some bodies are composites, while others are elements from which composite bodies are made.”  He repeats this in the first book On Nature, and in books XIV and XV, and in the Big Summary.


Epicurus, On Nature, I uncertain fragment XVI, Vol. Herc. 2, V.90: It is necessary that the atoms undergo something in consequence of reciprocal collisions, as it was said at the beginning; nevertheless, contrary to the…

Book 2

Herculaneum Papyrus 1149,  Vol. Herc. 1, II (inscription): Epicurus, On Nature, Book 2 {title}


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.73: “We ascribe the attribute of time to days and nights and their parts, and likewise to feelings of pleasure and pain and to neutral states, to states of movement and states of rest, conceiving a peculiar accident of these to be this very characteristic which we express by the word time.”  He says this both in the second book On Nature and in The Big Summary.

Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, III.137: According to Demetrius Laco, Epicurus defines time as “a concurrence of concurrences, concomitant with days and nights and seasons and affections and non-affections and motions and rests.”

Book 4


Uncertain Author, Vol. Herc. 2, X.47: Nor does Epicurus say, in Book 4 of On Nature

Book 11

Herculaneum Papyrus 1042 / Vol. Herc. 1, II.: Epicurus, On Nature, Book 11, number… {title}

Herculaneum Papyrus 154 / Vol. Herc. 2, vi 1-7: Epicurus, On Nature, Book 11 {title}


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Pythocles, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.91: “The size of the sun, [etc.,] is as it appears.”  This he states in the eleventh book On Nature.  For, says he, if it had diminished in size on account of the distance, it would have diminished in brightness even more; for indeed there is no distance more proportionate to this diminution of size than is the distance at which the brightness begins to diminish.

Epicurus, Letter to Pythocles, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.91: Every objection to this will be easily annihilated, as long as one pays attention to the evidence, which is demonstrated in the books On Nature.

Book 12


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.74:  “Furthermore, we must not suppose that the world-systems necessarily have one and the same shape.”  Rather, in the 12th book On Nature, he himself says that the shapes of the world-systems differ, some being spherical, some oval, others again of shapes different from these.  They do not, however, take on every shape.  Nor are they living beings which have been separated from the infinite.


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Pythocles, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.96:  “An eclipse of the sun or moon may be due to the extinction of their light … or the interposition of some other body, whether it be the earth or some other unseen body like it.”  He says the same in the 12th book On Nature, and furthermore that the sun is eclipsed when the moon throws her shadow over him, and the moon is eclipsed by the shadow of the earth; or again, eclipse may be due to the moon’s withdrawal, and this is cited by Diogenes the Epicurean in the first book of Epilecta.


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.83 [p. 113.23 Gomperz] {Obbink I.8.225}: And in the 12th book of On Nature he says that the earliest men arrived at conceptions of imperishable external entities.


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.106 [p. 124.1 Gomperz]: {The rendering of this fragment in Usener (as virtually the same as U88, but attributed to Book 12) has been abandoned by subsequent scholarship}


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.120, 3 [p. 135 Gomperz] {Obbink I.3.60}: … if they inquire accurately, he says, he thinks that it is possible for their {divine} nature to exist even with many troubles surrounding it, and that it is possible even for many eternal and immortal gods to exist.


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.82 [p. 112 Gomperz] {Obbink I.19.5}: …as in the 12th book, he also reproaches Prodicus, Diagoras, and Critias among others, saying that they rave like lunatics, and he likens them to Bacchant revelers, admonishing them not to trouble or disturb us.  {cf. U155}

Book 13


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.106, [p. 124, 6 Gomperz] {Obbink I.37.1053}: In the 13th book he mentions the congeniality which a god feels for some and the alienation for others. {cf.U85}

Uncertain Author, Vol. Herc. 2, X.201 {=U41} … in other places, such as in his work On Piety, and in the 12th and 13th books On Nature, and in the first of his books On Timocrates.

Book 14

Herculaneum Papyrus 1148 / Vol. Herc. 2, VI 8-23: {title} Epicurus, On Nature, Book 14 … To Polyaenus


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.40: “Again, some bodies are composites, while others are elements from which composite bodies are made.”  He repeats this in the first book On Nature, and in books 14 and 15, and in The Big Summary.

Book 15

Herculaneum Papyrus 1151 / Vol. Herc. 2, IV 24-36.: {title} Epicurus, [On Nature] Book 15 … Written under the archonship of Hegemachus {300-299 BCE}


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.40: [= U89]

Book 28

Herculaneum Papyrus 1151 / Vol. Herc. 2, IV 24-36.: Epicurus, On Nature, Book 28 … written under the archonship of Nicius {296-295 BCE}, who came after Antiphates.

Book 35


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.106, [p. 124.11 Gomperz] {Obbink I.37.1058}: In Book 35, in addition to clarifying somewhat this benefit, he says that even on account of thinking…

From Uncertain Volumes


Several Herculaneum Papyri comprise uncertain volumes from the series On Nature.

  1. #1056 (VH1, X): Epicurus, On Nature {title, with fragments of 28 pages}
    #697 (VH2, VI.55-68):
    Epicurus, On Nature {title}
    #1191: {unedited, without title}
  2. #362 (VH2, VI.92-95): Epicurus, On Nature {title}
  3. #1431 (VH2, VI.82-91): Epicurus, On Nature {title}
  4. #419 (VH2, IX.86-90): {without title}
  5. #993 (VH2, X.104-111): {without title}
  6. #1390 (VH2, X.95-100): {without title}
  7. #1420 (VH2, VII.68-70): {on sense perception}

Scholiast on Dionysius Thrax {“Dionysius the Thracian”}, The Art of Grammar, [p. 660, 25 Bekk.]:  And although Epicurus always made use of general outlines {of the senses of words}, he showed that definitions are more worthy of respect by using definitions instead of general outlines in the treatise On Nature; for he used definitions when he divided the totality {of existence} into the atomic and the void, saying that “the atomic is a solid body which has no share of void included in it; void is an intangible nature,” i.e., not subject to touch.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.7: Timocrates… also alleges that in his thirty-seven books On Nature, Epicurus uses much repetition and writes largely in sheer opposition to others, especially Nausiphanes, and here is his own words: “but let them go hang; for, when laboring with an idea, he too had a sophist’s off-hand boastfulness like so many other slaves.”


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119: Nor, again, will the Sage marry and rear a family– so Epicurus says in his Problems and in the work On Nature.  Though occasionally he may marry in accordance with special circumstances in his life.

49. Summary of Objections to the Physicists

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

Cf. the books Against Democritus

50. Chaeredemus

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.27: (noted above)

51. Letters

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.28: (noted above)

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.30: The physical part includes the entire theory of Nature: it is contained in the thirty-seven books On 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 Lifecourses, in the letters, and in his treatise On the End-Goal.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.20.65 (Torquatus to Cicero): Epicurus in a single house, and a small one at that, maintained a whole company of friends, united by the closest sympathy and affection; and this still goes on in the Epicurean school.

Cf. Cicero, Ibid., II.25, 80-81; Cicero Academica II.36.115 (Lucullus): …the Epicureans, so many of whom are friends of my own, so worthy, and so affectionate a set of men.

Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2, fragment XV: … and why, when they have stopped, will he {the teacher} move on to {accolades}, and how will he exhibit to these those who have endured his ridicule?  In short, a wise man will employ frankness toward his friends the way that Epicurus and Metrodorus did towards…


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.14: And in his correspondence he replaces the usual greeting, “I wish you joy,” by wishes for welfare and right living,  “May you do well,” and  “Live well.”   Ibid., III.60-61 (Plato): …Lastly, his {Plato’s} thirteen Epistles deal with ethics.  In these epistles his salutation was “Do well,” as that of Epicurus was “Live well,” and that of Cleon: “All joy.”

Lucian, A Slip of the Tongue in Salutation, 6, [p. 732 Hemst.]: Epicurus was a man who certainly enjoyed enjoyment itself, and esteemed pleasure above everything else.  Yet, in his most serious letters (which are not very numerous) and in those to his most intimate friends, he starts off with “Live well!”

Cf. Suda, under Greetings {Χαίρειν, chi-166} : Cleon headed {his letters} thus, but Plato {preferred} “Do well,” and Epicurus “Live well.” {and again at epsilon, 3664 – “Do well”}

Summary of Letters

Herculaneum Papyrus 1044 f. 4 [Gomperz Edition, “Hermes” 5, p. 386]:  … and the summaries of the letters of Epicurus, of Metrodorus, of Polyaenus, of Hermarchus, and of the disciples.

Fragments of Letters Written in Certain Years

Under the Archonship of Charinus {308 – 307 BCE}


Philodemus, On Epicurus, Vol. Herc. 2, VI.107, fragment 2: … Under Charinus …


Philodemus, On Wealth, Vol. Herc. 2, III.85: Then, under Charinus, ….. all ….. and poverty is not ….. to changing …..  will be brought.


Ibid., fragment 86: … Under Charinus …


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.107, [p. 125 Gomperz] {Obbink I.33.929}: {Epicurus says,} “Even if there should be war, it would not be terrible, if the gods are propitious;” and to Polyaenus, that he has “lived and would continue to live a pure life with Matron himself, if the gods are propitious;” and to the same in the archonship of Charinus that “in friendship with these being friends …”


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.74-75, [pp. 104-105 Gomperz] {Obbink I.29.840}: And in the archonship of Chrarinus and in that of Diotimus {286-285 BCE} he warns against violating the covenant of the sacred festival table.


Under the Archonship of Olympiodorus {294-292 BCE}

Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.114

Under the Archonship of Phillipus {292-291 BCE}

Under the Archonship of Diotomus {286-285 BCE}

Under the Archonship of Isaeus  {285-284 BCE}

Cf. Philodemus, On the Philosophers, Vol. Herc. 1, VIII cap. 5, 7


Under the Archonship of Euthius {284-283 BCE}

Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.129

Under the Archonship of Pytharatus {271-270 BCE, the year of Epicurus’ Death}

See: U122, U138, U177, & U191

Under Archonships of Questionable History

  • {=> U169} Aristonymus {290 – 289 BCE?}
  • {=> U154} Telocles {272 – 271 BCE?}


Philodemus, On Wealth, Vol. Herc. 2, III.89


1. Letters to Important Persons


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.107, [p. 125 Gomperz] {Obbink I.33.944}: And his brother, {Epicurus’ brother Neocles} an admirer and advanced student of his, says “it is necessary to piously distribute assistance from our money for the gods,” writing not to a layman but to Phyrson the Colophonian, a man [lesser] than no one in political affairs.

2. Spurious Letters

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.3: Diotimus the Stoic, who was hostile to him, assailed him with bitter slanders, adducing fifty scandalous letters as written by Epicurus; and so too did the author who ascribed to Epicurus the epistles commonly attributed to Chrysippus


Aelius Theon, Preliminary Exercises, Rh. W. 1 [p. 169 Walz] {II,154 Butts}: One must also pay attention to the arrangement of words, by providing instruction about all the ways in which they will avoid faulty arrangement, but especially metrical and rhythmical style, like many of the phrases of the orator Hegesias …, as well as some of the phrases of Epicurus, … {= U131} … and to those works being circulated as his (but even now, I have yet to find them in his writings):  “Tell me now, Polyaenus, do you know what has been a great joy to me?”  Such passages, therefore, are to be completely condemned, and have a faultiness of arrangement that is quite obvious.


3. To Friends Living in Egypt


Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept? 3, p 1128 F: [= U107]

4. To Friends Living in Asia


Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept? 3, p 1128 F: On the other hand, if it is to the good that you tender this advice to be unnoticed and unknown… you yourself, Epicurus, ought not to write your friends in Asia, not to enlist recruits from Egypt, not to cultivate the youth of Lampsacus!

5. To Friends Living in Lampsacus

Strabo, Geography, XIII p 589 [Casaubon]: …and Metrodorus, the comrade of Epicurus, was from Lampsacus; and Epicurus himself was in a sense a Lampsacenian, having lived in Lampsacus and having been on intimate terms with the ablest men of that city, Idomeneus and Leonteus and their followers.


Philodemus, On Wealth, Vol. Herc. 2, III.89


Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.110


Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept? 3, p 1129 A:  [= U107]

6. Letter to the Philosophers of Mytilene


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.136: [= U1]


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.7: [= U145]


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.8: Furthermore, Epicurus himself in his letters says of Nausiphanes: “This so maddened him that he abused me and called me a didaskalon.” {= “pedagogue,” a trite, pedantic teacher}  Epicurus used to call Nausiphanes a pleumonon. {= “jellyfish,” imputing obtuseness and insensibility}


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors, I.3: Epicurus, then, though he had been one of this man’s disciples, did his best to deny the fact in order that he might be thought to be a self-taught and original philosopher, and tried hard to blot out the reputation of Nausiphanes, and became a violent opponent of the Arts and Sciences wherein Nausiphanes prided himself.  Thus, in his Letter to the Philosophers of Mytilene, Epicurus says, “I quite suppose that ‘the bellowers’ will fancy that I am even a disciple of ‘the jellyfish’ having sat under him in the company of some crapulous striplings;” whereby he calls Nausiphanes a “jellyfish” as being without sense.  And again, after proceeding further and abusing the man at length, he hints at his proficiency in Arts and Sciences when he says – “In fact he was a sorry fellow and exercised himself on matters which cannot possibly lead to wisdom,” alluding thereby to Arts and Sciences.


7. To Athenaeus


Herculaneum Papyrus 176, c. 17 [Gomperz “Hermes” Edition, 5, p. 387]: … then to Athenaeus,“When Polyaenus came to us, you no continued to demonstrate affection to his paternal namesake, but … ”

8. Against Anaxarchus


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 17, p. 1117A: Such is … the man who, in in the letter to Anaxarchus can pen such words as these: “But I, for my part, summon you to sustained pleasures and not to empty virtues, which fill us with vain expectations that destroy peace of mind.”

9. To Apelles


Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, XIII p. 588A: First of all, I will recall Epicurus, who is distinguished for his candor; for, being himself uninitiated in the mysteries of a general education {i.e., professional training}, he congratulated those who went in for philosophy as he had, giving vent to such words as these:  “I congratulate you, sir, having gone in for philosophy free from all corruption.”

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 12, p. 1094D: In admiration and most hearty commendation of a certain Apelles, they write that from childhood he steered clear of mathematical education and kept himself pure.

10. To Apollonides


Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2, fragment 73: …to admonish {him}, since he is suitably disposed, just as Epicurus made certain reproaches against Apollonides, in such a way that, even in accusing him of these things,

11. To Aristobulus


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, VII.6 (Zeno of Citium): And Antigonus (Gonantas) esteemed him {Zeno the Stoic}, and whenever he came to Athens he would hear him lecture and often invited him to come to his court.  This offer he always declined … So he sent Persaeus and Philonides the Theban; and Epicurus in his letter to his brother Aristobulus mentions them living together with Antigonus.

12. To Dositheus


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 20, p. 1101A: They disagree with those who would do away with grief and tears and lamentation at the death of friends, and say that an absence of grief that renders us totally insensible stems from another great evil: hardness or a passion for notoriety so excessive as to be insane.  Hence they say that it is better to be moved somewhat and to grieve and to melt into tears and so with all the maudlin sentiment they feel and put on paper, getting themselves the name of being soft-hearted and affectionate characters.  For this is what Epicurus has said not only in many other passages, but in his letter on the death of Hegesianax to Dositheus and Pyrson {perhaps Phyrson} – the father and brother of the deceased.

13. To Hermarchus


Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, XIII p. 588B: Well, did not this same Epicurus keep Leontium as his mistress, the woman who had become notorious as a courtesan?  Why!  Even when she began to be a philosopher, she did not cease her courtesan ways, but consorted with all the Epicureans in the Gardens, and even before the very eyes of Epicurus; wherefore he, poor devil, was really worried about her, as he makes clear in his Letters to Hermarchus.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.30.96: Let me repeat the dying words of Epicurus, to prove to you that the discrepancy between his practice and his principles: “Epicurus to Hermarchus, greeting.  I write these words,” he says, “on the happiest, and the last, day of my life.  I am suffering from diseases of the bladder and intestines, which are of the utmost possible severity.”  Unhappy creature!  If pain is the Chef Evil, that is the only thing to be said.  But let us hear his own words.  “Yet all my sufferings,” he continues, “are counterbalanced by the joy which I derive from remembering my theories and discoveries.  I charge you, by the devotion which from your youth up you have displayed towards myself and towards philosophy, to protect the children of Metrodorus.”

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.31.88: Well, do you think him afraid of death or pain?  He calls the day of his death happy and in the sufferings of acute pains he represses those very pains by the living remembrance of the truths he has discovered, and this he does not in a spirit that makes it seem to babble about the moment.

Ibid., V.9.26: What better than his remark that “fortune has but little weight with the wise?”  {Principal Doctrine 16} But is this said by one who, after saying that not only is pain the chief evil but the only evil as well, can bear all over his body the crushing burden of acutest pain at the moment he utters his loudest boasts against fortune?

Ibid., II.19.45: Let us then pass him over as saying absolutely nothing and compel him to admit that means of relief from pain are not to be sought from one who has pronounced pain to be the greatest of all evils, however resolutely the same person may show a touch of bravery in an attack of colic or a difficulty in passing water.

Ibid., V.26.74: He has in no way provided for himself those healing aids to the endurance of pain … but says that he finds peace in the recollection of past pleasures…

14. (To a Heteras)

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.6: It is also said that Epicurus had written to many other Heterai, especially Leontium.

15. To Eurylochus


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.13: Apollodorus in his Chronology tells us us that our philosopher was a pupil of Nausiphanes and Praxiphanes; but in his letter to Eurylochus, Epicurus himself denies it and says that he was self-taught.

16. To Herodotus


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.5: It is said that Epicurus also extolled Idomeneus, Herodotus, and Timocrates, who had published his cryptic doctrines, and flattered them for that very reason.

17. To Themista

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.25: And then there is Leonteus of Lampsacus and his wife Themista, to whom Epicurus wrote letters.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.5: Then again to Themista, the wife of Leonteus: “I am quite ready, if you do not come to see me, to spin thrice on my own axis and be propelled to any place that you, including Themista, agree upon.”


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.5: And, as Theodorus says in the fourth book of his work, Against Epicurus, in another letter to Themista he thinks he preaches to her.


Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.111: To Themista, during the Archonship of Phillipus. {292-291 BCE}

18. To Idomeneus

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.25: And Epicurus wrote letters to Colotes and Idomeneus, who were also natives of Lampsacus.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.5: [= U124]


Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2, fragment 72: (therefore even Epicurus writes to Idomeneus that he prays to live up to this point).  And he will point out how many came to ruin badly, bereft of everything because of such a disposition to converse with frankness with certain people, and to all that we, having applied, …


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 18, p. 1117D: But if, Colotes, you had met with expressions of Socrates’ such as Epicurus pens in a letter to Idomeneus: “So send us for the care of our sacred body an offering of first-fruits on behalf of yourself and your children – so I am inspired to put it;” to what more unmannerly terms could you have resorted?  {Traditionally, first-fruits were offered to a god – support for Epicurus’ bodily needs is so depicted.}

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, VII p. 279F: It was in fact, for the sake of the belly and the pleasures of the flesh in general that this man flattered Idomeneus and Metrodorus. … Epicurus, in fact, was the teacher of these men.


Aelius Theon, Preliminary Exercises, 2, I [p. 169 Walz] {II,154 Butts}: … faulty arrangement, but especially metrical and rhythmical style, like many of the phrases of the orator Hegesias … as well as some of the phrases of Epicurus, such as where he writes to Idomeneus: “Oh you who have from youth have regarded all my impressions as pleasurable.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 21.3: It is your own studies that will make you shine and will render you eminent.  Allow me to mention the case of Epicurus.  He was writing to Idomeneus and trying to withdraw him from a showy existence to a sure and steadfast renown.  Idomeneus was at that time a minister of state who exercised a rigorous authority and had important affairs in hand.  “If you are affected by glory, my letters will make you more famous than all those things which you cherish and which make you cherished.”  Did Epicurus speak falsely?  Who would have known of Idomeneus, had not the philosopher thus engraved his name in those letters of his?  All the grandees and satraps, even the king himself, who was petitioned for the title which Idomeneus sought, are sunk in deep oblivion.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 22.5: You understand by this time that you must withdraw yourself from those showy and depraved pursuits; but you still wish to know how this may be accomplished. …  Read the letter of Epicurus which bears on this matter; it is addressed to Idomeneus.  The writer asks him to hasten as fast as he can, and beat a retreat before some stronger influence comes between and takes from him the liberty to withdraw.  But he also adds that one should attempt nothing except at the time when it can be attempted suitably and seasonably.  Then, when the long-sought occasion comes, let him be up and doing.  Epicurus forbids us to doze when we are not in too great a hurry before the time, nor lag when the time arrives.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 34, p. 1127D: Again, in a letter to Idomeneus, I believe – he calls upon him “not to live in servitude to laws and men’s opinions, as long as they refrain from making trouble in the form of a blow administered by your neighbor.”  Ibid.: … they recommend contempt for law if it is not backed by the fear of a blow or punishment.


Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, 3.17.24: Again from Epicurus: “If you wish to make Pythocles rich, do not give him more money, but diminish his desire.”

Cf. Ibid., 23 [Arsenius, Paroemiogr. Gotting. t. II p. 382, 11]: The precept of Epicurus… & Ibid.XVII.37: Epicurus, when asked how one can enrich oneself, responded: “Not by accumulating extraneous goods, but rather by trimming one’s needs.”

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 21.7: In order that Idomeneus may not be introduced free of charge into my letter, he shall make up the indebtedness form his own account. It was to him that Epicurus addressed his well-known saying, urging him to make Pythocles rich, but not rich in the vulgar and equivocal way. “If you wish to make Pythocles rich,” said he, “do not add to his store of money, but subtract from his desires.”


Photius I of Constantinople, Lexicon, p 473, 1, under Pythia and Delia” [= Suda {pi-3128}, II.2; p. 555, 10 Bernh.; Apostolius Proverbs, XV 9 Arsen.]: They say that Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos, having created the Pythia and the Delia {festivals} in Delos at the same time, sent an embassy to the oracle of the god {Apollo} to ask whether he was performing the details of the sacrifice in accordance with what was ordained: the Pythia answered: “these things are your Pythia and Delia” – she intended to make clear that this was the end, for after a short time it happened that he was killed. Epicurus in one of his letters to Idomeneus refers to these things.


Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.125,9: And to Idomeneus, then: …… to this …….


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.22: At the point of death, he also wrote the following letter to Idomeneus: “On this blissful day, which is also the last of my life, I write this to you.  My continual sufferings from strangury and dysentery are so great that nothing could augment them.  But the cheerfulness of my mind, which arises from the remembrance of our past conversations, counterbalances all these afflictions.  I am asking you to care for the children of Metrodorus, in a manner befitting the devotion you have given to me and to philosophy since you were a youth.” [cf. U122]

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 66.47: There are other things which, though he would prefer that they not happen, he nevertheless praises and approves, for example the kind of resignation, in times of ill-health and serious suffering, to which I alluded a moment ago, and which Epicurus displayed on the last and most blessed day of his life. For he {Epicurus} tells us that he had to endure excruciating agony from a diseased bladder and from an ulcerated stomach – so acute that it permitted no increase of pain; “and yet,” he says, “that day was none the less happy.”  And no man can spend such a day in happiness unless he possesses the Supreme Good.  …  We cannot say that the good which has rounded out a happy life, the good for which Epicurus rendered thanks in the last words he uttered, is not equal to the greatest.

Ibid., 92.25: Does it not seem just as incredible that any man in the midst of extreme suffering should say, “I am happy.”?  And yet this utterance was heard in the very factory of pleasure, when Epicurus said: “Today and one other day have been the happiest of all!” although in the one case he was tortured by strangury, and in the other by the incurable pain of an ulcerated stomach.

Cicero, Letters to Friends, VII.26,1: {To Marcus Fadius Gallus, ca. 57 BCE} I have a shrinking horror of all diseases, especially of that in regard to which the Stoics put a sinister interpretation upon your great Epicurus’ admission that he was troubled with strangury and gastritis; for they attributed the latter to gluttony, and the former to a still baser kind of self-indulgence.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 5, p. 1089E: If reason could avert them {maladies of the body}, reasonable men would never be afflicted with strangury, dysentery, consumption, and the dropsy, with some of which Epicurus himself had to contend, Polyaenus with others, while others were fatal to Neocles and Agathobulus {a botched reference to“Neocles and Aristobulus”  –  brothers of Epicurus}.

Ibid., 18, p. 1099D: For one thing, not one of us would believe Epicurus when he says that while he was dying in the greatest pain and bodily afflictions he found compensation in being escorted on his journey by the recollection of the pleasures he had once enjoyed.

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, I.23.21: So what is it, Epicurus … {= Arrian @ U34} … that wrote as it was dying: “We are spending what is our last and at the same time a happy day…”?

19. To Craterus


Philodemus, Vol. Herc. 2, I.125: And to the same Craterus, he writes ………. to be at Mithres.

20. To Colotes


Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2, fragment 9: … in general such and such of their (sc. the students’) errors and what Epicurus learns from Leontium he will {hypothetically} ascribe to Colotes.  Since the wise man will also sometimes transfer to himself an intemperate error, {saying} that it occurred in his youth…


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 17, p. 1117B: Colotes himself, for another, while hearing a lecture of Epicurus on natural philosophy, suddenly cast himself down before him and embraced his knees; and this is what Epicurus himself writes about it in a tone of solemn pride: “You, as one revering my remarks on that occasion, were seized with a desire, not accounted for by my lecture, to embrace me by clasping my knees and lay hold of me to the whole extent of the contact that is customarily established in revering and supplicating certain personages.  You therefore caused me,” he says, “to consecrate you in return and demonstrate my reverence.”  My word!  We can pardon those who say that they would pay any price to see a painting of that scene, one kneeling at the feet of the other and embracing his knees while the other returns the supplication and worship.  Yet that act of homage, though skillfully contrived by Colotes, bore no proper fruit: he was not proclaimed a Sage.  Epicurus merely says:  “Go about as one immortal in my eyes, and think of me as immortal too.”

Ibid., 19, p. 1117F: Now since Colotes was no Sage, not even after that demonstration of reverence…

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 18, p. 1100A: Epicurus said… that except for himself and his pupils, no one had ever been a Sage, but even wrote that as he was lecturing on natural philosophy, Colotes embraced his knees in an act of adoration.

Ibid., 19, p. 1100C: For he, who made so much of Neocles’ testimony and Colotes act of adoration …


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.74, 11 [p. 104 Gomperz] {Obbink I.29.820}: Now it would be absurd to relate in addition that they thought it right to make use of oaths and epithets of the gods, since their philosophical writing is filled with them.  But it is proper to say that he advised them to retain asseverations made by means of these and similar expressions, and above all to preserve those made by Zeus himself in the open manner, and not writing “by twin shoots!” {i.e., swearing oaths without stating by whom} or merely “it must be so.”  Moreover to Colotes he took pains with regard to all forms of oaths and speaking about the gods.

21. To Leontium

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.6: {cited above} It is also said that Epicurus had written to many other Heterai, especially Leontium.  {cf. Cicero, above}

Alciphron, Letters (Letters of Courtesans), II.2 (Leontium depicted writing to Lamia):  How that Epicurus tries to manage me, scolding me for everything, suspicious of everything, writing me well-sealed letters, chasing me out of his school garden!   (3): He wants to be a Socrates and to talk on and on and to feign ignorance, and he regards his Pythocles as an Alcibiades and counts on making me his Xanthippe.  And the end will be that I shall leave for some destination or other and flee from land to land rather than put up with his interminable letters.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.5: In his letters, he wrote to Leontium,  “Oh Lord Paean {a reference to Apollo’s role as god of healing}, my dear little Leontium, to what tumultuous applause we were inspired as we read your letter.”  {= Suda, under κροτοθορύβου (“loud applause”) kappa-2480}

Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures, 15, p. 45F: For Epicurus expresses himself gracelessly when he says of his friends’ letters that they give rise to hullabaloos.

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 17, p. 1117A: But what epithet do they deserve – with your “roars” of ecstasy and “cries of thanksgiving” and tumultuous “bursts of applause” and “reverential demonstrations,” and the whole apparatus of adoration that you people resort to in supplicating and hymning the man who summons you to sustained and frequent pleasures?


Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2, fragment 9: [= U140]


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.7: Timocrates alleges… that his {Epicurus’} bodily health was pitiful, so much so that for many years he was unable to rise from his chair; and that he spent a whole mina daily on his table, as he himself says in his letter to Leontium and in that to the philosophers of Mytilene.

22. To Metrodorus


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.3.7: You have no reason to be ashamed of sharing the opinions of a Sage – who stands alone, so far as I am aware, in venturing to arrogate to himself that title.  For I do not suppose that Metrodorus himself claimed to be a Sage, though he did not care to refuse the compliment when the name was bestowed upon him by Epicurus.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 18, p. 1100A: Indeed, was he not himself so impatient for renown that … he said that except for himself and his pupils no one had ever been a Sage … ?


Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, V p. 279F: = [= U130]

23. To Mithras

[Cf. U102, U194]


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.4: They accuse Epicurus of flattering Mithras, the minister of Lysimachus, bestowing upon him, in his letters, Apollo’s titles of Paean and Lord.


Philodemus, Vol. Herc. 2, I.125


Philodemus, Vol. Herc. 2, I.125


Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.127

24. To Mys

{These four fragments are no longer accepted as having any references to Mys}


Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2, fragment VI: he will be frank with the one who has erred and even with him who responds with bitterness.  Therefore, Epicurus too, when Leonteus, because of Pythocles, did not admit belief in gods, reproached Pythocles in moderation, and wrote to him {i.e., Leonteus, though Usener renders “Mys”} the so-called “famous letter,” taking his point of departure from Pythocles…


Philodemus, Vol. Herc. 2, I.111


Philodemus, On Wealth, Vol. Herc. 2, III.87


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.120 [p. 135 Gomperz]

25. To Polyaenus


Herculaneum Papyrus 176, c. 10 [Gomperz “Zeitschrift” Edition (1866),  p. 694]


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.75, 25 [p. 105 Gomperz] {Obbink I.30.865}: Moreover, in his letter to Polyaenus he says that one should join in the celebration of the festival of the Anthesteria.  For one must remember the gods … of many …


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 18.9: The great hedonist teacher Epicurus used to observe certain periods during which he would be niggardly in satisfying his hunger, with the object of seeing to what extent, if at all, one thereby fell short of attaining full and complete pleasure, and whether it was worth going to much trouble to make the deficit good.  At least so he says in the letter he wrote to Polyaenus in the archonship of Charinus {308 – 307 BCE}.  He boasts in it indeed that he is managing to feed himself for less than a half-penny, whereas Metrodorus, not yet having made such good progress, needs a whole half-penny!

[Cf. Diogenes Laertius, U181]


Philodemus, On Wealth, Vol. Herc. 2, III.85


Philodemus, Scholion Zeno, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2 fr. 49: [= U170]

26. To Pythocles


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 29, p. 1124C: The young are made flighty and headstrong by the one who writes of Pythocles, not yet eighteen, that in all of Greece there is no one more gifted and that his powers of expression are a prodigy, who writes that he himself is moved to pray as the women do – that all that superiority of talent may not bring down on the young man’s head the jealously and resentment of heaven.


Alciphron, Letters (Letters of Courtesans), II.2,3: (cf. above) … he regards his Pythocles as an Alcibiades …


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.6: {Epicurus writes} in his letter to Pythocles: “Hoist all sail, my dear boy, and steer clear of all culture.”

Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures, c.1, p. 15D: Shall we … force them to put to sea in the Epicurean boat, and avoid poetry and steer their course clear of it?

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 12, p. 1094D: Yet these men divert and alter the course of these pleasures, so great and numerous – that never as it were, go dry–  and cut off their disciples from the taste; instead they tell some to “hoist all sail” to escape from them.

Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, XII.2.24: In the first place, Epicurus banishes us from his presence without more ado, since he bids all his followers to fly from learning in the swiftest ship that they can find.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 12, p. 1094D: Pythocles is urgently implored by all, men and women alike, in the person of Epicurus, not to set his heart on“the so-called education of free men.”


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.5: And to the beautiful Pythocles he {Epicurus} writes: “I shall sit down and await your lovely and godlike appearance.”

27. To Timocrates


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.5: [= U124]

28. To Phyrson


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 20, p. 1101B: [= U120]


Philodemus, Vol. Herc. 2, I.122


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.109, 3 [p. 127 Gomperz] {Obbink I.28.785}: … of some things better than by effectively preserving one’s conceptions of the gods during certain times.  And not only did he teach these things but also by his very deeds he is found to have taken part in all the traditional festivals and sacrifices.  In the archonship of Aristonymus {289-288 BCE}, for instance, writing to Phyrson about a countryman of his, Theodotus, he says that he shared in all the festivals ……….., and that while he was joining in celebrating the festival of the Choes and the urban mysteries and the other festivals…

29. To Carmides


Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2, fragment 49: … that Heraclides {Usener renders “Carmides”} is praised because, deeming the censures for the things that would be revealed to be less {important} than their benefit, he disclosed to Epicurus his errors.  Polyaenus too was such a man, who indeed, when Apollonides was remiss, would go to Epicurus…


30. Letter on Vocations


Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, VIII p. 354B: I am aware that Epicurus, the ardent devotee of truth, has said of him {Aristotle}, in his letter On Vocations, that after he had devoured his inheritance he entered the army, and on meeting with poor success in the campaign he betook himself to drug-selling.  Afterwards, Epicurus says, Plato opened his school, and Aristotle went so far as to hazard himself there, and attended the lectures, being no dullard, and gradually assumed the contemplative habit.  I am aware, too, that Epicurus is the only one that has said these things against him, and not Eubulides as well; nor has Cephisodorus, even, ventured to say that kind of thing against the Stageirite, although both he and Eubulides have published tracts against the man.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.8: Epicurus called … Aristotle a reckless spender, who, after devouring his patrimony, took to soldiering and selling drugs.

Aristocles, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XV 2 p. 791A: How is it possible, according to what Epicurus claims in his letter On Vocations, that he {Aristotle} squandered his patrimony during his youth; dedicated himself afterwards to military life; then, because things went badly, occupied himself selling drugs, and finally, when Plato opened his school to the public, he participated there?


Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, VIII p. 354C: In the same letter Epicurus says also that Protagoras the sophist, from being a porter and wood-carrier, became the private secretary of Democritus.  For the latter, struck by something peculiar in the way in which Protagoras piled wood, gave him his first start by adopting him into his household.  He then taught reading and writing in some remote village, and from this branched out into the sophist’s profession.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.8: Epicurus called … Protagoras a basket-carrier (phormophóron) and the scribe of Democritus and a village schoolmaster.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, IX.53 (Protagoras): He also invented the shoulder-pad on which porters carry their burdens … for he himself had been a porter, says Epicurus somewhere.


Uncertain Author, in Cramer Anec. Paris., II p. 171, 31: In the work entitled The Large Lecture, {Megalo Logo}, Protagoras says: “Teaching requires some natural ability and some practice; and one must begin to learn this skill during one’s youth.”  Yet, this ought not to be said if he himself began teaching later, as Epicurus mentions about Protagoras.

31. Letter on Stilpo


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 9.18: For just as other things have for us an inherent attractiveness, though the Sage may love his friends dearly, often comparing them with himself, and putting then ahead of himself, yet all the good will be limited to his own being, and he will speak the words which were spoken by the very Stilpo, after his country was captured and his children and his wife lost, as he emerged from the general desolation alone and yet happy, spoke as follows to Demetrius (known as “Poliorcetes” {Sacker of Cities} because of the destruction {poliorkeîn} he brought upon them) in answer to the question whether he had lost anything: “I have all my goods with me!” … This saying of Stilpo makes common ground with Stoicism; the Stoic also can carry his goods unimpaired through cities that have been burned to ashes; for he is self-sufficient. Such are the bounds which he sets to his own happiness.  But you must not think that our school alone can utter noble words; Epicurus himself, the reviler of Stilpo, used similar language… {more below @ U474}

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 9.1: You desire to know whether Epicurus is right when, in one of his letters, he rebukes those who hold that the Sage is self-sufficient and for that reason does not stand in need of friendships.  This is the objection raised by Epicurus against Stilpo and those {Cynics and/or Stoics} who believe that the chief good is a mind devoid of feeling {impatiens}.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 9.8: Let us now return to the question.  The wise man, I say, self-sufficient though he be, nevertheless desires friends if only for the purpose of practicing friendships, in order that his noble qualities may not lie dormant.  Not, however, for the purpose mentioned by Epicurus in the letter quoted above:  “That there may be someone to sit by him when he is ill, to come to his rescue when he is hard up or thrown into chains,” but so that on the contrary he may have someone by whose sickbed he himself may sit or whom he may himself release when that person is held prisoner by hostile hands.

32. Letter to a young boy or girl


Herculaneum Papyrus 176, c. 10 [Gomperz  “Hermes” Edition, 5, p. 386]

33. Letter from his last days


Philodemus, Vol. Herc. 2, I.128 (31 Diano): As I write this, it is the seventh day that I have been unable to urinate and have had pains of the kind which lead to death.  So, if anything should happen, take care of Metrodorus’ children for our or five years, spending no more on them than you now spend on me in a year.


Epicurus’ remarks on private problems


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 20, p. 1100A: Epicurus admitted that some pleasures come from glory.  Indeed, was he not himself so impatient for renown… that he even wrote that as he was lecturing on on natural philosophy, Colotes embraced his knees in an act of adoration, and that his own brother Neocles declared from childhood that there had never been born and was not now anyone wiser than Epicurus, and that their mother got in herself atoms of such a kind that by their conjunction must produce a Sage?

Ibid., 19, p. 1100C: For he, who made so much of Neocles’ testimony and Colotes’ act of adoration and took such satisfaction in them would never convince any man alive that if he had been applauded by the assembled Greeks at Olympia, he would not have lost his head and raised a shout of jubilation.

Plutarch, On Brotherly Love, 16, p. 487D: In the case of Epicurus also, his brothers’ respect for him was clearly great because of the goodwill and solicitude he had for them, inspired as they were with admiration both for his other attainments and especially for his philosophy.  For even if they were mistaken in their opinion (they were convinced and constantly declared from their earliest childhood that there was no one wiser than Epicurus), we may well admire both the man who inspired this devotion and also those who felt it.

Cf. Dionysius the Episcopalian, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XIV 26, 2 p. 779A: How many atoms, in fact, and of what type, had shed from Epicurus’ father to he himself, when Epicurus was seeded?  And, once immersed in the womb of his mother, how did they assemble, what form did they assume, what figure; how did they move, how did they develop?


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.2: He himself says that he began his devotion to philosophy at fourteen years of age.


Philodemus, Vol. Herc. 2, I.116: .. of the difference relating to the good, for which reasons Epicurus proclaimed himself the supreme monarch, or at least considered himself residing principally with Athena, where they live [in envy?] of the philosophers.


Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, XVII.24: From Epicurus: “I revel in the pleasure of my humble body, employing water and bread, and I spit upon the pleasures of extravagance, not for their own sake, but because of the difficulties which follow from them.”

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.11: In his correspondence he himself mentions that he was content with plain bread and water.

Cf. Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 21.10: Go to his Garden some time and read the motto carved there:“Dear Guest, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.”  The caretaker of that abode, a friendly host, will be ready for you; he will welcome you with barley-meal, and serve you water also in abundance, with these words: “Have you not been well entertained?  This garden does not whet your appetite; but quenches it.  Nor does it make you more thirsty with every drink; it slakes the thirst with a natural cure – a cure that requires no fee.  It is with this type of pleasure that I have grown old.”


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.11:  In his correspondence … {= U181} …  And again:“Send me a little pot of cheese, that, when I like I may fare sumptuously.”


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 15, p. 1097C: One cannot ignore the man’s absurd inconsistency: he treads under foot and belittles the actions of Themistocles and Miltiades and yet writes this to his friends about himself: “The way in which you have provided for me in the matter of sending the grain was godlike and magnificent, and you have given tokens of your regard form me that reach to high heaven.”  So if someone had taken that corn ration of his bread-stuff from our philosopher’s letter, the expressions of gratitude would have conveyed the impression that it was written in thanksgiving for the freedom or deliverance of the whole Greek nation or of the Athenian state.


Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.127: “The only contribution I require is that which … ordered the disciples to send me, even if they are among the Hyperboreans. I wish to receive from each of you two hundred and twenty drachmae a year and no more.”  And in another letter: “Ctesippus brought me the annual tribute, which was sent on behalf of your father and you yourself.”


Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.118: After having given a sheep to a young boy from an enclosed pen: “Take care of the toy that I have gifted to you.”


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 16, p. 1097E:  But for one … to be proud … {U190} … recalling Neocles’ last words, by the curious pleasure that is mingled with tears – no one would call this the “mental joy” or “delight” of men in their sound minds.


Gnomologion from the Parisinus codex, 1168, f. 115r- (Maxims of Epicurus): “I never desired to please the rabble. What pleased them, I did not learn; and what I knew was far removed from their understanding.”

Cf. Maximus the Abbot, Gnomologion, 6, [p.172 Tig.; t. II pp. 549- Combef.]: (Author not given; the Laurentianus and Borbonicus codices report, “from Epicurus.”)

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 29.10: Here I shall pay what I owe you. “I have never wished to cater to the crowd; for what I know, they do not approve, and what they approve, I do not know.”  “Who said this?” you ask, as if you were ignorant of whom I am pressing into service; it is Epicurus.  But this same watchword rings in your ears from every sect: Peripatetic, Academic, Stoic, Cynic.  For who that is pleased by virtue can please the crowd?

Cf. Tertullian, Apologetics, 38: But we disapprove of what pleases you, and what is ours does not please you.  But the Epicureans rightly recognized something honest within pleasure, namely: peace of mind.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 79.15: There is Epicurus, for example; mark how greatly he is admired, not only by the more cultured, but also by this ignorant rabble.  This man, however, was unknown to Athens itself, near which he had hidden himself away.  And so, when he had already survived by many years his friend Metrodorus, he added in a letter these last words, proclaiming with thankful appreciation the friendship that had existed between them:  “So greatly blessed were Metrodorus and I that it has been no harm to us to be unknown, and almost unheard of, in this well-known land of Greece.”


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 6, p. 1090E: … the reflux of the sea that came near to engulfing Epicurus on his voyage to Lampsacus, as he writes?


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 16, p. 1097E: But for one to go out of his way to work up an excitement about small comforts, like sailors celebrating a feast of Aphrodite, and to be proud because when suffering from dropsy he invited friends to a number of feasts and in spite of the disease did not refuse to take liquid … {U186} … no one would call this the“mental joy” or “delight” of men in their sound minds.


Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, IX.41: “During my illness,” Epicurus says himself, “my lectures were not about the sufferings of my body, nor did I talk to my visitors about such matters. All my time was spent contemplating natural philosophy, reasoning on its most important points, particular this: how my mind, though partaking a natural and unavoidable sympathy with the present indisposition of my body, might nevertheless keep itself free from disturbance, and in constant possession of its own proper happiness.”  He adds, “With regard to my body, I did not permit the physicians to altogether do with me what they would, as if I expected great results from them, or as if I thought it a matter of such great consequence, to recover my health by their methods.  For my present condition, I thought, was tolerable, and still allowed me great content.”

Regarding Epicurus’ Disciples


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 52.3: Epicurus remarks that certain men have worked their way to the truth without anyone’s assistance, carving out their own passage. And he gives special praise to these, for their impulse has come from within, and they have forged to the front by themselves. Again, he says, there are others who need outside help, who will not proceed unless someone leads the way, but who will follow faithfully. Of these, he says, Metrodorus was one; this type of man is also excellent, but belongs to the second grade. We ourselves are not of that first class, either; we shall be well-regarded if we are admitted into the second. Nor need you despise a man who can gain salvation only with the assistance of another; the will to be saved means a great deal, too.  You will find still another class of man – and a class not to be despised – who can be forced and driven into righteousness, who do not need a guide as much as they require someone to encourage and, as it were, to force them along. This is the third variety. If you ask me for a man of this pattern also, Epicurus tells us that Hermarchus was such. And of the two last-named classes, he is more ready to congratulate the one, but he feels more respect for the other; for although both have reached the same goal, it is a greater credit to have brought about the same result with the more difficult material upon which to work.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 22, p. 1103A: {noted above}Metrodorus, Polyaenus, and Aristobulus were sources of “confidence” and “joy” to Epicurus; indeed he continually cared for them when they were ill and mourned them when they died.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 33, p. 1126E: Yet when Metrodorus went down to the Piraeus, a distance of some forty stades, {~ 5 miles} to help one Mithres, a Syrian, a royal officer who had been arrested, letters went out to everyone, men and women alike, with Epicurus’ solemn glorification of that journey.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 22, p. 1097B (Theon Speaking): Thus a short while ago we heard our friend here {Plutarch} describe the expressions Epicurus gave vent to and the letters he sent to his friends as he extolled and magnified Metrodorus, telling how nobly and manfully he went from town to the coast {from Athens to Piraeus} to help Mithres the Syrian, although Metrodorus accomplished nothing on that occasion.


Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.119,4: Because not even Eudemus was proficient enough in philosophy, according to something even Mys tells us…


Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.129: Epicurus says: “We call ‘vain pursuits’ the types of life that do not tend towards happiness.”  And again: “For the gods, it would seem worthwhile for the entire conduct of life, of a free way of life, not to be subject to laws.”  Indeed, now he adds the things relative to such a one, for those reasons that we have shown, and also those relating to Mithres.


Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.113: … to Timocrates …… us, all these things that are in fashion, as you know, are intended to help even you, not just through awareness, but also through their usage, until you gain the full assistance that one gets from philosophy, and of which  ….. and benevolent to the people …. politician … of the populace…

Regarding the Stoics


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, VII.5 (Zeno of Citium): He {Zeno} used to lecture, pacing up and down the Stoa Poikile {Painted Porch}, which is also called the colonnade or Portico of Pisianax, but which received its name from the painting of Polygnotus; his object being to keep the spot clear of a concourse of idlers. … Here then, people came henceforth to hear Zeno, and this is why they were known as men of the Stoa, or Stoics; and the same name was given to his followers, who had formerly been known as Zenonians.  So it is stated by Epicurus in his letters.



Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 8.7:  I am still culling through the pages of Epicurus.  I read today, in his works, the following maxim: “To win real freedom, you must be the slave of Philosophy.”  The man who submits and surrenders himself to her is not kept waiting; he is emancipated on the spot. For the very service of Philosophy is freedom.  It is likely that you will ask me why I quote so many of Epicurus’ noble words instead of words taken from our own {Stoic} school. But is there any reason why you should regard them as sayings of Epicurus and not common property?


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 30, [p. 209, 7 Nauck]: Do not think it unnatural that when the flesh cries out for anything, the soul should cry out too.  The cry of the flesh is, “Let me not hunger, or thirst, or shiver,” and it’s hard for the soul to restrain these desires.  And while it is difficult for the soul to prevent these things, it is dangerous to neglect nature which daily proclaims self-sufficiency to the soul via the flesh which is intimately bonded to it.

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 4.10: Let me share with you a saying which pleased me today.  It, too, is culled from another man’s Garden:  “Poverty, brought into conformity with the law of nature, is great wealth.”  Do you know what limits that law of nature ordains for us?  Merely to avert hunger, thirst, and cold.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, II 21, p. 178.41: Epicurus, who held that happiness consists in not being hungry, nor thirsty, nor cold…

Cf. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.35.102: Time would fail me should I wish to carry on about the cause of poverty; for the matter is evident and nature herself teaches us daily how few and how small her needs are, and how cheaply satisfied.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 16.7: There is also this saying of Epicurus: “If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor; if you do so according to opinion, you will never be rich.”  For nature’s wants are small; the demands of opinion are boundless.


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 27, [p. 207, 31 Nauck]: So he who follows nature and not groundless opinions is in all things self-sufficient.  For every possession is wealth when it comes to satisfying nature, while even the greatest wealth is poverty when it comes to the unlimited desires.


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 29, p. 209, 1: But insofar as you are in want, it is through forgetfulness of your nature that you feel the want.  For thereby you cause to yourself vain fears and desires.


Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, XVI.28: From Epicurus: “We are born once and there can be no second birth. For all eternity we shall no longer be. But you, although you are not master of tomorrow, are postponing your happiness. We waste away our lives in delaying, and each of us dies without having enjoyed leisure.” {= Vatican Saying 14}

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 27, p. 1104E: … those who say that “We are born once; there is no second birth; we must forever be no more.”  Indeed by discounting the present moment as a minute fraction, or rather as nothing at all, in comparison with all time, men let it pass fruitlessly.  {Source may be a letter to Idomeneus – cf. U133 & Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.38 (U491)}

Ibid., 30, p. 1106F: “There is no second birth; we must forever be no more,” Epicurus says.

Cf. Arsenius, Paroemiogr. Gotting., II p341, 25: This noble thought is from Epicurus.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 26.8: Epicurus will oblige me, with the following saying: “Rehearse death,” or, the idea may come across to us rather more satisfactorily if put in this form: “It is a very good thing to familiarize oneself with death.” … “Rehearse death” – to say this is to tell a person to rehearse his freedom.  A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.

Cf. Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.51: Most people,  even though they have many possessions, make endless efforts because they think they will lack enough.  We are satisfied with available, simple things if we keep in mind that all the wealth in the world is not strong enough to give the soul a worthy release from disturbance, but the trouble of the flesh is removed by very moderate, ordinary things which are very easy to get. And if even things on this level fall short, that does not disturb the person who rehearses death.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 20.9: Although you may look askance, Epicurus will once again be glad to settle my indebtedness:  “Believe me, your words will be more imposing if you sleep on a cot and wear rags.  For in that case you will not be merely saying them; you will be demonstrating their truth.”  I, at any rate, listen in a different spirit to the utterances of our friend Demetrius, after I have seen him reclining without even a cloak to cover him, and, more than this, without rugs to lie upon.  He is not only a teacher of the truth, but a witness to the truth.


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 29, p. 209, 1: “It is better for you to have confidence {about the future} while lying on a cheap bed than to be disturbed while possessing a golden couch and an extravagant table.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 7.11: Here is a nice expression by Epicurus, written to one of the partners of his studies: “I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.” Lay these words to hear, Lucilius, that you may scorn the pleasure which comes from the applause of the majority. Many men praise you; but have you any reason for being pleased with yourself, if you are a person whom the many can understand?


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 25.6: When this aim has been accomplished, and you begin to hold yourself in some esteem, I shall gradually allow you to do what Epicurus, in another passage, suggests: “The time when you should most of all withdraw into yourself is when you are forced to be in a crowd.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 11.8: My letter calls for a conclusion.  Here’s one for you, on that will serve you in good stead, too, which I’d like you to take to heart.  “We need to set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything as if he saw what we were doing.”  This, my dear Lucilius, is Epicurus’ advice, and in giving it he has given us a guardian and a moral tutor – and not without reason either: misdeeds are greatly diminished if a witness is always standing near intending doers.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 25.5: I must insert in this letter some more of his sayings: “Do everything as if Epicurus were watching you.”


Philodemus, Treatises, Vol. Herc. 2, I.126 [29 Diano]: … bringing your letter and the reasoning which you had carried out concerning men who could see neither the analogy which obtains between the phenomena and the unseen {realities} nor the consistency which exists between the senses and the senses {realities} and again the counterfactuals, which also might be, in truth, the only …


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 28, p. 1105D: If then, “the memory of a dead friend is pleasant on every count” as Epicurus said, we need no more to make us see the great delight that they renounce when, although they suppose that they can receive and capture the apparitions and likenesses of dead companions {in dreams?} – images that have neither mind nor feeling – they do not think they will ever again meet those friends themselves, or ever again see a dear father or dear mother or perhaps a gentle wife, and have not even the hope of such company.

Cf. Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 63.7: Thinking of departed friends is to me something sweet and mellow.


Maximus the Abbot (aka “Maximus the Confessor”), Sayings, c. 8 [p. 196 Ribittiana]:  “Do not avoid conferring small favors: for then you will likewise seem to be open to conferring great things.”


Maximus the Abbot (aka “Maximus the Confessor”), Sayings, 66 [p. 259 Ribittiana]: “If your enemy makes a request to you, do not scorn his request; but keep on your guard; for he is like a dog.”


Philodemus, On Vices and Virtues, 1.IX Vol. Herc. 1, III c.27.20 [= Oxon. I.104; p. 64,5 Goettl.]: Now if someone reproaches us because we write about economy, that would be enough for us, together with Epicurus and Metrodorus, who give advice and exhortations on household management in a particularly accurate way, albeit with minimal details.

51. Will


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.16: (Reproduced elsewhere)


Aelian, fr. 39, p. 201,1 [= Suda, under Epicurus, {epsilon-2405}; p. 418, 12 (Bernh.)]: Epicurus was so enslaved by pleasure that, towards the end, he wrote in his will to offer a sacrifice to his father, to his mother, and to his brothers once a year, and to the above-mentioned Metrodorus and Polyaenus, but to he himself, the Sage, two times – preferring even here, in his depravity, the largest portion.  And this gourmand and glutton stipulated that stone tables would be set up at the tomb as votive offerings.

Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept? 3, p 1129A: Oh Epicurus, don’t leave instructions about funeral ceremonies.  For what else is the meaning of the feasts?  Of the meetings of your friends and the fair? {referring to the provisions for the annual celebration of Epicurus’ birthday and monthly gatherings of Epicureans}

The Principal Doctrines With References

Let us … now add the finishing stroke, as one may say, to this whole treatise, and to the life of the philosopher; giving some of his fundamental maxims, and closing the whole work with them, taking that for our end which is the beginning of happiness. – Diogenes Laertius


1.  Any being which is happy and imperishable neither has trouble itself, nor does it cause trouble to anything else.  A perfect being does not have feelings either of anger or gratitude, for these feelings exist only in the weak.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  The blessed and immortal nature knows no trouble itself nor causes trouble to any other, so that it is never constrained by anger or favor.  For all such things exist only in the weak.  Yonge: The blessed and immortal nature knows no trouble itself nor causes trouble to any other, so that it is never constrained by anger or favor.  For all such things exist only in the weak.

Letter to Menoeceus : First of all, believe that a god is an incorruptible and happy being, even as the common notion of a god is implanted in the minds of men. But attach to your theology nothing which is inconsistent with incorruptibility or with happiness, and believe that a god possesses everything which is necessary to preserve its own nature.  Indeed the gods do exist, and Nature gives to us a degree of knowledge of them. But gods are not of the character which most people attribute to them, and the conception of the gods held by most people is far from pure. It is not the man who discards the gods believed in by the many who is impious, but he who applies to the gods the false opinions that most people entertain about them. For the assertions of most people about the gods are not true intuitions given to them by Nature, but false opinions of their own, such as the idea that gods send misfortune to the wicked and blessings to the good. False opinions such as these arise because men think of the gods as if they had human qualities, and men do not understand that the gods have virtues that are different from their own.

Letter to Herodotus : As to the heavenly phenomena, such as the motion and course of the stars, their rising and setting, the eclipses, and all other appearances of this sort, we must beware of thinking that they are produced by any superior being whose business it is to regulate the order of the world. For a god is a being which is immortal and perfectly happy, free of cares and anxieties. Benevolence and anger, however, far from being compatible with perfection, are on the contrary the consequence of weakness, of fear, and of the desire which a thing has for something that it lacks. Therefore we must not fancy that the globes of fire which roll on in space are gods which enjoy a perfect happiness, and which give themselves, with reflection and wisdom, the motions which they possess. On this subject we must respect the established notions, but only if they do not at all contradict the respect due to the truth. For nothing is more calculated to trouble the soul than the strife of contradictory notions and principles. We must therefore conclude that from the first movement of the heavenly bodies at the time of the organization of the universe, there results some sort of necessary cause which regulates their course to this very day. Let us be well assured that it is to natural science which belongs the determination of the causes of these heavenly phenomena. Happiness comes through the study of natural science, by which we acquire the knowledge of analogous phenomena, which then aids us in the understanding of ethical matters. The heavenly phenomena, on the other hand, admit of several explanations. There is no reason that they must necessarily be of a particular character, and one may explain them in various manners. In short, a moment’s consideration will show that the heavenly phenomena have no relationship with gods, which are imperishable and happy beings which suffer no destruction or confusion.

Letter to Pythocles : Further, the forecasts some give based on the conduct of certain animals arise from a fortuitous combination of circumstances; for there is no necessary connection between certain animals and winter. These animals do not produce winter; nor is there any divine being sitting aloft watching the exits of these animals, and then fulfilling signs of this kind. No folly such as this would occur to any being who is even moderately comfortable, much less to a god who is possessed of perfect happiness.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book II: For by nature of the gods must always in themselves of necessity enjoy immortality together with supreme repose, far removed and withdrawn from our concerns.  This is because a god is exempt from every pain, exempt from all dangers, strong in its own resources, not wanting anything of us, and it neither gains by favors nor is moved by anger.  And if any one thinks proper to call the sea Neptune and corn Ceres and chooses rather to misuse the name of Bacchus than to utter the term that belongs to that liquor, let us allow him to declare that the earth is mother of the gods, if he will in truth forbear from staining his mind with foul religion.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Nature has endowed men with Anticipations that gods do exist, and the clearest of these anticipations is that a god is perfect a perfect being which has no troubles of its own, nor does it cause trouble to anything else.  A perfect being has all of its needs already fulfilled and is without weakness of its own, and as a result such a being does not feel anger or gratitude, as such emotions exist only in beings that are weak.  It is therefore false to believe that a perfect “God” intervenes in the lives of men, for good or evil, nor does such a being seek to punish you or reward you for your actions, either during your life or after your death.

2.  Death is nothing to us, because that which is dead has no sensations, and that which cannot be sensed is nothing to us.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Death is nothing to us:  for that which is dissolved is without sensation; and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.  Yonge: Death is nothing to us: for that which is dissolved is without sensation; and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.  Strodach:  Death means nothing to us, because that which has been broken down into atoms has no sensation, and that which has no sensation is no concern of ours.

Letter to Menoeceus : Next, accustom yourself to think that death is a matter with which we are not at all concerned. This is because all good and all evil come to us through sensation, and death brings the end of all our sensations. The correct understanding that death is no concern of ours allows us to take pleasure in our mortal lives, not because it adds to life an infinite span of time, but because it relieves us of the longing for immortality as a refuge from the fear of death. For there can be nothing terrible in living for a man who rightly comprehends that there is nothing terrible in ceasing to live.  Seen in this way, it was a silly man who once said that he feared death, not because it would grieve him when it was present, but because it grieved him now to consider it to be coming in the future. But it is absurd that something that does not distress a man when it is present should afflict him when it has not yet arrived. Therefore the most terrifying of fears, death, is nothing to us, since so long as we exist death is not present with us, and when death comes, then we no longer exist. Death, then, is of no concern either to the living or to the dead – to the living, death has no existence, and to the dead, no concerns of any kind are possible.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Observe that if one removes from mankind of all the faculties that Nature has provided, nothing remains.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus : Let us imagine a man who is living in the continuous enjoyment of numerous vivid pleasures, of both body and of mind, and who is undisturbed either by the presence or by the prospect of pain. What possible state of existence could we describe as being more excellent or more desirable? A man so situated must possess in the first place a strength of mind that is impregnable against all fear of death or of pain. He will have no fear of death because he will know that death only means complete unconsciousness, and he will have no fear of pain, because he will know that while he is alive, pain that is long is generally light, and pain that is strong is generally short. In other words, he will also know that the intensity of pain is alleviated by the briefness of its duration, and that continuing pain is bearable because it is generally of lesser severity. Let such a man moreover have no fear of any supernatural power; let him never allow the pleasures of the past to fade away, but let him constantly renew their enjoyment in his recollection, and his lot will be one which will not admit of further improvement.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: The fear of death plays havoc with the calm and even tenor of life, and it is a pitiful thing to bow the head to pain and bear it abjectly and feebly. Such weakness has caused many men to betray their parents or their friends; some even betray their own country, and very many utterly fall to ruin themselves. On the other hand, a strong and lofty spirit is entirely free from anxiety and sorrow, and makes light of death, for the dead are only as they were before they were born. It is wise to recall that pains of great severity are ended by death, and slight pains have frequent intervals of respite; while pains of medium intensity lie within our ability to control. If pains are endurable then we can bear them, and if they are unendurable, we may choose ourselves to leave life’s theater serenely when the play has ceased to please us.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book III : Death is nothing to us, concerning us not at all, since the nature of the mind is mortal.  Think how in times gone by we felt no distress when the Carthaginians from all sides came together to do battle, and all things were shaken by war’s troubling uproar, shuddering and quaking beneath high heaven, and mortal men were in doubt which of the two peoples it would be whose empire would fall by land and sea.  So the same applies when we ourselves shall be no more, when our body and soul are separated, out of the both of which we are formed into a single being.  You may be sure that for us, who shall then be no more, nothing whatever can happen to excite sensation, not if earth itself should be overturned to mingle with the sea and the sea with heaven.  And even supposing the nature of the mind and power of the soul do have feeling, after they have been severed from our body, that is still nothing to us, who by the marriage of body and soul are formed into one single being.

And even if time should gather up after our death that material from which we are made and put it once more into the position in which it now holds, and give the light of life to us again – even this result even would not concern us at all.  This is because the chain of our self-consciousness has been snapped asunder, just as we now have no concern about any life which the material from which we are made might have held before our birth, nor do we feel any distress about that prior life.  When you look back on the whole past course of immeasurable time, and think how many are the combinations which the motions of matter take, you may easily believe that the very same seeds from which we are now formed have often before been placed in the same order in which they now are.  And yet we can recall no memory of this — a break in our existence has been interposed, and all the materials from which we are made have wandered to and fro, far astray from the sensations they once produced.  For he to whom evil befalls must exist as his own person at the time that evil comes, if the misery and suffering are to happen to him at all.  But since death precludes this, and takes away the existence of him on whom evil can be brought, you may be sure that we have nothing to fear after death.  He who does not exist cannot become miserable, and once death has taken away his mortal life, it does not matter at all whether he has lived at any other time.  Therefore when you see a man bemoaning his hard life, worrying that after death he shall either rot with his body laid in the grave, or be devoured by flames, or by the jaws of wild beasts, you may be sure that there lurks in his heart a secret fear, though he may declare that he does not believe that any sense will remain to him after death.  Such a man does not really hold the conclusion which he professes to hold, nor believe the principle which he professes.

For such a man may profess that his body is fully dead, but yet unconsciously imagine something of self to survive, and worry that birds and beasts will rend his body after death, moaning for his end.  Such a man does not separate himself from what remains after he has died, and instead he fancies himself to be those remains, and he stands by and impregnates those remains with his own sensations.  For this reason he makes much of bemoaning that he has been born mortal, and he does not see that after death there will be no other self to remain and lament to itself that he has met death, and to stand and grieve that he is lying there mangled or burnt.  For if it is an evil to be pulled about by the devouring jaws of wild beasts after death, I cannot see why it should not be just as cruel a pain to be laid on fires and burn in hot flames, or to be placed in honey and stifled, or to stiffen with cold, stretched on the smooth surface of an icy slab of stone, or to be pressed down and crushed by a load of earth above.

Some men say to themselves: “No more shall my house admit me with glad welcome, nor a virtuous wife and sweet children run to be the first to snatch kisses and touch my heart with joy.  No more may I be prosperous in my doings, a safeguard to my own.  One disastrous day has taken from me, luckless man, all the many prizes of life.” But these men do not add: “And now no longer does any craving for these things beset me either.” For if these men could rightly perceive this in thought, and follow up the thought in words, they would release themselves from great distress and apprehension of mind: “You, even as you are now, sunk in the sleep of death, shall continue so to be so for all time to come, freed from all distressful pains.  But we who remain, with a sorrow that could not be healed, wept for you when close you turned to an ashen heap on your funeral pile, and no length of days shall pluck from our hearts our ever-during grief.” To those who mourn for the dead, this question should be asked: “What is there in death so extremely bitter, if it comes in the end to sleep and rest, that anyone should pine over the dead in never-ending sorrow?” This too men often love to say, when they have reclined at table, cup in hand, and shaded their brows with crowns:” Short is this enjoyment for poor weak men; presently it will have passed and never after may it be called back!” Such men say this as if, after their death, their chief affliction will be thirst and parching drought, burning them up, luckless wretches, or craving for any thing else.  What folly!

No one feels the need for himself and life when mind and body are together sunk in sleep.  For all we care, this sleep might be everlasting, and no craving whatever for ourselves would move us. And yet those first beginnings throughout our frame wander far away from their sense-producing motions before a man starts up from sleep and collects himself.  Death therefore must be thought to concern us much less than sleep, if less there can be than what we see to be nothing during sleep, for a greater dispersion of our first-beginnings follows after death, and no one wakes up once the chill cessation of life has come.  If Nature could suddenly utter a voice and address us in person, she might use words such as these: “Why do you, O mortal, go on to such length in sickly sorrow? Why do you bemoan and bewail death?  For have you had a good life, and do you say that the life you have lost has been welcome to you, and that your blessings have not all been poured as if into a perforated jar, from which they have run through and been lost to no avail?  If your life has been so blessed, why not then depart from life like a guest filled with food and drink as if at the end of a party, and with relief that it is over enter upon untroubled rest?”

“But if on the other hand you have had a bad life, and all that you enjoyed has been squandered and lost, and if life is a grievance to you, why seek to continue that life any longer, to be wasted in its turn and utterly lost for nothing? Why not rather make an end of life and its troubles?  For there is nothing more which I can contrive for you to give you pleasure.  All things are always the same, and even if your body is not yet decayed with age nor worn out and exhausted, yet all things will remain the same, even if you should outlast all men now living – even if you should never die!” What answer could we give to Nature, but that her case is well-founded and that she pleads it honestly and well?  If, however, a man more advanced in years should complain about his death more than is right, would Nature not with even greater cause raise her voice in words such as these: “Away with thy tears, rascal; a truce to your complaining.  Your death comes after full enjoyment of all the prizes of life.  Because you nevertheless yearn for what you do not have, and despise what you do have, life has slipped from your grasp unfinished and unsatisfied.  And now, before you expected it, death has taken its stand at your bedside, before you can take your departure satisfied and filled with good things.  Give up those things that are unsuited to your age, and with good grace and nobility get up and go: you must.”

Nature’s charge would be brought with good reason, for old things must give way and be supplanted by the new, and new things must ever be replenished out of old things.  No one is delivered over to the pit and black Tartarus to be utterly destroyed – matter is needed for future generations to grow.  All of these, too, will follow you when you have finished your term of life, just as all those that have come before and after, no less than you, have and always will come to their own ends.  Thus one thing will never cease to rise out of another – life is granted to none to possess forever, to all it is only a loan. Think how the bygone antiquity of everlasting time before our birth was nothing to us.  Nature holds those ancient days up to us as a mirror of the time yet to come after our death.  Is there anything in this that looks appalling, anything that appears gloomy?  Is this not a rest more untroubled than any sleep?

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book III : This too you may sometimes say to yourself, “Even worthy Ancus has seen his eyes close to the light, and he was a far better man than you. And since then many other kings and potentates have been laid low.  Even that great king who once paved a way over the sea as a path for his legions to march, and taught them to pass on foot over the roaring of the sea, trampling on it with his horses, had the light taken from him and shed forth his soul from his dying body.  Even the son of the Scipios, thunderbolt of war, terror of Carthage, yielded his bones to earth just as if he were the lowest laborer.  Think, too, of the inventors of all sciences and arts, think of those such as Homer, who was without a peer, but yet now sleeps the same sleep as the others.  Then there was Democritus who, when he found that his memory was failing him in old age, offered up himself to death.  Even Epicurus himself, who surpassed in intellect all other men and quenched the light of all rivals, as the sun quenches the stars, passed away when his light of life had run its course.  Will you then hesitate and think it a hardship for you to die?  You for whom life is not far from death even while you yet live and see the light of day?  You, who spends the greater part of your time in sleep, and snore even when you are wide awake, and never cease seeing visions?  You, who have a mind troubled with groundless terrors, and cannot discover what it is that troubles you?  You, pitiful man that you are, pressed on all sides with many cares, who constantly stray due to the tumbled wanderings of your mind?

If, just as men feel the weight of the load on their minds which oppresses them, they would understand from what causes this load is produced, and why such a weight lies on their hearts, they would not spend their lives as we see most of them do.  Such men never know – any one of them – what they want, and thus always seek a change of place as though they might there lay down their burdens.  Men who are sick of being home often issue forth from their mansions, but just as suddenly come back to it, once they find that they are no better off abroad.  Such men race to their country-house, driving his horses in headlong haste as if hurrying to bring help to a house on fire.  But then the moment he reaches the door of his house he yawns, and sinks heavily into sleep, seeking forgetfulness, or even in haste goes back again to town.  In this way each man flies from himself, but as you may be sure is commonly the case, he cannot escape from himself, which always clings to him against his wishes.  Such a man hates himself because he is sick, but does not know not the cause of his sickness.  For if he could rightly see into these matters, giving up all other distractions, he would study to learn the Nature of things, since the point at stake is his condition – not for one hour – but for eternity: the state in which all mortals must pass all the time which remains after death.

Once more, what evil lust for life is this which constrains us with such force to be so troubled by doubt and danger?  A set term of life is fixed for all mortals, and death cannot be avoided – meet it we must.  Moreover, we are always engaged in the same pursuits, and no new pleasure is available by living on.  But so long as we crave what we lack, that desire seems to transcend all the rest.  When once it is obtained, we then crave something else, and ever does the same thirst for life possess us, as we gape for with open mouth.  It is quite doubtful what fortune the future will bring with it, or what chance will bring us, or what end is at hand.  Nor, by prolonging life, do we take one moment from the time we pass in death, nor can we by worrying spend a moment less in the eternity of death. You may live as many generations as you please during your life, but nonetheless everlasting death will await you.  For the man who ended his life today will be no less time in nonexistence than the man who died many months or many years ago.

NewEpicurean Commentary: In regard to death, we must keep in mind that we are conscious that we are alive only because we experience life through our eyes, ears, and our other sensations.  When we die, these sensations come to an end, and thus so does our ability to experience anything.  For that reason, death is not to be feared, because once you are dead, your sensations end, and thus your consciousness ends.  Even if the components which made up your consciousness continue to exist in some form, in such a state whatever is left of you has no sensation and therefore no ability to feel any kind of pain.  Further, do not allow yourself to feel any regret that your consciousness will not live forever.  You do not now worry about your condition during all the time that passed before you were born, and in the same way there is no need for you to worry about the eternity that will pass after your death.  All the things that will happen after your death are simply a mirror of all that happened before you were born — neither should cause you to fear to live today to its fullest potential.  This is not to say that death is of no significance to us.  Death is a part of our nature as human beings, but Nature has designed us to live, and our natural goal is to live a life of happiness.  A life of good health and happiness is to be pursued with all our strength, and the ending of that life is certainly of very great significance.  What is referred to here is simply that death is the end of our consciousness, and we have no continued state after death to be concerned about, and so in that context, indeed, death is nothing to us.

3.  The limit of quantity in pleasures is the removal of all that is painful.  Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, there is neither pain of body nor of mind, nor of both at once.

Alternate Translations:  Yonge:  The limit of quantity in pleasures is the removal of all that is painful.  Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, there is neither pain of body nor of mind, nor of both at once.  Strodach:  The quantitative limit of pleasure is the elimination of all feelings of pain.  Wherever the pleasurable state exists, there is neither bodily pain nor mental pain nor both together, so long as the pain continues.

Letter to Menoeceus : For you see when we lack pleasure and we grieve, we have need of pleasure, because pleasure is not present. But so long as we do not grieve, life affords us no lack of pleasure. On this account we affirm that Nature has provided that Pleasure is the beginning and end of living happily; for we have recognized that Nature has provided that happiness is the first good that is innate within us.

Letter to Menoeceus : When, therefore, we say that pleasure or happiness is the chief good, we are not speaking of the pleasures of debauched men, or those pleasures which lie in sensual enjoyment, as some allege about us who are ignorant, or who disagree with us, or who perversely misrepresent our opinions. Instead, when we speak of pleasure or happiness as the chief good, we mean the freedom of the body from pain and the freedom of the soul from confusion. For it is not continued drinking and reveling, or the temporary pleasures of sexual relations, or feasts of fish or such other things as a costly table supplies that make life pleasant. Instead, Nature provides that life is made pleasant by sober contemplation, and by close examination of the reasons for all decisions we make as to what we choose and what we avoid. It is by these means that we put to flight the vain opinions from which arise the greater part of the confusion that troubles the soul.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: The happiness we pursue does not consist solely of the delightful feelings of physical pleasures. On the contrary, according to Epicurus the greatest pleasure is that which is experienced as a result of the complete removal of all pain, physical and mental. When we are released from pain, the mere sensation of complete emancipation and relief from distress is itself a source of great gratification. But everything that causes gratification is a pleasure, just as everything that causes distress is a pain. Therefore the complete removal of pain has correctly been termed a pleasure. For example, when hunger and thirst are banished by food and drink, the mere fact of getting rid of those distresses brings pleasure as a result. So as a rule, the removal of pain causes pleasure to take its place.  For that reason Epicurus held that there is no such thing as a neutral state of feeling that is somewhere between pleasure and pain. This is because for the living being, the entire absence of pain, a state supposed by some philosophers to be neutral, is not only a state of pleasure, but a pleasure of the highest order.  A man who is living and conscious of his condition at all necessarily feels either pleasure or pain. Epicurus holds that the experience of the complete absence of all pain is the highest point, or the “limit,” of pleasure. Beyond this point, pleasure may vary in kind, but it does not vary in intensity or degree.

To illustrate this, my father used to tell me (when he wanted to show his wit at the expense of the Stoics) that there was once in Athens a statue of the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus. This statue was fashioned with Chrysippus holding out one hand, in a gesture intended to indicate the delight which he used to take in the following little play on words:” Does your hand desire anything, while it is in its present condition?”” No, nothing.”” But if pleasure were a good, it would want pleasure.”” Yes, I suppose it would.”” Therefore pleasure is not a good.” This is an argument, my father declared, which not even a dumb statue would employ, if a statue could speak. This is because the argument is cogent enough as an objection to those who pursue sensual pleasures as the only goal of life, but it does not touch Epicurus. For if the only kind of pleasure were that which, so to speak, tickles the senses with a feeling of delight, neither the hand nor any other member of the body could be satisfied with the absence of pain, if it were not accompanied by an active sensation of pleasure. If, however, as Epicurus holds, the highest pleasure is experienced at the removal of all pain, then the man who responded to Chrysippus was wrong to be misled by his questions. This is because the man’s first answer, that his hand was in a condition that wanted nothing, was correct. But his second answer, that if pleasure were a good, his hand would want it, was not correct. This was wrong because the hand had no need to desire any additional pleasure, because the state in which it was in – a state without pain – was itself a state of pleasure.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Further, we do not agree with those who allege that when pleasure is withdrawn, anxiety follows at once. That result is true only in those situations where the pleasure happens to be replaced directly by a pain. The truth is, in general, we are glad whenever we lose a pain, even though no active sensation of pleasure comes immediately in its place. This fact serves to show us how life in the absence of pain is so great a pleasure.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Nature has established that the greatest pleasure toward which all men should strive is the achievement of a state where one has eliminated from one’s life all mental and physical pain whatsoever.  The state of being alive and conscious is a great pleasure, in fact the greatest of them all, but the nature of existence is that throughout our lives we have needs that cause us to experience pain.  As a result most of our life is spent fulfilling our needs, such as those for food, water, air, shelter, etc.  Because every gratification of a need or satisfaction of pain brings with it a great pleasure, and because a life completely without mental or physical pain is itself the greatest of pleasure, we are required to face appetites that are by nature incapable of being satisfied.  Rather, each of us is provided by Nature with a path to achieving all the pleasure that can be achieved by devoting ourselves rationally to the elimination of pain in our lives.  Once we have achieved pleasure, we have no need of anything else, because we then neither lack anything to satisfy any need, nor need anything further to attain pleasure.

4.  Bodily pain does not last continuously.  The most intense pain is present only for a very short time, and pain which outweighs the body’s pleasures does not continue for long.  Even chronic pain permits a predominance of pleasure over pain.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Pain does not last continuously in the flesh, but the acutest pain is there for a very short time, and even that which just exceeds the pleasure in the flesh does not continue for many days at once.  But chronic illnesses permit a predominance of pleasure over pain in the flesh.  Yonge:  Pain does not last continuously in the flesh, but the acutest pain is there for a very short time, and even that which just exceeds the pleasure in the flesh does not continue for many days at once.  But chronic illnesses permit a predominance of pleasure over pain in the flesh.

Vatican Saying 3: Continuous bodily pain does not last long; instead, pain, if extreme, is present a very short time, and even that degree of pain which slightly exceeds bodily pleasure does not last for many days at once. Diseases of long duration allow an excess of bodily pleasure over pain.

Vatican Saying 4: All bodily suffering is easy to disregard: for that which causes acute pain has short duration, and that which endures long in the flesh causes but mild pain.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Nature provides that into every life some amount of pain will come, but we should not live our lives in fear of pain to come.  This is because Nature has provided that in the vast majority of cases, the pain that we confront will either be of relatively low intensity so that it is endurable and offset by pleasures that we will continue to experience even while the pain is present, or else, if the pain is sharp and intense, it will also be brief.  If it is so sharp and long as to be unendurable, it is readily possible to escape it by ending one’s own life.  Thus there is no reason to be in constant worry about future pain.

5.  It is not possible to live pleasantly without living wisely, honorably, and justly. Nor can one live wisely, honorably, and justly without living pleasantly. But those who for any reason do not live wisely, honorably, and justly cannot possibly live pleasantly.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  It is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honorably and justly, [nor again to live a live of prudence, honor, and justice] without living pleasantly.  And the man who does not possess the pleasant life is not living prudently and honorably and justly, [and the man who does not possess the virtuous life] cannot possibly live pleasantly.  Yonge:  It is not possible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honorably and justly, [nor again to live a life of prudence, honor, and justice] without living pleasantly.  And the man who does not possess the pleasant life, is not living prudently and honorably and justly, [and the man who does not possess the virtuous life] cannot possibly live pleasantly.

Letter to Menoeceus: Now, the beginning and the greatest good of all these things is wisdom. Wisdom is something more valuable even than philosophy itself, inasmuch as all the other virtues spring from it. Wisdom teaches us that it is not possible to live happily unless one also lives wisely, and honestly, and justly; and that one cannot live wisely and honestly and justly without also living happily. For these virtues are by nature bound up together with the happy life, and the happy life is inseparable from these virtues.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Here indeed is the renowned road to happiness — open, simple, and direct! For clearly man can have no greater good than complete freedom from pain and sorrow coupled with the enjoyment of the highest bodily and mental pleasures. Notice then how the theory embraces every possible enhancement of life, every aid to the achievement of that chief good – a life of happiness – which is our object. Epicurus, the man whom you denounce as given to excessive sensuality, cries aloud that no one can live pleasantly without living wisely, honorably and justly, and no one can live wisely, honorably and justly without living pleasantly.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Or look again at men who are petty, narrow-minded, confirmed pessimists, or others who are spiteful, envious, ill-tempered, unsociable, abusive, cantankerous. Look at those who are enslaved to the follies of love, or those who are impudent, reckless, wanton, headstrong and yet irresolute, always changing their minds. Such failings render their lives one unbroken round of misery. The result is that no foolish man can be happy, nor any wise man fail to be happy. This is a truth that we establish far more conclusively than do the Platonic philosophers, who maintain that nothing is good save that vague phantom which they entitle “Moral Worth,” a title more splendid in sound than it is substantial in reality. Such men are gravely mistaken when, resting on this vague idea of “Moral Worth” they allege that Virtue has no need of pleasure, and that Virtue is sufficient for itself.  At the same time, this view can be stated in a form to which we do not object, and can indeed endorse. For Epicurus tells us that the Wise Man is always happy. The Wise Man’s desires are kept within Nature’s bounds, and he disregards death. The wise man has a true conception, untainted by fear, of the Divine Nature. If it be expedient to depart from life, the wise man does not hesitate to do so. Thus equipped, the wise man enjoys perpetual pleasure, for there is no moment when the pleasures he experiences do not outbalance his pains, since he remembers the past with delight, he grasps the present with a full realization of its pleasantness, and he does not rely wholly upon the future. The Wise Man looks forward to the future, but finds his true enjoyment in the present. Also, the wise man is entirely free from the vices that I referenced a few moments ago, and he derives considerable pleasure from comparing his own existence with the life of the foolish. Any pains that the Wise Man may encounter are never so severe but that he has more cause for gladness than for sorrow.

Letter to Pythocles: Imprint all these precepts in your memory, Pythocles, and you will easily escape fables, and it will be easy for you to discover other truths that are analogous to these. Above all, apply yourself to the study of general principles of the infinite, and of questions of this kind, and to the investigation of the different criteria of knowledge, and of the principles of choice and avoidance, and to the study of the chief good, keeping in mind the purpose of all our researches. When the general questions are once resolved in your mind, the means to resolve all particular difficulties will become clear to you.  As to those who will not apply themselves to these principles, such men will neither be able to give a good explanation for these same matters, nor to reach that end to which all our researches tend, [a life of happiness].

6.  Any means by which we can secure protection from other men is a natural good.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  To secure protection from men anything is a natural good, by which you may be able to attain this end.  Yonge: To secure protection from men anything is a natural good by which you may be able to attain this end.  Strodach:  Any means by which it is possible to procure freedom from fearing other men is a natural good.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Because the goal of living a happy life is the highest value, it is right for men to protect themselves from the oppression of others in any way necessary.  This observation is related to Crucial Doctrine 33 and Crucial Doctrine 34, which hold that “justice” has no existence independent from the voluntary covenant between men not to harm each other, and that no actions are unjust as to those men who are not able or willing to enter such a covenant.

7.  For the sake of feeling confidence and security in regard to other men, some men wish to be eminent and powerful, failing to remember the limits of kingly power.  If such men happen to achieve a life of safety, then they have attained their goal, which is a good.  But if their lives are not in fact safe, they have failed in obtaining the goal for the sake of which they originally desired power, and that is the result that generally occurs according to Nature.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Some men wished to become famous and conspicuous, thinking that they would thus win for themselves safety from other men.  Wherefore if the life of such men is safe, they have obtained the good which nature craves; but if it is not safe, they do not possess that for which they strove at first by the instinct of nature.  Yonge: Some men wished to become famous and conspicuous, thinking that they would thus win for themselves safety from other men.  Wherefore if the life of such men is safe, they have obtained the good which nature craves, but if it is not safe, they do not possess that for which they strove at first by the instinct of nature.  Strodach:  Some men have desired to gain reputation and to be well regarded, thinking in this way to gain protection from other people.  If the lives of such men are secure, they have acquired a natural blessing; but if they are not, they do not possess what they originally reached for by natural instinct.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book V: For a man who orders his life by the rule of true reason, a frugal subsistence joined to a contented mind is for him great riches, as never is there any lack of a little. But some men desire to be famous and powerful in order that their fortunes might rest on a firm foundation, and that they might be able by their wealth to lead a tranquil life. This is in vain, since their struggle to mount up to the heights of power renders their path full of danger. Even if they reach it, envy, like a thunderbolt, strikes them from the summit and dashes them down with ignominy into the roar of Tartarus. The highest summits are often blasted by envy as if by a thunderbolt, so it is better to obey in peace and quiet than to wish to rule with supreme power and be the master of kingdoms.  Such men wear themselves out to no purpose and sweat drops of blood as they struggle on the road of ambition, since they gather their knowledge from the mouths of others and follow after hearsay, rather than following the dictates of their own feelings.  This course does not prevail now, nor will it prevail in the future any more than it has prevailed in the past.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: And always there is death, the stone of Tantalus ever hanging over men’s heads, and then there is religion, that poisons and destroys all peace of mind. Fools do not recall their past happiness or enjoy their present blessings – they only look forward to the desires of the future, and as the future is always uncertain, they are consumed with agony and terror. And the climax of their torment is when they perceive, too late, that all their dreams of wealth or station, power or fame, have come to nothing. For fools can never hold the pleasures for which they hoped, and for which they were inspired to undergo all their arduous toils.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book II: It is sweet, when on the great sea the winds trouble its waters, to behold from land another’s deep distress; not that it is a pleasure or a delight that any should be afflicted, but because it is sweet to see from what evils you are yourself exempt.  It is sweet also to look upon the mighty struggles of armies arrayed along the plains without sharing yourself in the danger.  But nothing is more welcome than to hold lofty and serene positions well fortified by the learning of the wise.  From here you may look down upon others and see them wandering, going astray in their search for the path of life, and contesting among themselves their intellect, the rivalry of their birth, their striving night and day with tremendous effort to struggle up to the summit of power and be masters of the world.  O miserable minds of men! O blinded hearts!  In what darkness of life and in what great danger is passed this term of life whatever its duration.  How can you choose not to see that Nature craves for herself no more than this: that the body feel no pain, and the mind enjoy a feeling of pleasure exempt from care and fear?

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book III: In life, too, we have a Sisyphus before our eyes.  Such is the man who is bent on seeking political office, constantly seeking political power, but who always retires defeated and disappointed.  To ask for power, empty as it is, but to never find it despite the constant chase for it – this is forcing uphill a stone which, after all one’s effort, rolls back again from the summit and in headlong haste finds once again the levels of the plain.

Vatican Saying 58: We must free ourselves from the prison of public education and politics.

8.  No pleasure is intrinsically bad; but that which is necessary to achieve some pleasures brings with it disturbances many times greater than those same pleasures.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the means which produce some pleasures bring with them disturbances many times greater than the pleasures.  Yonge:   No pleasure is a bad thing in itself:  but the means which produce some pleasures bring with them disturbances many times greater than the pleasures.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure on its own account. Those who reject pleasure do so because men who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally suffer consequences that are extremely painful. Nor does anyone love or pursue or desire to obtain pain on its own account. Those who pursue pain do so because on occasion toil and pain can produce some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with those men who choose to enjoy pleasures that have no annoying consequences, or those who avoid pains that produce no resulting pleasures?  On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of the pleasure of the moment, who are so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to follow. Equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duties because their will is weak, which is the same as saying that they fail because they shrink back from toil and pain. These cases are simple and easy to understand. In a free hour, when our power of choice is unrestrained and when nothing prevents us from doing what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain is to be avoided. But in certain circumstances, such as because of the claims of duty or the obligations of business, it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be put aside and annoyances accepted. The wise man always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects some pleasures in order to secure other and greater pleasures, or else he endures some pains to avoid worse pains.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book III: Nor do birds eat away into the breast of Tityos in Hell nor could they find during eternity enough food to peck from his large breast.  However huge the bulk of his body, even if with outspread limbs he took up the space not of nine acres, as the story goes, but of the whole earth – even so he would not be able to endure everlasting pain and supply food from his body forever.  But in our own world we know men such as Tityos: those who, groveling in love, or torn by troubled thoughts from any other passion, are eaten up by bitter anguish as if by vultures.

9.  If any pleasure could be intensified so that it did not come to an end, and affected the whole person or the most essential parts of our nature, there would be no room for the experience of new pleasures.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  If every pleasure could be intensified so that it lasted and influenced the whole organism or the most essential parts of our nature, pleasures would never differ from one another.  Yonge:  If every pleasure could be intensified so that it lasted and influenced the whole organism or the most essential parts of our nature, pleasures would never differ from one another.  Strodach:  If all pleasures could be compressed in time and intensity, and were characteristic of the whole man or his more important aspects, the various pleasures would not differ from each other.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Nature provides that if a pleasure lasted forever, and consumed your whole experience, then no new pleasure could be experienced because the first would never end.  Thus, in the same way that neither the atoms nor the void can consume the whole of existence, Nature provides for change and limits to pleasure.

10.  If those things which debauched men consider pleasurable in fact put an end to the fears of the mind, and of the heavens, and of death, and of pain; and if those same pleasures taught us the natural limits of our desires, we would have no reason to blame those devote themselves to such pursuits.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  If the things that produce the pleasures of profligates could dispel the fears of the mind about the phenomena of the sky and death and its pains, and also teach the limits of desires (and of pains), we should never have cause to blame them:  for they would be filling themselves full with pleasures from every source and never have pain of body or of mind, which is the evil of life.  Yonge:  If the things that produce the pleasures of profligates could dispel the fears of the mind about the phenomena of the sky and death and its pains, and also teach the limits of desires (and of pains), we should never have cause to blame them:  for they would be filling themselves full with pleasures from every source and never have pain of body or of mind, which is the evil of life.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Nature provides that our goal is to live a happy life, and thus the true and only test of how to live is to follow that which in fact produces a life of happiness, not momentary pleasure.  A happy life is one in which we experience pleasure, have no fears as to punishment by gods, or fear of death, or fear of pain, and in which we recognize the natural limits of our desires.  If the activities that men consider to be debauchery brought this result, those activities would be proper to pursue.  Also, compare Crucial Doctrine 35 for another example of Epicurus’ commitment to the implications of his positions.  In Doctrine 10 we see that Nature’s ultimate standard of living a happy life would justify even those things we think of as debauched, IF they in fact led to happiness, and in Doctrine 35 we see that those things which we think of as evil, such as injustice, are bad only because they bring pain, and not because they violate some hypothetical Platonic/religious ideal that does not exist in Nature.

11.  If fears relating to the heavens did not disturb us, and if the terrors of death did not concern us, and if we had the courage to contemplate the natural limits of pain and of desire, we would have no need to study the nature of things.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  If we were not troubled by our suspicions of the phenomena of the sky and about death, fearing that it concerns us, and also by our failure to grasps the limits of pains and desires, we should have no need of natural science.   Yonge:  If we were not troubled by our suspicions of the phenomena of the sky and about death, fearing that it concerns us, and also by our failure to grasps the limits of pains and desires, we should have no need of natural science.

Letter to Pythocles: Know then, that the only aim of the knowledge of the heavenly phenomena, both those which we can observe directly, and those on which we can only speculate, is freedom from anxiety, and the calmness which is derived from a firm belief; and this is the aim of every science.

Letter to Herodotus: As for the theoretical knowledge of the rising and setting of the stars, of the movement of the sun between the tropics, and of the eclipses, and all other similar phenomena, that is utterly useless as far as having any influence upon happiness. Moreover, those who possess knowledge of the movement of the stars, but are nonetheless ignorant of Nature and of the most probable causes of that movement, are no more protected from fear than if they were in the most complete ignorance. Such men experience the most lively fears, for the knowledge of the motion of the stars that they do possess inspires in them troubles which they cannot resolve, and those troubles cannot be dissipated except through a clear perception of the reasons for these phenomena.  As for us, we find many explanations of the motions of the sun, of the rising and setting of the stars, of the eclipses, and of similar phenomena. One must not think that this method of explanation is insufficient to procure happiness and tranquility. Let us content ourselves with examining how it is that similar phenomena are brought about directly under our own eyes, and let us apply these observations to the heavenly objects and to everything which is known only indirectly. Let us despise those people who are unable to distinguish those facts which may be explained in various ways from those facts which can only be explained in one single way. Let us disdain those men who do not understand the means of explaining the heavenly phenomena in ways that do not excite fear in us.

Once we understand that a phenomenon can be brought about by Nature in any of several natural ways, rather than by the gods in a way that inspires fear, we shall not be more troubled at the sight of it than if we actually knew the real cause.  We must also recall that the thing which principally troubles the spirit of men is the persuasion which they cherish that the stars are gods, [which we must always remember are] beings that are imperishable and perfectly happy. Such men fear that their thoughts and actions are displeasing to the will of these superior beings. Deluded by these fables, such men fear an eternity of punishment, and they fear the insensibility of death, as if that could affect them. What do I say? It is not the falseness of their beliefs, but their lack of knowledge and blindness, which governs them in all things. This is true to such a degree that, not even considering the truth of whether they really fear their gods, they are just as much troubled as if they really believed in these vain phantoms.  Real freedom from this kind of trouble consists in being emancipated from all these things, and in preserving the recollection of the principles which we have established, especially those that are most essential. Accordingly, it is well to pay careful attention to the phenomena with which we are familiar and to the sensations, both general and particular, which we have confirmed to be true. In sum, we must take note of the immediate evidence which each of our faculties furnishes to us. For if we pay attention to those points where uncertainty arises, we shall divine the causes of confusion and fear correctly. In this way we may trace back the heavenly phenomena to their causes, and deliver ourselves from those feelings which inspire the common people with extreme terror at every step.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Many circumstances, including religion and some philosophers, call out to us to adopt false opinions.  We are not born with knowledge of the phenomena we see in the skies; the seas seem mysterious, the diseases we suffer from seem inexplicable, death seems to be a horrible fate, and great danger is posed to us by those religions and philosophies who seek to deceive us into following them rather than the guidelines set by Nature.  If these dangers did not exist and did not cause us to be fearful and deprive us of joy of mind, we would have no reason to study science or philosophy.  It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that we study science and philosophy, as those are the antidote to all false opinion and terrors of the mind.  Note that we say “this reason alone” not to disparage the study of the study of Nature, but to reinforce that everything we do is for the attainment of a happy life.  Far from disparaging the study of Nature, in recognizing that this study is required for a happy life we recognize how important the study of Nature is.

12.  It is not possible for a man to banish all fear of the essential questions of life unless he understands the nature of the universe, and unless he banishes all consideration that the fables told about the universe could be true.  Therefore a man cannot enjoy full happiness, untroubled by turmoil, unless he acts to gain knowledge of the nature of things.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  A man cannot dispel his fear about the most important matters if he does not know what is the nature of the universe but suspects the truth of some mythical story.  So that without natural science it is not possible to attain our pleasures unalloyed.  Yonge:  A man cannot dispel his fear about the most important matters if he does not know what is the nature of the universe but suspects the truth of some mythical story.  So that without natural science it is not possible to attain our pleasures unalloyed

Letter to Menoeceus: Let no one delay in the study of philosophy while he is young, and when he is old, let him not become weary of the study. For no man can ever find the time unsuitable or too late to study the health of his soul.  And he who asserts either that it is too soon to study philosophy, or that the hour is passed, is like a man who would say that the time has not yet come to be happy, or that it is too late to be happy. So both the young and the old must study philosophy – that as one grows old he may be young in the blessings that come from the grateful recollection of those good things that have passed, and that even in youth he may have the wisdom of age, since he will know no fear of what is to come. It is necessary for us, then, to meditate on the things which produce happiness, since if happiness is present we have everything, and when happiness is absent we do everything with a view to possess it.

Letter to Menoeceus: Meditate then, on all these things, and on those things which are related to them, both day and night, and both alone and with like-minded companions. For if you will do this, you will never be disturbed while asleep or awake by imagined fears, but you will live like a god among men. For a man who lives among immortal blessings is in no respect like a mortal being.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: The great disturbing factor in man’s life is ignorance of good and evil. Mistaken ideas about these frequently rob us of our greatest pleasures, and torment us with the most cruel pains of mind. Thus we need the aid of Wisdom to rid us of our fears and unnatural desires, to root out all our errors and prejudices, and to serve as our infallible guide to the attainment of happiness.  Wisdom alone can banish sorrow from our hearts and protect us from alarm and apprehension. Become a student of Wisdom, and you may live in peace and quench the glowing flames of vain desires. For the vain desires are incapable of satisfaction — they ruin not only individuals but whole families, and in fact they often shake the very foundations of the state. It is the vain desires that are the source of hatred, quarreling, strife, sedition, and war. Nor do the vain desires flaunt themselves only away from home, and turn their onslaughts solely against other people. For even when they are imprisoned within the heart of the individual man, they quarrel and fall out among themselves, and this can have no result but to render the whole of life embittered.  For this reason it is only the wise man, who prunes away all the rotten growth of vanity and error, who can possibly live untroubled by sorrow and by fear, and who can live contentedly within the bounds that Nature has set.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Therefore we observe that ignorance and error reduce the whole of life to confusion. It is Wisdom alone that is able to protect us from the onslaught of the vain appetites and the menace of fears. Only wisdom is able to teach us to bear the hardships of fortune with moderation, and only wisdom is able to show us the paths that lead to calmness and to peace. Why then should we hesitate to proudly affirm that Wisdom is to be desired, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the happiness it brings?  And why therefore should we hesitate to affirm that Folly is to be avoided, again not for its own sake, because of the injuries that follow in its path?”

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Theoretical logic, on which your Platonic school lays such stress, Epicurus held to be of no assistance either as a guide to conduct or as an aid to thought. In contrast, he deemed Natural Philosophy to be all-important. Natural Philosophy explains to us the meaning of terms, the nature of cause and effect, and the laws of consistency and contradiction. A thorough knowledge of the facts of Nature relieves us of the burden of superstition, frees us from fear of death, and shields us against the disturbing effects of ignorance, which is often in itself a cause of terrifying fears. A knowledge of those things that Nature truly requires improves the moral character as well. It is only by firmly grasping a well-reasoned scientific study of Nature, and observing Epicurus’ Canon of truth that has fallen, as it were, from heaven, which affords us a knowledge of the universe. Only by making that Canon the test of all our judgments can we hope always to stand fast in our convictions, undeterred and unshaken by the eloquence of any man.  On the other hand, without a firm understanding of the world of Nature, it is impossible to maintain the validity of the perceptions of our senses. Every mental presentation has its origin in sensation, and no knowledge or perception is possible unless the sensations are reliable, as the theory of Epicurus teaches us that they are. Those who deny the reliability of sensation and say that nothing can be known, having excluded the evidence of the senses, are unable even to make their own argument. By abolishing knowledge and science, they abolish all possibility of rational life and action. Thus Natural Philosophy supplies courage to face the fear of death; and resolution to resist the terrors of religion. Natural Philosophy provides peace of mind by removing all ignorance of the mysteries of Nature, and provides self-control, by explaining the Nature of the desires and allowing us to distinguish their different kinds. In addition, the Canon or Criterion of Knowledge which Epicurus established shows us the method by which we evaluate the evidence of the senses and discern truth from falsehood.

Letter to Pythocles: It is not good to desire what is impossible and to endeavor to articulate a uniform theory about everything. Accordingly, we should not adopt here the method which we have followed in our researches into ethics or in the solution of problems of natural philosophy. There we said, for instance, that there are no other things except matter and the void, and that the atoms are the principle elements of things, and so on. In other words, we gave a precise and simple explanation for every fact that could be conformed to what we see [and observe directly].  We cannot act in the same way with respect to the heavenly phenomena. These phenomena may arise from several different causes, and we may arrive at many different explanations on this subject that are equally agreeable with the appearances that we can observe through the senses. In regard to the stars and planets we do not have the ability to reason out new principles and to lay down absolute rules for the interpretation of Nature, because the only guide for us to follow here are the appearances themselves. Our object then that we have in view is not to set up a system of vain opinions, but rather to attain a life that is exempt from every kind of fear and turmoil.  So long as we accept only those explanations of the heavenly phenomena that are conformable with the evidence we see, we are not inspired with any fears, as are those who allow that any hypothesis at all may possibly be true. But if we abandon the rule of accepting only those hypotheses that are reasonable, and we renounce the attempt to explain the heavenly phenomena by means of analogies that are founded on the evidence provided by senses, then we are conducting ourselves in complete disregard of the science of Nature in favor of falling into fables.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book I: When human life – before the eyes of all – lay foully prostrate upon the earth, crushed down under the weight of religion, which glowered down from heaven upon mortal men with a hideous appearance, one man – a Greek – first dared to lift up his mortal eyes and stand up face-to-face against religion.  This man could not be quashed either by stories of gods or thunderbolts or even by the deafening roar of heaven.  Those things only spurred on the eager courage of his soul, filling him with desire to be the first to burst the tight bars placed on Nature’s gates.  The living force of his soul won the day, and on he passed, far beyond the flaming walls of the world, traveling with his mind and with his spirit the immeasurable universe.  And from there he returned to us – like a conqueror – to tell us what can be, and what cannot, and on what principle and deep-set boundary mark Nature has established all things.  Through this knowledge, superstition is thrown down and trampled underfoot, and by his victory we are raised equal with the stars.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book I: Your terror and darkness of mind must be dispelled – not by the rays of the sun and glittering shafts of day, but by the study of the law of nature.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book II: For even as children are terrified and dread all things in the thick darkness, thus we in the daylight fear at times things not a bit more to be dreaded than those which children shudder at in the dark and fancy to be true.  Therefore this terror and darkness of mind must be dispelled, not by the rays of the sun and glittering shafts of day, but by a clear view of the law of Nature.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book III: So far, I have shown in what way all things have their first beginnings, of such diverse shapes, which fly spontaneously on in everlasting motion, and how all things are produced out of these.  Next, my verses must clear up the nature of the mind and soul, and drive the dread of Hell headlong away, since that dread troubles the life of man from its inmost depths, and overspreads all things with the blackness of death, allowing no pleasure to be pure and unalloyed.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book III: And men are driven on by an unreal dread, wishing to escape and keep the gates of death far away.  They amass wealth by civil bloodshed and greedily double their riches, piling up murder on murder. Such men cruelly celebrate the sad death of a brother, and hate and fear the tables of their relatives.  Often, from the same fear, envy causes them to grieve, and they moan that before their very eyes another person is powerful, famous, and walks arrayed in gorgeous dignity, while they are wallowing in darkness and dirt.  Some wear themselves to death for the sake of statues and a famous name.  Often men dread death to such a degree that hate of life and the sight of daylight seizes them so that in their sorrow they commit suicide, quite forgetting that this fear of death was the source of their worries.  Fear of death prompts some men to forsake all sense of shame, and others to burst asunder the bonds of friendship, overturning duty at its very base.  Often men even betray their country and their parents in seeking to escape the realms of Hell.  For even as children are flurried and dread all things in the thick darkness, thus we in the daylight fear things not a bit more to be dreaded than what children shudder at in the dark and fancy to be real.  This terror and darkness of mind must be dispelled, not by the rays of the sun and glittering shafts of day, but by the study of the law of Nature.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book III: In truth there is no Tantalus, poor wretch, numbed by groundless terror as the story goes, fearing a huge stone hanging in the air above him.  In life, however, a baseless dread of the gods terrifies men, and the falling rock they fear is the bad luck that chance brings to each one.

Vatican Saying 49: It is impossible for someone to dispel his fears about the most important matters if he does not know the Nature of the universe but still gives some credence to myths. So without the study of Nature there is no enjoyment of pure pleasure.

13.  It does no good for a man to secure himself safety from other men so long as he remains in a state of fear about heaven, about hell, and about the nature of the boundless universe.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  There is no profit in securing protection in relation to men if things above and things beneath the earth and indeed all in the boundless universe remain matters of suspicion.  Yonge: There is no profit in securing protection in relation to men if things above and things beneath the earth and indeed all in the boundless universe remain matters of suspicion.

Vatican Saying 72: There is no advantage to obtaining protection from other men so long as we are alarmed by events above or below the earth or in general by whatever happens in the boundless universe.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book I: We shall begin with this first principle: nothing ever comes from nothing by divine power.  In truth, fear holds all mortals in check, because they see many operations go on in earth and heaven, the causes of which they can in no way understand, and therefore they believe them to be done by divine power.  Once we shall have seen that nothing can be produced from nothing, we shall then more correctly ascertain that which we are seeking, both the elements out of which every thing can be produced and the manner in which all things are done – without the hand of the gods.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Security in the form of physical protection from other men does you no good if you still fear the basic Nature of the universe, because you cannot live a happy life unless you understand your place in the infinite and eternal universe.

14.  Great power and wealth may, up to a certain point, bring us security from other men.  But the greatest security depends upon tranquility of the soul and freedom from the crowd of men.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  The most unalloyed source of protection from men, which is secured to some extent by a certain force of expulsion, is in fact the immunity which results from a quiet life and the retirement from the world.  Yonge:  The most unalloyed source of protection from men, which is secured to some extent by a certain force of expulsion, is in fact the immunity which results from a quiet life and the retirement from the world.  Strodach:  The simplest means of procuring protection from other men (which is gained to a certain extent by deterrent force) is the security of quiet solitude and withdrawal from the mass of people.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Wealth and power are possessions that are desirable in that they bring a certain amount of security against dangers presented by other men and Nature, but the most important possession is a calm mind that is governed by reason and deters unwise indulgence in any pleasure or appetite.  Only a calm mind governed by reason is fully secure against the dangers one can expect to encounter.

15.  The Natural desires are easily obtained and satisfied, but the unnatural desires can never be satisfied.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  The wealth demanded by Nature is both limited and easily procured; that demanded by idle imaginings stretches on to infinity.  Yonge:  The wealth demanded by Nature is both limited and easily procured; that demanded by idle imaginings stretches on to infinity.

Letter to Menoeceus: We must also consider that some of our human desires are given to us by Nature, and some are vain and empty. Of the Natural desires, some are necessary, and some are not. Of the necessary desires, some are necessary to our happiness, and some are necessary if our body is to be free from trouble. Some desires are in fact necessary for living itself. He who has a correct understanding of these things will always decide what to choose and what to avoid by referring to the goal of obtaining a body that is healthy and a soul that is free from turmoil, since this is the aim of living happily. It is for the sake of living happily that we do everything, as we wish to avoid grief and fear. When once we have attained this goal, the storm of the soul is ended, because we neither have the need to go looking for something that we lack, nor to go seeking something else by which the good of our soul or of our body would be improved.

Letter to Menoeceus: As we pursue happiness we also hold that self-reliance is a great good, not in order that we will always be satisfied with little, but in order that if circumstances do not allow that we have much, we may wisely make use of the little that we have. This is because we are genuinely persuaded that men who are able to do without luxury are the best able to enjoy luxury when it is available. We also believe that Nature provides that everything which is necessary to life is easily obtained, and that those things which are idle or vain are difficult to possess. Simple flavors give as much pleasure as costly fare when everything that causes pain, and every feeling of want, is removed. Bread and water give the most extreme pleasure when someone in great need eats of them. To accustom oneself, therefore, to simple and inexpensive habits is a great ingredient towards perfecting one’s health, and makes one free from hesitation in facing the necessary affairs of life. And when on certain occasions we fall in with more sumptuous fare, this attitude renders us better disposed towards luxuries, as we are then fearless with regard to the possibility that we may thereafter lose them.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Nothing could be more instructive and helpful to right living than Epicurus’ doctrine as to the different classes of the desires. One kind he classified as both natural and necessary, a second as natural but not necessary, and a third as neither natural nor necessary. The principle of the classification comes from observing that the necessary desires are gratified with little trouble or expense. The natural desires also require little effort, since the quantity of Nature’s riches which suffices to bring contentment is both small and easily obtained. In contrast, for the vain and idle desires, no boundary or limit can be discovered.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book II: It is sweet, when on the great sea the winds trouble its waters, to behold from land another’s deep distress; not that it is a pleasure or a delight that any should be afflicted, but because it is sweet to see from what evils you are yourself exempt.  It is sweet also to look upon the mighty struggles of armies arrayed along the plains without sharing yourself in the danger.  But nothing is more welcome than to hold lofty and serene positions well fortified by the learning of the wise.  From here you may look down upon others and see them wandering, going astray in their search for the path of life, and contesting among themselves their intellect, the rivalry of their birth, their striving night and day with tremendous effort to struggle up to the summit of power and be masters of the world.  O miserable minds of men! O blinded hearts!  In what darkness of life and in what great danger you pass this term of life, whatever its duration.  How can you choose not to see that Nature craves for herself no more than this: that the body feel no pain, and the mind enjoy pleasure exempt from care and fear?  Thus we see that for the body’s nature few things are needed – only such things as take away pain.  Although at times luxuries can provide us many choice delights, Nature for her part does not need them, and never misses it when there are no golden images of youths throughout the house, holding in their right hands flaming lamps to light the nightly banquet, or when the house does not shine with silver or glitter with gold, or when there are no paneled and gilded roofs to echo the sound of harp.  Men who lack such things are just as happy when they spread themselves in groups on soft grass beside a stream of water under the limbs of a high tree, and at no great cost pleasantly refresh their bodies, especially when the weather smiles and the seasons sprinkle the green grass with flowers.  Nor does fever leave the body any sooner if you toss about under an elegant bedspread amid bright purple linens than if you must lie under a poor man’s blanket.  Since treasure is of no avail to the body, any more than is high birth or the glory of kingly power, by this we see that treasure and high birth are of no service to the mind either.  In the same way, when you see your legions swarm over the battleground, strengthened front and rear by powerful reserves and great force of cavalry, and when you marshal them together well armed and in high spirits, do you find that these scare away the fears of religion, and that those fears fly panic-stricken from your mind?  Or do you find that when you see your navy sail forth and spread itself far and wide over the waters, does that drive away the fear of death and leave your heart untroubled and free from care?  But we see that this is laughable, because in truth the real fears and cares of men do not run from the clash of arms and weapons.  If these same fears trouble kings and caesars, and if their fears are not quieted by the glitter of gold or the brilliant sheen of the purple robe, how can you suspect that these matters can be resolved by reason alone, when the whole of life is a struggle in the dark?

Vatican Saying 8: The wealth required by Nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.

NewEpicurean Commentary: The desires that Nature reasonably establishes for us are easy to obtain, but the desires that exceed the benchmark of what is reasonable are all-consuming and insatiable.

16.  Chance only rarely intrudes into the lives of wise men, because wise men direct the greatest and most important matters of life by the power of reason.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  In but few things chance hinders a wise man, but the greatest and most important matters reason has ordained and throughout the whole period of life does and will ordain.  Yonge:  In but few things chance hinders a wise man, but the greatest and most important matters reason has ordained and throughout the whole period of life does and will ordain.

Letter to Menoeceus: The wise man laughs at the idea of “Fate”, which some set up as the mistress of all things, because the wise man understands that while some things do happen by chance, most things happen due to our own actions. The wise man sees that Fate or Necessity cannot exist if men are truly free, and he also sees that Fortune is not in constant control of the lives of men. But the wise man sees that our actions are free, and because they are free, our actions are our own responsibility, and we deserve either blame or praise for them.  It would therefore be better to believe in the fables that are told about the gods than to be a slave to the idea of Fate or Necessity as put forth by false philosophers. At least the fables which are told about the gods hold out to us the possibility that we may avert the gods’ wrath by paying them honor. The false philosophers, on the other hand, present us with no hope of control over our own lives, and no escape from an inexorable Fate.  In the same way, the wise man does not consider Fortune to be a goddess, as some men esteem her to be, for the wise man knows that nothing is done at random by a god. Nor does he consider that such randomness as may exist renders all events of life impossible to predict. Likewise, he does not believe that the gods give chance events to men so as to make them live happily. The wise man understands that while chance may lead to great good, it may also lead to great evil, and he therefore thinks it to be better to be unsuccessful when acting in accord with reason than to be successful by chance when acting as a fool.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: This same principle leads us also to pronounce that Temperance is not desirable for its own sake, but because it bestows peace of mind, and soothes the heart with a calming sense of harmony. For it is temperance that warns us to be guided by reason in what we desire and in what we choose to avoid.  Nor is it enough to judge what it is right to do or leave undone, we must also take action according to our judgment. Most men, however, lack tenacity of purpose. Their resolution weakens and succumbs as soon as the fair form of pleasure meets their gaze, and they surrender themselves prisoner to their passions, failing to foresee the inevitable result. Thus for the sake of small and unnecessary pleasures, which they might have obtained by other means or even denied themselves altogether without pain, they incur serious disease, loss of fortune, or disgrace, and often become liable to the penalties of the law and of the courts of justice.  Other men, however, resolve to enjoy their pleasures so as to avoid all painful consequences, they retain their sense of judgment, and they avoid being seduced by pleasure into courses that they see to be wrong. Such men reap the very highest pleasure by forgoing other pleasures. In a similar way, wise men voluntarily endure certain pains to avoid incurring greater pain by not doing so. This clearly shows us that temperance is not desirable for its own sake. Instead, temperance is desirable, not because it renounces pleasures, but because it produces greater pleasures.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: It was a central doctrine of Epicurus that “the Wise Man is but little interfered with by fortune. The great concerns of life, the things that matter, are controlled by his own wisdom and reason.”

Vatican Saying 47: I have anticipated thee, Fortune, and entrenched myself against all thy secret attacks.  And I will not give myself up as captive to thee or to any other circumstance; but when it is time for me to go, spitting contempt on life and on those who vainly cling to it, I will leave life crying aloud a glorious triumph-song that I have lived well.

NewEpicurean Commentary: The wise man does not seek after good luck, but knows that some unhappy events in life are accidental and unavoidable, while at the same time generally few and rare.  By living a life according to reason and Nature you can expect to obtain the true and essential happiness that is important as the goal of life, and in so doing you will avoid unnecessary turmoil.

17.  The man who is just is, of all men, the most free from trouble, but the unjust man is a perpetual prey to turmoil.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  The just man is most free from trouble; the unjust most full of trouble.  Yonge:  The just man is most free from trouble; the unjust most full of trouble

Vatican Saying 12: The just man is most free from disturbance, while the unjust is full of the utmost disturbance.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: It remains to speak of Justice to complete the list of the virtues. But justice admits of practically the same explanation as the others. I have already shown that Wisdom, Temperance and Courage are so closely linked with happiness that they cannot possibly be severed from it. The same must be deemed to be the case with Justice. Not only does Justice never cause anyone harm, but on the contrary it always brings some benefit, partly because of its calming influence on the mind, and partly because of the hope that it provides of never-failing access to the things that one’s uncorrupted nature really needs. And just as Rashness, License and Cowardice are always tormenting the mind, always awakening trouble and discord, so Unrighteousness, when firmly rooted in the heart, causes restlessness by the mere fact of its presence. Once unrighteousness has found expression in some deed of wickedness, no matter how secret the act may appear, it can never be free of the fear that it will one day be detected. The usual consequences of crime are suspicion, gossip, and rumor — after that comes the accuser, then the judge. Many wrongdoers even turn evidence against themselves ….. And even if any transgressors think themselves to be well fortified against detection by their fellow men, they still dread the eye of heaven, and fancy that the pangs of anxiety that night and day gnaw at their hearts are sent by Providence to punish them. So in what way can wickedness be thought to be worthwhile, in view of its effect in increasing the distresses of life by bringing with it the burden of a guilty conscience, the penalties of the law, and the hatred of one’s fellow men?

NewEpicurean Commentary: Living one’s life justly is the best way to avoid turmoil, as he who is unjust is perpetually prey to fear that his unjustness will be found out.

18.  Once the pain arising from need is removed, physical pleasure is not increased, and only varies in another direction.The essential happiness of the soul depends on understanding this, and on understanding the nature of similar questions which cause great concern to the mind.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  The pleasure in the flesh is not increased when once the pain due to want is removed, but is only varied;  and the limit as regards pleasure in the mind is begotten by the reasoned understanding of these very pleasures and of the emotions akin to them which used to cause the greatest fear to the mind.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: A man who is living and conscious of his condition at all necessarily feels either pleasure or pain. Epicurus holds that the experience of the complete absence of all pain is the highest point, or the “limit,” of pleasure. Beyond this point, pleasure may vary in kind, but it does not vary in intensity or degree.

NewEpicurean Comment: Once pain arising from need has been removed, bodily pleasure does not increase in intensity — the body merely turns to other pleasures.  It is critical to happiness in life that one reflect on and understand the benchmarks, limits, and boundaries that Nature has set.  If desires are allowed to go unrestrained then we are defying the limits set by Nature, and defying Nature leads to the worst terrors and anxieties of life.

19.  If we measure the limits of pleasure by reason, infinite and finite time both provide the opportunity for complete pleasure.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Infinite time contains no greater pleasure than limited time, if one measures by reason the limits of pleasure.  Strodach:  Infinite time contains no greater pleasure than does finite time, if one determines the limits of pleasure rationally.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Epicurus also taught that “No greater pleasure could be derived from a life of infinite duration, than is actually afforded by this existence, which we know to be finite.”

Vatican Saying 22: Unlimited time and limited time afford an equal amount of pleasure, if we measure the limits of that pleasure by reason.

NewEpicurean Commentary: The universe is eternal and infinite in space, but Nature provides that only certain things and events are possible.  Nature provides a limited life span for a single human consciousness, and although time goes on without end, a human consciousness can experience only so much, even though time is infinite.  The limit of the amount of pleasure that can be experienced by a single human is thus set by Nature, and if we recognize that limit we see that we need not be concerned about obtaining more time than Nature has provided.

20.  We assume that physical pleasure is unlimited, and that unlimited time is required to procure it.  But through understanding the natural goals and limits of the body, and by dissolving the fear of eternity, we produce a complete life that has no need of infinite time.  The wise man neither flees enjoyment, nor, when events cause him to exit from life, does he look back as if he has missed any essential aspect of life.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  The flesh perceives the limits of pleasure as unlimited and unlimited time is required to supply it.  But the mind, having attained a reasoned understanding of the ultimate good of the flesh and its limits and having dissipated the fears concerning the time to come, supplies us with the complete life, and we have no further need of infinite time.  But neither does the mind shun pleasure, nor when circumstances begin to bring about the departure from life, does it approach its end as though it fell short in any way of the best life.  Strodach:  The body takes the limits of pleasure to be infinite, and infinite time would provide such pleasure.  But the mind has provided us with the complete life by a rational examination of the body’s goals and limitations and by dispelling our fears about a life after death, and so we no longer need unlimited time.  On the other hand, [the mind] does not avoid pleasure, nor, when conditions occasion our departure from life, does it come to the end in a manner that would suggest that it had fallen short in any way of the best possible existence.

Letter to Menoeceus: Many people, however, flee from death as if it were the greatest of evils, while at other times these same people wish for death as a rest from the evils of life. But the wise man embraces life, and he does not fear death, for life affords the opportunity for happiness, and the wise man does not consider the mere absence of life to be an evil. Just as he chooses food not according to what is most abundant, but according to what is best; so too, the wise man does not seek to live the life that is the longest, but the happiest.  And so he who advises a young man to live well, and an old man to die well, is a simpleton, not only because life is desirable for both the young and the old, but also because the wisdom to live well is the same as the wisdom to die well.  Equally wrong was the man who said: ‘Tis well not to be born, but when born, tis well to pass with quickness to the gates of Death.’ If this was really his opinion, why then did he not end his own life? For it was easily in his power to do so, if this was really his belief. But if this man was joking, then he was talking foolishly in a case where foolishness ought not be allowed.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Bodily pleasures seem unlimited, and so the body seems to wish to live forever.  But the mind, recognizing that Nature does not allow the body to live forever, and recognizing that there is nothing to fear in the eternal time after death, guides us to a complete and optimal life, and we then realize that we no longer have the need for an unlimited time.  Even though the mind enjoys pleasure, the mind does not feel remorse when the end of life approaches, so long as the mind has led the person to live the best life possible to him according to Nature.

21.  He who is acquainted with the natural limits of life understands that those things that remove the pain that arises from need, and those things which make the whole of life complete, are easily obtainable, and that he has no need of those things that can only be attained with trouble.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  He who has learned the limits of life knows that that which removes the pain due to want and makes the whole of life complete is easy to obtain; so that there is no need of actions which involve competition.  Strodach:  One who understands the limits of the good life knows that what eliminates the pains brought on by need and what makes the whole of life perfect is easily obtained, so that there is no need for enterprises that entail the struggle for success.

NewEpicurean Commentary: An understanding of Nature leads us to see that the things which Nature requires — those things that remove physical pain — are easy to obtain, and are all that are needed to furnish a complete and optimal life.  Thus the man who understands the laws of Nature no longer desires those things which are more trouble to obtain than they are worth.

22.  We must keep in mind the conceptions established by reality and the evidence provided by our senses, and to those we must refer all our opinions, otherwise all things in life will be full of confusion and doubt.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  We must consider both the real purpose and all the evidence of direct perception, to which we always refer the conclusions of opinion, otherwise all will be full of doubt and confusion.  Strodach:   It is necessary to take into account both the actual goal of life and the whole body of clear and distinct percepts to which we refer our judgments.  If we fail to do this, everything will be in disorder and confusion.

Diogenes Laertius: In regard to the five senses, [Epicurus states] that the senses themselves are devoid of reason, and they are not capable of receiving any impressions from memory. For they are not by themselves the cause of any impression, and when they have received any impression from any external cause, they can add nothing to it, nor can they subtract anything from it. Moreover, they are not within the control of the other senses; for one sense cannot judge another, as all observations have an equal value, and their objects are not identical. In other words, one sensation cannot control another, since the effects of all of them influence us equally. Also, reason by itself cannot pronounce judgment on the senses; for … all reasoning rests on the senses for its foundation. Reality and the evidence provided by the senses establish the certainty of our faculties; for the impressions of sight and hearing are just as real, just as evident, as pain.  It follows from these considerations that we should judge those things which are obscure by their analogy to those things which we perceive directly. In fact, every notion proceeds from the evidence provided by the senses, either directly, or as a result of some analogy, or proportion, or combination to that which we do perceive directly, reasoning always participating in these operations.

In regard to the preconceptions, Epicurus meant a sort of comprehension, or right opinion, or notion, or general idea which exists within us. In other words, a preconception is a kind of mental recollection of an external object that we experience before we perceive it. For instance, one example is the idea: “Man is a being of such and such Nature.” At the same moment that we utter the word man, we conceive the figure of a man, in virtue of a preconception which we owe to the preceding operations of the senses. [An anticipation is] therefore the first notion which each word awakens within us …. In fact, we could not seek for anything if we did not previously have some notion about it. To enable us to affirm that what we see at a distance is a horse or an ox, we must have some preconception in our minds which makes us acquainted with the form of a horse and an ox. We could not even give names to things, if we did not have a preliminary notion of what the things were.  These preconceptions then furnish us with certainty. And with respect to judgments, their certainty depends on our referring them to some previous notion which has already been established to be certain. This is how we affirm or judge the answer to any question; for instance, “How do we know whether this thing is a man?”

Letter to Herodotus: First of all, Herodotus, one must determine with exactness the meaning and concept behind every word so that we are able to refer to that concept as an established standard as we pursue our research. Otherwise, the judgments that we reach will have no foundation, and we will go on studying to infinity without understanding, because we will be using words devoid of meaning. In fact, it is absolutely necessary that we grasp directly the fundamental concept which each word expresses, without need of reminder, if we are to have a standard on which to rest all our investigations. In order to do this we must keep all our investigations in accord with and reconciled to the evidence from our senses, especially in those matters in which our minds have grasped a clear view and reached a firm judgment. We must do this so we may identify that point in the examination where we find it necessary to reserve judgment as to the truth of a matter, which will occur when we do not have immediately perceptible to us sufficient evidence to form a clear determination.

Letter to Pythocles: The regular and periodic march of the heavenly phenomena has nothing in it that would surprise us if we would only pay attention to the analogous facts which take place here on earth under our own eyes. Above all things, let us beware against making a god interpose itself here, for we ought always to consider a god to be exempt from all toil and perfectly happy. Otherwise we shall find ourselves giving vain explanations to the heavenly phenomena, as has happened already to a crowd of philosophers. Because they do not recognize what is really possible and what is not, they have fallen into vain theories, supposing that for all phenomena there is but one single mode of production, and rejecting all other explanations which are also founded on probability. They have adopted the most unreasonable opinions because they failed to place in the forefront of the analysis the evidence of the senses, which ought always to serve as the first basis for explaining all phenomena.

Letter to Pythocles: The thunderbolt may be produced either by a violent condensation of the winds, or by their rapid motion and collisions. …. In short, one may give a number of explanations of the thunderbolt. Above all things we must always be on guard against fables, and fables will easily be avoided if one follows faithfully the phenomena that are observed directly in searching for the explanation of those things which are only perceived indirectly.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book I: But now to resume the thread of the design that I am weaving in verse: all nature then, as it exists by itself, is founded on two things: there are bodies and there is void in which these bodies are placed and through which they move about.  For that material things exist is declared by the general acknowledgement of mankind.  Unless, at the very first, our conviction of this is firmly grounded, there will be nothing to which we can appeal in regard to things that are only perceived indirectly, in order to prove anything by the reasoning of the mind. Then again, if room and space which we call void did not exist, bodies could not be placed anywhere nor move about at all to any side; as we have demonstrated to you already.

NewEpicurean Commentary: The ultimate goal of human life is to live a happy life here on this earth, in this reality, without being deceived that there is some other dimension or other standard for how we should live our lives.  The key to determining the laws of Nature, and how they apply to us, is to refer all questions to our senses, and to make sure that all our opinions are consistent with reality as we sense and experience it.  Applying any other standard other than a reasoned understanding of reality as experienced through our senses will lead to a life full of confusion and turmoil.

23.  If we resist the senses, we have nothing left to which we can refer, or by which we may judge, the falsehood of the senses which we condemn.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  If you fight against all sensations you will have no standard by which to judge even those of them which you say are false.  Strodach:  If you reject all sensations, you will not have any point of reference by which to judge even the ones you claim are false.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura Book IV: [I] f a man contends that nothing can be known, he knows not whether this contention itself can be known, since he admits that he knows nothing. I will therefore decline to argue the question against him who places his head where his feet should be. And yet granting that this man knows his contention to be true, I would still ask this question: Since he has never yet seen any truth in any thing, how does he know what “knowing” and “not knowing” are? What has produced his knowledge of the difference between the true and the false, and between the doubtful and the certain?  You will find that all knowledge of the true comes from the senses, and that the senses cannot be refuted. For anything which on its own can distinguish that which is false from that which is true must by nature possess a higher certainty than the thing which it judges.  Well, then, what can fairly be accounted of higher certainty than the senses? Shall reasoning alone be able to contradict the sensations? No, not when reasoning is itself wholly reliant on the senses for its accuracy. If the evidence of the senses is not true, then all reasoning based on that evidence is rendered false. Are the ears able to take the eyes to task, or the sense of touch take the ears to task? Shall the sense of taste or smell or vision call into question the sense of touch? No, for each sense has its own separate and distinct office and power. … It therefore follows that no sense can refute any other. Nor can any sense take itself to task, since equal credit must be assigned to the evidence it produces at all times. What has at any time appeared true to each sense must be taken as a true sensation.

At times you may experience sensations which your reason is unable to explain – for example, why a tower close at hand is seen to be square, but when seen at a distance appears round. In such cases it is better, if you are at a loss for a reason to explain this, to admit that you do not know the truth of the matter, rather than to accept an explanation that makes no sense. If you accept as true a possibility that contradicts your senses, you have set the stage to let slip from your grasp all those other things which you know to be manifestly true. In so doing you will ruin the groundwork of all your beliefs, and wrench up all the foundations on which life and existence rest. For not only would all reason give way, but life itself would fall to the ground, unless you pursue the truth and choose to trust the senses, shunning the steep cliffs of life that must be avoided. All that host of words drawn out in array against the senses is quite without meaning.  If, in the construction of a building, the measuring stick first applied by the builder is crooked, or his square is untrue and swerves from its straight lines, or if there is the slightest hitch in any part of his level, all the construction will turn out to be faulty, crooked, sloping, leaning forward or backward, without symmetry, so that some parts seem ready to fall, and others do fall, all ruined by the first erroneous measurements. So too, all reasoning of things which is not founded on the senses will prove to be distorted and false.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book I: To say that all things are fire, and that nothing really exists except fire, as one philosopher does, is clearly sheer insanity.  For this man takes his stand on the side of the senses at the same time that he fights against the senses.  His argument challenges the authority of the senses, on which rests all our convictions, even his own belief about this fire (as he calls it) that is known only to himself.  For what he is saying is that he believes that the senses can truly perceive fire, but he does not believe they can perceive all other things, which are not a bit less clear!  Now this is clearly as false as it is foolish, for to what shall we appeal to resolve the question?  What more certain test can we apply but that of the senses to judge truth and falsehood?  Why should anyone choose to abolish all other things and choose to leave only fire?  Why not abolish fire, and hold that nature is composed of all other things?  It would be equal madness to affirm either one or the other position.

Letter to Herodotus: [As we move to the consideration of phenomena such as the nature of sight and images], we must consider that there may be [various] manners in which things of this kind are produced. But we must never accept anything in these various possibilities which at all contradicts the senses, and [in evaluating these things] we must consider in what way the senses are exercised and the relationship that is established between the external objects we observe and ourselves.

24.  If you reject any single sensation and fail to distinguish between the conclusion of opinion as to the appearance awaiting confirmation and that which is actually given by the sensation or feeling, or each intuitive apprehension of the mind, you will confound all other sensations as well with the same groundless opinion, so that you will reject every standard of judgment. And if among the mental images created by your opinion you affirm both that which awaits confirmation and that which does not, you will not escape error, since you will have preserved the whole cause of doubt in every judgment between what is right and what is wrong.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  If you reject any single sensation and fail to distinguish between the conclusion of opinion as to the appearance awaiting confirmation and that which is actually given by the sensation or feeling, or each intuitive apprehension of the mind, you will confound all other sensations as well with the same groundless opinion, so that you will reject every standard of judgment.  And if among the mental images created by your opinion you affirm both that which awaits confirmation and that which does not, you will not escape error, since you will have preserved the whole cause of doubt in every judgment between what is right and what is wrong.  Strodach:  If you summarily rule out any single sensation and do not make a distinction between the element of belief that is superimposed on a percept that awaits verification and what is actually present in sensation or in the feelings or some precept of the mind itself, you will cast doubt on all other sensations by your unfounded interpretation and consequently abandon all the criteria of truth.  On the other hand, in cases of interpreted data, if you accept as true those that need verification as well as those that do not, you will still be in error, since the whole question at issue in every judgment of what is true or not true will be left intact.

Letter to Herodotus: [We must also consider] the possibility of error and false judgments. These arise due to our supposing that a preconceived idea will be confirmed, or at any event will not be overturned, by additional evidence when we receive it. Falsehood and error arise when we form an opinion prematurely, without waiting for additional evidence to confirm or to contradict our conclusion before reaching it. [We must always recognize that] the representations we receive from images have been received by our intelligence like reflections from a mirror, whether those images are perceived in a dream or through any other conceptions of the mind or the senses. But [we cannot conclude that] these representations resemble the objects from which they came closely enough so that we can call them real and true unless we are examining objects that we perceive directly. Error arises when we receive impressions which our minds accept as a direct representation but which in fact are not. In such cases, due to considerations that are unique to ourselves, our minds mistakenly take these indirect perceptions and form conceptions which go beyond the reality of the actual object. Error results when our minds reach conclusions based on evidence that is not confirmed, or is contradictory, rather than based on evidence that we directly observe to be confirmed and uncontradicted.

We must carefully preserve these principles so that we will not reject the authority of our faculties when we perceive truth directly. We must also observe these principles so that we will not allow our minds to believe that what is false or what is speculative has been established with equal firmness with what is true, because this results in everything being thrown into confusion. If you simply reject any sensory experience which you believe to be incorrect, and you fail to reason and integrate those sensations which appear to conflict with those you know to be true, you will introduce a fundamental error into your logic that will lead you to be unable to separate true from false.  Also, is a blunder to consider that some theory that is untested, and not proven to conform with reality, has the same status of truth as other knowledge which you know to be true, and which has been proven to be consistent with reality.  This latter error is a blunder because you will then introduce doubt into your reasoning and lose the ability to distinguish the true from the false in everything.

25. If on each occasion, instead of referring your actions to the end of nature, you turn to some other nearer standard when you are making a choice or an avoidance, your actions will not be consistent with your principles.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book IV: Many are the marvels … we see which seek to shake the credit of the senses. But such efforts are quite in vain, since the greatest part of these cases deceive us on account of the opinions which we add ourselves, taking things as seen which have not been seen by the senses. For nothing is harder than to separate those facts that are clearly true from those that are doubtful which the mind adds itself.

Diogenes Laertius: The Epicureans refer to ‘opinion’ as supposition, and say that it is at times true, and at times false. An opinion which is supported by evidence, and is not contradicted by other evidence is true. An opinion which is not supported by evidence, and is contradicted by other evidence, is false. On this account they have introduced the expression of “waiting,” such as when, before pronouncing that a thing seen is a tower, we must wait until we approach it, and learn what it looks like when we are nearby.

NewEpicurean Commentary: If you allow yourself to think that speculations which are not grounded in reality (such as speculations about the heavens or about infinity, subjects which you do not have the ability to verify) are of equal authority with deductive reasoning grounded in direct evidence (such as observations about things close at hand that you know to be true by experience) you will surely fall into error, because you will be confusing what is speculative with what is certain.

26. Of desires, all that do not lead to a sense of pain, if they are not satisfied, are not necessary, but involve a craving which is easily dispelled, when the object is hard to procure or they seem likely to produce harm.

Alternate Translations:  Yonge: All such desires as lead to no pain when they remain ungratified are unnecessary, and the longing is easily got rid of, when the thing desired is difficult to procure or when the desires seem likely to produce harm.  Hicks:  All such desires as lead to no pain when they remain ungratified are unnecessary, and the longing is easily got rid of, when the thing desired is difficult to procure or when the desires seem likely to produce harm.  

NewEpicurean Commentary:  This is not a command to pursue only necessary pleasures, but a statement that those which are not necessary are harder to obtain.

27.  Of all the things which the wise man seeks to acquire to produce the happiness of a complete life, by far the most important is the possession of friendship.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Of all the things which wisdom acquires to produce the blessedness of the complete life, far the greatest is the possession of friendship.  Strodach:  Of all the things that wisdom provides for the happiness of the whole man, by far the most important is the acquisition of friendship.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: There remains a topic that is supremely relevant to this discussion – the subject of Friendship. Your [Platonic] school maintains that if pleasure is held to be the Chief Good, friendship will cease to exist. In contrast, Epicurus has pronounced in regard to friendship that of all the means to happiness that wisdom has devised, none is greater, none is more fruitful, none is more delightful than friendship. Not only did Epicurus commend the importance of friendship through his words, but far more, through the example of his life and his conduct. How rare and great friendship is can be seen in the mythical stories of antiquity. Review the legends from the remotest of ages, and, many and varied as they are, you will barely find in them three pairs of friends, beginning with Theseus and ending with Orestes. Yet Epicurus in a single house (and a small one at that) maintained a whole company of friends, united by the closest sympathy and affection, and this still goes on today in the Epicurean school.  … The Epicureans maintain that friendship can no more be separated from pleasure than can the virtues, which we have discussed already. A solitary, friendless life is necessarily beset by secret dangers and alarms. Hence reason itself advises the acquisition of friends. The possession of friends gives confidence and a firmly rooted hope of winning pleasure. And just as hatred, jealousy and contempt are hindrances to pleasure, so friendship is the most trustworthy preserver and also creator of pleasure for both our friends and for ourselves. Friendship affords us enjoyment in the present, and it inspires us with hope for the near and distant future.

Thus it is not possible to secure uninterrupted gratification in life without friendship, nor to preserve friendship itself unless we love our friends as much as ourselves. … For we rejoice in our friends’ joy as much as in our own, and we are equally pained by their sorrows. Therefore the wise man will feel exactly the same towards his friends as he does towards himself, and he will exert himself as much for his friend’s pleasure as he would for his own. All that has been said about the essential connection of the virtues with pleasure must be repeated about friendship. Epicurus well said (and I give almost his exact words): “The same creed that has given us courage to overcome all fear of everlasting or long-enduring evil after death has discerned that friendship is our strongest safeguard in this present term of life.  … All these considerations go to prove not only that the rationale of friendship is not impaired by the identification of the chief good with pleasure, but, in fact, without this, no foundation for friendship whatsoever can be found.”

Vatican Saying 78: The noble soul occupies itself with wisdom and friendship; of these the one is a mortal good, the other immortal.

28.  The same opinion that encourages us to trust that no evil will be everlasting, or even of long duration, shows us that in the space of life allotted to us the protection of friendship is the most sure and trustworthy.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  The same conviction which has given us confidence that there is nothing terrible that lasts forever or even for long has also seen the protection of friendship most fully completed in the limited evils of this life.  Yonge: Of all the things which wisdom provides for the happiness of the whole life, by far the  most important is the acquisition of friendship.  Strodach:  It is the same judgment that has made us feel confident that nothing fearful is of long duration or everlasting, and that has seen personal security during our limited span of life most nearly perfected by friendship.

NewEpicurean Commentary: A firm understanding of the Nature of things allows us to see that nothing terrible lasts forever, or even for a long time, and it also allows us to see that nothing enhances our security so much as does friendship.

29.  Of the desires, some are natural and necessary, some are natural but not necessary, and some are neither natural nor necessary, but owe their existence to vain imagination.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Among desires some are natural (and necessary, some natural) but not necessary, and others neither natural nor necessary, but due to idle imagination.

Vatican Saying 20: Of our desires some are natural and necessary, others are natural but not necessary; and others are neither natural nor necessary, but are due to groundless opinion.

NewEpicurean Commentary: You will more easily keep reason in charge of your desires if you remember that some desires are both natural and necessary, some are natural but not necessary, and some are neither natural nor necessary but purely the result of illusions that we pick up from other people.

30.  In the case of physical desires which require intense effort to attain and do not lead to a sense of pain if they are not fulfilled, such desires are due to idle imagination.  It is not because of their own nature that they fail to be dispelled, but because of the empty imaginings of the man.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Wherever in the case of desires which are physical, but do not lead to a sense of pain if they are not fulfilled,  the effort is intense, such pleasures are due to idle imagination, and it is not owing to their nature that they fail to be dispelled, but owing to the empty imaginings of the man.

Letter to Menoeceus: But although happiness is the first and a natural good, for this same reason we do not choose every pleasure whatsoever, but at many times we pass over certain pleasures when difficulty is likely to ensue from choosing them. Likewise, we think that certain pains are better than some pleasures, when a greater pleasure will follow them, even if we first endure pain for time.  Every Pleasure is therefore by its own Nature a good, but it does not follow that every pleasure is worthy of being chosen, just as every pain is an evil, and yet every pain must not be avoided. Nature requires that we resolve all these matters by measuring and reasoning whether the ultimate result is suitable or unsuitable to bringing about a happy life; for at times we may determine that what appears to be good is in fact an evil, and at other times we may determine that what appears to be evil is in fact a good.

Vatican Saying 21: We must not violate nature, but obey her; and we shall obey her if we fulfill those desires that are necessary, and also those that are natural but bring no harm to us, but we must sternly reject those that are harmful.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: First, the natural ends of good and evil, that is, pleasure and pain, are not open to mistake. Where people go wrong is in not knowing what things are in fact productive of pleasure and pain.

NewEpicurean Commentary: The illusory desires that we pick up from other people include some desires that are natural, but would not create any pain if not fulfilled.  Such desires can be overcome by acknowledging that they are difficult to gratify or likely to produce harm greater than achieving the desire is worth.

31.  Natural justice arises from a covenant between men for their mutual advantage to refrain from harming one another.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  The justice which arises from nature is a pledge of mutual advantage to restrain men from harming one another and save them from being harmed.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: It remains to speak of Justice to complete the list of the virtues. But justice admits of practically the same explanation as the others. I have already shown that Wisdom, Temperance and Courage are so closely linked with happiness that they cannot possibly be severed from it. The same must be deemed to be the case with Justice. Not only does Justice never cause anyone harm, but on the contrary it always brings some benefit, partly because of its calming influence on the mind, and partly because of the hope that it provides of never-failing access to the things that one’s uncorrupted nature really needs. And just as Rashness, License and Cowardice are always tormenting the mind, always awakening trouble and discord, so Unrighteousness, when firmly rooted in the heart, causes restlessness by the mere fact of its presence. Once unrighteousness has found expression in some deed of wickedness, no matter how secret the act may appear, it can never be free of the fear that it will one day be detected.  The usual consequences of crime are suspicion, gossip, and rumor – after that comes the accuser, then the judge. Many wrongdoers even turn evidence against themselves …..

And even if any transgressors think themselves to be well fortified against detection by their fellow men, they still dread the eye of heaven, and fancy that the pangs of anxiety that night and day gnaw at their hearts are sent by Providence to punish them.  So in what way can wickedness be thought to be worthwhile, in view of its effect in increasing the distresses of life by bringing with it the burden of a guilty conscience, the penalties of the law, and the hatred of one’s fellow men?” Nevertheless, some men indulge without limit their avarice, ambition, love of power, lust, gluttony, and those other desires which ill-gotten gains can never diminish, but rather inflame. Such men are the proper subjects for restraint, rather than for reformation.  Men of sound natures, therefore, are summoned by the voice of true reason to justice, equity, and honesty. For those without eloquence or resources, dishonesty is not a good policy, since it is difficult for such a man to succeed in his designs, or to make good his success once it is achieved. On the other hand, for those who are rich and intelligent, generous conduct seems more appropriate, for liberality wins them affection and good will, the surest means to a life of peace. This is especially true since we see that there is really no need for anyone to transgress, because the desires that spring from Nature are easily gratified without doing wrong to any man, and those desires that are vain and idle can be resisted by observing that they set their sights on nothing that is really desirable, and that there is more loss inherent in injustice than there is profit in the gains that it may bring for a time.

NewEpicurean Commentary: The concept of “justice” derives from the mutual advantage that comes from an agreement not to inflict or allow harm.

32.  For those living things that are unable to enter into a covenant to refrain from harming one another, nothing is just or unjust, and this applies also to those men who are either unwilling or unable to enter into such a covenant.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:   For all living things which have not been able to make compacts not to harm one another or be harmed, nothing is either just or unjust, and likewise too for all tribes of men which have been unable or unwilling to make compacts not to harm or be harmed.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Nevertheless, some men indulge without limit their avarice, ambition, love of power, lust, gluttony, and those other desires which ill-gotten gains can never diminish, but rather inflame. Such men are the proper subjects for restraint, rather than for reformation.

NewEpicurean Commentary: There is no concept of justice or injustice between living creatures that are incapable of making agreements not to harm one another, and this includes men who are unable or unwilling to make such agreements.  For a related application of this concept, see the discussion in Porphyry of the Epicurean view attributed to Hermarchus as to the propriety of using animals for food.

33.  Justice has no independent existence, but results only from the agreement of men to enter mutual covenants to refrain from harming one another.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Justice never is anything in itself, but in the dealings of men with one another in any place whatever and at any time it is a kind of compact not to harm or to be harmed.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Pleasure and pain therefore supply the motives and the principles of choice and of avoidance, and thus they are the springs of conduct generally. This being so, it clearly follows that actions are right and praiseworthy only to the extent that they are productive of a life of happiness. But something which is not itself a means to obtain anything else, but to which all other things are but the means by which it is to be acquired, is what the Greeks term the highest, or final good. It must therefore be admitted that the chief good of man is to live happily.  Those who place the chief good in “virtue” alone are beguiled by the glamor of a name, and they do not understand the true demands of Nature. If they will but consent to listen to Epicurus, they will be delivered from the grossest error. Your school waxes eloquently on the supposedly transcendent beauty of the “virtues.” But were they not productive of pleasure, who would deem the virtues either praiseworthy or desirable? We value the art of medicine not for its interest as a science, but because it produces health. We commend the art of navigation for its practical, and not its scientific value, because it conveys the rules for sailing a ship with success. So also Wisdom, which must be considered as the art of living, would not be desired if it produced no result. As it is, however, wisdom is desired, because it is the craftsman that produces and procures pleasure. The meaning that I attach to pleasure and happiness must by this time be clear to you, and you must no longer be biased against my argument due to the discreditable associations that others have attached to the terms.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: As with the other virtues, Justice cannot correctly be said to be desirable in and of itself. Here again, Justice is desirable because it is so highly productive of gratification. Esteem and affection are gratifying because they render life safer and happier. Thus we hold that injustice is to be avoided not simply on account of the disadvantages that result from being unjust, but even more, because when injustice dwells in a man’s heart, it never allows him to breathe freely or to know a moment’s rest.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: Lisping babies, even dumb animals, prompted by Nature’s teaching, can almost find the voice to proclaim to us that in life there is no welfare but pleasure, no hardship but pain – and their judgment in these matters is neither corrupted nor biased.

NewEpicurean Commentary: There is no such thing as “absolute justice.” “Justice” depends entirely on the circumstances of specific mutual agreements among men, made a various times and places, not to inflict or allow harm to each other.

34.  Injustice is not evil in itself; it is evil because fear of not escaping punishment necessarily arises from it.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Injustice is not an evil in itself, but only in consequence of the fear which attaches to the apprehension of being unable to escape those appointed to punish such action.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: The mind possesses nothing within itself on which it can rest as final. Every fear, every sorrow, can be traced back to pain — and there is nothing besides pain which has the capacity to cause either anxiety or distress.

Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: As with the other virtues, Justice cannot correctly be said to be desirable in and of itself. Here again, Justice is desirable because it is so highly productive of gratification. Esteem and affection are gratifying because they render life safer and happier. Thus we hold that injustice is to be avoided not simply on account of the disadvantages that result from being unjust, but even more, because when injustice dwells in a man’s heart, it never allows him to breathe freely or to know a moment’s rest.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Acts of injustice are not evil in themselves, but only because we see that those who have committed the unjust act are never free of the turmoil of fear of suffering punishment for those unjust acts.  This is an application of the rule that the desires of debauched men would not be blameworthy if they in fact procured a happy life.  Ultimately the order of Nature is that all good derives from pleasure, all evil derives from pain.

35.  It is not possible for men who secretly violate a mutual covenant not to harm one another to believe that they will always escape detection.  Even if they have escaped it ten thousand times already, so long as they live they cannot be certain that they will not be detected.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  It is not possible for one who acts in secret contravention of the terms of the compact not to harm or be harmed to be confident that he will escape detection, even if at present he escapes a thousand times.  For up to the time of death it cannot be certain that he will indeed escape.

Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book II: In addition, Cerberus and the Furies are idle tales, and Tartarus as well, belching forth hideous fires from his throat.  Such things have never existed anywhere, and in truth can never exist.  But there is in life a dread of punishment for evil deeds: the prison, the frightful hurling down from the rock, the scourgings, the executioners, the dungeon of the doomed, and the torches.  And even when these do not come, yet the conscience-stricken mind torments itself with fear of the fire and the lash, and sees no end to such punishment fearing that those very evils will be enhanced after death.

Vatican Saying 70: 1.  Let nothing be done in your life which will cause you fear if it becomes known to your neighbor.

NewEpicurean Commentary: One who acts unjustly is not isolated from the punishment of mental turmoil by the thought that he has acted secretly and will not get caught, even if he has gotten away with the unjust act a thousand times before, because up until the moment of death there is no certainty that he will escape detection.

36.  In general, justice is the same for all, for justice is a mutual advantage in the dealings of men with each other, but in different nations and under different circumstances, the application of justice may differ.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  In its general aspect justice is the same for all, for it is a kind of mutual advantage in the dealings of men with one another, but with reference to the individual peculiarities of a country or any other circumstances the same thing does not turn out to be just for all.

NewEpicurean Commentary: The concept of justice is essentially the same for all people insofar as it derives from mutual benefit.  But the details of how justice is applied may vary in particular circumstances.

37.  Among those actions which the law sanctions as just, that which is determined to be of mutual advantage is in fact just whether or not it is universally regarded to be so.  But if a law, once established, is determined not to be mutually advantageous, then it is by nature unjust.  As to those laws which were at first just, but later become unjust, such laws were in fact just for the period in which they were of mutual advantage, at least in the eyes of those who do not confound themselves with empty words, but look to the actual facts.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Among actions which are sanctioned as just by law, that which is proved on examination to be of advantage in the requirements of men’s dealings with one another has the guarantee of justice, whether it is the same for all or not.  But if a man makes a law and it does not turn out to lead to advantage in men’s dealings with each other, then it no longer has the essential nature of justice.  And if the advantage in the matter of justice shifts from one side to the other, but for a while accords with the general concept, it is none the less just for that period in the eyes of those who do not confound themselves with empty sounds but look to the actual facts.  Strodach:  In the case of actions that are legally regarded as just, those that are of tested utility in meeting the needs of human society have the hallmark of justice, whether they turn out to be equally just in all cases or not.  On the other hand, if somebody lays down a law and it does not prove to be of advantage in human relations, then such a law no longer has the true character of justice.  And even if the element of utility should undergo a change after harmonizing for a time with the conception of justice, the law was still just during that period, in the judgment of those who are not confused by meaningless words but who look at the actualities.

Vatican Saying 13: Among the things held to be just by law, whatever is proved to be of advantage in men’s dealings has the stamp of justice, whether or not it be the same for all; but if a man makes a law and it does not prove to be mutually advantageous, then this is no longer just. And if what is mutually advantageous varies and only for a time corresponds to our concept of justice, nevertheless for that time it is just for those who do not trouble themselves about empty words, but look simply at the facts.

NewEpicurean Commentary: Actions that are mutually beneficial are to be considered just whether they are the same for all peoples or not.  Laws that are not mutually advantageous are no longer to be considered just.  Therefore we see that justice can change over time and is dependent on circumstances, not on some absolute other-dimensional standard.

38.  Where actions which were formerly considered to be just under former circumstances are seen not to accord with the general concept of mutual advantage, then they are seen not to have been just.   But actions which were in fact of mutual advantage and therefore just at one time under former circumstances, but cease being of mutual advantage under new circumstances, cease also being just.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  Where, provided the circumstances have not been altered, actions which were considered just have been shown not to accord with the general concept in actual practice, then they are not just.  But where, when circumstances have changed, the same actions which were sanctioned as just no longer lead to advantage, there they were just at the time when they were of advantage for the dealings of fellow-citizens with one another, but subsequently they are no longer just, when no longer of advantage.  Strodach:  In cases where the surrounding conditions are not new and where laws regarded as just have been shown to be inconsistent with the conception of justice in their actual workings, such laws are unjust.  Again, in cases where the circumstances are new and where the same laws, once deemed to be just, are no longer serviceable, the laws in this case were just as long as they were useful to the community of citizens, but later when they were no longer useful they became unjust.

39.  He who desires to live tranquilly without having anything to fear from other men ought to make them his friends.  Those whom he cannot make friends he should at least avoid rendering enemies, and if that is not in his power, he should avoid all dealings with them as much as possible, and keep away from them as far as it is in his interest to do so.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  The man who has best ordered the element of disquiet arising from external circumstances has made those things that he could akin to himself, and the rest at least not alien.  But with all to which he could not do even this, he has refrained from mixing, and has expelled from his life all which it was of advantage to treat thus.  Strodach:   The person who is the most successful in controlling the disturbing elements that come from the outside world has assimilated to himself what he could, and what he could not assimilate he has at least not alienated.  Where he could not do even this, he has disassociated himself or eliminated all that it was expedient to treat in this way.

NewEpicurean Commentary: If you desire to live tranquilly then you ought to make friends with your neighbors. If you cannot make friends of them, you should at least avoid making enemies of them, and if you cannot even do that, you should avoid all dealings with them to the extent possible.

40.  The happiest men are those who have arrived at the point of having nothing to fear from their neighbors.  Such men live with one another most pleasantly, having the firmest grounds of confidence in one another, enjoying the full advantages of friendship, and not lamenting the departure of their dead friends as though they were to be pitied.

Alternate Translations: Bailey:  As many as possess the power to procure complete immunity from their neighbors, these also live most pleasantly with one another, since they have the most certain pledge of security, and after they have enjoyed the fullest intimacy, they do not lament the previous departure of a dead friend as though he were to be pitied.

Vatican Saying 66: Let us show our feeling for our lost friends not by lamentation but by meditation.

NewEpicurean Commentary: The happiest men are those who enjoy the condition of having nothing to fear from those around them.  Such men have the firmest grounds for confidence in one another, and enjoy the full benefits of friendship, and they do not mourn a friend who dies before they do, as there is in such situation no need for pity.

Source: New Epicurean

The “Vatican Collection” of the Sayings of Epicurus

This list, compiled by an unknown author, was discovered in 1888 at the Vatican.  It is reputed to date from the Fourteenth Century, but little beyond this is known about its origin.  The following translation follows that of Cyril Bailey except where noted.

VS1.  A blessed and indestructible being has no trouble himself and brings no trouble upon any other being; so he is free from anger and partiality, for all such things imply weakness.

VS2.  Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into its elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us.

VS3.  Continuous bodily pain does not last long; instead, pain, if extreme, is present a very short time, and even that degree of pain which slightly exceeds bodily pleasure does not last for many days at once. Diseases of long duration allow an excess of bodily pleasure over pain.

VS4.  All bodily suffering is easy to disregard: for that which causes acute pain has short duration, and that which endures long in the flesh causes but mild pain.

VS5.  It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, though he lives honorably and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life.

VS6.  It is impossible for a man who secretly violates the terms of the agreement not to harm or be harmed to feel confident that he will remain undiscovered, even if he has already escaped ten thousand times; for until his death he is never sure that he will not be detected. (see Principal Doctrine 35)

VS7.  It is hard for an evil-doer to escape detection, but to be confident that he will continue to escape detection indefinitely is impossible.

VS8.  The wealth required by Nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.  (see Principal Doctrine 15)

VS9.  Necessity is an evil, but there is no necessity to live under the control of necessity.

VS10.  Remember that you are mortal and have a limited time to live and have devoted yourself to discussions on Nature for all time and eternity and have seen “things that are now and are to come and have been.”

VS11.  For most men rest is stagnation and activity is madness.

VS12.  The just man is most free from disturbance, while the unjust is full of the utmost disturbance.  (See Principal Doctrine 17)

VS13.  Among the things held to be just by law, whatever is proved to be of advantage in men’s dealings has the stamp of justice, whether or not it be the same for all; but if a man makes a law and it does not prove to be mutually advantageous, then this is no longer just. And if what is mutually advantageous varies and only for a time corresponds to our concept of justice, nevertheless for that time it is just for those who do not trouble themselves about empty words, but look simply at the facts.  (see Principal Doctrine 37)

VS14.  We are born once and cannot be born twice, but for all time must be no more.  But you, who are not master of tomorrow, postpone your happiness.  Life is wasted in procrastination and each one of us dies without allowing himself leisure.

VS15.  We value our characters as something peculiar to ourselves, whether they are good and we are esteemed by men or not, so ought we value the characters of others, if they are well-disposed to us.

VS16.  No one when he sees evil deliberately chooses it, but is enticed by it as being good in comparison with a greater evil and so pursues it.

VS17.  It is not the young man who should be thought happy, but the old man who has lived a good life.  For the young man at the height of his powers is unstable and is carried this way and that by fortune, like a headlong stream.  But the old man has come to anchor in old age as though in port, and the good things for which before he hardly hoped he has brought into safe harbor in his grateful recollections.

VS18.  Remove sight, association, and contact, and the passion of love is at an end.

VS19.  Forgetting the good that has been, he has become old this very day.

VS20.  Of our desires some are natural and necessary, others are natural but not necessary; and others are neither natural nor necessary, but are due to groundless opinion.  (see Principal Doctrine 29)

VS21.  We must not violate nature, but obey her; and we shall obey her if we fulfil those desires that are necessary, and also those that are natural but bring no harm to us, but we must sternly reject those that are harmful.  (Note:  The translation by Peter St. Andre, found here, is “Nature must be persuaded, not forced. And we will persuade nature by fulfilling the necessary desires, and the natural desires too if they cause no harm, but sharply rejecting the harmful desires.”  The St. Andre translation comports more closely with that followed by DeWitt in Epicurus and His Philosophy.)

VS22.  Unlimited time and limited time afford an equal amount of pleasure, if we measure the limits of that pleasure by reason.  (see Principal Doctrine 19)

VS23.  All friendship is desirable in itself, though it starts from the need of help.

VS24.  Dreams have no divine character nor any prophetic force, but they originate from the influx of images.

VS25.  Poverty, when measured by the natural purpose of life, is great wealth, but unlimited wealth is great poverty.

VS26.  You must understand that whether the discourse be long or short it tends to the same end.

VS27.  In all other occupations the fruit comes painfully after completion, but in philosophy pleasure goes hand in hand with knowledge; for enjoyment does not follow comprehension, but comprehension and enjoyment are simultaneous.

VS28.  We must not approve either those who are always ready for friendship, or those who hang back, but for friendship’s sake we must run risks.

VS29.  In investigating nature I would prefer to speak openly and like an oracle to give answers serviceable to all mankind, even though no one should understand me, rather than to conform to popular opinions and so win the praise freely scattered by the mob.

VS30.  Some men throughout their lives spend their time gathering together the means of life, for they do not see that the draught swallowed by all of us at birth is a draught of death.

VS31.  Against all else it is possible to provide security, but as against death all of us mortals alike dwell in an unfortified city.

VS32.  The veneration of the wise man is a great blessing to those who venerate him.

VS33.  The flesh cries out to be saved from hunger, thirst, and cold.  For if a man possess this safety and hope to possess it, he might rival even Zeus in happiness.

VS34.  It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us as it is the confidence of their help.

VS35.  We should not spoil what we have by desiring what we do not have, but remember that what we have too was the gift of fortune.

VS36.  Epicurus’ life when compared to other men’s in respect of gentleness and self-sufficiency might be thought a mere legend.

VS37.  Nature is weak toward evil, not toward good: because it is saved by pleasures, but destroyed by pains.

VS38.  He is a little man in all respects who has many good reasons for quitting life.

VS39.  He is no friend who is continually asking for help, nor he who never associates help with friendship.  For the former barters kindly feeling for a practical return and the latter destroys the hope of good in the future.

VS40.  The man who says that all things come to pass by necessity cannot criticize one who denies that all things come to pass by necessity: for he admits that this too happens of necessity.

VS41.  We must laugh and philosophize at the same time and do our household duties and employ our other faculties, and never cease proclaiming the sayings of the true philosophy.

VS42.  The same span of time embraces both the beginning and the end of the greatest good.[i]

VS43.  The love of money, if unjustly gained, is impious, and, if justly gained, is shameful; for it is unseemly to be parsimonious even with justice on one’s side.

VS44.  The wise man when he has accommodated himself to straits knows better how to give than to receive, so great is the treasure of self-sufficiency which he has discovered.

VS45.  The study of nature does not make men productive of boasting or bragging nor apt to display that culture which is the object of rivalry with the many, but high-spirited and self-sufficient, taking pride in the good things of their own minds and not of their circumstances.

VS46.  Let us utterly drive from us our bad habits as if they were evil men who have long done us great harm.

VS47.  I have anticipated thee, Fortune, and entrenched myself against all thy secret attacks.  And I will not give myself up as captive to thee or to any other circumstance; but when it is time for me to go, spitting contempt on life and on those who vainly cling to it, I will leave life crying aloud a glorious triumph-song that I have lived well.

VS48.  We must try to make the end of the journey better than the beginning, as long as we are journeying; but when we come to the end, we must be happy and content.

VS49.  It is impossible for someone to dispel his fears about the most important matters if he does not know the Nature of the universe but still gives some credence to myths. So without the study of Nature there is no enjoyment of pure pleasure.  (see Principal Doctrine 12)

VS50.  No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.  (see Principal Doctrine 8  )

VS51.  You tell me that the stimulus of the flesh makes you too prone to the pleasures of love.  Provided that you do not break the laws or good customs and do not distress any of your neighbors or do harm to your body or squander your pittance, you may indulge your inclination as you please.  Yet it is impossible not to come up against one or other of these barriers, for the pleasures of love never profited a man and he is lucky if they do him no harm.

VS52.  Friendship dances around the world bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness.

VS53.  We must envy no one, for the good do not deserve envy and the bad, the more they prosper, the more they injure themselves.

VS54.  We must not pretend to study philosophy, but study it in reality, for it is not the appearance of health that we need, but real health.

VS55.  We must heal our misfortunes by the grateful recollection of what has been and by the recognition that it is impossible to undo that which has been done.

VS56.  The wise man feels no more pain when being tortured himself than when his friend tortured.[ii]

VS57.  On occasion a man will die for his friend, for if he betrays his friend, his whole life will be confounded by distrust and completely upset.[iii]

VS58.  We must free ourselves from the prison of public education and politics.

VS59.  It is not the stomach that is insatiable, as is generally said, but the false opinion that the stomach needs an unlimited amount to fill it.

VS60.  Every man passes out of life as though he had just been born.

VS61.  Most beautiful too is the sight of those near and dear to us, when our original kinship makes us of one mind; for such sight is great incitement to this end.

VS62.  Now if parents are justly angry with their children, it is certainly useless to fight against it and not to ask for pardon; but if their anger is unjust and irrational, it is quite ridiculous to add fuel to their irrational passion by nursing one’s own indignation, and not to attempt to turn aside their wrath in other ways by gentleness.

VS63.  Frugality too has a limit, and the man who disregards it is like him who errs through excess.

VS64.  Praise from others must come unasked, and we must concern ourselves with the healing of our own lives.

VS65.  It is vain to ask of the gods what a man is capable of supplying for himself.

VS66.  Let us show our feeling for our lost friends not by lamentation but by meditation.

VS67.  A free life cannot acquire many possessions, because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs, yet it possesses all things in unfailing abundance; and if by chance it obtains many possessions, it is easy to distribute them so as to win the gratitude of neighbors.

VS68.  Nothing is sufficient for him to whom what is sufficient seems too little.

VS69.  The ungrateful greed of the soul makes the creature everlastingly desire varieties of in its lifestyle.

VS70.  Let nothing be done in your life which will cause you fear if it becomes known to your neighbor.

VS71.  Every desire must be confronted by this question: what will happen to me if the object of my desire is accomplished and what if it is not?

VS72.  There is no advantage to obtaining protection from other men so long as we are alarmed by events above or below the earth or in general by whatever happens in the boundless universe.

VS73.  The occurrence of certain bodily pains assists us in guarding against others like them.

VS74.  In a philosophical discussion he who is defeated gains more, since he learns more.

VS75.  The saying, “look to the end of a long life,” shows ungratefulness for past good fortune.

VS76.  You are in your old age just such as I urge you to be, and you have seen the difference between studying philosophy for oneself and proclaiming it to Greece at large; I rejoice with you.

VS77.  The greatest fruit of self-sufficiency is freedom.

VS78.  The noble soul occupies itself with wisdom and friendship; of these the one is a mortal good, the other immortal.

VS79.  The man who is serene causes no disturbance to himself or to another.

VS80.  The first measure of security is to watch over one’s youth and to guard against what makes havoc of all by means of maddening desires.

VS81.  The disturbance of the soul cannot be ended nor true joy created either by the possession of the greatest wealth or by honor and respect in the eyes of the mob or by anything else that is associated with or caused by unlimited desire.


Epicurus’ Sayings About “The Wise Man”

This list comes from the biography of Diogenes Laertius as translated by Cyril Bailey, except where noted.

WM1.  Injuries are done among men either because of hatred, envy, or contempt, all which the wise man overcomes by reason.

WM2.  When once a man has attained wisdom he no longer has any contrary tendency to it, nor does he willingly pretend that he has. He will be more deeply moved by feelings than others, but this will not prove to be an obstacle to wisdom.

WM3.  A man cannot become wise in every kind of physical constitution, or in every nation.

WM4.  Even if the wise man were to be put to torture, he would still be happy.

WM5.  The wise man shows gratitude, and constantly speaks well of his friends whether they are present or absent.

WM6.  The wise man will not groan and howl when he is put to the torture.

WM7.  The wise man will not have intercourse with any woman whom the laws forbid, as Diogenes says, in his epitome of the Ethical Maxims of Epicurus.

WM8.  The wise man will not punish his servants, but will rather pity them and forgive any that are deserving.

WM9.  The Epicureans do not think that the wise man will fall in love, or be anxious about his burial, for they hold that love is not a passion inspired by the gods, as Diogenes says in his twelfth book.

WM10.  The Epicureans assert that the wise man will not make elegant speeches.

WM11.  Sexual intercourse, the Epicureans say, has never done a man good, and he is lucky if it has not harmed him.

WM12.  The wise man will marry and have children, as Epicurus says in treatises On Problems and On Nature, but only in accord with the circumstances of his life.

WM13.  The wise man will never indulge in drunkenness, says Epicurus, in his Banquet,

WM14.  The wise man will not entangle himself in affairs of state, as Epicurus says in his first book on Lives.

WM15.  The wise man will not become a tyrant.

WM16.  The wise man will not live like a Cynic, as he says in his second book on Lives, nor become a beggar.

WM17.  Even if the wise man should lose his eyesight, he will not end his wholelife, as he says in the same book.

WM18.  The wise man will not be subject to grief, as Diogenes says, in the fifth book of his Select Opinions.

WM19.  The wise man will not object to go to the courts of law.

WM20.  The wise man will leave books and memorials of himself behind him, but he will not be fond of frequenting assemblies.

WM21.  The wise man will take care of his property, and provide for the future.

WM22.  The wise man will be fond of the countryside.

WM23.  The wise man will resist fortune.

WM24.  The wise man will not mourn the death of his friends.

WM25.  The wise man will show a regard for his reputation to such an extent as to avoid being despised.

WM26.  The wise man will find more pleasure than other men in public spectacles.

WM27.  The wise man will erect statues of others, but he will be indifferent as to raising one for himself.

WM28.  The wise man is the only person who can converse correctly about music and poetry, but he will not himself compose poems.

WM29.  One wise man is not wiser than another.

WM30.  The wise man will also, if he is in need, earn money, but only by his wisdom.

WM31.  The wise man will appease an absolute ruler when occasion requires.

WM32.  The wise man will rejoice at another’s misfortune, but only for his correction.

WM33.  The wise man will gather together a school, but never so as to become a leader of crowds.

WM34.  The wise man will give lectures in public, but it will be against his inclination and never unless asked.

WM35.  The wise man will teach things that are definite, rather than doubtful musings.  (Translated by DeWitt as:  “The wise man will dogmatize, and will not be a doubter.”)

WM36.  The wise man will be the same whether asleep or awake.

WM37.  The wise man will be willing even to die for a friend.

WM38.  The wise man holds that all faults are not of equal gravity.

WM39.  The wise man holds that health is a blessing to some, but a matter of indifference to others.

WM40.  The wise man holds that courage is a quality that does not come by nature, but by a consideration of what is to one’s advantage.

WM41.  The wise man holds that friendship is first brought about due to practical need, just as we sow the earth for crops, but it is formed and maintained by means of a community of life among those who find mutual pleasure in it.

WM42.  The wise man holds that there are two types of happiness – complete happiness, such as belongs to a god, which admits of no increase, and lesser happiness, which can be increased or decreased.

Fragments from Uncertain Sources

 I  Prologues to Philosophy
On Wisdom and the Sage U219 – U226
On the Arts U227 – U230
On Philosophers U231 – U241
II Canonics U242 – U244
On the Standards of Judgment U245
1. On Sensation U246 – U254
2. On Representations and Words U255 – U259
3. On the Passions U260 – U261
On Signs U262 – U263
On Disputation U264 – U265
III Physics U266
On the Atoms U267 – U270
On the Void U271 – U274
On Bodies and their Attributes U275
On Motion U276 – U280
On the Atomic Swerve U281
On Aggregation and Dissolution U282 – U287
On Qualities U288 – U289
On Mixture U290
On Change U291 – U292
On Magnetism U293 – U294
On the Universe and its World-Systems U295 – U308
On Plants U309
On Man U310
On the Soul U311 – U315
On Temperaments U316
On Sensation U317
On Vision U318 – U319
On Mirrors U320
On Hearing U321 – U323
On Taste U324
On Sleep and Dreams U325 – U328
On Reproduction U329 – U333
On the Origin of Human Beings
On Linguistics U334 – U335
On Death U336 – U341
On Celestial Phenomena U342 – U351
On the Gods U352 – U353
On the Nature and Form of the Gods U354 – U359
On the Blessed Life of the Gods U360 – U366
On the Care and Governance of the World U367 – U383
On Religion U384 – U394
On Divination U395
 IV Ethics U396 – U397
On the Chief Good and Evil U398 – U407
On Kinetic Pleasure U408 – U415
On Katastematic Pleasure U416 – U428
On Peace of Mind U428 – U439
On Proper Measurement of Pleasure and Pain U440 – U449
Against the School of Aristippus U450 – U453
On the Limits of Desires U454 – U484
On Rational Living U485 – U503
On the Virtues U504 – U522
On Human Society U523 – U535
On Security Among Men U536 – U547
On Honor and Glory U548 – U560
 ~ On the Sage
On the Studies of the Sage U561 – U571
On Duties U572 – U578
The Attitude of the Sage U579 – U607

I. Prologues to Philosophy

On Wisdom and the Sage


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Ethicists, (Against the Dogmatists, V) 169: For they {the Dogmatists} promise to present us with an “art of life,” and because of this Epicurus declared that “philosophy is an activity secures the happy life by arguments and discussions.”


Sacred and Profane Parallels, A 14, 156 [p. 761 Gaisf.]: From Epicurus: “It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed; for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth.” {= Vatican Sayings 54}


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 31, [p. 209, 23 Nauck]: Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any suffering of man. For just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not expel the diseases of the body, so there is no profit in philosophy either, if it does not expel the suffering of the mind.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 19, p. 1117F: It is one of Epicurus’ tenets that none but the Sage is unalterably convinced of anything.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.117: Moreover {Epicurus says}, he who has become wise never resumes the opposite habit, nor even pretends to, if he can help it.


Cicero, Academica, II.14.45 (Lucullus): What we have termed “perspicuity” {clarity of reasoning} is cogent enough to identify things as they are.  But nevertheless, so that we may abide by things that are perspicuous more firmly and consistently, we require some further exercise of method or of attention to save ourselves from being thrown off – by trickery and ill-conceived arguments – from positions that are clear in themselves.  For Epicurus who desired to come to the relief of the errors that appear to upset our power of knowing the truth, and who said that the separation of opinion from perspicuous truth was the function of the wise man, carried matters no further, for he entirely failed to do away with the error connected with mere opinion.


Monastic Florilegium, 195: Epicurus also deemed opinion the “hallowed epidemic.”


Aetius, Doxography, IV.9.19 [p. 398.11 Diels] (Parallel A.27.39 p.767 [Gaisf.]): Epicurus says that a Sage can only be recognized by another Sage.


Clement of Alexandria, Miscellenies, I.15 [p. 130.37 Sylb]: Epicurus, however, supposes that only the Greeks are qualified to practice philosophy.

On the Arts


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors, I.1: The case against the Mathematici – professors of Arts and Sciences – has been set forth in a general way, it would seem, both by Epicurus and by the School of Pyrrho …  Epicurus took the ground that the subjects taught are of no help in perfecting wisdom; and he did this, as some speculate, because he saw in it a way of covering up his own lack of culture (for in many matters Epicurus stands convicted of ignorance, and even in ordinary conversation, his speech was not correct).  Another reason may have been his hostility towards Plato and Aristotle and their like who were men of wide learning.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.4.12: Your school {Epicureanism} argues decisively that there is no need for the aspirant to philosophy to study literature at all.

Cf., Ibid., I.21, 71-72 (Torquatus to Cicero): You are disposed to think him uneducated.  The reason is that he refused to consider any education worth the name that did not help to school us in happiness.  Was he to spend his time, as you encourage Triarius and me to do, in perusing poets, who give us nothing solid and useful, but merely childish amusement?  Was he to occupy himself like Plato with music and geometry, arithmetic and astrology, which starting from false premises cannot be true, and which moreover if they were true would contribute nothing to make our lives pleasanter and therefore better?  Was he, I say, to study arts like these, and neglect the master art, so difficult and correspond so fruitful, the art of living?  No! Epicurus was not uneducated: the real philistines are those who ask us to go on studying till old age the subjects that we are supposed to be ashamed of not learning in childhood.


Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.25.4: For what else is it to deny wisdom to men than to take away from their minds the true and divine light?  But if the nature of man is capable of wisdom, it is necessary that workmen and rustics and women and all who have human form be taught, that they might be wise, and that a people of sages be raised up from every tongue and condition and sex and age.  25.7: So the Stoics realized this, for they said that slaves and women ought to engage in philosophy; Epicurus, also, who summoned even the illiterate to philosophy.  …  25.8: Indeed, they tried to do what truth exacted, but it was not possible to get beyond the words, first, because there is need of many arts to be able to arrive at philosophy. … 25.12: For this reason, Tullius {i.e., Cicero} says that philosophy “shrinks from the crowd.”  {Tusculan Disputations, II.2.4}   Still, Epicurus will accept the untutored.  How, therefore, will they understand those things which are said about the beginnings of things, perplexing and involved things which even educated men scarcely grasp?  In matters involved with obscurity, then, and spread over by the variety of abilities and colored with the exquisite oratory of eloquent men, what place is there for the inexperienced and unlearned?  Finally, they never taught any women to be philosophers except one, from all memory: Themista.


Scholiast on Dionysius Thrax {“Dionysius the Thracian”}, p 649, 26: This is how the Epicureans define craft: a craft is a method which effects what is advantageous for human life.  “Effects” is used in the sense of “produces.”


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 2, p. 1086F-: Heraclides then, a student of literature, is repaying his debt to Epicurus for such favors of theirs “as rabble of poets”and “Homer’s idiocies” and the verity of abuse that Metrodorus has in so many writings heaped upon the poet.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellenies, V.14, p. 257.52: Homer, while representing the gods as subject to human passions, appears to know the Divine Being, whom Epicurus does not so revere.


Heraclitus Ponticus, Allegories of Homer, 4:

Ibid. 75:

Proclus Lycaeus, Commentary on Plato’s “Republic,” [p. 382 Bas.]:


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 11, p. 1093C: They even banish the pleasures that come from mathematics!

Saint Augustine, On the Utility of Faith, c. 6, 13, t. VIII [p. 53F Venice edition, 1719]:

Cicero Academica II.33.106 (Lucullus): Polyaenus is said to have been a great mathematician; after he had accepted the view of Epicurus and come to believe that all geometry is false, {surely he did not forget even the knowledge that he possessed?}

Proclus Lycaeus, Commentary on Euclid, [p. 55 Bas.; 199.9 Friedl.]: There are those, however, who are only predisposed to knock down the principles of geometry, like the Epicureans.


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Musicians (Against the Professors, VI) 27: Moreover, if Plato welcomed music, we should not therefore assert that music contributes to happiness, since others who are not inferior to him in trustworthiness – such as Epicurus – have denied this contention, and declared on the contrary that music is unbeneficial – “Wine-loving, idle, having no regard for wealth.” {Euripides, fr. 184 Nauck}.


Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On the Composition of Words, 24, p. 188: The dictum that “writing presents no difficulties to those who do not aim at a constantly changing standard,” which Epicurus himself propounded, was intended as a talisman to ward off the charge of extreme sloth and stupidity.  {c.f. above}

On Philosophers


Cicero, Brutus, 85.292 (Atticus speaking): I grant that that irony, which they say was found in Socrates … is a fine and clever way of speaking… Thus Socrates in the pages of Plato praises to the skies Protagoras, Hippias, Prodicus, Gorgias, and the rest, while representing himself as without knowledge of anything and a mere ignoramus.  This somehow fits his character, and I cannot agree with Epicurus who censures it.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.13: Both Epicurus and Hermarchus deny the very existence of Leucippus the philosopher, though some say, including Apollodorus the Epicurean, that he was the teacher of Democritus.


Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.26.72 (Cotta speaking): The fact is that you people merely repeat by rote the idle fancies that Epicurus uttered when half asleep; for, as we read in his writings, he boasted that he had never had a master.  … He could have studied under Xenocrates …   and there are some who think he did.  But he himself denied it, and he should know!  He does say that he heard the lectures of a certain Pamphilus, a student of Plato, when he was living in Sámos.  He lived there as a young man with his father and brothers, his father Neocles having settled there as an immigrant farmer.  But when he could not make a decent living from his small-holding, I believe he kept a school.  Epicurus however had a supreme contempt for Pamphilus as a follower of Plato, and in this he showed his usual anxiety never to learn anything from anyone.  Look how he behaved towards Nausiphanes, a disciple of Democritus.  He does not deny that he heard him lecture, but heaps all manner of abuse upon him.  What, after all, is there in his own philosophy which does not come form Democritus?  Even if he introduced some variations – such as the swerve in the motion of the atoms which I mentioned just now – still for the most part his theory is identical – atoms, void, images, the infinity of space, the numberless universes, their birth and death, and so on through practically the whole field of natural philosophy.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 18, p. 1100A: Was not Epicurus himself in such a fury of tense and palpitating passion for renown that he … disowned his teachers?


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.6.17:  Here {regarding physics}, in the first place, he is entirely second-hand. His doctrines are those of Democritus, with a very few modifications. And as for the latter, where he attempts to improve upon his original, in my opinion he only succeeds in making things worse. … 21:  Thus where Epicurus alters the doctrines of Democritus, he alters them for the worse; while for those ideas which he adopts, the credit belongs entirely to Democritus. … For my own part I reject these doctrines altogether; but still I could wish that Democritus, whom every one else applauds, had not been vilified by Epicurus who took him as his sole guide.

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 3, p. 1108E: He begins with Democritus, who thus receives for his teaching a handsome and appropriate fee.  And this although Epicurus long proclaimed himself a Democritean, as is attested among others by Leonteus, one of Epicurus’ most devoted pupils, who writes to Lycophron that Democritus was honored by Epicurus for having reached the correct approach to knowledge before him, and that indeed his whole system was called Democritean because Democritus had first his upon the first principles of natural philosophy.


Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.33.93 (Cotta speaking): Was it on the basis of dreams that Epicurus and Metrodorus and Hermarchus attacked Pythagoras, Plato, and Empedocles, and that little harlot Leontium dared to write criticisms of Theophrastus?  … You Epicureans are touchy yourselves. …  But Epicurus himself made the most libelous attacks on Aristotle and violently abused Phaedo, the disciple of Socrates.  He heaped whole volumes of invective on Timocrates, the brother of his own colleague Metrodorus, because of some petty disagreement on a philosophical point.  He even showed no gratitude to Democritus, his own forerunner, and had no use for his own teacher Nausiphanes, from whom he had learnt nothing in any case.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.8: Epicurus used to call Nausiphanes a pleumonon {=“jellyfish,” imputing obtuseness and insensibility}, an illiterate, a fraud, and a whore.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 2, p. 1086E: Zeuxippus said: “Heraclides has gone off charging us with undue vehemence in our attack on the unoffending Epicurus and Metrodorus.”  Here, Theon declared: “And you didn’t reply that by their standard Colotes looks like a paragon of measured speech?  For they made a collection of the most disgraceful terms to be found anywhere: ‘charlatanism’ {bomolochiás}, ‘buffoonery’ {lekythismoús}, ‘bragging’ {alazoneías} ‘prostitution’ {hetaireséis} ‘assassin’ {androphonías}, ‘loudmouth’ {barystonoús} , ‘hero of many of a misadventure’ {polyphthórous}, ‘nincompoop’ {baryegkephálous} – and showered it on Aristotle {U71}, Socrates {U231}, Pythagoras, Protagoras {U172U173}, Theophrastus, Heraclides {U16}, Hipparchia – indeed, what eminent name have they spared?

Cf. Plutarch, Against Colotes, 29, p. 1124C: The sophists and braggarts then, are those those who in their disputes with eminent men write with such shameless arrogance.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.8: Plato’s school he called the “flatterers of Dionysius.”  Plato himself he called “golden.” … Heraclitus a “muddler,” Democritus he called “Lerocritus” {the gossip-monger}, Antidorus “Sannidorus” {a fawning gift-bearer}, the Cynics“enemies of Greece,” the Dialecticians “despoilers,” and he called Pyrrho “ignorant” and a “bore.”


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 26, p. 1121E: The fame of Arcesilaus, the best loved among the philosophers of the time, would appear to have annoyed Epicurus mightily. Thus he {Colotes} says although this philosopher said nothing new, he gave the illiterate the impression and belief that he did. Our critic of course is widely read himself and writes with a beguiling charm.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.12: Among the early philosophers, says Diocles, his favorite was Anaxagoras, although he occasionally disagreed with him, and Archelaus, the teacher of Socrates.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.23: The goodness of Metrodorus was proved in all ways, as Epicurus testifies in his prefaces {of some of his books}.
II. Canonics


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 89.11: The Epicureans held that there are two pats of philosophy: physics and ethics – they got rid of logic.  Then, since they were forced by the very facts to distinguish what was ambiguous and to refute falsities lying hidden under the appearance of truth, they themselves also introduced that topic which they call “on judgment and the criterion” {i.e., canonics}; it is logic by another name, but they think that it is an accessory part of physics.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.30: The usual arrangement, however, is to join canonics with physics; the former they call the science which deals with the standard and first principles, or the elementary part of philosophy…

Saint Augustine, Against Cresconius, I.13.16 t. IX [p. 397E Venice edition, 1719]:


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.19.63 (Torquatus to Cicero): Logic, on which your {Platonic} school lays such stress, he held to be of no effect either as a guide to conduct or as an aid to thought. Natural Philosophy he deemed all-important. This science explains to us the meaning of terms, the nature of predication, and the law of consistency and contradiction; secondly, a thorough knowledge of the facts of nature relieves us of the burden of superstition, frees us from fear of death, and shields us against the disturbing effects of ignorance, which is often in itself a cause of terrifying apprehensions; lastly, to learn what nature’s real requirements are improves the moral character also. Besides, it is only by firmly grasping a well-established scientific system, observing the Rule or Canon that has fallen as it were from heaven so that all men may know it—only by making that Canon the test of all our judgments, that we can hope always to stand fast in our belief unshaken by the eloquence of any man. On the other hand, without a full understanding of the world of nature it is impossible to maintain the truth of our sense-perceptions. Further, every mental presentations has its origin in sensation: so that no certain knowledge will be possible, unless all sensations are true, as the theory of Epicurus teaches that they are. Those who deny the validity of sensation and say that nothing can be perceived, having excluded the evidence of the senses, are unable even to expound their own argument. Besides, by abolishing knowledge and science they abolish all possibility of rational life and action. Thus Natural Philosophy supplies courage to face the fear of death; resolution to resist the terrors of religion; peace of mind, for it removes all ignorance of the mysteries of nature; self-control, for it explains the nature of the desires and distinguishes their different kinds; and, as I showed just now, the Canon or Criterion of Knowledge, which Epicurus also established, gives a method of discerning truth from falsehood.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.7.22:  Turn next to the second division of philosophy, the department of Method and of Dialectic, which its termed Logikē. Of the whole armor of Logic your founder, as it seems to me, is absolutely destitute. He does away with Definition; he has no doctrine of Division or Partition; he gives no rules for Deduction or Syllogistic Inference, and imparts no method for resolving Dilemmas or for detecting Fallacies of Equivocation. The Criteria of reality he places in sensation; once let the senses accept as true something that is false, and every possible criterion of truth and falsehood seems to him to be immediately destroyed. {lacuna} He lays the very greatest stress upon that which, as he declares, Nature herself decrees and sanctions, that is: the feelings of pleasure and pain. These he maintains lie at the root of every act of choice and of avoidance.


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians II (Against the Dogmatists, II).9: Epicurus said that all sensibles were true and real.  For there is no difference between saying that something is true and that it is real.  And that is why, in giving a formalization of the true and the false, he says, “that which is such as it is said to be, is true” and “that which is not such as it is said to be, is false.”

On the Standards of Judgment


Cicero Academica II.46.142 (Lucullus): Epicurus places the standard of judgment entirely in the senses and in notions of objects and in pleasure.

1. On Sensation


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, IX.106 (Pyrrho): An apparent fact serves as the Skeptic’s criterion, as indeed Aenesidemus says, and so does Epicurus.


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians, I (Against the Dogmatists, I) 203: Epicurus says that there are two things which are linked to each other, presentation and opinion, and that of these presentation (which he also calls ‘clear fact’) is always true.  For just as the primary feelings, i.e., pleasure and pain, come to be from certain productive factors and in accordance with productive factors themselves (for example, pleasure comes to be from pleasant things and pain from painful things, and what causes pleasure can never fail to be pleasant, nor can what produces pain not be painful; but rather, it is necessary that what gives pleasure should be pleasant and that what gives pain should, in its nature, be painful), likewise, in the case of presentations, which are feelings within us, what causes each of them is presented in every respect and unqualifiedly, and since it is presented it cannot help but exist in truth just as it is presented […lacuna…]  that it is productive of presentation.  And one must reason similarly for the individual senses.  For what is visible not only is presented as visible but also is such as it is presented; and what is audible is not only presented as audible, but also is like that in truth; and similarly for the rest.  Therefore, it turns out that all presentations are true.  And reasonably so.  For if, the Epicureans say, a presentation is true if it comes from an existing object and in accordance with the existing object, and if every presentation arises from the object presented and in accordance with the presented object itself, then necessarily every presentation is true.

Some people are deceived by the difference among impressions seeming to reach us from the same sense-object, for example a visible object, such that the object appears to be of a different color or shape, or altered in some other way.  For they have supposed that, when impressions differ and conflict in this way, one of them must be true and the opposing one false.  This is simple-minded, and characteristic of those who are blind to the real nature of things.  Let us make our case for visible things.  For it is not the whole solid body that is seen – to take the example of visible things –but the color of the solid body.  And of color, some is right on the solid body, as in the case of things seen from close up or from a moderate distance, but some is outside the solid body and is objectively located in the space adjacent to it, as in the case of things seen from a great distance.  This color is altered in the intervening space, and takes on a peculiar shape.  But the impression which it imparts corresponds to what is its own true objective state.  Thus just as what we actually hear is not the sound inside the beaten gong, or inside the mouth of the man shouting, but the sound which is reaching our senses, and just as no one says that the man who hears a faint sound from a distance hears is falsely just because on approaching he registers it as louder, so too I would not say that the vision is deceived just because from a great distance it sees the tower as small and round but from near-to as larger and square.  Rather I would say that it is telling the truth.  Because when the sense-object appears to it small and of that shape it really is small and of that shape, the edges of the images getting eroded as a result of their travel through the air.  And when it appears big and of another shape instead, it likewise is big and of another shape instead.  But the two are already different from each other: for it is left for distorted opinion to suppose that the object of impression seen from near and the one seen from far off are one and the same.  The peculiar function for sensation is to apprehend only that which is present to it and moves it, such as color, not to make the distinction that the object here is a different one from the object there.  Hence for this reason all impressions are true.  Opinions, on the other hand, are not all true but admit of some difference.  Some of them are true, some false, since they are judgments which we make on the basis of our impressions, and we judge some things correctly, but some incorrectly, either by adding and appending something to our impressions or by subtracting something from them, and in general falsifying irrational sensation.

According to Epicurus, some opinions are true, some false. True opinions are those which are attested by and not contested by clear facts, while false opinions are those which are contested and not attested by clear facts. Attestation is perception through a self-evident impression, that the object of opinion is such as it once was thought to be—for example, if Plato is approaching from far off, I form the conjectural opinion, owing to the distance, that it is Plato. But then he has come close, there is further testimony that he is Plato, now that the distance is reduced, and it is attested by the self-evidence itself. Non-contestation is the conformity between a non-evident thing which is the object of speculation, and the opinion about what is apparent—for example, Epicurus, in saying that void exists, which is non-evident, confirms this through the self-evident fact of motion. For if void does not exist, there ought not be motion either, since the moving body would lack a place to pass into as a consequence of everything being full and solid. Therefore, the non-evident thing believed is not contradicted by that which is evident, since there is motion. Contestation, on the other hand, is opposed to non-contestation, for it is the elimination of that which is apparent by the positing of the non-evident thing—for example, the Stoic says that void does not exist, something non-evident; but once this denial is put forward, then that which is evident, namely motion, ought to be co-eliminated with it. For if void does not exist, then motion does not occur either, according to the method already demonstrated. Non-attestation, likewise, is opposed to attestation, for it is confirmation through self-evidence of the fact that the object of opinion is not such as it was believed to be—for example, if someone is approaching from far off, we conjecture, owing to the distance, that he is Plato. But when the distance is reduced, we recognize through self-evidence that it is not Plato. This sort of thing turns out to be non-attestation.

So attestation and non-contestation are the criterion of something’s being true, while non-attestation and contestation are the criterion of its being false. And self-evidence is the foundation and basis of all [four] of these.

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians II (Against the Dogmatists, II) 9:  Epicurus said that all sensibles were true and real.  For there is no difference between saying that something is true and that it is real.  And that is why, in giving a formalization of the true and the false, he says, “that which is such as it is said to be, is true” and “that which is not such as it is said to be, is false.” {= U244} …  And he says that sensation, being perceptive of the objects presented to it and neither subtracting nor adding nor transposing (being devoid of reason), constantly reports truly and grasps the existent object as it really is by nature.  And whereas all the sensibles are true, the opinables differ: some of them are true, others false – as we showed before.

Cf. Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians, I (Against the Dogmatists, I).369: Some of the natural philosophers, like Democritus, have abolished all phenomena, and others, like Epicurus and Protagoras, have established all, {while still others, like the Stoics and Peripatetics, have abolished some and established others.}

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians, II (Against the Dogmatists, II).185: Epicurus declared that all sensibles really exist such as they appear and present themselves in sensation, as sense never lies, {though we think that it lies}.

Ibid., 355: Epicurus declared that every sensible thing has stable existence.

Alexander of Aphrodisia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Metaphysics,” [p. 428.20 Bon.]: Some tend to call sense perceptions essences, and maintain that nothing else exists but sense-perceptions themselves, as for example … and even the Epicureans.

Olympiodorus the Younger, Commentary on Plato’s “Phaedo,” [p. 80.1 Finckh.]: Those who maintain that the sensations precisely relate the truth … Protagoras, Epicurus.

Cicero Academica II.26.82 (Lucullus): Enough of this simpleton, who thinks that the senses never lie.

Tertullian, On the Soul, 17: The Epicureans, again, show still greater consistency by maintaining that all the senses are equally true in their testimony, and always so – only in a different way.  It is not our organs of sensation that are at fault, but our opinion. The senses only experience sensation, they do not exercise opinion; it is the soul that opines. They separated opinion from the senses, and sensation from the soul. Well, but whence comes opinion, if not from the senses? Indeed, unless the eye had descried a round shape in that tower, it could have had no idea that it possessed roundness. Again, from where does sensation arise if not from the soul?

Saint Augustine, City of God, VIII.7:  {Regarding the Platonists teachings on Logic} … far be it from me to think of comparing with them those who have placed the criterion of truth in the bodily senses and decreed that all learning should be measured by such unreliable and deceptive standards.  I mean the Epicureans and others like them…

Saint Augustine, Letter to Dioscorus, 118.29 t. II [p. 336E Venice Edition 1719]: Therefore, when the Epicureans said that the bodily senses were never deceived, while the Stoics granted that they were sometimes deceived, although, both placed the test of acquiring truth in the senses, would anyone listen to the Platonists over the opposition of these two?

Ioannes Siculus, Commentary on Hermogenes’ “Rhetoric,” VI [p. 88.24 Walz.]: The teachings of many that consider sensation an  infallible criterion of knowledge or of some knowledge, impose the same errors: for example, even Epicurus…


Aetius, Doxography, IV.9.5 [p. 396 Diels] (Parallel A.27.27): Epicurus says that every sense-perception and every presentation is true, but of opinions, some are true and some are false.


Aetius, Doxography, IV.8.2 [p. 394 Diels] (Plutarch IV.8, Parallel A.27.9) (Epicurus): Perception is to some degree integrating, being a faculty, while to perceive is an act.  So that, on your part, perception is spoken of in two senses: perception as a faculty on the one hand, and to perceive as an act on the other hand.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 4-, p. 1109A: But whatever we think of that {how Colotes interprets Democritus}, whoever held that nothing is any more of one description than of another {no more this than that} is following an Epicurean doctrine, that all the impressions reaching us through the senses are true.  For if one of two persons says that the wine is dry and the other that it is sweet, and neither errs in his sensation, how is the wine any more dry than sweet?  Again, you may observe that in one and the same bath some consider the water as too hot, others as too cold, the first asking for the addition of cold water, the others of hot.  There is a story that a Spartan lady came to visit Beronice, wife of Deiotarus.  No sooner did they come near each other than each turned away, the one (we are told) sickened by the perfume, the other by the butter.  So if one sense-perception is no more true than another, we must suppose that the water is no more cold than hot, and that perfume or butter is no more sweet-smelling than ill-smelling; for he who asserts that the object itself is what appears one thing to one person and another to another has unwittingly said that it is both things at once.

As for the old story of the “right size” and “perfect fit” of the passages in the sense organs, and on the other hand the multiple mixture of the “seeds” that they say are found dispersed in all tastes, odors, and colors, so as to give rise in different persons to different perceptions of quality, do not these theories actually compel objects in their view to be “no more this than that?”  For when people take sensation to be deceptive because they see that the same objects have opposite effects on those resorting to it, these thinkers offer the reassuring explanation that since just about everything is mixed and compounded with everything else, and since different substances are naturally adapted to fit different passages, the consequence is that everyone does not come into contact with and apprehend the same quality, and again the object perceived does not affect everyone in the same way with every part.  What happens instead is that different sets of persons encounter only those components to which their sense organs are perfectly adjusted, and they are therefore wrong when they fall to disputing whether the object is good or bad or white or not white, imagining that they are confirming their own perceptions by denying one another’s.  The truth of the matter is that no sense-perception should be challenged, as all involve a contact with something real, each of them taking from the multiple mixture as from a fountain what agrees with and suits itself; and we should make no assertions about the whole when our contact is with parts, nor fancy that all persons should be affected in the same way, when different persons are affected by different qualities and properties in the object.

It is time to consider the question: who are more chargeable with imposing on objects the doctrine that “nothing is more this than that,” than those who assert that every perceivable object is a blend of qualities of every description, “mixed like the must entangled in the filter” {fragment of a lost tragedy}, and who confess that their standards would go glimmering and the criterion of truth quite disappear if they permitted any sense-object whatsoever to be purely one thing and did not leave every one of them a plurality?


Cicero Academica II.25.79 (Lucullus): His own senses, he says {in contrast with the Stoics}, are truthful!  If so, you always have an authority, and one to risk his all in defense of the cause!  For Epicurus brings the issue to this point, that if one sense has told a lie once in a man’s life, no sense must ever be believed.

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.25.70 (Cotta speaking): Epicurus was afraid that if any of our sense-perceptions were false, then none of them could be true: and so he asserted that all our senses were always “the messengers of truth.”

Cicero Academica II.32.101 (Lucullus): A single first principle of Epicurus combined with another belonging to your school results in the abolition of perception and comprehension, without our uttering a word.  What is the principle of Epicurus?  “If any sense-presentation is false, nothing can be perceived.”  What is yours? “There are false sense-presentations.”  What follows?  Without any word of mine, logical inference itself declares that “nothing can be perceived.”

Cicero Academica II.26.83 (Lucullus): There are four points of argument intended to prove that there is nothing that can be known, perceived or comprehended.  …  The first of these arguments is that there is such a thing as a false presentation; … the first is not granted by Epicurus.

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 428, p. 1124B: If it is possible to withhold judgment about these sensations, it is not impossible to withhold it about others as well, as least on the principles of your school, who set one act or image of sensation on exactly the same footing as another.

Ibid., 1123D: By putting all in the the same boat, their theory does more to estrange us from established beliefs than to convince us that the grotesques {fanciful or fantastic human and animal forms} are real.


Cicero Academica II.7.19 (Lucullus): Nor is it necessary to delay at this point while I answer about the case of the bent oar {c.f. Lucretius, IV.436-}or the pigeon’s neck {c.f. Lucretius, II.801-}, for I am not one to assert that every object seen is really such as it appears to be.  Let Epicurus see to that, and a number of other matters.

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 25, p. 1121A: So it is with Colotes: the reasoning that he accepts with satisfaction when he finds it in the writings of Epicurus he neither understands nor recognizes when it is used by others.  For the school that asserts that when a round image impinges on us, or in another case a bent one, the important is truly received by the sense, but refuses to allow us to go further and affirm that the tower is round or that the oar is bent, maintains the truth of its experiences and sense impressions, but will not admit that external objects correspond; and as surely as that other school must speak of “being horsed” and “walled,” but not of a horse or wall, so this school of theirs is under the necessity of saying that the eye is rounded or be-angled, and not that the oar is bent or the tower round, for it is the image producing the effect in the eye that is bent, whereas the oar is not bent from which the image proceeded.  Thus, since the effect produced on the senses differs from the external object, belief must stick to the effect or be exposed as false if it proceeds to add “it is” to “it appears.”  That vociferous and indignant protest of theirs in defense of sensation, that it does not assert the external object to be warm, the truth being merely that the effect produced in sensation has been of this kind – is it not the same as the statement about taste?  Why does it not assert, if the external object is sweet, that there has merely occurred in the taste an effect and movement of this kind?  A man says “I receive an impression of humanity, but I do not perceive whether a man is there.”  Who put him in the way of such a notion?  Was it not the school who asserts that they receive an impression of curvature, but that their sight does not go beyond to pronounce that the thing is curved or yet that it is round’ there has merely occurred in it an appearance and impression of rotundity?

“Exactly,” someone will say, “but for my part I shall go up to the tower and I shall feel the oar, and thereupon I shall pronounce the oar straight and the tower angular; but this other fellow even at close quarters will only grant he has this ‘view’ and that there is this ‘appearance,’ but will grant nothing more.”  Exactly, my good friend, since he is a better hand than you at noticing and holding to the consequences of his doctrine – that every sensation is equally trustworthy when it testifies on its own behalf, but none when it testifies on behalf of anything else, but all are on the same footing.  And here is an end to your tenet that all sensations are true and none untrustworthy or false – if you think it proper for one set of them to proceed to make assertions about external objects, whereas you refused to truth the others in anything beyond the experience itself.  For if they are on the same footing of trustworthiness whether they come close or are at a distance, it is only fair to confer on all the power of adding the judgment “it is” or else to deny it to the former as well.  Whereas if there is a difference in the effect produced on the observer when he stands at a distance and when he is close at hand, it is false to say that no impression and no sensation has in its stamp of reality a better warrant of truth than another.  So too the “testimony in confirmation” and “testimony in rebuttal” of which they speak has no bearing on the sensation but only on our opinion of it; so if they tell us to be guided by this testimony when we make statements about external objects, they appoint opinion to pass the verdict “it is” and sense to undergo the experience “it seems,” and thus transfer the decision from what is unfailingly true to what is often wrong.


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians, II (Against the Dogmatists, II) 63-: Epicurus said that all sensibles are true, and that every impression is the product of something existing and like the thing which moves the sense.  He also said that those who contend that some impressions are true but others false are wrong, because they cannot distinguish opinion from self-evidence.  At least in the case of Orestes, when he seemed to see the Furies, his sensation, being moved by the images, was true, in that the images objectively existed; but his mind, in thinking that the Furies were solid bodies, held a false opinion. “And besides,” he says, “the persons mentioned above when introducing a difference in the presentations, are not capable of confirming the view that some of them are true, others false.    For neither by means of an apparent thing will they prove such a statement, since it is apparent things that are in question, nor yet by something non-evident, since something non-evident must be proven by means of something apparent.”


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 28, p. 1123B: These {images from the furies} and many of another artificial variety, resembling the Empedoclean monsters that they deride, “with lurching ox-feet, random arms” and “Ox-creatures, fronted like a man” – what phantom or prodigy do they omit?  All of these they assemble from dreams and delirium and say that none is an optical illusion or false or unsubstantial, but all are true impressions, bodies and shapes that reach us from the surrounding air.  That being the case, is there anything in the world about which it is impossible to suspend judgment, when such things as these can be accepted as real?  Things that no artful joiner, puppet-maker, or painter ever ventured to combine of our entertainment into a likeness to deceive the eye, these they seriously suppose to exist, or rather they assert that, if these did not exist, there would be an end of all assurance and certainty and judgment about truth.

2. On Representations and Words


Clement of Alexandria, Miscellenies, II.4 [p. 157.44 Sylb.; p. 121 Stählin]: Indeed, Epicurus, who more than anyone prefers pleasure to truth, supposes that a preconception {prolepsis} is the basis of the intellect’s conviction; he defines a preconception as an application of the intellect to something clear and to the clear conception of the thing, and holds that no one can either investigate or puzzle over, nor even hold an opinion or even refute someone, without a preconception.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.33: By preconception they mean a sort of “apprehension” or a “right opinion” or “notion,” or universal idea stored in the mind – that is, a recollection of an external object often presented.  For example: “this thing is human” – and no sooner than the word “human” is uttered that we imagine a human shape by an act of preconception, in which the senses take the lead.  Thus the object primarily denoted by the very term is then plain and clear.  And we should never have started an investigation, unless we had known what it was that we were in search of. For example: “The object standing way over there is a horse or a cow.”  Before making this judgment we must at some time or another have known by preconception the shape of a horse or a cow.  We should not have given anything a name, if we had not first learnt its form by way of preconception.

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.16.43 (Velleius speaking): What race of men or nation is there which does not have some untaught apprehension of the gods?  Such an innate idea Epicurus calls prolepsis, that is to say, a certain form of knowledge which is inborn in the mind and without which there can be no other knowledge, not rational thought or argument.  The force and value of this doctrine we can see from his own inspired work on The Canon. {= Cicero @ U34}

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.17.44 (Velleius speaking): We must admit it as also being an accepted truth that we possess a “preconception,” as I called it, or “prior notion,” of the gods. For we are bound to employ novel terms to denote novel ideas, just as Epicurus himself employed the word prolepsis in a sense which no one had ever used before.

Plutarch, by way of Olympiodorus the Younger, Commentary on Plato’s “Phaedo,” [p. 125.10 Finckh.]: The Epicureans, then, accuse us of seeking and rediscovering the prolepses.  If these, as they say, correspond to real objects, then to seek them is useless; if, on the other hand, they don’t correspond, how can we seek an explanation regarding preconceptions that we haven’t we been able to think of already?

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors, I.57: According to the wise Epicurus, it is not possible to investigate or even to be puzzled without preconceptions.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.9.30 (Torquatus to Cicero): Hence Epicurus refuses to admit any necessity for argument or discussion to prove that pleasure is desirable and pain to be avoided. These facts, he thinks, are perceived by the senses, as that fire is hot, snow white, honey sweet, none of which things need be proved by elaborate argument: it is enough merely to draw attention to them. (For there is a difference, he holds, between formal syllogistic proof of a thing and a mere notice or reminder: the former is the method for discovering abstruse and recondite truths, the latter for indicating facts that are obvious and evident.) Strip mankind of sensation, and nothing remains; it follows that Nature herself is the judge of that which is in accordance with or contrary to nature.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.2.6: {Epicurus} is always harping on the necessity of carefully sifting out the meaning underlying the terms we employ…

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.31: They reject dialectic as superfluous; holding that in their inquiries, physicists should be content to employ ordinary terms for things.


Erotianus, Glossary of Hippocrates, Preface, [p. 34, 10 Klein]: For if we are going to explain the words known to everybody, we would have to expound either all or some. But to expound all is impossible, whereas to expound some is pointless. For we will explain them either through familiar locutions or through unfamiliar. But unfamiliar words seem unsuited to the task, the accepted principle being to explain less known things by means of better known things; and familiar words, by being on a par with them, will be unfamiliar for illuminating language, as Epicurus says. For the informativeness of language is characteristically ruined when it is bewitched by an account, as if by a homeopathic drug.


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians, II (Against the Dogmatists, II).258: We see that there are some who have denied the real existence of “expressions,” and these not only men of other schools, such as the Epicureans, {but even Stoics like Basilides…}

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 22, p. 1119F: What school is more at fault in its views about language than yours {Epicureanism}, which makes a clean sweep of the whole category of meanings, which impart to discourse its substantial reality, and leave us with nothing but vocables and facts, when you say that the intermediate objects of discourse, the things signified, which are the means of learning, teaching, preconceptions, conceptions, desires, and assent, do not exist all?

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians, II (Against the Dogmatists, II).13: The disciples of Epicurus and Strato the physicist, who admit only two things – the thing signifying and the thing existing – appear … to ascribe truth or falsity to the mere word.

3. On the Passions


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.34: They assert that there are two kinds of feelings, pleasure and pain, which arise in every living thing.  The one is appealing and the other vexing to one’s nature; in consideration of these, choices and avoidances are made.

Aristocles, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XIV 21 p. 768D: Some say that as the principle and criterion of choosing and avoiding we have pleasure and pain: at least the Epicureans now still say something of this kind … For my part then I am so far from saying that feeling is the principle and canon of things good and evil, that I think a criterion is needed for feeling itself.


Aetius, Doxography, IV.9.11, [p. 397 Diels] (Parallel A.27.52): For Epicurus, pleasure and pain are a part of sensations.

On Signs


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians, II (Against the Dogmatists, II).177: Epicurus and the leaders of his school have stated that the sign is sensible, while the Stoics state that it is intelligible.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 29, p. 1124B: …these people are deluded who regard what is seen as evidence of things unseen although they observe that appearances are so untrustworthy and ambiguous.

On Disputation


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.1.3: In philosophical investigation, a methodical and systematic discourse must always begin by formulating a preamble … so that the parties to the debate may be agreed as to what the subject is about which they are debating.  This rule is laid down by Plato in Phaedrus, and it was approved by Epicurus, who realized that it ought to be followed in every discussion.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.34:  They assert that there are two kinds of inquiry: one concerned with things, the other with nothing but words.

III. Physics


Pseudo-Plutarch, Miscellanies, Fragment 8 from Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel, I.8.24B, Greek Doxography, [p. 581, 19 Diels.]: Epicurus asserts that nothing new happens in the universe when compared to the infinite time already passed.

On the Atoms


Aetius, Doxography, I.3.18, pp. 285-86D (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, 10, 14; Plutarch I.3.25): Epicurus, the son of Neocles and an Athenian, philosophized in the manner of Democritus and said that the principles {i.e., elementary constituents} of existing things are bodies inferable by reason, which do not participate in the void and are uncreated and indestructible – since they can neither be broken nor be compounded out of parts, nor be altered in their qualities.  They can be inferred by reason …  {lacuna here} … They move in the void and through the void.  And the void itself is infinite, and so are the bodies.  Bodies have these three properties: shape, size, weight.  Democritus said that there were two – size and shape – but Epicurus added weight to these as a third.  For, he says, it is necessary that the bodies move by the blow of [an object with] weight, otherwise they will not move.  The shapes of the atoms are innumerable, but not infinite.  For there are none which are hooked or trident-shaped or ring-shaped; for these shapes are easily broken and the atoms are impervious. They have their own shapes which can be contemplated by reason.  The atom {a-tomos} is so-called not because it is smallest, but because it cannot be divided, since it is impervious and does not participate in void.

Achilles, Introduction, 3, [p.125A Pet.]: Epicurus of Athens maintained that the principles {i.e., elementary constituents} of all things are comprised in extremely tiny bodies, knowable by the intellect, and he named them “atoms” or other words, minimums, because of their smallness, or because they are indestructible and cannot be divided.

Hippolytus, “Philosophical Questions,” (Refutation of all Heresies, I) 22, [p. 572.3 Diels.]:Epicurus says that the atoms are the most minute bodies; it is not possible to ascribe them a center nor a point nor any subdivision: and because of this he called them atoms.


Simplicius of Cilicia Commentary on Aristotle’s “Physics, Zeta-1,” preface, fr. 216r [925.12 Konstan]: Others, who had given up on [the idea of] cutting to infinity on the grounds that we cannot [in fact] cut to infinity and thereby confirm the endlessness of cutting, used to say that bodies consist of indivisibles and are divided into indivisibles.  Leucippus and Democritus, however, believed not only in imperviousness as the reason why primary bodies are not divided, but also in smallness and partlessness, while Epicurus later did not hold that they were partless, but said that they were atomic {i.e., uncuttable} by virtue of imperviousness alone.  Aristotle refuted the view of Leucippus and Democritus in many places, and it is because of these refutations in objection to partlessness, no doubt, that Epicurus, coming afterwards but sympathetic to the view of Leucippus and Democritus concerning primary bodies, kept them impervious but took away their partlessness, since it was on this account that they were challenged by Aristotle.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 13, p. 1114A: For Epicurus, the number of bodies is infinite and every single object is the world of sense is generated from them. Observe right here the sort of first principles you people {Epicureans} adopt to account for generation: infinity and the void – the void incapable of action, incapable of acted upon, bodiless; the infinite disordered, irrational, incapable of formulations, disrupting and confounding itself because of a multiplicity that defies control or limitation.


Pseudo-Plutarch, On the Opinions of the Philosophers, I.3, 27, [p. 286A 4 Diels] [preceding fragment 275]: The forms of the atoms are certainly incalculable, but not infinite.  Indeed, none are hook-shaped, trident-shaped, or ring-shaped: these shapes break easily, but the atoms are in fact impenetrable and have, instead, their own shapes, intuitable by reason.

On the Void


Aetius, Doxography, I.20.2, p. 318, 1D (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 18, 2): Epicurus says that void, place, and space differ only in name.


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Physicisists, II (Against the Dogmatists, IV).2: Therefore we must understand that, according to Epicurus, one part of that nature which is termed intangible is called the void, one part place, and another part space – the names varying according to the different ways of looking at it since the same substance when empty of all body is called void, when occupied by a body is named place, and when bodies roam through it becomes space.  But generically it is called “intangible substance” in Epicurus’ school, since it lacks resistance.


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians, II (Against the Dogmatists, II).329: Epicurus, for instance, opines that he has put forward a very strong argument for the existence of void, namely this: “If motion exists, void exists; but in fact motion exists; therefore void exists.”  But if the premises of this proof had been agreed to by all, it would necessarily have had a conclusion also following from them and admitted by all.  Instead, some have objected to it (i.e., the deduction of the conclusions from the premises) not because it does not follow form them, but because they are false and not admitted.

Ibid., 314: Hence also they {the Dogmatists} describe it thus: “A proof is an argument which by means of agreed premises reveals by way of deduction a non-evident conclusion.”  For example: “If motion exists, void exists; but in fact motion exists; therefore void exists.”  For the existence of void is non-evident, and also it appears to be revealed by way of deduction by means of the true premises: “If motion exists, void exists” and “but motion exists.”


Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Physics, Delta-5 (to the end),” (p. 213A 10) [fr. 140u Ald.; p. 379B Brand.]:

Cf. [fr. 144u]:

Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Physics, Delta-4,” (p. 211B 7) [fr. 133r]:

Themistius, Paraphrases of Aristotle’s “Physics, Delta-4,” (p. 211B 14), [fr. 38u Ald.; p. 268.23 Speng.]: It remains for us to demonstrate also that place is not extension.  An extension is what is conceived of as between the limits of the container, e.g., what is within the hollow surface of the pot.  Now this belief is traditional, and associated with those who posit the void, yet later both Chrysippus’ crowd and Epicurus were nonetheless adherents.  Some imposed the doctrine on Plato too.  It relies on a plausible explanation, yet one that is quite false: namely, since we reach a conception of place in general from the mutual replacement of bodies (i.e., from different bodies continually coming to be in the same place at different times), they took place to be the intervening extension, which they believed remained the same when it received the bodies that were replacing one another, while being separated from each of these incoming bodies.  Vessels above all egged them on to this inference.  For since water and air enter the vessel at different times while the hollow surface within the clay remains the same (i.e. circumscribed by unique limits), they inferred the existence of the extension within the hollow surface, which resembled the surface of the vessel in remaining the same (i.e., separated from the bodies) as it received the bodies in succession.  But this is invalid.  If the vessel could at any time be devoid of body, then perhaps this so-called “extension” would be detected per se.  But, as it is, fluid flows out and air simultaneously enters to replace it, and that leads them astray.  For since every body is accompanied by an extension, they transfer the extension belonging to bodies to place, without reasoning that an extension is always in place just because a body always  is too, as completely covered bronze vessels reveal: for [in their case] there would be no efflux of fluid unless the air acquired a space for its influx.  What dupes them is that the vessels’ hollow surface also always remains rigid; but if there were an implosion when the fluid was extracted, as there is in the case of wine-skins, they would not be similarly deluded.


Themistius, Paraphrases of Aristotle’s “Physics, Delta-6,” (p. 213A 32), [fr. 40u Ald.; p. 284.2 Speng.]: The void can be posited in two ways: either as disseminated in bodies, as Democritus and Leucippus claim, and many others, including Epicurus later (they all make the ‘interlacing’ of the void the cause of bodily division, since according to them what is truly continuous is undivided); or else as separate (i.e., gross), per se, surrounding the cosmos, as some early thinkers were the first to believe, and later Zeno of Citium and his followers.  We, then, must examine what those involved with the void claim.

Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Physics, Delta-6,” (p. 213A 32), [fr. 151u-]:

On Bodies and their Attributes


Aetius, Doxography, I.12.5, p. 311D (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 14, 1; Plutarch I.12.3): Epicurus maintains that the primary and simple bodies are imperceptible, and also that compounds formed by them all have weight.

Pseudo-Plutarch, On the Opinions of the Philosophers, I.3.26, p. 285, 11D: Bodies have these three attributes: shape, size, and weight.  Democritus guessed two of them, size and shape.  Epicurus, for his part, added weight to these; it is necessary, he argues, that bodies be moved by the blow of their weights, for otherwise they would not move

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Physicists, II (Against the Dogmatists, IV) 240: When Epicurus asserts that we conceive body by means of a combination of size and shape and resistance and weight, he is forcing us to form a conception of existent body out of non-existents.

Ibid., 257: … this too Epicurus acknowledged, when he said that “body is conceived by means of a combination of form and magnitude and resistance and weight.”

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Ethicists (Against the Dogmatists, V) 226: For whether body is, as Epicurus asserts, a combination of size and form and solidity…

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 8, p. 1110F: I can affirm that this view {that denying the reality of emergent properties contradict the senses} is as inseparable from Epicurus’ as shape and weight are by their own assertion inseparable from the atom.

On Motion


Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary of Aristotle’s “De Caelo” (On the Heavens), Gamma-1 (p. 299A 25); [254B 27 Karst.; 510A 30 Brand.]: The followers of Democritus, and, later, Epicurus, say that all atoms of the same nature have weight.  However, because some are heavier, they sink down and in doing so they push the lighter ones up.  Hence, they say, some are light and others are heavy.

Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary of Aristotle’s “De Caelo” (On the Heavens), Alpha-8 (p. 277B 1); [121A 18E 31 Karst.; 486A 4 Brand.]:  Elementary bodies move either as a result of their own nature, or are moved by something else, or are squeezed out by one another.  And he [Aristotle] shows that they do not move under the force of mutual extrusion either as follows.  This opinion was held after him by both Strato of Lampsacus, and Epicurus, who thought that every object possessed weight and moved towards the middle, and that lighter ones settled out above the heavier ones by being forcibly squeezed out upwards by them, so that if the earth were removed, water would move to the center, and if the water [were removed] the air, and if the air [were removed] the fire.

Cf. [p. 111B 25 Karst.; 486A 12 Brand.]:  Those who treat as an indication that everything moves naturally towards the middle the fact that when earth is removed water moves downwards, and when water [is removed] the air [does so too], do not know that the reciprocal motion is the cause of this.  For when the denser things are transferred into the place of the rare, the rarer take the place of the denser, propelled downwards because there can be no void, and because body cannot pass through body.  But one must realize that it was not just Strato and Epicurus who held that all bodies were heavy and moved naturally downwards, unnaturally upwards, but Plato too knows that this opinion is held, and disputes it, thinking that ‘downwards’ and ‘upwards’ are not properly applied to the world, and refusing to accept that things are called heavy in virtue of their downward motion.


Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Physics, Zeta-2,” (p. 232A 23-), fr. 219r,v [938.18 Konstan]: Unless every magnitude were divisible, it would not always be possible for a slower object to move a lesser distance in equal time than a quicker one.  For slower and quicker objects cover the atomic and indivisible distance in the same time, since if one took more time, it would cover in the equal time a distance less than the indivisible distance.  And that is why the Epicureans too think all bodies move at equal speed through indivisible distances, so that they can avoid having their atomic quantities be divided – and thus no longer atomic.


Themistius, Paraphrases of Aristotle’s “Physics, Zeta-1,” (p. 232A 1-17), [fr. 52u Ald.; p. 370.4 Speng.]:

Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Physics, Zeta-1,” fr. 218,u 3 [934.18 Konstan]:He {Aristotle} adds yet another absurdity that follows upon this hypothesis, [namely] that something has moved that was not previously moving, for example, that something has walked that did not previously walk.  For it is posited that O moves [with] the motion DEF over the magnitude ABC, but it moves neither over A (for it has moved over it), nor over B, nor likewise, over C.  It will consequently, have moved [with] the whole motion without previously moving [with] it.

That this obstacle which he {Aristotle} has formulated is itself not entirely beyond belief is shown by the fact that despite his having formulated it and produced his solution, the Epicureans, who came along later, said that this is precisely how motion does occur. For they say that motion, magnitude and time have part-less constituents, and that over the whole magnitude composed of part-less constituents the moving object moves, but at each of the part-less magnitudes contained in it, it does not move but has moved; for if it were laid down that the object moving over the whole magnitude moves over these too, they would turn out to be divisible.


Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Physics, Delta-8,” (p. 216A 17) fr. 159u:


Aetius, Doxography, I.12.5, [p. 311A 10 Diels] (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 14, 1; Plutarch I.12.3): Atoms sometimes move straight down, sometimes swerve, and those which move upwards do so by collision and rebound.

Aetius, Doxography, I.23.4, [p. 319 Diels] (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 19, 1; Plutarch I.23.1): Epicurus said there are two types of the motion: the straight and the swerve.

On the Atomic Swerve


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.6.18:  Epicurus for his part, where he follows Democritus, does not generally blunder. … I now come to the lapses peculiar to Epicurus. He believes that these same indivisible solid bodies are borne by their own weight perpendicularly downward, which he holds is the natural motion of all bodies; but thereupon this clever fellow, being met with the difficulty that if they all traveled downwards in a straight line, and, as I said, perpendicularly, no one atom would ever be able to overtake any other atom, accordingly introduced an idea of his own invention: he said that the atom makes a very tiny swerve—the smallest divergence possible; and thus produces entanglements and combinations and cohesion of atoms with atoms, which result in the creation of the world, and all its parts, and of all that in them is. Now not only is this whole affair a piece of childish fancy, but it does not even achieve the result that its author desires. The swerving is itself an arbitrary fiction; for Epicurus says the atoms swerve without cause—yet this is the capital offense in a natural philosopher, to speak of something taking place uncaused. Then also he gratuitously deprives the atoms of what he himself declared to be the natural motion of all heavy bodies, namely, movement in a straight line downwards, and yet he does not attain the object for the sake of which this fiction was devised. For, if all the atoms swerve, none will ever come to cohere together; or if some swerve while others travel in a straight line, but their own natural tendency, in the first place this will be tantamount to assigning to the atoms their different spheres of action, some to travel straight and some sideways; while secondly (and this is a weak point with Democritus also) this riotous hurly-burly of atoms could not possibly result in the ordered beauty of the world we know.

Cicero, On Fate, 10.22: Epicurus, however, thinks that the necessity of fate is avoided by the swerve of the atom; and so a certain third movement arises, part from weight and collision, when the atom swerves by a very small distance – this he calls a “minimum.” That this swerve comes about without a cause he is compelled to admit, if not by his words, by the facts themselves. For it is not the case that an atom swerves when struck by another; for how can one be struck by another if individual bodies are carried downwards by their weight in straight lines, as Epicurus supposes? For if one is never struck from its course by another, it follows that none even touches another; and from this it results that, even if there is an atom and it swerves, it does so without cause.  Epicurus introduce this theory because he was afraid that, if the atom was always carried along by its weight in a natural and way, we would have no freedom, since our mind would be moved in the way in which it was constrained by the movement of the atoms. Democritus, the inventor of the atoms, preferred to accept this, that all things come about through fate, rather than to remove the natural movements of individual bodies from them.

Ibid. 20.46: This is how the case ought to be argued; one ought not to seek help from atoms that swerve and deviate from their path. “The atom swerves,” he says. First why? For the atoms will have one force to move them from Democritus, the force of an impulse which he calls a blow, and from you, Epicurus, the force of weight and heaviness. So what new cause is there in nature to make the atom serve? Or do they draw lots among themselves which will swerve and which not? Or why do they swerve by a minimum interval and not by a larger one, or why do they swerve by one minimum and not by two or three? This is wishful thinking, not argument.  For you do not say that the atom is moved from its position and swerves through an impulse from outside, nor that in that void through which the atom travels there was any cause for its not traveling in a straight line; nor has there been any change in the atom itself as a result of which it might no preserve the motion natural to its weight. So, although [Epicurus] has not brought forward any cause which might cause that serve of his, nevertheless he thinks he has a point to make when he says the sort of thing which the minds of all reject and repudiate.

Ibid. 9.18: There is no reason for Epicurus to tremble before fate, seek help from the atoms and turn them aside from their path, and for him to commit himself at one and the same time to two things that cannot be proved: first that something should happen without a cause, from which it will follow that something comes from nothing, which neither he himself nor any natural philosopher accepts; and second that, when two indivisible bodies travel through the void, one moves in a straight line and the other swerves aside.

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.25.69 (Cotta speaking): Epicurus saw that if those atoms of his were always falling downwards by their own weight, their motion would be fixed and predetermined, and there would be no room for free will in the world.  So casting about for a way to avoid this determinism, which Democritus had apparently overlooked, he said that the atoms, as they fell, just swerved a little!

Plutarch, On The Birth? of the Soul in Plato’s “Timaeus,” 6, p. 1015C: The fact is that they [the Stoics] do not concede to Epicurus that the atom can swerve the tiniest bit, on the grounds that he introduces a causeless motion coming from nonexistence…

Saint Augustine, Against the Academicians, III.10.23 t. I [p. 284E Venice Edition, 1719]: How shall we decide the controversy between Democritus and earlier physicists about whether there is one world or innumerable worlds, when Democritus and his heir Epicurus were unable to remain in agreement?  Once that voluptuary Epicurus allows atoms, as though they were his little handmaids – that is, the little bodies he gladly embraces in the dark – not to stay on their courses but to swerve freely here and there into the paths of others, he has also dissipated his entire patrimony through such quarrels.

On Aggregation and Dissolution

Varro, On Latin Language, VI.39, p. 219: Democritus, Epicurus, and still others who have deemed the original elements to be unlimited in number, though they do not tell us where the elements came from but only of what sort they are, still perform a great service: they show us the things of the world which consist of these elements.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 16, p. 1116C: But I should like to ask the very man {Colotes} who brings this indictment {against Plato} if his school does not see this distinction in their own system, whereby some objects are enduring and unchanging in their being, just as atoms too in their doctrine are forever the same because they are too hard to be affected, while all aggregates of atoms are subject to flux and change and come into being and pass of of it, as innumerable images leave them in a constant stream, and innumerable others, it is inferred, flow in from the surroundings and replenish the mass, which is varied by this interaction and altered in its composition, since in fact even the atoms in the interior of the aggregate can never cease moving or vibrating against one another, as the Epicureans say themselves.


Ibid., 10, p. 1112A: {The Epicureans} assume that there is neither generation of the non-existent nor destruction of the existent, but that generation is a name given to the conjunction of certain existents with one another and death a name given to their separation.


Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary of Aristotle’s “De Caelo, Alpha-7” (On the Heavens) [p. 275B 29 Karst.; 484A 23 Brand.]: Aristotle then demonstrated that the number of types of elementary bodies were not infinite, as Leucippus and Democritus and their followers (who lived before him) supposed and Epicurus (who lived after him).  These men indeed maintained that the principles {i.e., elements} were unlimited in number, and they also thought that they were atomic and indivisible and impervious, because they were dense and did not enclose any empty space; for they said that division takes place where there is some void within bodies, and also that these atoms, being separated from each other in the unlimited void and differing in shape and size and position and ordering, move in the void and that they catch up with each other and collide and that some rebound to any chance place while others get entangled with each other, in accordance with the symmetry of their shapes and sizes and positions and orderings; and in this way it comes about that the origin of compounds is produced.


Galen, On the Preparation of Simple Medicines, I.14 t. XI [p. 405 K.]: … always remembering how space is said to be empty by those who maintain that its essence is unique.  But space is not empty in the sense in which it seems to Epicurus and to Asclepiades, but rather it is full of air, sparsely populated with bodies everywhere.

Galen, Comment on the 6th book of “Epidemics” by Hippocrates, IV 10 t. XVII 2 [p 162 K.]:The statement that there might empty spaces, in water or in the air, corresponds to the opinion of Epicurus and of Asclepiades in regards to the elements.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 10, p. 1112B: {The Epicureans}, who herd together unyielding and unresponsive atoms, produce nothing out of them – only an uninterrupted series of collisions among the atoms themselves. For the entanglement that prevents dissolution produces rather an intensification of the collisions, so that generation is by their account neither mixture nor cohesion, but confusion and conflict. On the other hand, if the atoms after an instant of collision rebound for while from the impact, and for a while draw near when the blow is spent, the time that they are separated from one another, without contact or proximity, is more than twice as long, so that nothing, not even an inanimate body, is produced out of them; while perception, mind, intelligence and thought cannot so much as be conceived, even with the best of will, as arising among void and atoms, things which taken separately have no quality and which on meeting are not thereby affected or changed.

Ibid., 9, p. 1111E: Whereas an atom, taken alone, is destitute and bare of any generative power, and when it collides with another it is so hard and resistant that a shock ensues, but it neither suffers nor causes any further effect.  Rather the atoms receive and inflict blows for all time, and so far are they from being that they cannot even produce out of themselves a collective plurality or the unity of a heap in their constant shaking and scattering.


Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.22: {Regarding atoms:} Why then, do we not feel nor perceive them?  Because, he says, they have neither color, nor heat, nor odor.  They are free of taste also, and moisture, and they are so minute that they cannot be cut and divided.  Thus, the necessity of consequent things led him to wild ravings because he had undertaken falsehood in the beginning.  For where or whence are those little bodies?   Why did nobody save that one Leucippus dream them up, by whom Democritus was instructed, he who left the inheritance of foolishness to Epicurus?  If these little bodies are indeed solid, as they say, certainly they can come under the eyes.  If the nature of all of them is the same, how do they effect various things?  They come together, he tells us, in varied order and position just as letters do: although they are few, yet variously arranged, they bring about innumerable words.  But letters have various forms.  So do these have commencements themselves, he says, for there are rough ones, there are hooked ones, there are smooth ones.  Therefore, they can be cut and divided if there is in them something which projects.  But if they are smooth and in need of hooks or projections, they cannot cohere.  They must be hooked bodies, then, for a concatenation of them to take place.  But since they are said to be so minute, that they are able to be severed by no sharp blade, how do they have hooks or corners?  It is necessary for them, since they exist, to be torn apart.  Then, by what pact, by what agreement do they come together among themselves, that something may be formed of them?  If they lack sense, they are not able to come together with such order, for it is not possible for anything but reason to bring about anything rational.  With how many proofs is this vanity able to be refuted!

On Qualities


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 10, p. 1111A: Democritus is not to be censured not for admitting the consequences that flow from his principles, but for setting up principles that lead to these consequences.  For he should not have posited immutable first elements; having posited them, he should have looked further and see that the generation of any quality becomes impossible.  But to see the absurdity and deny it is the purest effrontery.   Epicurus {as reported by Colotes} acts with the purest effrontery when he claims to lay down the same first principles, but nevertheless does not say that “color is by convention” and thus the qualities sweet, bitter, etc.  If “does not say” means “does not admit” it is so, he is following his familiar practice… 1111C: There was no necessity to assume, or rather filch from Democritus, the premise that the primary elements of all things are atoms.  But once you have laid down the doctrine and made a fine showing with its initial plausibility, you must drain the disagreeable conclusions along with it, or else show how bodies without quality have given rise to qualities of every kind by the mere fact of coming together.  Take for the example the quality called hot.  How do you account for it?  From where has it come and how has it been imposed on the atoms, which neither brought heat with them nor became hot by their conjunction?  For the former implies the possession of quality, the latter the natural capacity to be affected, neither of which, say you, can rightly belong to atoms by reason of their indestructibility.

Galen, On the Art of Medicine, [7, t. I p. 246 K.]: {Galen, Selected Works, P.N. Singer ca. page 325}

Cf. Galen, On the Elements According to Hippocrates, [I.2, t. I p. 416 K.; 2.6 De Lacy]: It could be said that all things are one in form and power, as Epicurus and Democritus and their followers say about atoms.

Ibid., [p. 418 K.; 2.16 De Lacy]: All the atoms, then, being small bodies, are without qualities, and the void is a kind of place in which these bodies, being carried downward, all of them for all time, somehow become entwined with each other or strike each other and rebound; and in such assemblages they cause separations and recombinations with each other; and from this (interaction) they produce, besides all other compounds, our bodies, their affections, and their sensations.  But (these philosophers) postulate that the first bodies are unaffected, some of them, like Epicurus, holding that they are unbreakable because of hardness, some, like Diodorus and Leucippus, that they are indivisible because of their small size; and [they hold that] these bodies cannot undergo any of those alterations in whose existence all men, taught by their senses confidently believe; for example, they say that none of the primary bodies grows warm or cold, and similarly none becomes dry or wet, and much less would they become black or white or admit to any other change whatsoever in any quality.

Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary of Aristotle’s “Categories” 8, p. 8B 25, quat. Kappa, [fr. 8u Venice Edition; fr. 56u 10 Bas.; 216.31 Fleet]:  In objection to Democritus and Epicurus, the question can be put: why on earth do they grant certain differentiae to atoms such as shape, weight, solidity, corporeality, edges, size, and motion, while asserting that they possess neither color nor sweetness nor life, and that the logoi of other such things do not pre-exist?   For it is absurd, since there is a common account {logos} of the havables, not to classy like with like; it is even more absurd to make the most primary powers secondary, such as life, intellect, nature, reason {logos} and the like.  It is equally impossible for these to be produced out of the conjunction [of atoms]; for according to Democritus, color and suchlike are by convention, and only atoms and void exist in truth.  But once a person has done away with realities, he will have nothing to put in their place, and he who admits the causeless will have no ground to stand on.  For why should the person starting from no definite cause prefer these to the contraries?  So it is better to have recourse to the hypothesis which produces the havables from being had, in the way that the Academics defined ‘havable’ by representing it as ‘that which can be had’ {hektón}, not accepting the definition on the basis of its etymology.

Ibid. 14, p. 15A 30, quat. Phi, [fr. 8u Venice Edition; fr. 56u 10 Bas.]: The followers of Democritus, and subsequently those of Epicurus, in hypothesizing atoms to be unaffected and unqualified by other qualities apart from the shapes [of the atoms] and the way they are composed {tên poian autôn sunthesin}, say that other qualities – whether simple, such as temperatures {thermotêtes} and textures {leioêtes}, or those in respect of colors and tastes – supervene.  And if these latter things [consist] in the way atoms are composed, alteration too will consist in change in respect of them {i.e., the atoms}.  But the way they {i.e., the atoms} are composed, and their transposition and order, derive from nowhere else than from their motion and spatial movement, so that alteration is the same thing as their motion, or at least is a concomitant of this and is something belonging to this.


Alexander of Aphrodisia, Questions, I.13 [p. 52 Spengl.]: {R.W. Sharples}

On Mixture


Alexander of Aphrodisia, On Mixture, fr. 140u (214.28-215.8): Epicurus wanted to avoid what Democritus supposed happened for those who say that blending occurs by means of a juxtaposition of the components of the blend.  He himself said that blending occurs by means of the juxtaposition of certain bodies – not of bodies which were themselves preserved as compounds, but rather of bodies that were broken down into elementary atoms which formed particular compounds, e.g., wine, water, honey, etc.  He then says that the mixture is created by a certain kind of reciprocal compounding by component elements.  It is these which produce the new mixture – not water and the wine, but the atoms which made up the water, as one might designate them, are combined together with those which made up the wine by a destruction and generation of the compound bodies.  For the breakdown of each into its elements is a form of destruction, and the compounding produced from the elements themselves is .

On Change


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Physicists, II (Against the Dogmatists, IV) 42: Some of the natural philosophers, amongst them Epicurus, have declared that the motion of change is a particular form of transitional motion; for the composite object which changes in quality changes owing to the local and transitional motion of the rationally perceived bodies which compose it.  Thus, in order that a thing may become bitter from sweet, or black from white, the particles which must be arranged in a new order and take up different positions; that this could not be brought about in any other way than by the transitional motion of the molecules.  And again, in order that a thing may become soft from hard or hard from soft, the parts whereof it is composed must move in place; for it is made soft by their expansion, but made hard by their coalescence and condensation.  And owing to this the motion of change is, generically, nothing else than transitional motion.


Galen, On the Elements According to Hippocrates, [I.9, t. I p. 483 K.]: … the {qualitative} change of bodies, as it happens, isn’t aggregation and dispersal, as the disciples of Epicurus and Democritus think.

On Magnetism


Galen, On Natural Faculties, I.14, t. II [p. 45 K.]:  Now Epicurus, despite the fact that he employs in his Physics elements similar to those of Ascelpiades, still allows that iron is attracted by the lodestone, and chaff by amber.  He even tries to give the cause of the phenomenon.  His view is that the atoms which flow from the stone are related in shape to those flowing from the iron, and so they become easily interlocked with one another; thus it is that, after colliding with each of the two compact masses (the stone and the iron) they then rebound into the middle and so become entangled with each other, and draw the iron after them.  So far, then, as his hypotheses regarding causation go, he is perfectly unconvincing; nevertheless, he does grant that there is an attraction.  Further, he says that it is on similar principles that there occur in the bodies of animals the dispersal of nutrient and the discharge of waste matter, as also the actions of cathartic drugs.

Asclepiades, however, who viewed with suspicion the incredible character of the cause mentioned, and who saw no other credible cause on the basis of his supposed elements, shamelessly found his way out by stating that nothing is in any way attracted by anything else.  Now, if he was dissatisfied with what Epicurus said, and had nothing better to say himself, he ought to have refrained from making hypotheses, and should have said that Nature is a constructive artist and that the substance of things is always tending towards unity and also towards alteration because its own parts act upon and are acted upon by one another.  For, if he had assumed this, it would not have been difficult to allow that this constructive nature has powers which attract appropriate and expel alien matter.  For in no other way could she be constructive, preservative of the animal, and eliminative of its diseases, unless it be allowed that she conserves what his appropriate and discharges what is foreign.

But in this matter, too, Ascelpiades realized the logical sequence of the principles he had assumed; he showed no scruples, however, in opposing plain fact; he joins issue in this matter also, not merely with all physicians, by with everyone else, and maintains that there is no such thing as a crisis, or a critical day, and that nature does absolutely nothing for the preservation of the animal.  For his constant aim is to follow out logical consequences and to upset obvious fact, in this respect being opposed to Epicurus; for the latter always affirmed the observed fact, although he gives an ineffective explanation of it, saying that these small corpuscles belonging to the lodestone rebound, and become entangled with other similar particles of the iron, and that then, by means of this entanglement (which cannot be seen anywhere) such a heavy substance as iron is attracted.  I fail to understand how anybody could believe this.  Even if we admit this, the same principle will not explain the fact that, when the iron has another piece brought in contact with it, this becomes attached to it.

For what are we to say?  That, indeed, some of the particles that flow from the lodestone collide with the iron and then rebound back, and that it is by these that the iron becomes suspended?  That others penetrate into it, and rapidly pass through it by way of its empty channels?  That these then collide with the second piece of iron and are not able to penetrate it although they penetrated the first piece?  And that they then course back to the first piece and produce entanglements like the former ones?

The hypothesis here becomes clearly refuted by its absurdity.  As a matter of fact, I have seen five writing-stylets of iron attached to one another in a line, only the first one being in contact with the lodestone, and the power being transmitted through it to the others.  Moreover, it cannot be said that if you bring a second stylet into contact with the lower end of the first, it becomes held, attached, and suspended, whereas, if you apply it to any other part of the side it does not become attached.  For the power of the lodestone is distributed in all directions; it merely needs to be in contact with the first stylet at any point; from this stylet again the power flows, as quick as thought, all through the second, and from that again to the third.  Now, if you imagine a small lodestone hanging in a house, and in contact with it all round a large number of pieces of iron, form them again others, from these others, and so on, all these pieces of iron must surely become filled with the corpuscles which emanate from the stone; therefore, this first little stone is likely to become dissipated by disintegrating into these emanations.  Further, even if there be no iron in contact with it, it still disperses into the air, particularly if this be also warm.

“Yes,” says Epicurus, “but these corpuscles must be looked on as exceedingly small, so that some of them are a ten-thousandth part of the size of the very small particles carried in the air.”  Then do you venture to say that so great a weight of iron can be suspended by such small bodies?  If each of them is a ten-thousandth part as large as the dust particles which are borne in the atmosphere, how big must we suppose the hook-like extremities by which they interlock with each other to be?  For of course this is quite the smallest portion of the whole particle.

Then, again, when a small body becomes entangled with another small body, or when a body in motion becomes entangled with another also in motion, they do not rebound at once.  For, further, there will of course be others which break in upon them from above, from below, from front and rear, from right to left, and which shake and agitate them and never let them rest.  Moreover, we would be forced to suppose that each of these small bodies has a large number of these hook-like extremities.  For by one it attaches itself to its neighbors, by another – the topmost one – to the lodestone, and by the bottom one to the iron.  For if it were attached to the stone above and not interlocked with the iron below, this would be of no use.  Thus, the upper part of the superior extremity must hang from the lodestone and the iron must be attached to the lower end of the inferior extremity; and, since they interlock with each other by their sides as well, they must, of course, have hooks there too.  Keep in mind also, above everything, what small bodies these are which possess all these different kids of outgrowths.  Moreover, remember how, in order that the second piece of iron may become attached to the first, the third to the second, and to that the fourth, these absurd little particle must both penetrate the passages in the first piece of iron and at the same time rebound from the piece coming next in the series, although this second peeve is naturally in every way similar to the first.

Such a hypothesis, once again, is certainly not lacking in audacity; in fact, to tell the truth, it is far more shameless than the previous ones; according to it, when five similar pieces of iron are arranged in a line, the particles of the lodestone which easily traverse the first piece of iron rebound from the second, and do not pass readily through it in the same way.  Indeed, it is nonsense, whichever alternative is adopted.  For, if they do rebound, how then do they pass through into the third piece?  And if they do not rebound, how does the second piece become suspended to the first?  For Epicurus himself regarded the rebound as the active agent in the attraction.

But, as I have said, one is driven to talk nonsense whenever one gests into discussion with such men.  Having, therefore, given a concise and summary statement of the matter, I wish to be done with it.  For if one diligently familiarizes oneself with the writings of Ascelpiades, one will see clearly their logical dependence on his first principles, but also their disagreement with observed facts.  Thus, Epicurus, in his desire to adhere to the facts, cuts an awkward figure by aspiring to show that these agree with his principles.

  15.59: How, then, do they {kidneys} exert this attraction {pulling waste from the blood}.  If, as Epicurus thinks, all attraction takes place by virtue of the rebounds and entanglements of the atoms, it would be certainly better to maintain that the kidneys have no attractive action at all; for his theory, when examined, would be found as it stands to be much more ridiculous even than the theory of the lodestone, mentioned a little while ago.


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Physicists, II (Against the Dogmatists, IV).219: According to the account of Demetrius of Laconia, Epicurus says that time is a concurrence of concurrences, one which accompanies days, nights, hours, the presence and absence of feelings, motions and rests.  For all of these are incidental properties of certain things, and since time accompanies them all it would be reasonable to call it a concurrence of concurrences.

[Ibid., 238-247, =  Outlines of Pyrrhonism , III.137, Cf. U79]

Aetius, Doxography, I.22.5, p. 318, 19 [Diels] (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 8, 45): In regards to the essence of time, Epicurus defines it a concurrence , that being what accompanies motion.

On the Universe and its World-Systems


Aetius, Doxography, I.18.3, p. 316 4 [Diels] (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 18, 1; Plutarch I.18.1): Lucretius, Democritus, Demetrius, Metrodorus, Epicurus – they consider the atoms to be infinite in number, while the void is infinite in size.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 13, p. 1114A: Epicurus, who says that “the universe” is infinite, uncreated and imperishable, and subject neither to increase nor diminution, speaks of the universe as if it were a unity.


Cicero, On Divination, II.50.103: You see how Epicurus proceeds from admitted premises to the proposition to be established.  But this you Stoic logicians do not do; for you not only do not assume premises which everybody concedes, but you even assume premises which, if granted, do not tend in the least to establish what you wish to prove.  For you start with this assumption: “If there are gods, they are kindly disposed towards men.”  Now, who will grant you that?  Not Epicurus! He says that the gods are concerned at all – for themselves or for anybody else.

Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Physics, Gamma-4,” (p. 203B 20), fr. 197u:There is fourth point which is hard to deal with: the fact that everything which is limited seems to be limited by something.  For if everything which is limited is limited by something which is external to itself, then that external thing by which it is limited is itself either unlimited or limited.  And if it is unlimited, then we immediately have the result that the unlimited exists.  And if it is limited, like the earth for example, then this too is limited by something else, and so on without limit.  And if it goes on without limit, the unlimited exists.  For one will never get one’s hands on the final limit, if indeed this too is limited by something else.   The Epicureans, according to Alexander, relied on this argument above all else when they said that the universe was infinite, because everything which is limited by something has outside it something which is limited {and so on and so on}.  Aristotle mentions that this argument is quite old.

Cf. Alexander of Aphrodisia, Questions, III.12, [p. 200.20 Spengl.; 10.104,20-23 Sharples]: If the being limited of what is limited consisted in being considered [as] up against something else, then our opponents would have a point when they claim that outside every limited thing there has to be something up against which it is seen to be limited – if it is in this that being {einai}, for what is limited, consists.


Themistius, Paraphrases of Aristotle’s “Physics, Gamma-8,” (p. 208A 11), [fr. 36r Ald.], [p. 251.1 Speng.]:


Plutarch, On the Obsolescence of Oracles, 28, p. 425D:  For, if we take the expressions below and above as referring, not to the world, but outside of it, we shall become involved in the same difficulties as Epicurus, who would have all his atoms move to places under our feet, as if either the void had feet, or infinity granted us to conceive of below and above within itself.

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 8, p. 1111B: {Epicurus} says that while he posits an infinite universe, he does not eliminate “up” and “down.”

Plutarch, Stoic Self-Contradictions, 44, p. 1054B: It is frequently asserted by Chrysippus that outside the world there is infinite void and that what is infinite has no beginning, middle, or end; and this the Stoics use especially to annihilate the downward motion which Epicurus says the atom has of itself, their contention being that in an infinite void, there is no difference by which to distinguish one part as being up and the other as down.


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Pythocles, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.88: “A world-system is a circumscribed portion of the universe, which contains stars and earth and all other visible things, cut off from the infinite, and terminating…” and terminating in a boundary which may be either thick or thin, the  dissolution of which will bring about the ruin of everything within…


Galen, On the Diagnosis and Cure of Soul’s Errors, 7, t. V [p. 102 K., Singer]: The Stoic says that there is no void in the world, but that there is empty space outside it.  The Epicurean grants both these types of void, but differs from the [Stoics] in another respect.  He does not admit that there is only one world, as does the Stoic, who in this respect agrees perfectly with the Peripatetics.  But just as he maintains that the void is infinite in size, so also does he way that there are in it an infinite number of world-systems.

Aetius, Doxography, II.1.3, [p. 327 Diels] (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 22, 3; Plutarch II.1.1): Democritus and Epicurus maintain that there are infinite worlds in the infinite , in every direction.

Achilles, Introduction, 8, [p.131 E Pet.]: Some assert that there exists something externally, as indeed Epicurus, who supposes that there are infinite world-systems in the infinite void.  5 p. 130B:Epicurus and his master [sic] Metrodorus believe in the existence of many world-systems.

Servius, Commentary on Virgil’s “Aenids,” I.330 at “Under which skies:” … according to the Epicureans, who would have it that there exist more skies, as Cicero does in his Hortensius.

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.24.67 (Cotta to Velleius): Where is this “truth” of yours to be found?  Among the innumerable world-systems, born and dying through every instant of time?

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.6.21:  The very conception of infinite space, apeiria as they term it, is entirely derived from Democritus; and again the countless numbers of world-systems that come into existence and pass out of existence every day.

Dionysius the Episcopalian, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XIV 23, 2 p. 773A: The atoms comprise an infinity of world-systems.  [Cf. 26.14 p. 781A]

Hermias, Derision of the Pagan Philosophers, 18, [p. 656, 7 Diels]: Epicurus jumps up and tells me “You actually have counted only one world-system, my friend.  But there are many world-systems – in fact, they are infinite.” [Cf. Commentary on Lucan, Civil War, VI.696]

Alexander of Aphrodisia, Questions, III.12, [p. 199, 20 Spengl.; 10.104,4-8 Sharples]: That there is a plurality of unlimited things according to those who say that the principles {i.e., elements} are unlimited is clear also from what follows.  They say that the world-systems, too, are unlimited [in number].  If each of these too is composed out of unlimited principles, it is necessary for the unlimited things to be unlimited an unlimited number of times over.


Aetius, Doxography, II.1.8, [p. 329B 3 Diels] (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 22, 3): Epicurus asserts that he spaces between world-systems are unequal.


Aetius, Doxography, II.2.3, [p. 329A 5 Diels] (Plutarch II.2): Epicurus affirms that, on the one hand, it is possible that world-systems might be spherically shaped, and on the other hand, that it is also possible they may be characterized by other configurations.


Aetius, Doxography, II.7.3, [p. 336 Diels] (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 22, 2; Plutarch II.7.2): Epicurus maintains that the edges of some world-systems may be thin, others thick, and that of these, some move and others remain stationary.


Philo, On the Indestructibility of the Cosmos, 3, [p. 2222, 2 Bern.]: Democritus, Epicurus, and a numerous company of Stoic philosophers believe in a birth and destruction of the world, though not in the same way.  The ones who believe in the existence of an infinity of world-systems attribute their births in terms of reciprocal impacts and entanglement of atoms, and their deaths to crashing atoms and to collisions from that which it was formed out of.

Commentary on Lucan, Pharsalia (The Civil War), VII.1, p. 220.5: They don’t agree with the Stoics and Epicureans, who assert that the world was born and will perish.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, VII.1.10: Epicurus then, on the authority of Democritus, was truly versed on this point.  He said that [the world] had begun at one time and would come to extinction at some time.  However, he was not able to render any account either for what causes or at what time this such great work would be dissolved.

Ibid., II.10.24: But if the world can perish entirely, since it perishes in parts, it is clear that at some time it began.  Fragility thus exposes the end of the world just as it shows its beginning.  And if these things are true, Aristotle will not be able to defend the point he held, namely, that the world itself had no beginning. If Plato and Aristotle, who thought that the world will always be, although they are eloquent, the same Epicurus will force the same point from them, however unwilling, since it follows that it also has an end.


Aetius, Doxography, II.4.10, [p. 331.24 Diels] (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 20, 1; Plutarch II.4.2): Epicurus says that the world {continuously} destroys itself in very many ways: for it can be destroyed in the manner of an animal, in the manner of plant, and in lots of other ways.


Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Physics, Theta-1,” (p. 250b 18), fr. 257u:


St. Jerome, Commentary on “Ecclesiastes,” c. 1, t. III [p. 391D Vall.]: We do not believe that signs and portents and many unusual facts, which happen in the world by divine will, have already happened in past generations, such as Epicurus would have it, asserting that through innumerable temporal cycles, the same things happen, in the same places, by means of the same agents.


Aetius (Plutarch), On the Opinions of the Philosophers, I.4, [p. 289 Diels]: So the world was compounded and endowed with its bent {i.e., rounded} shape in the following manner:  Because atomic bodies, which move without guidance and in a haphazard manner, were constantly moving at the greatest of speeds, many bodies happened to be assembled together in the same place, and thereby had variety of shapes and seizes .  As they assembled in the same place, the larger and heavier bodies tended to move toward the bottom and settled; but the small, round, smooth, and slippery ones were pushed out in the concourse of atoms and so moved into the celestial regions.  So when the force of the blows [of atomic collisions] stopped raising them up, and the blows no longer carried them into the celestial regions, they were still prevented from falling down because they were squeezed into places that could accommodate them.  Now these were situated all around, and most of the bodies were bent around to these places.  By becoming entangled with each other during the bending, they generated the sky.  Retaining the same nature and being varied, as was said, the atoms which were pushed out to the celestial regions produced the nature of the heavenly bodies. The majority of the bodies which were evaporated upwards struck the air and compressed it.  And the air, being made wind-like during its movement and gathering together the heavenly bodies, drove them around with itself and by this twisting produced their present circular movement in the celestial regions.  And then the earth was produced from the bodies which settled at the bottom, while those which were raised upwards produced the sky, fire, and air.  Since a great deal of matter was still contained in the earth and this was packed densely by the blows of the atomic bodies and by those from the rays of the heavenly bodies, the earth’s entire configuration, which was made up of small particles, was squeezed together and so produced the nature of fluids.  And since this nature was disposed to flow, it moved down into the hollow places and those able to receive it and contain it; either that, or the water all by itself hollowed out the existing places by settling there.  So the most important parts of the world were produced in this way.

On Plants


Aetius (Plutarch), Doxography, V.26, [p. 438 Diels]: The Stoics and the Epicureans do not consider the plants to be living beings (some are actually characterized as being irascible and lustful – others as rational), but instead the plants move, in a certain sense, automatically, without mental guidance.

On Man


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians, I (Against the Dogmatists, I).267: Epicurus and his followers supposed that the conception of Man could be conveyed by indication, saying that “Man is this sort of a shape combined with vitality.”  But they did not notice that if the thing indicated is Man, the thing not so indicated is not Man.

Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, II.25: Epicurus says that Man is “This sort of shape combined with vitality.”  According to him, then, since a man is revealed by direct perception, he that is not perceived as such is not a man.

On the Soul


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.66: He says elsewhere that the soul is composed of the smoothest and roundest of atoms – far more so than those of fire; part of it is irrational and scattered throughout the body, while the rational part resides in the chest, where we feel it in our fears and our joy.


Aetius, Doxography, IV.4.6, [p. 390 Diels] (Plutarch IV.4.3) (Democritus): Democritus and Epicurus say that the soul has two parts, one which is rational and situated in the chest, and the other which is non-rational and spread throughout the entire body.

Ibid., IV 5.5, p. 391 [Diels] (Plutarch IV.5.2): Parmenides and Epicurus maintain that the seat of consciousness – the rational part of the soul – occupies the entire chest.

Tertulllian, On the Soul, 15: You must not suppose that the sovereign faculty … is found enclosed in the breast, as Epicurus thinks.


Uncertain Epicurean Author, Vol. Herc. 2, VII.17 col. XXII- :


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 20, p. 1118D: Colotes, however finds the question absurd {Socrates’ inquiries into “what is a man?”}.  Why then does he not deride has master too, who did this very thing as often as he wrote or spoke about the constitution of the soul and the “initiation of the aggregate.”  For if (as they themselves hold) the combination of the two parts, a body of a certain description and a soul, is man, then one who seeks to discover the nature of the soul is seeking to discover the nature of man, starting from the more important source.  And that the soul is hard to apprehend by reason and cannot be discerned by sense let us not learn from Socrates, “the sophist and charlatan,” but from these sages, who get as far as those powers of the soul that affect the flesh, by which it imparts warmth and softness and firmness to the body, when they manufacture its substance by the combining their own varieties of heat, gas and air, but quite before they reach the seat of power.  For its ability to judge, remember, love, and hate – in short, its thinking and reasoning faculty – is added to these, they say from a quality “that has no name.”  This talk of the thing “that has no name” is, we know, a confession of an embarrassed ignorance – what they cannot make out they assert that they cannot name.  But let this too “be excused,” as they say.


Aetius, Doxography, IV.3.11, p. 388 [Diels] (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, physics, 41 p. 798; Plutarch IV.3.4): Epicurus said that the soul is a blend of four things: one of which is fire-like, one air-like, one wind-like, while the fourth is something which lacks a name.  (This last he made the one which accounts for sensation.)  The wind, he said, produces movement in us, the air produces rest, the hot one produces the evident heat of the body, and the unnamed one produces sensation in us.  For sensation is found in none of the named elements

Macrobius, Commentary on the “Dream of Sciopio,” I.14.20: Epicurus called the soul a being commixed with fire, air, and breath.

Alexander of Aphrodisia, On the Soul, I.8 f. 127u: … and the Epicureans: indeed, according to them, the soul is a compound of more varied bodies.   [Cf. Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, III.231]

On Temperaments


Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, III.294- :

There is mostly heat in creatures of violent heart
whose mind is easily inflamed to anger:
In that kind that is first of all the lion
who breaks his chest with roaring, or who anyhow
cannot contain the waves of anger within him.

There is more chilly breath in the mind of a deer
and that quickly fans cold air through its inner parts
which causes a trembling in every limb.
The ox’s nature is one with the peaceful air;
The torch of anger is never so lit in him
that he is covered by billowing clouds of smoke;
Not ever is he shot through with icy fear:
He is somewhere between the stag and the savage lion.

So it is with men: however education
may give them similar polish, yet each
retains traces of his first nature in his mind.
It is not to be thought that faults can be so eradicated
that one does not run too quickly into anger,
another not take fright readily, while a third
may take all things more easily than he should.
In many other things there are great differences
between men in their nature and behavior:
I cannot now explain the reasons for this,
nor find names for the shapes of all the elements
from which these many differences arise.
What, however, I think can be asserted
is that the traces of original nature
which reason cannot efface, are very few,
so that nothing can stop us living as the gods do.

On Sensation


Aetius, Doxography, IV.8.10, [p. 395 Diels] (Parallel A27, 18; Plutarch IV.8.5): Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus say that sense-perception and thought occur when images approach from the outside.  For we apply neither [sense-perception nor thought] to anything in the absence of an image striking form the outside.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.6.21: Those ideas which he {Epicurus} adopts, the credit belongs entirely to Democritus – {e.g.,} the atoms, the void, the images, or as they call them, eidola, whose impact is the cause not only of vision but also of thought.

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.38.108 (Cotta to Velleius): You are trying to foist these images of yours not only on our eyes but on our minds as well.

Ibid., I.38.107: Suppose that there are such images constantly impinging on our minds…

Saint Augustine, Letter to Dioscorus, 118.27 t. II [p. 340D Venice Edition 1719] (cf., ibid., 31 p. 342A): Let them say, then, in which class they would include the images which, as they think, stream from solid substances, without themselves being at all solid, and by their impact on the eyes cause us to see; on the mind, to think.  They could not possibly be perceived if they are themselves substances.

Aetius (Plutarch), Doxography, IV.23.2, [p. 414 Diels]: Epicurus maintained that both emotions and sensation take place in the parts of the body susceptible to being affected, while the sovereign faculty is unaffected.

On Vision


Aetius, Doxography, IV.13.1, [p. 403 Diels] (Parallel O14, 1; Plutarch IV.13): Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus maintain that visual perception takes place by the entrance of images [into the eyes].

Meletius, in Cramer, Oxoniensian Anecdote, III p. 71, 7: There is much disagreement among philosophers regarding [the act of seeing]: the Epicureans profess that images from apparent objects come to impact the eyes and produce vision.


Alexander of Aphrodisia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “On the Sensations,” 2 p. 438A 5- [p. 51,3 Thur.]: Democritus himself, and before him Leucippus, and after him the Epicureans, think that certain images, which are of the same shape as the objects from which they flow, flow from them and strike the eyes of those who are seeing and that this is how seeing occurs.  As a proof of this he offers the fact that there is always in the pupil of those who are seeing a reflection and image of what is seen, and this is exactly what the act of seeing is.  [Cf. Alexander of Aphrodisia, On the Soul, II.13]

Galen, On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato, VII 7 t. V [p. 643 K.; p. 643,3 Müll.; VII.7.21 De Lacy]: Therefore Epicurus’ view – although both views are mistaken – is much better than that of the Stoics.  For the latter do not bring anything of the visual object up to the visual power, but Epicurus declared that he did so.  Aristotle is much superior to ; he does not posit a corporeal image but a quality from the visual object to the eyes through an alteration of the surround air. [ibid. p. 643 K.; p. 643,3 Müll.]

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, V.16.3: Epicurus believes that there is a constant flow from all bodies of images from those bodies themselves, and that these impinge upon the eyes, and hence the sensation of seeing arises.

Macrobius, Saturnalia, VII 14.3: The nature of vision has been brilliantly investigated by Epicurus, and his views on the subject should not, in my opinion, be rejected, especially since the theories of Democritus agree with them—for in this as in everything else those two philosophers are of the same mind.  Epicurus, then, holds that from all bodies images flow in a continuous stream and that the sloughed-off particles, cohering to form an empty shape, are forever carried abroad, without the slightest intermission, to find lodgment in our eyes, thus reaching the seat which nature has appointed form them as the seat of the appropriate sense.  Such is the explanation given by that famous man.

On Mirrors


Aetius, Doxography, IV.14.2, [p. 405 Diels] (Parallel O14, 14; Plutarch): Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus assert that what we see in mirrors is formed by opposition of images moving away from us and upon the mirror will be reflected backwards.

Appuleius, Apology or On Magic, 15: What is the reason why, not even for these motives, that the philosopher, and only him, should not look into the mirror?  Indeed sometimes it is proper … to consider also the criterion of the resemblance itself, it, as Epicurus affirms, certain images moving away from us, like husks that emanate from bodies in a continuous flux, once they have bumped against something smooth and solid, are reflected backwards upon impact, and reproduced in reverse, corresponding in the opposite way.

On Hearing


Aetius, Doxography, IV.19.2, [p. 408 Diels]: Epicurus maintains that the voice is a flow sent out from those who make utterances or produce sounds or noises.  This flow is broken up into particles of the same shape.  (“Of the same shape” means that the round are like the round and the angular and the triangular are like those of those types.)  And when these strike the organs of hearing, the perception of voice is produced.


Scholiast on Dionysius Thrax {“Dionysius the Thracian”}, British Museum codex, in Cramer, Oxoniensian Anecdote, IV p. 317, 8: Epicurus, Democritus, and the Stoics say that voice is a body.  For everything which can act or be acted upon is a body.  For example, iron: it is acted upon by fire and it acts on men or wood.  So if voice can act and be acted upon, it is a body.  But it acts, since we enjoy hearing a voice or a lyre; and it is acted upon, as when we are speaking and the wind blows, which makes it harder to hear our voice.

Grammaticus the Byzantine, Paris codex, 2555 BAG p. 1168: Democritus, Epicurus, and the Stoics said that the voice must be a body, since everything that has activity and reactivity – that is: anything able to act and be acted upon – is a body.


Plutarch, Table Talk, VIII 3.1 p. 720E: The fact which needed explanation, continued Ammonius, was rather that voices are more sonorous at night and preserve not only their volume but the precise articulation. …  2. p. 720F: Boëthus then said that when he was still young and occupied with academic pursuits, he had been accustomed to using postulates and adopting unproved assumptions, after the manner of geometry, but that he would now employ some of the demonstrated doctrines of Epicurus.  “Existing things move about in the non-existent.  There is a great deal of void interspersed and mingled with the atoms of air.  Now when air is dispersed and has scope and motility because of its loose structure, the empty spaces left between the particles are small and narrow and the atoms, being scattered, fill a good deal of space, but when it is compressed and the atoms are crowded into a small space, and are forced close together, they leave plenty of space outside and make the intervals large.  This is what happens at night, under the influence of cold.  For warmth loosens and separates and dissolves concentrations, which is why bodies when boiling or softening or melting take up more room, while on the other hand the particles in freezing and cooling bodies join together more compactly and leave vacuums – spaces from which they have withdrawn – in the vessels which hold them.  A sound which approaches and strikes a large number of particles collected in a mass is either silenced completely or undergoes serious convulsions and many collisions and delays.  But in an empty stretch, devoid of atoms, it travels a smooth, continuous, and unimpeded path to the organ of hearing, preserving, by its velocity, not only the sense of the message but its fine detail.  Surely you have noticed that empty vessels when struck are more responsive and send the sound a long way, and often the sound goes round and round and there is much communication of it; but a vessel filled either with solid matter or with some liquid becomes completely mute and soundless, since the sound has no way or passage by which to go through.  Of physical bodies themselves, gold and stone, because of their compactness, are weak-voiced and dull-sounding, and quickly extinguish sounds within them, but bronze is melodious and vocal, because it has much empty space within its structure and is light and fine in its spatial mass, not constricted by crowding particles, but containing an abundance of flimsy, yielding substance.  This gives easy passage to other motions and especially to sound, receiving it hospitably and speeding it on its journey, until someone, like a highway-robber, seizes and detains and blindfolds it.  There it comes to a halt, ceasing to move on because of the obstruction.  This is in my opinion what makes the night sonorous and the day less so.  Daytime, by its warmth, and the expansion of the air, makes the intervals between the atoms small, so long as no one objects to my basic assumptions.

[Cf. Ibid., c. 3 p. 721F]: There was no need to trouble the night with contraction and increased tension of its air, so as to leave passages and vacuums elsewhere, as through the air were a hindrance to sound or destroyed its substance.  Air is itself the substance and body and power of sound.  Apart from these points, turbulent nights, for example cloudy or stormy ones, ought to be in your theory more sonorous than nights that are clear and uniform in composition, because then the atoms are forced together in one place, and leave the place they are driven from empty of matter.  It is also very obvious that a cold day would be more sonorous than a hot summer night.  But neither are true.

On Taste


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 25, p. 1121B: {That … protest of theirs in defense of sensation, that it does not assert the external object to be warm, the truth being merely that the effect produce in sensation has been of this kind – } is it not the same as the statement about taste?  It does not assert that the external object is sweet – there has merely occurred in the taste an effect and movement of this kind.

On Sleep and Dreams


Tertullian, On the Soul, 43: The Epicureans maintain that sound is a diminution of vital spirit.


Plutarch, Table Talk, VIII 10.1 p. 734D: [regarding] the common notion about dreams – that they are especially likely to be unreliable or false in the autumn months …  I don’t know … how it came to be …  §2 p. 734F: Favorinus … on this occasion advanced an old argument of Democritus.   Taking it down all blackened with smoke, as it were, he set about cleaning and polishing it.  He used for a foundation the familiar argument found in Democritus that ghostly films penetrate the body through the pores and that when they emerge they make us see things in our sleep.  These films that come to us emanate from everything – from utensils, clothing, plants, and especially from animals, because of their restlessness and their warmth.  The films have not only the impressed physical likeness in contour of an animal – so far Epicurus agrees with Democritus, though he drops the subject at this stage – but they gather and convey by attraction ghostly copies of each man’s mental impulses, designs, moral qualities, and emotions.


Commentary on Lucan, Pharsalia (The Civil War), II.380, p. 75.13: Epicurus asserts that flowing atoms penetrate our minds from the images of objects, and that during the sleep there appears either actions that we have done or those we are about to do.


Tertullian, On the Soul, 46: Epicurus, who used to liberate the divinity from every occupation, and eliminate the order of things, and dispersed them into passivity … [more]

Cicero, On Divination, I.30.62: Shall we listen to Epicurus rather than Plato {regarding dreams}?

Ibid., I.44, 99: Sisenna … later, influenced to doubt by some petty Epicurean, goes on inconsistently to maintain that dreams are not worthy of belief.

Petronius, Satyricon, 104 [Eumolpus speaking]: Exactly.  And this {coincidence of similar dreams by two different people} shows you why we consider Epicurus almost superhuman.  As you many remember, he very wittily disposes of such coincidences as mere silly superstitions.  

[Cassius, by way of Plutarch, Life of Cassius, 37: {Referring to other doctrines as if they might be Epicurean…} And they explain the transpiration of dreams during periods of sleep – transpirations that are due to the imaginative faculty, which from minor beginnings, gives rise to varied emotions and images.  This faculty, on the other hand, is always set in motion by nature and its motion is a representation or a concept.]

On Reproduction


Aetius, Doxography, V.3.5, [p. 417 Diels]: Epicurus asserts that seminal fluid is a small detachment from the body and soul.


Aetius (Plutarch), Doxography, V.5.1, [p. 418 Diels]: Pythagoras, Epicurus, and Democritus all say that the female also secretes seminal fluid.  It comes from testicles, flipped around in the opposite sense; it must thereby also have an impetus for union.


Censorinus, On the Natal Day, 5.4: Even on this question there is uncertainty among the various scholars: if the child is born only by the semen of the father…, or also by that of the mother as well, which … is the opinion of Epicurus.


Ibid., 6.2: The Stoics assert that the fetus forms itself in its entirety in a single moment.  … There are also those who think that it arrives by the work of Nature itself, like Aristotle and Epicurus.

Aetius (Plutarch), Doxography, V.16.1, [p. 426 Diels]: Democritus and Epicurus say that the embryo in the womb partially nourishes itself through the mouth, …etc…


On the Origin of Human Beings

Censorinus, On the Natal Day, IV.9: Democritus of Abdera first held that men were created from water and mud.  And Epicurus’ view is not much different, for he believed that when the mud became warm, first there grew wombs of some kind or another which clung to the earth by roots, and these begat infants and provided a natural supply of milky fluid for them, under the guidance of nature.  When these [infants] had been brought up in this manner and reached maturity, they then propagated the human race.

On Linguistics


Origen, Against Celsus, I.24, [p. 18 Hoesch.]: As to this, one should also say that a deep and arcane debate about the nature of names emerged.  Are names conventional, as Aristotle thinks? …  Or are names natural, as Epicurus teaches – in a manner different from that of the Stoics – such that the first men burst forth with particular sounds which were then applied to things?


Proclus Lycaeus, Commentary on Plato’s “Cratylus,” 16 [p. 6 Boiss.]: Pythagoras and Epicurus shared the view of Cratylus…  17 [p. 8]: Epicurus thought that names were natural in [one] sense, as being a primary function of nature, such as voice and vision and seeing and hearing, in the same way naming is natural.  So that names too are natural in the sense of functions of nature.  But Cratylus says that names are natural in [another] sense; that is why he says that each thing has its own proper name, since it was given specifically by the first name-givers in a craftsman-like fashion based on an understanding of the thing.  Epicurus, however, said that these men did not give names based on an understanding of things, but because they were moved in a natural fashion, like those who cough and sneeze and below and bark and lament.

On Death


Aetius (Plutarch), Doxography, IV.7.4, [p. 393 Diels]: Democritus and Epicurus said that the soul is mortal and perishes with the body.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.33: What of the fact that that argument is completely false, since souls do no perish?  “Reflect again on the truth,”  [Epicurus] says, “for it is necessary that that which is born with the body, perish with the body.” Cf. Ibid., VII.12.1: Now let us refute the arguments of those who set forth contrary opinions.  Lucretius worked them into his third book.  “Since the soul is born with the body,” he said, “It must perish with the body.”  {Cf. Lucretius, III.417, III.634, & III.746}  Ibid., VII.13.7: Thus, the opinion of Democritus and Epicurus and Dicaearchus about the dissolution of the soul is false then.  [Ibid., VII.8.8: {…those who opposed [Plato, Pythagoras, & Pherecydes] held no less influence: Dicaearchus, at first; then Democritus; finally, Epicurus}]

St. Augustine (attributed), Exegesis of the Psalm, 73.25, t. IV [p. 781 Venice Edition]:

St. Augustine, Sermon, 348, t. V p. 1344 A: And, once this life is spent, they do not believe that there might be another one in the hereafter.


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Physicists, I (Against the Dogmatists, III).72: [Souls] persist as they are in themselves, and are not, as Epicurus said, “dispersed like smoke when released from their bodies.”

Cf. Iamblichus, by way of Stobaeus, Anthology, Physics, 41.43, [p. 924 H.]:


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.31.100: He {Epicurus} repeatedly argued at length, and also stated briefly and plainly  in the work I have just mentioned {The Principal Doctrines}, that death does not affect us at all…


Gnomolgion from the Parisinus codex, 1168, f. 115r- (Maxims of Epicurus): It is possible to provide security against other afflictions, but as far as death is concerned, we men all live in a city without walls. {= Vatican Saying 31}

[Cf. Maximus the Abbot, Gnomologion, 36, [p.194 Turic.; t. II p. 827 Combef.]


Hippolytus, “Philosophical Questions,” (Refutation of all Heresies, I) 22.5 [p. 572.14 Diels.]: He {Epicurus} concluded that the souls of men are dissolved along with their bodies, just as also they were produced along with them; these, in fact, are blood, and when this has gone forth or been altered, the entire man perishes.  In keeping with this tenet, it follows that there are neither trials in Hades, nor tribunals of justice; so that whatsoever any one may commit in this life, that, provided he may escape detection, he is altogether beyond any liability of trial.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 24.18: I am not so foolish as to go through at this juncture the arguments which Epicurus harps upon, and say that the errors of the world below are idle – that Ixion does not whirl round on his wheel, that Sisyphus does not shoulder his stone uphill, that a man’s entrails cannot be restored and devoured everyday; no one is so childish as to fear Cerberus, or the shadows, or the ghostly garb of those who are held together by nothing but their bare bones.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.42: Epicurus says … the punishments of hell do not have to be feared, because souls die after death; nor is there any hell at all.

Ibid., VII.7.13: Zeno, the Stoic, taught that there was a hell, and that the abodes of the virtuous were separated from the wicked, and that the former inhabited quiet and delightful regions, while the latter paid their penalty in dark places and horrible caverns of mud.  The prophets made the same thing clear to us.  Therefore, Epicurus was in error who thought that this was a figment of the poet’s imagination, and took those punishments of hell to be those which are borne in this life.

On Celestial Phenomena

[Tertulllian, On the Pagan Nations, II.4: Epicurus, however, who had said, “What is above us is nothing to us,” wished notwithstanding to have a peep at the sky, and found the sun to be a foot in diameter.]


Aetius (Plutarch), Doxography, V.20.2, [p. 432 Diels]: Democritus and Epicurus do not believe that celestial bodies are living beings.

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 27, p. 1123A: Who is it that upsets accepted beliefs and comes in conflict with the plainest facts?  It is those who reject… {divination, providence, and} that the sun and moon are living beings, to whom sacrifice and prayer and reverence is offered up by all mankind.

Galen, On the Use of Parts, XII 6, t. IV [p. 21 K.]: Even our Creator, though knowing perfectly the ingratitude of such men as these, has yet created them.  The sun makes the seasons of the year and perfects the fruits without paying any heed, I suppose, to Diagoras, Anaxagoras, Epicurus, or the others blaspheming against it.  No beneficent being bears malice over anything, but naturally aides and adorns all.

St. Augustine, City of God, XVIII 41: At Athens did there not flourish both the Epicureans, who asserted that human affairs are of no concern to the gods, and the Stoics, who, coming to the opposite conclusion, argued that these are guided and supported by the gods, who are our helpers and protectors?  I wonder therefore why Anaxagoras was tried for saying that the sun is a blazing stone and denying that it is a god at all, while in the same city Epicurus lived in glory and in safety, though he not only believed neither in the divinity of the sun nor in that of any other luminary, but also maintained that neither Jupiter nor any other god dwells in the universe at all for men’s prayers and supplications to reach him.


Aetius (Plutarch), Doxography, II.20, 14, [p. 350 Diels] (Stobaeus, Anthology, Physics, 25.3; Plutarch, II.20,5): Epicurus maintains that the sun is a compact amassment of earth, similar in aspect to pumice-stone, spongy because of its pores, and ignited by fire.

Cf. Achilles, Introduction, 19, [p.138D Pet.]: Epicurus asserts that it [the sun] is similar in a way to pumice-stone, and that from fire and through certain pores, it emanates its light.


Aetius, Doxography, II.22.6, [p. 352 Diels] (Plutarch II.22): Anaximenes believes that the sun might be large and flat as a petal, Heraclitus that it might be similar to a bowl-shaped container, and very bent; the Stoics that it might be spherical, like the world and celestial bodies; Epicurus, that it might be able to assume any given shape.


Aetius, Doxography, II.21.5, [p. 352,1 Diels] (Plutarch II.21.2; Stobaeus, Anthology, Physics, 25.3): Epicurus maintains that the sun is more or less as large as it appears.


Servius, Commentary on Virgil’s “Georgics,” I.247: At the expression “intempesta silet” … The Epicureans maintain that the sun does not proceed around the other hemisphere, but according to them sparkles always gather together in the east, and the disc of the sun is formed.

Servius, Commentary on Virgil’s “Aenids,” IV.584: “With new light” … according to the Epicureans, who foolishly believe that the sun is composed of atoms, and that it is born together with the day, and together with the day perishes.


Junius Philargirius, Commentary on Virgil’s “Georgics,” II.478 [p.248 Orsini] (“Various eclipses”): Epicurus maintains that, regarding the phenomenon in which the sun seems to diminish, one should not attribute a single cause, but rather various hypotheses: it may be proposed, in fact, that it extinguishes itself, or that it ventures further out, or that some other body hides it.

Themistius, Paraphrases of Aristotle’s “Posterior Analytics, Alpha-33,” (p. 89 A 38), [fr. 9u Ald.]: Therefore it is not possible that, for the same belief, it can be opinion and knowledge for the same person simultaneously, for he would then assume that the same thing can and cannot also be something else at the same time.  But it happens that a man can have a certain belief as his opinion, while for another man, it is knowledge.  For Epicurus, in particular, it was indeed an opinion that the sun is eclipsed when the moon, in its course, passes under it; but in fact he believed it possible for things to be otherwise; for Hipparchus, by contrast, it was knowledge.


Scholion on Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.74 p. 26.9: Elsewhere he says that the earth is supported on air.


Aetius, Doxography, III.4.5, [p. 371 Diels] (Parallel N 6.5 p. 691 Gf.; Plutarch, III.4.2): Epicurus says that all these things {i.e., clouds, rain, etc.} can be explained with the atomic theory.  Hail and rain, in particular, are rounded off because they are so-shaped from their long fall.


Aetius, Doxography, III.15.11 (Plutarch, III 15.9): As for earthquakes, Epicurus says that it is possible that the earth is moved by being violently thrust upwards when struck by the air from below, which is humid and dense; it’s also possible that it happens because the earth is cavernous underground, and thus jolted by the wind, which bursts into its cavities, which are like caverns, and diffused into their interiors.


Seneca, Natural Questions, VI.20.1: Now we come to those writers who have stated as a cause of earthquakes either all the elements I mentioned or several of them.  Democritus thinks several.  For he says that an earthquake is produced sometimes by moving air, sometimes by water, sometimes by both.  (5)  Epicurus says that all these things can be causes and he tries several other causes.  Also he criticizes those who insist that some single on e of them is the cause, since it is difficult to promise anything certain about theories which are based on conjecture.  Therefore, as he says, water can cause an earthquake if it washes away and erodes some parts of the earth.  When these parts are weakened they cease to be able to sustain what they supported when they were intact.  The pressure of moving air can cause earthquakes; for perhaps the air inside the earth is agitated by other air entering, perhaps the earth receives a shock when some part of it suddenly falls and from this the earth takes on movement.  Perhaps a warm quantity of moving air is changed to fire and like lightning is carried along with great destruction to things that stand in its way.  Perhaps some blast pushes the swampy and stagnant waters and consequently either the blow shakes the earth or the agitation of the air increases by its very motion and, stirring itself up, travels all the way from the depths to the surface of the earth.  At any rate, Epicurus is satisfied that air is the main cause of earthquakes.

On the Gods

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, V.52:

The man who gets the better of all this
by words and without weapons, will not such a one {Epicurus}
deserve to be reckoned among deities?


Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.16.43 – 20.56 (Velleius’ monologue): {Reproduced elsewhere}

Ibid., 34.95 (Cotta speaking): You say that there are both male and female gods  –  well, you can see as well as I can what is going to follow from that!

Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, VII.3.5: A man who denies that god is a “spirit diffused through all the parts of the world” {a Stoic definition} would not be saying that it is mistaken to call the world divine, as Epicurus would, for he gave God human form and a place in the spaces between worlds.

Saint Augustine, Letter to Dioscorus, 118.27 t. II [p. 340B Venice Edition 1719]: How much better for me not even to have heard the name of Democritus than to reflect with sorrow that someone was considered great in his own times who thought that the gods were images which were emitted from solid substances, although they themselves were not solid, and that they, by circling around this way and that, of their own motion, and by sliding into the minds of men, make them think the image is a divine force, while the substance from which the image was given off was deemed excellent in proportion to its solidity!  Therefore, his theory wavered, as they say, and varied, so that sometimes, he said that a certain substance from which the images streamed was god, yet, that substance cannot be conceived except through the images which it emits and gives off, that is, those which come from that substance, which he somehow thinks is corporeal and eternal and therefore divine, while the images are carried long by a constant emanation like mist, and they come and enter into ours so that we can think they are a god or gods.  Those philosophers hold that there is no other cause for any thought of ours except these images which, when we think, come form those substances and enter into our minds.  …  28:  However, Democritus is said to differ from Epicurus in his natural philosophy, in that he thinks there is a certain living and breathing force present at the coming together of atoms, by which force, I believe, he says “the images are endowed with divinity” – not the images of all things, but those of gods – and “that the elements from which the mind is compounded” exist in the universe, and to these he attributes divinity, and that these are “animate images which are wont to exercise a beneficent or harmful influence over us.”  But Epicurus postulated nothing as the beginning of the world but atoms, that is, certain particles of matter so minute that they cannot be divided or perceived by either sight or touch, and by the chance meeting of these particles he says that innumerable worlds, and living beings, and the principle of life itself were produced, as well as the gods whom endows with human form, and locates, not in any world, but beyond and between the worlds.  He refuses absolutely to consider anything but material substances, but, in order to be able to think even about these, he says that images are given off by the very things which he supposes to be formed by the atoms, that they enter the mind, and that they are finer than the other images which appear to the eyes – for he says that this is the cause of our sight – but that they are “vast images of such a size as to envelop and enfold the entire world.”


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Physicists, I (Against the Dogmatists, III).25: Epicurus thinks that men have derived the conception of god from presentations [received] while asleep. For he says, since large manlike images strike them while they sleep, they supposed that some such manlike gods also existed in reality

On the Nature and Form of the Gods


Tertullian, Apologetics, 47: Some are sure that he [God] is incorporeal, others that he has a body – i.e., the Platonists and the Stoics respectively.  Others say he consists of atoms, others of numbers – as do the Epicurus and the Pythagoreans respectively.

[Lactantius, Divine Institutes, 10.28: Let us concede to them, however, that the things which are earthly are made from atoms.  Are the things which are heavenly also?  They say that the gods are incorrupt, eternal, happy, and to them alone they give immunity, such that they may not be seen to be formed by the assembly of atoms.  For if the gods also had come from these, they would also be able to be dissipated, any time the seeds break apart and return to their natural state.  Therefore, if there is something which atoms have not brought about, why do we not understand that this is the case with other things, too?  My question is, before those beginning-bodies had generated the world, why did not the gods build a dwelling for themselves?  Surely, unless the atoms had come together and made heaven, the gods would still be hanging in the empty void. ]


Scholion on Epicurus, Principal Doctrines 1, by way of Laertius, Lives, X.139: Elsewhere he says that the gods are discernible as mental impressions, some being unique, while others look similar, owing to the continuous flow of  similar images to the same place, culminating in human form.

Aetius, Doxography, I.7.34, [p. 306 Diels] (Plutarch, I.7.15; Stobaeus, Anthology, Physics, 2.29):Epicurus thinks the gods resemble humans, and can be contemplated by reason as a result of the fineness of the nature of their images.


Philodemus, On the Life of the Gods, Vol. Herc. 1, VI c. 13: It must also be said that the gods speak, and that they entertain themselves with one another.  Indeed, we would no longer believe that the gods are happy and incorruptible, if the did not speak and did not communicate with one another.  On the contrary, they would be similar to mute men.  In effect, just as we use our voice…

Cf. c. 14: … and since for virtuous men, conversation with their equals is a source of inexpressible pleasure.  And, by Zeus, it is necessary to uphold that they have a language like Greek, or not far from it, and we know that those who have become gods only used the Greek language.


Sextus Empiricus, Against the Physicists, I (Against the Dogmatists, III).178: Thus, to define God as speechless is perfectly absurd and in conflict with our general conceptions.  But if he is gifted with speech, he employs speech and has organs of speech, such as lungs and windpipe, tongue and mouth.  But this is absurd and borders on the mythology of Epicurus.


Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, I.10.23 (Velleius speaking): As for those who say that the world itself is a conscious intelligence, they have not grasped the nature of consciousness, or understood in what shape it can be manifest.  … I am astonished by the stupidity of those who say that the world itself is a conscious and immortal being, divinely blest, and then say that it is a sphere, because Plato thought this to be the most beautiful of all shapes – I for one find more beauty in the shape of a cylinder, a square, a cone, or a pyramid.  What mode of existence is assigned to their spherical deity? Why, he is in a state of rotation, spinning around with a velocity that surpasses all powers of conception. But what room can there be in such an existence for stability of mind and for happiness – I cannot see.  Also, why should a condition that is painful in the human body, if even the smallest part of it is affected, be supposed to be painless in the deity? Now clearly the earth, being a part of the world, is also a part of the god.  Yet we see that vast portions of the earth’s surface are uninhabitable deserts, being either scorched by the sun’s proximity, or frost-bound and covered with snow owing to its extreme remoteness.  But if the world is god, these, being parts of the world, must be regarded as limbs of the god, undergoing the extremes of heat and cold respectively.

Ibid., II.17.46 (Balbus speaking): Epicurus may make a joke of this if he likes, although humor was never his strong point – an Athenian without the “Attic salt!”  He may say that he can make no sense of a “spherical and revolving god.”  But he will never move me from the one view which even he himself accepts: he agrees that gods exist, because there must be some supreme being which is superior to all else.

Cf. Uncertain Epicurean Author, Vol. Herc. 1, VI c. 21: … that which the other philosophers ascribe to [a god].  They must surely know that [a god] does not have a spherical bodily form, nor a tendency towards arguments, anger, or pettiness, but rather has a bodily form that approaches the sublime, and a disposition that disregards all that is impure, being entirely devoted to true blessedness and incorruptibility.


Hippolytus, “Philosophical Questions,” (Refutation of all Heresies, I) 22.3 [p. 572.5 Diels.]:Acknowledging the Deity to be eternal and incorruptible, he says that God has providential care for nothing, and that there is no such thing at all as providence or fate, but that all things arc made by chance. For that the Deity reposed in the intermundane spaces, (as they) are thus styled by him; for outside the world he determined that there is a certain habitation of God, denominated “the intermundane spaces,” and that the Deity surrendered himself to pleasure, and took his ease in the midst of supreme happiness; and that neither has he any concerns of business, nor does he devote his attention to them.

On the Blessed Life of the Gods


Lactantius, On the Anger of God, 17.1: “God,” says Epicurus, “cares for nothing.”  Therefore, He has no power – for it is necessary that he who has power exercise care – or if He has power and does not use it, what is the reason of negligence so great that, I will not say our race, but even the world itself, is vile and worthless to Him?  “On this account,” he says, “He is incorrupt and blessed, because He is always quiet.”  To whom, then, has the administration of such great affairs yielded, if these things which we see controlled by the highest plan are neglected by God?  Or how is he who lives and feels able in any way to be quiet?  For quiet is a quality of either sleep or death.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.12.15: Epicurus calls a god happy and incorrupt because he is everlasting.  Beatitude ought to be perfect so that there be nothing which can vex or lessen or change it, nor can anything be considered blessed unless through its being incorrupt.  And nothing is incorrupt save what is immortal.


Atticus, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XV 5.9 p. 800A: InEpicurus’  view, providence disappears; the gods according to him pay most attention to the preservation of their own good.

Uncertain Epicurean Author, by way of Pseudo-Plutarch, On the Opinions of the Philosophers, I I.7.7 p. 300: “Both [Anaxagoras and Plato] share this error, because they portrayed a god as being concerned for human affairs and as making the cosmos for the sake of man.  For a blessed and indestructible being, overflowing with good things and free of any share of what is bad, is completely preoccupied with the continuance of his won happiness and indestructibility and so is not concerned with human affairs.  For he would be wretched, like a workman or builder, if he undertook burdens and felt concern for the creation of the cosmos.”


Atticus, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XV 5.11 p. 800B: But therein Epicurus, in my judgment, seems to have acted more modestly {than Aristotle}: for as if he had not hope of the gods being able to abstain from the care of mankind if they came in contact with them, he transferred them, as it were, to a foreign country, and settled them somewhere outside the world, excusing them from the charge of inhumanity by the removal, and by their separation from all things.


Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus, 20.3: … they [the Epicureans] removed the Deity as far as possible from feelings of kindness or anger or concern for us, into a life that knew no care and was filled with ease and comfort.

Lactantius, On the Anger of God, 2.7: Certain individuals say that [God] neither is pleased nor angered by anything, but that, free from care and in repose, He enjoys the good of His own immortality.

Cf. Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, II.1093:

I appeal to the holy hearts of the gods,
which in tranquil peace pass untroubled days and a life serene.

Ibid., V.82:

Those who have been correctly taught
that the gods lead a life without care…

Horace, Satire, I.5.101:

I’ve learned that the gods exist carefree,
And, if a miracle does happen in Nature,
That petulant gods have nothing to do
With dispatching it down from the heavenly rooftop

Dionysius the Episcopalian, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XIV 27, 1 p. 781A: To work, to administer, to do good and to show forethought, and all such actions are burdensome perhaps to the idle and foolish, and to the feeble and wicked, among whom Epicurus enrolled himself by entertaining such thoughts of the gods.

Tertullian, Apologetics, 47: The Epicureans picture him [God] as idle and unemployed, a nobody (so to say) in regards to human affairs.

Salvianus, On the Governence of God, I.5, p.3, 17: Among the Epicureans… who, just as they connect pleasure with virtue, so too they connect God with disinterest and laziness.


Seneca, On Benefits, IV.4.1: “True; therefore God does not bestow benefits, but, free from care and unmindful of us, He turns away from our world and either does something else, or else does nothing,  which Epicurus thought the greatest possible happiness, and He is not affected either by benefits or by injuries.” The man who says this surely cannot hear the voices of those who pray… IV.4.19: You, Epicurus, ended by making God unarmed; you stripped him of all weapons, of all power, and, lest anyone should fear him, you banished him from the world. There is no reason why you should fear this being, cut off as he is, and separated from the sight and touch of mortals by a vast and impassable wall; he has no power either of rewarding or of injuring us; he dwells alone half-way between our heaven and that of another world, without the society either of animals, of men, or of matter, avoiding the crash of worlds as they fall in ruins above and around him, but neither hearing our prayers nor interested in us. Yet you wish to seem to worship this being just as a father, with a mind, I suppose, full of gratitude; or, if you do not wish to seem grateful, why should you worship him, since you have received no benefit from him, but have been put together entirely at random and by chance by those atoms and mites of yours?  “I worship him,” you answer, “because of his glorious majesty and his unique nature.”

Ibid., VII.31.3: Some blame [the gods] for neglecting us, some with their injustice towards us; others place them outside of their own world, in sloth and indifference, without light, and without any functions;

Dionysius the Episcopalian, On Nature, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XIV 27, 8 p. 782C: As for the gods of whom their poets sing as “Givers of good things,” {Homer, Od. viii. 325} these philosophers with mocking reverence say, The gods are neither givers nor partakers of any good things. In what way then do they show evidence of the existence of gods, if they neither see them present and doing something, as those who in admiration of the sun and moon and stars said that they were called gods (θεούς) because of their running (θεειν), nor assign to them any work of creation or arrangement, that they might call them gods from setting (θεῖναι),that is making (for in this respect in truth the Creator and Artificer of the universe alone is God), nor exhibit any administration, or judgment, or favor of theirs towards mankind, that we should owe them fear or honor, and therefore worship them?  Or did Epicurus peep out from the world, and pass beyond the compass of the heavens, or go out through some secret gates known only to himself, and behold the gods dwelling in the void, and deem them and their abundant luxury blessed? And did he thence become a devotee of pleasure, and an admirer of their life in the void, and so exhort all who are to be made like unto those gods to participate in this blessing, [etc.]

Cicero, Against Lucius Calpurnius Piso, 25.59 (Attributing these words to Piso): “What, Caesar, is the strong attraction that these thanksgivings of such frequency and such long duration as have been decreed to you possess?  The world is under a deep delusion concerning them, the gods care naught for them; for they, as our godlike Epicurus has said, feel neither kindness nor wrath towards any.”


Lactantius, On the Anger of God, 4.1: What follows is of the school of Epicurus.  He teaches that just as there is no anger in God, so there is not even kindness.  For since Epicurus thought that to do evil or do harm was foreign to God (an action which is generally spring from the emotion of anger), he also took from Him beneficence because he saw it to be a consequence that, if God possessed anger, He would have kindness also.  “From this,” he says, “he is blessed and incorrupt, because he cares for nothing, and he neither has any concern himself, nor does he show it for another.”


Lactantius, On the Anger of God, 4.11: Accordingly, then, if there is neither anger nor kindness in [God], surely there is neither fear nor joy nor grief nor compassion.  For there is one plan for all the affections, one connected movement, which cannot be in God.  But if there is no affection in God, because whatever is affected is a weakness, therefore, neither is there any care of anything nor any providence in Him.  The argument of [Epicurus] extends only this far.  He was silent about the other things which follow, namely, that there is no care in Him nor providence, and, therefore, that there is not any reflection nor any sense in Him, by which it comes about that He does not exist at all.  So when he had descended step by step, he stopped on the last step because he then saw the precipice.  But what advantage is it to have kept silent and to have concealed the danger?  Necessity forced him to fall even against his will.

Ibid, 15.5: Since, therefore, there are good and evil things in human affairs … it is of necessity that God is moved with reference to each.  He is moved to kindness when He sees just things done, and to wrath when He beholds the unjust.  But Epicurus is in opposition to us and he says: “If there is in God movement of joy unto kindness and of hatred unto wrath, then he must have both fear, and inclination, and desire, and the other affections which belong to human feebleness.”  But it is not necessary that he who is angry should also fear, or that he who rejoices should grieve.  … The affection of fear is a matter in man – not in God.

Ibid, 16.6: So the arguments are found to be empty  … of those who think that there is no movement of the mind in God.  Because there are some affections which do not happen to be found in God, like desire, fear, avarice, grief, and envy, they have said that He is utterly free from all affection.  He is free of these because they are affections of vices; but, those which are of virtue (that is, anger toward the evil, love toward the good, compassion for the afflicted) since they are becoming to His divine power.

On the Care and Governance of the World


Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.8.18 – 9.23 (Velleius’ monologue): {Reproduced elsewhere}


Lucian, The Double Indictment, 2: Epicurus certainly spoke the truth when he said that we {gods} do not provide for things on earth.

Lucian, Icaromenippus, 2: The Epicureans are really quite insolent, and they attack us without restraint, affirming that we {gods} don’t concern ourselves with human affairs, nor do we control events whatsoever.

Alexander of Aphrodisia, On Fate, 31, [p.100 Or.]: The so-called “absence of {divine} providence,” by those in Epicurus’ circle…

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, I.12.1: Concerning gods, there are some who say that the divine does not even exist while others, that it does exist but is inactive and indifferent, and takes forethought for nothing; …

Ibid, II.20.23: “Consider the contrary assertion: The gods not exist, and even if they do, they pay no attention to men, nor have we any fellowship with them, and hence this piety and sanctity which the multitude talk about is a lie told by ‘impostors and sophists,’ or, I swear, by lawmakers to frighten and restrain evildoers.”

Atticus, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XV 5.9 p. 800A: [= U361]

Ibid, 13 p. 800A: He {Epicurus} deprived the gods of their activity towards us, from which alone a just confidence in their existence was likely to be derived.

Ibid, XV 5.3 p. 799A: He who puts aside this divine nature, and cuts off the soul’s hope of hereafter, and destroys reverence before superior Beings in the present life, what communion has he with Plato? Or how could he exhort men to what Plato desires, and confirm his sayings? For on the contrary he surely would appear as the helper and ally of those who wish to do injustice. For every one who is human and constrained by human desires, if he despise the gods and think they are nothing to him, inasmuch as in life he dwells far away from them, and after death exists no more, will come prepared to gratify his lusts.

Ibid, 5.6 p. 799A: … guaranteeing the impunity on the part of the gods.

Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, 5, [p. 20.8 Sylb.]: Epicurus alone I will banish from memory, and willingly at that.  For he, preeminent in impiety, thinks that God has no care for the world.

Plotinus, Dissertations, (Aeneids, II.9), 15: Epicurus, who rejects providence…

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, I.2.1: I do not think it so necessary to maintain a principle from what question which seems to be primary by nature, whether it is providence which takes care of all things, or whether they have been made and are carried on fortuitously.  The author of this opinion is Democritus; its establisher, Epicurus.  Ibid., II.8.48: The world was made by Divine Providence. … this was held as an acknowledged and indubitable fact by those first seven wise men up to Socrates and Plato even, until the mad Epicurus arose many ages after, and dared to deny that which is most evident, with a zeal and desire of inventing new beliefs, so that he might set up a system under his own name.

Lactantius, On the Anger of God, 9.4: Later, however, Epicurus said that there was a god, indeed, because it was necessary that there be in the world something outstanding, and distinguished, and blessed, but still he held that there was no providence; and, as a result of this, the world itself he regarded as fashioned neither by any plan nor by design nor by art, but that the nature of things had conglobated by certain minute and inseparable seeds.

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 27, p. 1123A: Who is it that upsets accepted beliefs and comes in conflict with the plainest facts?  It is those who reject divination and deny that there exists divine providence.

Ibid., 30, p 1124E: When, therefore, will our life be that of a beast, savage and without fellowship?  When the laws are swept away, but the arguments that summon us to a life of pleasure are left standing; when the providence of heaven is not believed in …

Ibid., 8, p 1111B: Thus he does away with providence, but says he has left us with piety.

Plutarch, Against the Stoics, 32, p. 1075E: The Stoics themselves make no end of fuss crying woe and shame upon Epicurus for violating the preconception of the gods because he does away with providence, for they say that god is preconceived and conceived to be not only immortal and blessed but also humane and protective and beneficent.


Origen, Against Celsus, I.13, [p. 12 Hoesch.]:  … the Epicureans, who charge as superstitious those who advocate Providence and put God in lordship of everything. [Ibid., I.8 p. 8 (I.10 p. 10; III 75 p. 161; V.61 p. 279)]

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 21, p. 1101C: {The Epicureans} malign Providence as if she were some foul witch to frighten children with or an unrelenting Fury of punishment hanging over our heads.


Lactantius, Divine Instituions, III.17.8: Epicurus saw that adversities were always befalling the good: poverty, labors, exiles, and loss of dear ones; that the evil on the contrary were happy, were gaining in wealth, and were given honors.  He saw that innocence was not safe, that crimes were committed with impunity; he saw that death raged without concern for morals, without any order or regard for years, but that some reached old age, while others were snatched away in childhood; some still robust reach the end, but others are cut off by untimely deaths in the first flower of adolescence; and in wars the better ones are conquered and die.  It was especially disturbing, however, that religious men were among the first to be afflicted with the more serious evils, but upon those who either neglected the gods entirely or who did not piously revere them, either lesser disadvantages came or none at all.  Often, also, the very temples were struck with lighting.  {Cf. Lucretius, II.1101}  … 17.16: When, therefore, Epicurus thought on these matters, as if influenced by the iniquity of those things, for so it seemed to one not knowing the cause and reason, he believed that there was no providence.  When he had persuaded himself of this theory, he even undertook that it should be defended.  Thus he cast himself into inextricable errors.  For if there is no providence, how was the world made so orderly, by its arrangement?  “There is no arrangement,” he says, “for many things have been done differently from the way they should have been.” {Cf. Lucretius, II.180 & V.195}  And a godlike man discovered what he should reprehend.  If there were time to refute each single thing, I would show easily that this man was neither wise nor sane.  Likewise, if there is no providence, how are bodies of animals so ordered that each of the members disposed in a marvelous arrangement preserves its own functions?  He says: “The plan of providence has done nothing in the procreating of animals.  Neither were the eyes made for seeing, nor the ears for hearing, nor the tongue for speaking, nor the feet for walking, since these were in existence before there was seeing, hearing, speaking, and walking.   So these things were not produced for use, but the use came from them.  {Cf. Lucretius IV.822}  If there is no providence, why do the rains fall, grains rise, trees flower?  He says that “those are not for the sake of living things, since they are of no profit to providence, but all things must happen of their own accord.”  Whence, therefore, are they born, or how do all things which happen come to be?  He says that it is not the work of providence.  “There are seeds flying about through the void, and when these have massed together at random among themselves, all things are born and grow.”


Lactantius, Divine Instituions, VII.5.3: Therefore, just as God did not make the world for Himself, because He does not need its advantages; but because of man who uses it, so He made man on account of Himself.  “What usefulness for god is there, that he should make man for himself?” asks Epicurus.  {Cf. Lucretius, V.165}  Surely, it was so that he might understand His works; that he might be able to admire with his senses and declare with his voice the providence of His arrangement, the plan of His accomplishment, and the virtue of His completion of the work.  The summation of all these acts is that he worships God.  5.7: “What then,” he says, “does the worship on the part of man confer upon a god who is blessed and in need of nothing?  If he had so much regard for man that he made the world on account of him, that he equipped him with wisdom, that he made him master of living things, and that he loved him as a son, why did he make him mortal and frail?  Why did he put him whom he loved up against all evils, when man should have been both happy, as though joined and near to god, and everlasting, as he is himself, for the worshiping and contemplation of whom he was made?”

Cf. Ibid., VII.3.13: The Stoics say that the world was made for the sake of men.  I hear this argument.  But Epicurus does not know the men themselves, or why, or who made them.


Lactantius, The Works of God, 2.10: Wherefore, I often marvel at the folly of those philosophers in the wake of Epicurus who condemn the works of nature that they may show that the world is formed and governed by no providence.  They assign the origin of things to inseparable and solid bodies from the chance combinations of which all things come to be and have arisen.  I pass by the things pertaining to the world itself with which they find fault; in this they are mad, even to the point of ridicule.  I take up now that which pertains to the subject which we have at hand.  3.1: They complain that man is born more weak and frail than other animals.  For as soon as the others come forth from the womb, they are able at once to stand erect and move about with delight, and they are at once able to endure the air because they have come forth into the light fortified by natural protections.  Man, on the other hand, they claim, is cast forth naked and unarmed as from a shipwreck and is hurled upon the miseries of this life.  he is able neither to move himself from the place where he has been put forth, nor to seek the nourishment of milk, nor to bear the brunt of weather.  So they say that nature is not the mother of the human race, but a stepmother.  She has been very liberal with the dumb beasts, but she has produced man in such a way – needy and weak – and in want of all aid he can do nothing else by indicate his condition by wailing and weeping, that is “as one for whom there remains in life only the passage of evils.” {Lucretius, V.227} … 3.6: “But the training of man,” they say, “consists of great struggle.”  4.1: Then too, people complain that man is subjected to sickness and untimely death.  They are incensed, in fact, that they have not been born gods.  “Not at all,” they will say, “but from this we demonstrate that man was not made with any providence, and it should have been otherwise.” … 4.3: They, mind you, would have no man die except when he has completed a hundred years of life. … 4.12: Our opponents do not see the reason of the outcomes, because they erred once in the very keypoints of this discussion.  For when divine providence was excluded from human affairs, it necessarily followed that all things came into being of their own accord.  From this stage, they hit upon those impacts and chance comings together of minute seeds, because they saw no origin of things.  And when they had cast themselves into these straits, then, sheer necessity forced them to think that souls were born with their bodies and were also extinguished with them.  They had taken it for granted that nothing was done by a divine mind.  And this very point they could not prove in any other way than by showing that there were some things in which the determination of Providence seemed to limp.  They found fault, therefore, with those things in which Providence marvelously, even exceptionally, expressed in divinity, namely, those things I have referred to concerning sicknesses and untimely death, although they should have considered, when they were assuming these things, what would be a necessary consequence.


Lactantius, The Works of God, 6.7: Epicurus, therefore, saw in the bodies of animals the skill of a divine plan, but, in order to accomplish what he had rashly taken upon himself before, he added another piece of nonsense in accordance with the former.  He said that eyes of the body were not created for seeing or the ears for hearing or the feet for walking, since these parts were formed before there was any use of seeing and hearing and walking, but that the functions of all of these came about from them after they were produced. {Cf. Lucretius IV.822} … What did you say, Epicurus?  That the eyes were not made to see?  Why, then, do they see? “Afterwards,” he says, “their use appeared.”  For the purpose of seeing, therefore, they were produced, inasmuch as they cannot do anything else by see.

Galen, On the Use of Parts, I.21, t. III [p. 74 K.]: At this point it is proper for us not to pass over the statements of certain men who embrace the doctrines of Epicurus, the philosopher, and Asclepiades, the physician, and who disagree with me on these matters. … These men do not believe that it is because the tendons are thick that they are powerful, or because they are slender that their actions are weak, but think that actions are what they are as the necessary result of their usefulness in life, and that the size of the tendons depends on how much they are moved; that is, tendons that are exercised in all likelihood thrive and grow thick, whereas those that lie idle get no nourishment and waste away.  Hence they say that Nature did not form the tendons as they are because it was better for the tendons of powerful actions to be strong and thick, and those of more feeble actions to be thin and weak – for if so, apes would not have fingers like ours – but as I said, before, they claim that parts which are exercised necessarily become thick because they are will nourished, and pats that lie idle are poorly nourished and become thin.


Lactantius, On the Anger of God, 13.19: You see, then, that we need wisdom much more on account of evils.  Unless these had been set before us, we would not be rational animals.  And if this reasoning is true, then that argument of Epicurus is refuted. “God,” he says, “either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can.  If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak – and this does not apply to god.  If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful – which is equally foreign to god’s nature.  If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god.  If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from?  Or why does he not eliminate them?”  I know that most of the philosophers who defend [divine] providence are commonly shaken by this argument and against their wills are almost driven to admit that god does not care, which is exactly what Epicurus is looking for.  But when the reasoning has been examined, we easily bring this formidable argument to dissolution.  …  unless we first recognize evil, we shall not be able to recognize the good.  But Epicurus did not see this, nor anyone else, that if evils are taken away, wisdom is equally removed; nor do any vestiges of virtue remain in man, the nature of which consists in sustaining and overcoming the bitterness of evils.


Aetius, Doxography, I.29.5 [p. 326.3 Diels]: Epicurus says that all things happen by necessity, by choice, and/or by chance.


Cicero Academica II.30.97 (Lucullus): They will not get Epicurus, who despises and laughs at the whole of dialectic, to admit the validity of a proposition of the form “Hermarchus will either be alive tomorrow or not alive,” while dialecticians demand that every disjunctive proposition of the form “either x or not-x” is not only valid but even necessary,  See how on his guard the man is whom your friends think slow; for “If,” he says, “I admit either of the two to be necessary, it will follow that Hermarchus must either be alive tomorrow or not alive; but as a matter of fact in the nature of things no such necessity exists.”  Therefore let the dialecticians, that is, Antiochus and the Stoics, do battle with this philosopher, for he overthrows the whole of dialectic.

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.25.70 (Cotta speaking): Epicurus did the same sort of thing in his argument with the logicians.  It is an axiom of the traditional logic that in every disjunctive proposition of the form “X either is … or is not  …” one of the alternatives must be true.  He was afraid that if he admitted anything of this sort, then in a proposition such as “Tomorrow Epicurus will either be alive or he will not be alive,” one or the other of the statements would be a necessarytruth: so to avoid this he denied that there was any logical necessity at all in a disjunction proposition, which is too stupid for words!

Cicero, On Fate, 10.21: Now here, first of all, if it were my desire to agree with Epicurus and deny that every proposition is either true or false, I would rather accept that blow than agree that all things come about through fate; for the former opinion gives some scope for discussion, but the latter is intolerable.  So Chrysippus strains every sinew in order to convince us that every proposition is either true or false.  Epicurus is afraid that, if he concedes this, he will have to concede that whatever comes about does so through fate; for if either the assertion or the denial is true from eternity, it will also be certain – and if certain, also necessary. [cf. Ibid., 9.19]


Simplicius of Cilicia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Physics, Beta-8,” p. 198b 29: In cases where everything happened as though it were for the sake of some goal, these creatures were preserved because, although they were formed by chance, they were formed as suitable compounds; but in other cases [the creature] perished and still do perish, as Empedocles refers to “ox-like creatures with human faces.” ; [fr. 84u Ald.; p. 372.9 Diels]: The ancient natural philosophers who said that material necessity determines the cause of things which come to be, seem to hold this opinion, and among later thinkers so do the Epicureans.  Their error, as Alexander says, comes from thinking that everything which comes to be for the sake of a goal comes to be by intention and calculation, and observing that things which come about by nature do not come to be in this way.


Plutarch, On the Contradictions of the Stoics, 32, p 1050C: And Epicurus, for his part, twists about and exercises his ingenuity in conniving to free and liberate voluntary action from the necessity of eternal motion, in order not to leave vice immune to blame.


Cicero, On Fate, 10.22: Epicurus, however, thinks that the necessity of fate is avoided by the swerve of the atom;

Ibid., 23: Epicurus introduced this theory because he was afraid that, if the atom was always carried along by its weight in a natural and necessary way, we would have no freedom, since our mind would be moved in the way in which it was constrained by the movement of the atoms. … More acutely, Carneades taught that the Epicureans could have maintained their position without this fictitious swerve.  For, seeing that [Epicurus] taught that there could be some voluntary movement of the mind, it would have been better to defend that than to introduce the swerve, especially as they cannot find a cause for it. … For in having admitted that there was no movement without a cause, they would not be admitting that all things that came about die so through antecedent causes.  For (they could have said), there are no external and antecedent causes of our will.


Aetius, Doxography, I.29.6 [p. 326 Diels] (Plutarch, I.29.2; Stobaeus Anthology, Physics 7.9):Epicurus says that chance is a cause which is uncertain with respect to persons, times, and places.


Galen, On the Use of Parts, VI.14 [p. 571- K.]: I would not wish to tell how Nature corrected this fault {the relative isolation of some muscles from the nervous system} by inventing a clever device unless I first permitted the disciples of Asclepiades and Epicurus to search out the way in which they would have conferred nerves on these muscles if they were placed in the role of the Creator of animals; for I am in the habit of doing this sometimes and of granting them as many days or even months as they wish for deliberation.  One cannot do so, however, when writing a book and cannot compare the wisdom of these gentlemen with Nature’s lack of skill or show how the Nature the rebuke as being unskillful is so much more ingenious than they are with all their cleverness that they are unable to conceive of the skill with which she works.  Hence, I find it necessary to tell now about the devices Nature has employed in order to give the muscles in question their share of nerves and motion.

Galen, On the Construction of the Embryo, 6 t. IV [p. 688 K., Singer]: It will certainly not be admitted that the substance of this ‘Nature’ {of the cause and formation of the embryo} – whether that is something incorporeal or corporeal – reaches this peak of intelligence by people who declare that they cannot believe it in any way possible that this entity functions in such skilful manner in the construction of the embryo.  But we, on hearing this assertion from Epicurus and from those who maintain that everything happens without design, do not stand convinced of it.


Aetius, Doxography, II.3- [p. 329 Diels] (Plutarch, II.3; Stobaeus Anthology, Physics 21.3): All the other philosophers considered that the world is alive and governed by providence.  Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus, by contrast, say that neither is so; rather, it is made up of atoms, by nature and without reason.

Galen, On the Use of Parts, XI.8 t. III, [p. 873 K.]: Moreover, would not one also marvel that the teeth are bound to the phatnia with strong ligaments {the periosteum}, especially at the roots where the nerves are inserted, and marvel the more if this is the work of chance, not skill?  But the thing a person would marvel at most of all is the ordered disposition of the teeth – something that, even granting all the aforesaid good fortune of the Epicurean atoms and the particles of Asclepiades, he would not allow, balking and saying that it was the work of a just Governor and not of fortunate motion.

Ibid., p. 874: Nevertheless, let us grant even this to the most fortunate atoms, which those men say move without reason, but which are in more danger of doing everything according to reason than are Epicurus and Asclepiades.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, VII.3.23: Let them make the case, if they can, either why [the world] was made in the beginning or should afterwards be destroyed.  Since Epicurus, or Democritus, was not able to show this, he said that it was begun of its own accord, seeds coming together here and there.  And when these were again loosened, separation and dissolution would follow.  Therefore, he corrupted what he had rightly seen, and completely overturned the whole plan by his ignorance of the plan; and he reduced the world and all things which go on in it to the likeness of a certain very empty dream since no plan subsists in human affairs.


Flavius Claudius Julianus (Julian the Emperor), Orations, V, “Hymn to the Mother of the Gods,” [p. 162A Pet.; 210.6 Hertlein]: We assert that matter exists and also form, embodied in matter.  But if no cause be assigned prior to these two, we should be introducing, unconsciously, the Epicurean doctrine.  For if there be nothing of higher order than these two principles, then spontaneous motion and chance brought them together.

Dionysius the Episcopalian, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XIV 24, 1 p. 773D: How are we to bear with them {the atomists} when they assert that the wise and therefore beautiful works of creation are accidental coincidences?

Proclus Lycaeus, Commentary on Plato’s “Timeas,” p. 80 midway: This axiom {of Aristotle, that each ‘particular’ is generated by a certain cause}, is entirely derided by the Epicureans, who make the whole world, and the most divine of visible natures, to be the work of chance.

Ibid., p. 81 below: Some doubt, however, how Plato assumes as a thing acknowledged that there is a Demiurge {i.e., a creator} of the world who pursues a plan: for they say there is not a Demiurge of it who directs his attention to that which is invariably the same.  Any many of the ancients indeed are the patrons of this assertion; particularly the Epicureans, who entirely deny that there is Demiurge and, even generally, a cause of all things.

Ibid., p. 82.5: Every body, as [Aristotle] says, has limited power.  Whence therefore does the universe derive this infinite power, since it is not from chance, as Epicurus says it is?

Cf., p. 108.33: It is intelligence, in fact, which is creator and god – not chance, as certain others maintain.

Ibid., p. 19.14: The atoms of Epicurus, when encountering each other, succeed in forming a tidy universe more easily than a bunch of names and words, all mixed together, would happen to form coherent speech! {Cf., Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods II.37.93; Plutarch, The Oracles at Delphi, 11 p. 399E}

On Religion


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 8, p. 1092B: Since, however, the aim of their theology is to have no fear of God, but instead to be rid of our anxieties, I should think that this condition is more securely in the possession of creatures that have no faintest notion of God than of those who have been taught to think of him as injuring no one.

Ibid., 1091F: It does not follow that if pain, fear of the supernatural and terror about the hereafter are evil, escape from them is godlike and bliss beyond compare.


Atticus, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XV 5 p. 800A: {And as to our deriving any benefit from them while they remain in heaven,} … in this way, even according to Epicurus, men get help from the gods, “They say, for instance, that the better emanations from them become the causes of great blessings to those who partake of them…”


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.76.1 [p. 106 Gomperz] {Obbink I.27.754}: … he says that as being both the greatest thing, and that which as it were excels in sovereignty, it possesses everything: for every wise man holds pure and holy beliefs about the divine and has understood that this nature is great and august.  And it is particularly at festivals that he, progressing to an understand of it, through having its name the whole time on his lips, embraces with conviction more seriously ……

Philodemus, On Music, Vol. Herc. 1, I c.4,6: Now, these very important things may still be said at the present: that the divine does not need any honor; for us, nevertheless, it’s natural to honor it, above all, with pious convictions, even through the rites of national tradition, each according to his proper part.

Philodemus, On the Life of the Gods, Vol. Herc. 1, VI col. 1: … to the gods, and he admires their nature and their condition and tries to approach them and, so to speak, yearns to touch them and to be together with them; and he calls Sages “friends of the gods” and the gods “friends of Sages.”


Philodemus, On Piety, Vol. Herc. 2, II.108.9 [p. 126 Gomperz] {Obbink I.31.880}: Again, he says, “let us sacrifice to the gods piously and well, as is appropriate, and let us do everything well according to the laws.  But let us do so not disturbing them at all with our opinions on the topic of those who are best and most majestic; again, we say that it is even right to do this on the basis of the opinion which I was discussing. For in this way, by Zeus, it is possible for a mortal nature to live like Zeus, as it appears.”


Gnomolgion from the Parisinus codex, 1168, f. 115r- (Maxims of Epicurus): [=Maximus the Abbot, Gnomologion, 14, p.180 Turic; t. II p. 579 Combef.]: From Epicurus: “If the gods listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished: for they are always praying for evil against one another.”


Dionysius the Episcopalian, On Nature, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XIV 26, 2 p. 779A: And moreover he {Epicurus} inserts in his own books countless oaths and adjurations addressed to those who are nothing to us, swearing continually “No, by Zeus,” and “Yes, by Zeus,” and adjuring his readers and opponents in argument “in the name of the gods,” having, I suppose, no fear himself of perjury nor trying to frighten them, but uttering this as an empty, and false, and idle, and unmeaning appendage to his speeches, just as he might hawk and spit, and turn his face, and wave his hand. Such an unintelligible and empty piece of acting on his part was his mentioning the name of the gods.


Origen, Against Celsus, VII.66, [p. 386 Hoesch.]: And the charge of folly applies not only to those who offer prayers to images, but also to such as pretend to do so in compliance with the example of the multitude: and to this class belong the Peripatetic philosophers and the followers of Epicurus and Democritus. For there is no falsehood or pretense in the soul which is possessed with true piety towards God.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, II.97 (Aristippus): Theodorus was a man who utterly rejected the current belief in the gods.  And I have come across a book of his entitled Of the Godswhich is not contemptible.  From that book, it is said, Epicurus borrowed most of what he wrote on the subject.

Origen, Against Celsus, VIII.45, [p. 419 Hoesch.]: For why may not our accounts be true, and those of Celsus fables and fictions?  At least, these latter were not believed by the Greek philosophical schools, such as the followers of Democritus, Epicurus, and Aristotle…

Cf. Ibid., I.43, p. 33: We shall therefore say, in the first place, that if he who disbelieves the appearance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove had been described as an Epicurean, or a follower of Democritus, or a Peripatetic, the statement would have been in keeping with the character of such an objector.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 22, p. 1119D: What is grave, Colotes, is not to refuse to call a man good or some horsemen innumerable – it is to refuse to call or believe a god a god.  This is what you and your company do, who will not admit that Zeus is “Author of the Race,” Demeter “Giver of Laws,” or Poseidon “Guardian of Growth.”  It is this disjoining of one word from another that works harm and fills your lives with godless negligence and recklessness, when you tear away from the gods the appellations attached to them and by that single act annihilate all sacrifices, mysteries, processions and festivals.

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, II.20.32: Grateful men indeed and  reverential.  Why, if nothing else, at least they eat bread every day, and yet have the audacity to say, “We do not know if there is a Demeter, or a Kore, or a Pluto;” not mention that, although they enjoy night and day, the changes of the year and the stars and the sea and the earth and the cooperation of men, they are not moved in the least by any one of these things, but look merely for a chance to belch out their trivial “problem,” and after thus exercising their stomach to go off to the bath.


Aetius (Plutarch), Doxography, I.8 [p. 307 Diels]: In regards to demons and to heroes… Epicurus doesn’t admit anything about any of this.

Atticus, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XV 5.10 p. 800A: We seek a providence that has an interest for us, and in such that man has no share who has admitted that neither demons, nor heroes, nor any souls at all can live on hereafter.


Plutarch, On the Obsolescence of Oracles, 19 p. 420B: As for the scoffing and sneers of the Epicureans which they dare to employ against Providence also, calling it nothing but a myth {cf. U369}, we need have no fear.  We, on the other hand, say that their “Infinity” is a myth, which among so many worlds has not one that is directed by divine reason, but will have them all produced by spontaneous generation and concretion.  If there is need for laughter in philosophy, we should laugh at those spirits, dumb, blind, and soulless, which they shepherd for boundless cycles of years, and which make their returning appearance everywhere, some floating away from the bodies of persons still living, others from bodies long ago burned or decayed, whereby these philosophers drag witlessness and obscurity into the study of natural phenomena; but if anyone asserts that such demigods exists, not only for physical reasons, but also for logical reasons, and that they have the power of self-preservation and continued life for a long time, then these philosophers feel much aggrieved.

On Divination


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.135: Elsewhere he rejects divination entirely, such as in the Small Summary.

Aetius (Plutarch), Doxography, V.1.2 [p. 415 Diels]: Xenophanes and Epicurus dismissed the art of divination.

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, II.65.162: Prediction of future events is a favorite target for the wit of Epicurus.

Cicero, On Divination, I.3.5: All the rest, except for Epicurus, who spoke nonsense about the nature of the gods, endorsed divination.

Ibid., II.17.40: Hence, while [Epicurus] takes a roundabout way to destroy the gods, he does not hesitate to take a short road to destroy divination.  [cf. Ibid., I.39.87; 49.109; II.17.39; 23.51]

Scholion on Aeschylus, Prometheus, 624: Epicureanism is the doctrine that abolishes divination; indeed, they say “Given that destiny rules all, you have procured pain ahead of time; predicting instead something positive, you have wiped out the pleasure of its realization.  On the other hand, they also say “That which must happen, will still happen.”

Origen, Against Celsus, VII.3, [p. 343 Hoesch.]: In regard to the oracles here enumerated, we reply that it would be possible for us to gather from the writings of Aristotle and the Peripatetic school not a few things to overthrow the authority of the Pythian and the other oracles.  From Epicurus also, and his followers, we could quote passages to show that even among the Greeks themselves there were some who utterly discredited the oracles which were recognized and admired throughout the whole of Greece.

Cf. Lucian, Alexander the Oracle Monger, 17: It was an occasion for a Democritus, nay, for an Epicurus or a Metrodorus, perhaps, a man whose intelligence was steeled against such assaults by skepticism and insight, one who, if he could not detect the precise imposture, would at any rate have been perfectly certain that, though this escaped him, the whole thing was a lie and an impossibility.

Ibid., 25: Well, it was war to the knife between [Alexander] and Epicurus, and no wonder. What fitter enemy for a charlatan who patronized miracles and hated truth, than the thinker who had grasped the nature of things and was in solitary possession of that truth? … The unmitigated Epicurus, as he used to call him, could not but be hateful to him, treating all such pretensions as absurd and puerile.

Ibid., 61: My object, dear [Celsus], … has been … to strike a blow for Epicurus, that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him.
IV. Ethics


Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, VI.9:

For when he saw that whatever men’s needs demanded,
so far as may be, to keep their lives in safety,
was there at hand already for their use,
that men had all they could want in the way of wealth
and honor and praise, and pride in successful children;
Yet, at home each was perpetually disquieted
and the mind was enslaved by all its bitter complaints;
He understood that the trouble was in the container
and because of some flaw in it, everything would go bad
no matter how many excellent things were put into it:
Partly because there were holes and things flowed through them
and there was no possibility of filling it up,
And partly because what did get in was spoiled,
so to speak, by the nauseous taste there was inside.

The truth was what he used to purify hearts with
and he set a limit to fear as to desire;
He explained what it is that all of us really want
and showed us the way along a little path
which makes it possible for us to go straight there.

Cf. Horace, Epistles, I.2.54:

Jars left contaminated will carry their taint to any contents whatsoever.
Spurn all delights; any joy that is purchased with pain will be harmful.
Greed is forever unsatisfied – vow to keep definite limits.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.9.29 – 19.62, (Torquatus to Cicero): (Reproduced elsewhere)

On the Chief Good and Evil

Saint Augustine, Against the Academicians, III.7.16, t. I, p. 281B [p. 53F Venice edition, 1719]:{Attributed to Cicero} “If Zeno or Chrysippus were asked who the wise man is, he’ll reply that the wise man is the one whom he himself has described.  In return, Epicurus or another adversary will deny this and maintain instead that the wise man is the one most skilled at catching pleasures.  And so the fight is on!  The whole Porch is in an uproar!  Zeno is shouting that man is naturally apt for nothing but virtue, which attracts mind to itself by its own grandeur without offering any extrinsic advantage and rewarded as a kind of enticement; Epicurus’ ‘pleasure’ is common only among brute animals, and to push man – and the wise man! – into an association with them is abominable.  Epicurus, like Bacchus, has called together a drunken mob from his Gardens to aid him against this onslaught!  The mob is searching for someone to tear to pieces with their long fingernails and savage fangs in their Bacchic fury.  Elevating the name of pleasure as agreeableness and calm, with popular support, Epicurus passionately insists that without pleasure nobody could seem happy.”

[Cf. Saint Augustine, Sermon, 150.5-, t. V p. 713-]


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.10.31: For the origin of the Chief Good, he {Epicurus} goes back, I understand, to the birth of living things.  As soon as an animal is born, it delights in pleasure and seeks it as a good, but shuns pain as an evil.  Creatures as yet uncorrupted are according to him the best judges of Good and Evil… 33: For proof of this, however, Epicurus cannot have gone to children nor yet to animals, which according to him hold a mirror up to nature; he could hardly say that natural instinct guides the young to desire the pleasure of freedom from pain.  This cannot excite sexual desire; the ‘static’ condition of feeling no pain exerts no driving-power, supplies no impulse to the will (so that Hieronymus also is wrong here); it is the positive sensation of pleasure and delight that furnishes a motive. Accordingly Epicurus’ standing argument to prove that pleasure is naturally desired is that infants and animals are attracted by the ‘kinetic’ sort of pleasure, not the ‘static’ kind which consists merely in freedom from pain.

Cf. Ibid., 13.109: Let us leave pleasures to the lower animals, to whose evidence on this question of the Chief Good your school is fond of appealing.

Cicero, Academica, I.2.6: Even this department of ethics, and the subject of moral choice and avoidance, that school handles quite simply, for it frankly identifies the good of man with the good of beasts, but what a vast amount of what minute precision the teachers of our school display is not unknown to you.

Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism , III.194: Hence, the Epicureans suppose themselves to have proved that pleasure is naturally choice-worthy; for animals, they say, as soon as they are born, when still unperverted, seek after pleasure and avoid pains.

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Ethicists, (Against the Dogmatists, XI) 96: Some of those who belong to the school of Epicurus, in answer to these objections {that folly is not evil by nature, and so forth}, are wont to argue that the animal avoids pain and pursues pleasure naturally and without teaching.  Thus when it is born, and is not as yet a slave to opinions, it cries and screams as soon as it is smitten by first puff of chilly air.  But if it naturally has an inclination for pleasure and a disinclination for toil, it naturally avoids pain and chooses pleasure.

Cf., Maximus of Tyre, Dissertations, III.2- [p. 30- Reiske]

Varro, On Philosophy, by way of Saint Augustine, City of God, XIX.1: “There are four things that men naturally seek, without a master and without the support of any instruction, without effort and without any art of living … naturally, they seek pleasure, which is an agreeable activity of physical perception, or repose, the state in which the individual suffers no bodily discomfort, or both of these (which Epicurus calls by the single name of pleasure), or taking everything together, the primary wants of nature…”

Cf. Galen, On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato, V.5, t. V [p. 460 K.; 438.16 Muell.; V.5.8 De Lacy] : Epicurus saw only the kinship {oikeíosis} felt by the worst part of the soul.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, II.20, p. 177.23: For the feeling of pleasure is not at all a necessity, but the accompaniment of certain natural needs – hunger, thirst, cold, sexual union.  Cf. Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, III.15.17; II.11.33 {Cf. U200}

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, V.25.74: Even the devotees to pleasure take refuge in evasions: the name of virtue is on their lips all the time, and they declare that pleasure is only at first the object of desire, and that later habit produces a sort of second nature, which supplies a motive for many actions not aiming at pleasure at all.

Alexander of Aphrodisia, On the Soul, II.19 f. 154r: The Epicureans held that what is first congenial to us, without qualification, is pleasure.  But they say that as we get older, this pleasure articulates itself in many ways.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, III.1.3: Epicurus himself declares that there is no occasion to argue about pleasure at all: its criterion resides in the senses, so that proof is entirely superfluous.

Ibid., II.12.36: {Epicurus} … says that the verdict of the senses themselves decides pleasure to be good and pain evil.


Cicero Academica II.46.140 (Lucullus): Hear on the opposite side those who say that they do not even understand what the word “virtue” means, unless indeed we choose to give the name “moral” to what looks well with the mob: that the source of all things good is in the body – this is nature’s canon and rule and injunction, to stray away from which will result in a man’s never having an object to follow in life.

Cicero, Against Lucius Calpurnius Piso, 28.68: You have of course heard it said that Epicurean philosophers assess the desirability of anything by its capacity to give pleasure.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, II.6.15: Aristippus the Socratic had no hesitation in pronouncing pain to be the chief evil; next Epicurus lent himself quite obediently to the support of this spineless, unmanly view.

Ibid., V.9.26: …after saying that pain is not only the chief evil, but the only evil as well… [Cf. Ibid., II.12.28; 19.44-45; V.10.31]

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.33: Why, rather, do you not consider that pain might not be an evil?  Because [Epicurus] says it is the greatest of all evils.

Ibid., III.17.5: {Epicurus says} to the impatient and delicate that pain is the greatest of all evils; to the strong, that the Sage is blessed even in torments.

Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, III.195: … and pain, according to them, is a natural evil.


Lucian, The Double Indictment, 21 (Epicurus portrayed as speaking): “{Suppose that Dionysius, the Apostate} ran away to Pleasure of his own free will, cutting the meshes of [Stoic] logic as if they were bonds, because he had the spirit of a human being, not of a dolt, and thought pain painful, as indeed it is, and pleasure pleasant…”

Stoa: Do you consider pain bad?
Epicurus: Yes.
Stoa: And pleasure good?
Epicurus: Certainly so!


Plotinus, Dissertations, 30 (Aeneids, II.9), 15: For there are two schools of thought about attaining the [ethical] end.  One which puts forward the pleasure of the body as the end, and another which chooses nobility and virtue …  Epicurus, who abolishes providence, exhorts to pursue all that remains: pleasure and its enjoyment.

Cf. Scholion on Lucian, The Double Indictment, 20 [t. IV p. 209 Iac.]: The Epicureans, being atheists, used to only honor pleasure.


Alexander of Aphrodisia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Topics,” p. 9:

Galen, On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato, IV.4, t. V [p. 388 K.; p. 359.14 Muell.; De Lacy IV.4.29]: …thus the belief that pleasure is a good, as Epicurus would have it, is a mistaken and false teaching.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 2, p. 1087B: So I think you are not “removing the springtime from their year,” as the saying goes, but depriving these men of life, if you are not going to leave them the possibility of living pleasurably.


Antiochus of Ascalon, by way of Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies II.21 p. 178.46: Epicurus also says that the removal of pain is pleasure; and says that that is to be preferred, which first attracts from itself to itself, being, that is, wholly in motion.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: Two kinds of happiness are conceivable: one being the highest possible, such as the gods enjoy, which cannot be increased; the other subject to increases or decreases of pleasures.

St. Augustine, Confessions, VI.16: I argued in those days with my friends Alypius and Nebridius concerning the limits of good and evil.  Determining, in my judgment, that Epicurus should have won the garland, had I not verily believed that there remained a life for the soul after the body was dead, and the fruits of our deservings, which Epicurus would not believe.  And so I put the question: suppose we were to be immortal, and were to live in perpetual enjoyment of bodily pleasures, and that without fear of losing – why should we not then be fully happy, and wherefore should we seek for any other thing?

On Kinetic Pleasure


Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, I.20.17: If Epicurus should come and say that the good ought to be in the flesh, again the explanation becomes lengthy, and you must be told what is the principal faculty within us, and what our substantial versus what our essential nature is.  Since it is not probable that the good of a snail lies in its shell, is it then probable that the good of man lies in his flesh?  But take your own case, Epicurus; what more masterful faculty do you yourself possess?  What is that thing within you which takes counsel, which examines into all things individually, and which, after examining the flesh itself, decides that it is the principal matter?

Cf. Ibid., II.23.20: Therefore, since the faculty of choice is so great, and has been set over everything else, let it come before us and say that the flesh is of all things the most excellent.


Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, XII p. 546F: And Epicurus says, “The principle and the root of all good is the pleasure of the stomach; even wisdom and culture must be referred to this.”

Ibid., VII p. 280A: The master of these men, indeed, was Epicurus, who loudly proclaimed… [“The principle,” etc., cited above].

Metrodorus, Letter to his Brother Timocrates, fr. 13 [p. 51 Duen.], by way of Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 16, p. 1098D: {We are not called to save the nation or get crowned by it for wisdom; what is called for, my dear Timocrates, is to eat and to drink wine, gratifying the belly without harming it.}  …  It made me both happy and confident to have learned from Epicurus how to gratify the belly properly.  …  {The belly, Timocrates, my man of wisdom, is the region that contains the highest end.}

Cf. Plutarch, Against Colotes, 30, p. 1125A: For it is the men who look with contempt on all these things as old wives’ tales, and think that our good is to be found in the belly and the other passages by which pleasure makes her entry…

Ibid., 2, p. 1108C: …by those who keep shouting that the good is to be found in the belly…

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 17, p. 1098D: Indeed these people, you might say, describing a circle with the belly as center and radius, circumscribe within it the whole area of pleasure…

Cicero, Against Lucius Calpurnius Piso, 27.66: It is his habit in all his discussions to attach higher value to the pleasures of the belly than to the delights of the eye and the ear.

Cf. Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 2, p. 1087B: “Oho!”  I said laughing.  “It looks as if you are going to hop on their belly and make them run for their flesh when you take pleasure away…”

Cf. Hegesippus, by way of Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, VII p. 279D (Com. IV p. 481)


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 9, p. 1092D: As for the melting away of the mind that occurs in the expectation or on the occasion of pleasure of the flesh, this when moderate has nothing about it that is great or appreciable, and when extreme is not only unfounded and unstable but strikes us course and immodest.

Galen, On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato, IV.2, t. V [p. 367 K.; p. 337.6 Muell.]: {De Lacy ca. pg. 250}


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 27, p. 1122E: No teacher is needed.  By themselves, these glorious smooth and agreeable movements of the flesh (as they themselves assert) call to action even one who stoutly denies and refuses to acknowledge that he unbends and turns soft in response to them.

Cf. Plutarch, Old Men in Public Affairs, 5 p. 786C: In view of these examples, do we not perceive how great are the pleasures the virtues provide, for those who practice them … and that also without tickling or enervating them as do the smooth and gentle motions made on the body?  Those have a frantic, unsteady titillation mixed with convulsive throbbing…

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 22, p. 1087E: … you will find that area which experiences a ‘smooth and gentle motion’ …


Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept? 4, p. 1129B: If I intend to … “spit on noble action” and place the good in the “flesh” and in “titillations” – these rites require darkness, these require night, and for these let us have concealment and oblivion.

Cf. Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 92.6: The second kind of pleasure is simply animalistic.  We are but adding the irrational to the rational, the dishonorable to the honorable.  A pleasant physical sensation affects this life of ours; why therefore, do you hesitate to say that all is well with a man just because all is well with his appetite?  And do you rate, I will not say among heroes, but among men, the person whose Supreme Good is a matter of flavors and colors and sounds? {cf. U67}


Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, XII p. 546E: {Aristippus and his followers were not alone} in welcoming kinetic pleasure … Epicurus and his followers did the same.  And not to enter on account of his “tempests” and his “transportations,” all of which Epicurus cites many times, also the “titillations” and “stimulations” …

Cf. Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 5, p. 1090B: {the future, like the weather, is always uncertain} so the mind that has stowed the ultimate good in a body that is in a stable condition and in expectations for the body cannot continue to the end without fear and the prospect of tempestuous weather.

Philo of Alexandria, Allegory of the Law, III.48, t. I [p. 115 Mang.]: Indeed, he who finds himself on the way of the moral progress is not in a position to reject every pleasure, but it will still be a wonderful thing that he succeeds rejecting the pleasures of the belly, that is those [???] which the lovers of the pleasure say that the means of increasing the chief pleasure is owed to the skill of cooks and [???].


Cleomedes, Lectures on Astronomy, II.1 [p. 112 Bak.] {p. 492 Bowen and Todd}: On top of everything else his mode of expression is also elaborately corrupt.  … [he] speaks of  “sacred ululations” and “titillations of the body” and “debaucheries” and other such dreadful horrors.  {c.f.above}

Ibid., [p. 113 Bak.] {p. 516 Bowen and Todd}: So will you not be off, “most brazen and shameless soul,” routed from Philosophy, to Leontium, Philainis, and the other whores, and to your “sacred ululations” with Mindyrides, Sardanapalus and all your boon companions?


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.21.68 (Cicero to Torquatus): When one argues with your friends, one has to listen to a great deal about even the grosser forms of pleasure!  Epicurus is always harping upon them!

On Katastematic Pleasure


Olympiodorus the Younger, Commentary on Plato’s “Philebus,” [p. 274 Stallb.]: Epicurus, referring to natural pleasure, says that it is katastematic.

Philo of Alexandria, Allegory of the Law, III.54, t. I [p. 118 Mang.]: … to those who say that pleasure is katastematic.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 3, p. 1088C: Epicurus has imposed a limit on pleasures that applies to all of them alike: the removal of all pain.  For he believes that our nature adds to pleasure only up to the point where pain is abolished and does not allow it any further increase in magnitude (although the pleasure, when the state of painlessness is reached, admits of certain unessential variations).   But to proceed to this point, accompanied by desire, is our stint of pleasure, and the journey is indeed short and quick.  Hence it is that becoming aware of the poverty here they transfer their final good from the body, as from an unproductive piece of land, to the soul, persuaded that there they will find pastures and meadows lush with pleasures.

Ibid., 4 (1088D) (Zeuxippus speaking): Why, do you not hold that that gentlemen do well to begin with the body, where pleasure first appears, and then pass to the soul as having more stability and bringing everything to perfection within itself?


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 31, p. 1107B: It is a space like this, with pleasures so ample, pleasures of such magnitude that the surgery of Epicurus cuts out of our lives.  Not content with removing all hope of help from Heaven and all bestowal of grace, as we said, he kills the love of learning in our soul and the love of honor in our heart, and thus constructs our nature and casts it down into a narrow space indeed and not a clean one either, where the mind delights in nothing but the flesh, as if human nature had no higher good than escape from evil.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.20.47: Epicurus also says that pleasure does not increase when pain has been removed, and that the highest pleasure is the absence of pain.

Ibid., (47): He says that the highest pleasure is freedom from pain.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.9.28: He asserts that nothing can enhance the pleasure of freedom from pain.

Cf. Ibid., II.13.41 (Cicero to Torquatus): Hieronymus’ Chief Good is the same as that occasionally, or rather only too frequently, upheld by yourselves: freedom from pain.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 7, p. 1091B: Oh the great pleasure and blessed state this company {the Epicureans} enjoy, as they revel in suffering no hardship or anxiety or pain! Is this not a thing to make them proud and use the language they do, when they style themselves “imperishable” and “equal to the gods” and from excess and preeminence of blessings explode in their pleasure into wild cries of rapture and ecstasy because they alone, scorning all other blessings, have discovered one as great as it is godlike, to wit, not to suffer an ill?

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.8.10: To think that the highest good is the absence of pain is surely not characteristic of the Peripatetics or Stoics but of the bedridden philosophers.  For who would not understand that this is the point discussed by the sick and those placed in some state of pain?  What is so ridiculous as to consider that which a physician can give, as the highest good?


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 33, p. 1123A: Do you {Epicureans} not, in defiance of the experience of all mankind, affirm the absence of any mean between pain and pleasure when you say that it is a pleasure to feel no pain, in other words: that not to be acted upon is to be acted upon?


Olympiodorus the Younger, Commentary on Plato’s “Philebus,” [p. 275 Stallb.]: … since Epicurus does not believe that pain is mixed with pleasure, nor indeed the bad with the good.


Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, XVII 35 (after fragment 181): “We need pleasure when we are in pain because of its absence; but when we are not in this condition, and are in a stable state of sense-perception, then there is no need for pleasure.  For it is not the needs of nature which produce injustice from without, but the desire based on groundless opinions.”


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 7, p. 1091A: Not only is the basis that they assume for the pleasurable life untrustworthy and insecure, it is quite trivial and paltry as well, inasmuch as their “thing delighted” – their good – is an escape from ills, and they say that they can conceive of no other, and indeed that our nature has no place at all in which to put its good except the place left when its evil is expelled. … Epicurus too makes a similar statement to the effect that the good is a thing that arises out of your very escape from evil and from your memory and reflection and gratitude that this has happened to you. His words are these: “That which produces a jubilation unsurpassed is the nature of good, if you apply your mind rightly and then stand firm and do not stroll about {a jibe at the Peripatetics}, prating meaninglessly about the good.”

Ibid., 8, p. 1091E: Thus Epicurus, and Metrodorus too, suppose {that the middle is the summit and the end} when they take the position that escape from ill is the reality and upper limit of the good.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 5, p. 1090A: My judgment is that … they ought to refrain from taking the position that the “stable condition of the flesh” is the source of all delight, …


Epictetus, fragment 52, by way of Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, IV.50:

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.6.16: Thus, just as the sea is understood to be calm when not even the lightest breath of air ruffles its waves, so too a peaceful condition of the soul is discernible when there is no disturbance of strength enough to be able to ruffle it.


Plutarch, Stoic Self-Contradictions, 2, p. 1033C:  …that tranquility (ήσυχία) which is commended by Epicurus and Hieronymus.

Cf. Plutarch, Table Talk, III.6.4, p. 655C: {All men, my friend, do not possess} … Epicurus’ leisure and equanimity … {which has been provided in everlasting abundance by reason and philosophy} … [Cf. Plutarch, Philosophers and Men in Power, 3, p. 778D]

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 68.10: “Is it retirement, oh Seneca, that you are recommending to me?  You will soon be falling back upon the maxims of Epicurus!”

Tertullian, On Shows, 28: Some philosophers have given the name of pleasure to quietude and tranquility; in it they rejoice, take their ease in it – yes, glory in it.

Horace, Odes, II.16, 1-:

Peace – can purple buy it, Grosphus? Nay,
Nor gold, nor jewel.

No pomp, no lictor clears the way
Amid rabble-routs of troublous feelings,
Nor quells the cares that sport and play
Round gilded ceilings.


Baton the Comic, (t. IV p. 502 Meineke), by way of Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, III p. 103C; VII p. 279A: “Epicurus, anyhow, says that pleasure is the highest Good; everybody knows that.  You cannot have it any other way.  By living well, of course, everyone lives happily.”


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.120: {Among Epicurean Sages, they hold that} health is in some cases regarded as a good – for others: something indifferent.

Saint Augustine, City of God, V.20: {The Epicureans say that Pleasure demands Temperance}… lest some harmful consequence of overindulgence should interfere with health  –  which Epicureans place largely in the health of the body – and seriously hinder Pleasure.

On Peace of Mind


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 4, p. 1088E: But when you hear their loud protest that the soul is so constituted as to find joy and tranquility in nothing in the world but pleasures of the body either present or anticipated, and that this is its good, do they not appear to you to be using the soul as a decanter of the body, and to imagine that by decanting pleasure, like wine, from a worthless and leaky vessel and leaving it to age in its new container, they are turning it into something more respectable and precious?

Ibid., 14 p. 1096C: They place the contemplative part of the soul right inside body and use the appetites of the flesh as leaden weights to hold it down.  In this they are no better than stable hands or shepherds who serve their charges with hay or straw or grass of one kind or the other as the proper food for them to crop and chew.  Do they not in similar fashion play swineherd to the soul, feeding it only on this swill of the bodily pleasures, permitting it to delight only in the hope or experience or recollection of some carnal thing, and forbidding it to take or seek from itself any pleasure or gratification of its own?


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.30.98: You {Epicurus}, have always maintained that no one feels either pleasure or pain except on account of the body.  … your doctrine is that there is no delight of the mind not ultimately referable to the body..

Cf. Ibid., II.33.107: The dictum of your school: all mental pleasures and pains alike are based on pleasures and pains of the body.

Cf. Ibid., II.32.106: {Cicero disputes that} mental pleasures all arise from the connection of the mind with the body.

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, III.7.7-: For what, then, are we going to feel this pleasure of the soul?  If it is for the good of the soul itself, then the essence of the good has already been discovered.  For it is impossible, if one thing be good, to justify taking delight in something else;  …  But you Epicureans ought to deny this, if you are in your right mind – otherwise you will be saying something inconsistent with both Epicurus and the rest of your doctrines.  The only thing left for you to say is that pleasure of soul is pleasure in the things of the body, and then they become matters of prime importance, and the true nature of the good.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 5, p. 1089D: Now first observe their conduct here, how they keep decanting this “pleasure” or “painlessness” or “stable condition” of theirs back and forth, from body to mind and then once more from mind to body, compelled, since pleasure is not retained in the mind but leaks and slips away, to attach it to its source, shoring up “the pleasure of the body with the delight of the soul,” as Epicurus puts it, but in the end passing once more by anticipation from the delight to the pleasure.


Alciphron, Letters, III.55.8 (Autocletus to Hetoemaristus {“Gatecrasher” to “Prompt-to-breakfast”}): Zenocrates the Epicurean took the harp-girls in his arms, gazing upon them from half-closed eyes with a languishing and melting look, and saying that this was “tranquility of the flesh” and “the full intensity of pleasure.”

(Cf. Epicurus, Principal Doctrine 9)


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 2, p. 1087B: those people who shout, “We ever hold the table dear instead” {Homer, Odyssey, VIII 246, 248} and “every agreeable stirring of the flesh that is transmitted upward to give some pleasure and delight to the mind.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 66.45: We find mentioned in the works of Epicurus two goods, of which his Supreme Good, or blessedness, is composed, namely, a body free from pain and a soul free from disturbance.  These goods, if they are complete, do not increase; for how can that which is complete increase?  The body is, let us suppose, free from pain; what increase can there be to this absence of pain?  The soul is composed and calm; what increase can there be to this tranquility?  Just as fair weather, purified into the purest brilliancy, does not admit of a still greater degree of clearness, so too, when a man takes care of his body and of his soul, weaving the texture of his good from both, his condition is perfect, and he has found the consummation of his prayers, if there is no commotion in his soul or pain in his body.  Whatever delights fall to his lot over and above these two things do not increase his Supreme Good; they merely season it, so to speak, and add spice to it.  For the absolute good of man’s nature is satisfied with peace in the body and peace in the soul.

Cf. Uncertain Epicurean Author, Vol. Herc. 2, X.75 c. VIII: He who keeps goods and evils within natural limits, has already made his escape from every trouble of the soul.


Seneca, On Benefits, III.4.1: Here I must do Epicurus the justice to say that he constantly complains of our ingratitude for past benefits, because we cannot bring back again, or count among our present pleasures, those good things which we have received long ago, although no pleasures can be more undeniable than those which cannot be taken from us.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 18, p. 1099D: {Now suppose that, as they say} the recollection of past blessings is the greatest factor in a pleasant life.

Cf. Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.32.106 (at the beginning)

[Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 4, p. 1089C: It is also quite unlikely that persons of moderation and temperance should dwell on such thoughts {the memory of pleasures} and on the sort of thing with which Carneades taunted Epicurus – as if from an official journal of statistics how about “how often I had a meeting with Hedeia or Leontium,” or “Where I drank Thasian wine” or “what twentieth of the month I had the most sumptuous dinner.” ]


St. Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah, 11, 38, t. IV [p. 473E Vall.]: For this reason, Epicurus’ opinion is foolish: he asserts that the ills of the present are mitigated by the memory of blessings of the past.

Ibid., 18, 65, p. 788C: … for those who find themselves in a state of anxiety cannot in any way rejoice in their souls from past pleasures – regardless of Epicurus’ erroneous theory.

Saint Augustine, Sermon, 348.3 t. V [p. 1344A Venice Edition 1719]:


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.32.104: And again, what is the sense of the maxim that the Sage will not let past blessings fade from memory, and that it is a duty to forget past misfortunes?


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.34.95: The whole teaching of [Epicurus] about pleasure is that pleasure is, he thinks, always to be wished and sought for in and for itself because it is pleasure, and that on the same principle pain is always to be avoided for the simple reason that it is pain, and so the wise man will employ a system of counter-balancing which enables him both to avoid pleasure, should it be likely to ensure greater pain, and submit to pain where it ensures greater pleasure; and all pleasurable things, although judged of by the bodily senses, are notwithstanding transmitted on again to the soul; and for this reason while the body feels delight for the time that it has the sensation of present pleasure, it is the soul which has both the realization of present pleasure conjointly with the body and anticipates coming pleasure, and does not suffer past pleasure to slip away: thus the wise man will always have a perpetual continuation of pleasures, as the expectation of pleasures hoped for is combined with the recollection of pleasures already realized.

On Proper Measurement of Pleasure and Pain


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.20.46: Someone will say: “So?  Do you think that Epicurus meant that sort of thing – that his views were licentious?”  I certainly do not.  For I see that many of his utterances breathe an austere and many a noble spirit.  Consequently, as I have often said, the question at issue is his intelligence, not his morality.  However much he may scorn the pleasures he has just approved, yet I shall remember what it was that he thinks the highest good.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.10.30: The ‘kinetic’ sort of pleasure… at one moment he so disparages it that you would think you were listing to Manius Curius!

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.33.94: On this point, the disciples of Epicurus enter upon a long argument.  Those pleasures belonging to the kinds that they despise, they thoroughly belittle.  Yet all the same, they look out for a plentiful supply of them.  For obscene pleasures (about which they linger at length) are, as they say, easy to satisfy, common, and within reach of all.  Should nature call for them, the standard of value (which they think should not be birth, position or rank, but beauty, age, physical constitution) is by no means difficult to abstain from, even when health or duty or reputation are not at stake.  In general this kind of pleasure is desirable – but is never of benefit.

Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, I.40.113 (Cotta speaking): Perhaps you will say that all these pleasures are merely trifling “titillations of the senses,” in Epicurus’ words.  If so, you must be joking, Our friend Philo would never concede that the Epicureans despised the pleasures of luxury and sensuality.  He used to quote from memory many sayings of Epicurus, in the exact words of the written texts.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, IV.12.29: Regarding pleasure, Epicurus himself says that the smallest pleasures are often eclipsed and forgotten.

[Galen wrote two books “On the obscure pleasure of Epicurus” (c. 17 t. XIX) [p. 48 K.]]


Aristocles, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XIV 21.3 p. 769A: It is better to endure these particular pains, so that we might experience greater pleasures; and it is advantageous to refrain from these particular pleasures so that we might not suffer from more burdensome pains.

Seneca, On Leisure (to Serenus), 7.3: Thus, even this pleasure-loving sect is itself committed to action – and why not?  Since Epicurus himself declares that he will at times withdraw from pleasure, will even seek pain if he foresees that he will either regret that pleasure, or will be able to substitute a lesser pain for one that is greater.


Maximus of Tyre, Dissertations, III.3 [p. 32 Reiske; 32.3 Trapp]: “Is Pleasure really worthless?  In that case, it would not come naturally, nor be the most venerable of all the forces that promote our survival.  As for the well-worn reproaches that sophists bring against it – Sarandapallus’ luxury, and the extravagance of the Medes, and Ionian decadence, and Sicilian gourmandizing, and Subaritic dances and Corinthian courtesans – all this, and anything yet more elaborate, is not the work of Pleasure, but of artifice and calculation, as men have used their recently acquired abundance of technical resources to break Pleasure’s laws.  Just as nobody abuses Reason and says that it does not possess natural beauty, even if someone diverts its application to an end that is not naturally noble, so you should not abuse Pleasure either, rather than those who put it to bad uses.  Of these two elements in the human soul, Pleasure and Reason, Pleasure when mixed with Reason removes none of Reason’s power to compel, but adds pleasures, increases their tendency to moderation by making them easier to come by, while removing the element of compulsiveness from what is naturally pleasant.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.13.28: Epicurus holds that the distress which the idea of evil produces is a natural effect, in the sense that anyone who contemplates some considerable evil at once feels distress, should he imagine that it has befallen him.

Ibid., III.15.32: Epicurus supposes that all men must necessarily feel distress if they think themselves encompassed by evils, whether previously foreseen and anticipated, or long established. For according to him, evils are not lessened by duration nor lightened by previous consideration, and besides, he thinks it folly to dwell upon an evil which has still to come or maybe will not come at all; all evil, he says, is hateful enough when it has come, but the man who is always thinking a mishap may come is making that evil perpetual. But if it is not destined to come at all, he is needlessly the victim of a wretchedness he has brought upon himself; thus he is always tortured either by undergoing or by reflecting on the evil. 33: Alleviation of distress, however, Epicurus finds in two directions, namely in calling the soul away from reflecting upon vexation and in a “recall” to the consideration of pleasures. For he thinks the soul able to obey reason and follow its guidance. Reason therefore (in his view) forbids attention to vexations, withdraws the soul from morose reflections, blunts its keenness in dwelling upon wretchedness and, sounding a retreat from such thoughts, eagerly urges it on again to discover a variety of pleasures and engage in them with all the powers of the mind; and according to this philosopher the wise man’s life is packed with the recollection of past and the prospect of future pleasures. This view we have stated in our usual style, the Epicureans state it in theirs. But let us look at their meaning – let us ignore their style.


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 29, [p. 208.25 Nauck]: “Let us neither censure the flesh as a cause of great evils nor attribute our distress to external circumstances.”  Rather, let us seek their causes in the soul, and by breaking away from every vain yearning and hope for fleeting fancies, let us become totally in control of ourselves.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, II.19.44: Epicurus steps forward – in no sense an ill-meaning person, but rather a gentleman of the best intentions.  He gives advice to the extent of his ability.  “Ignore pain,” he admonishes.  Who says this?  The same thinker who pronounces pain the highest evil.  This is not quite consistent.  Let us listen.  “If pain is at its highest,” says he, “it must be short.”  … “By at the highest I mean that which has nothing higher; by short I mean that which has nothing shorter.  I scorn a degree of pain from which a brief space of time will deliver me almost before it has come.”

Cicero, On Duties, III.33.117: However many passages there are in which Epicurus speaks with proper courage in regards to pain, we must nevertheless consider not what he says, but what is consistent for a man to say who has defined the good in terms of pleasure and evil in terms of pain.

Tertullian, Apologetics, 45: So indeed Epicurus renders every pain and torment a little less frightening, declaring that a moderate pain is trifling, while a severe one is not long-lasting.

Cf. Zeno the Epicurean (Zeno of Sidon), by way of Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.17.38: “Blessed is he who has the enjoyment of present pleasure and the assurance that he would have enjoyment either throughout life or for a great part of life without the intervention of pain, or should pain come, that it would be short-lived if extreme, but if prolonged it would still allow more that was pleasant than evil.”

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 78.7: Illness involves considerable physical torments.  These are made bearable by their intermittency.  For when pain is at its most sever the very intensity finds means of ending it.  Nobody can be in acute pain and feel it for long.  Nature in her unlimited kindness to us has so arranged things as to make pain either bearable or brief.


Plutarch, On How to Study Poetry, c. 14, p. 36B: Upon the words of Aeschylus, “Fear not!  Great stress of pain is not for long,” we ought to remark that this is the oft-repeated and much admired statement originating with Epicurus, namely, “great pains shortly expend their force, and long-continued pains have no magnitude.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, VII.33: Of pain: “When unbearable, it destroys us, when lasting, it is bearable”

Ibid., 64: With most pains, however, call to your rescue even Epicurus, when he says that a pain is “never unbearable or interminable,” so that that you remember its limitations and add nothing to it by imagination.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 23, p. 1103D: This is in fact the Epicurean argument for perilous disease and excruciating pain: you hope for some kind of treatment from the gods for all your piety?  You are deluded – “what is blessed and imperishable is neither vulnerable to feelings of anger nor indebtedness.” {Principal Doctrine 1}  You conceive of something after this life better than what you found in it?  You are deceived – “for what is dissipated has no sensation, and what has no sensation is nothing to us.”  {Principal Doctrine 2}  So why, poor fellow, do you tell me to eat and rejoice? Why else but because for you, who are laboring in the storm, shipwreck imminent: “excessive pain leads straight to death.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 66.47: I can show you at this moment in the writings of Epicurus a graded list of goods just like that of our own school.  For there are some things, he declares, which he prefers should fall to his lot, such as bodily rest free from all inconvenience, and relaxation of the soul as it takes delight in the contemplation of its own goods.  And there are other things which, though he would prefer that they did not happen, he nevertheless praises and approves – for example, the kind of resignation, in times of ill-health and serious suffering, to which I alluded a moment ago, and which Epicurus displayed on his famous “last and most blessed day” of his life. {cf. U138} … We therefore find mentioned, even by Epicurus, those goods which one would prefer not to experience; which, however, because circumstances have decided thus, must be welcomed and approved and placed on a level with the highest goods.

Against the School of Aristippus

Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XIV 18.31 p. 763D: Now Aristippus was a companion of Socrates, and was the founder of the so-called Cyrenaic sect, from which Epicurus has taken occasion for his exposition of man’s proper {ethical} end.

Cf. ibid., 20.13, p. 768C; Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 4, p. 1089A: The Cyrenaics … who have drunk from the same jug as Epicurus…


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.136 (see U2); Ibid., II.87 (Aristippus): {The Cyrenaics say} that bodily pleasure is the End-Goal, according to Panaetius in his work On the Philosophical Schools, and not the static pleasure following the removal of pains, or the sort of ‘freedom from discomfort’ which Epicurus accepts and maintains to be the end.

Ibid., II.89 (Aristippus): The removal of pain, however, which is put forward in Epicurus, seems to them {the Cyrenaics} not to be pleasure at all, any more than the absence of pleasure is pain.  For both pleasure and pain they hold to consist in motion, whereas absence of pleasure like absence of pain is not motion, since painlessness is the condition of one is, as it were, asleep.

Antiochus of Ascalon, by way of Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies II.21 p. 178.43: For of those that are ruled by pleasure are the Cyrenaics and Epicurus; for these expressly said that to live pleasantly was the chief end, and that pleasure was the only perfect good. Epicurus also says that the removal of pain is pleasure.


Antiochus of Ascalon, by way of Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies II.21 p. 179.36: These Cyrenaics reject Epicurus’ definition of pleasure, i.e., the removal of pain, calling that the condition of a corpse; because we rejoice not only on account of pleasures, but companionships and distinctions; while Epicurus thinks that all joy of the soul arises from previous sensations of the flesh.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, II.89 (Aristippus): {The Cyrenaics assert that} not all mental pleasures and pains, however, are derived from bodily counterparts.  For instance, we take disinterested delight in the prosperity of our country which is as real as our delight in our own prosperity.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.137: {Epicurus} further disagrees with the Cyrenaics in that they hold that pains of body are worse than mental pains; at all events evil-doers are made to suffer bodily punishment; whereas Epicurus holds the pains of the mind to be the worse; at any rate the flesh endures the storms of the present alone, the mind those of the past and future as well as the present.  In this way also he holds mental pleasures to be greater than those of the body.

Ibid., II.90 (Aristippus): {The Cyrenaics} insist that bodily pleasures are afar better than mental pleasures, and bodily pains far worse than mental pains, and that this is the reason why offenders are punished with the former.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.7.7: Epicurus thinks that the highest good is in the pleasure of the mind.  Aristippus holds that it is in the pleasure of the body.

Ibid., 8.5: That man was not wise, then, who believed that pleasure of the mind was the highest good, since whether that is security or joy, it is common to all.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, II.89 (Aristippus): {The Cyrenaics} do not admit that pleasure can be derived from the memory or expectation of good, which was a doctrine of Epicurus.  And because of this they assert that movements affecting the mind are exhausted in the course of time.

On the Limits of Desires


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.9.27: For my own part, I cannot cordially approve – I merely tolerate – a philosopher who talks of setting bounds to the desires. Is it possible for desire to be kept with bounds? 28: This classification of the desires is then a subject on which Epicurus is found of enlarging. Not that I find fault with him for that – we expect so great and famous a philosopher to maintain his dogmas boldly.


Seneca, Moral Dialogs, VII, To Gallio, or On the Blessed Life, 13.4: He who follows pleasure is seen to be weakly, broken, losing his manliness, and on the sure path to baseness unless someone shall establish for him some distinction between pleasures, so that he may know which of them lie within the bounds of natural desire, and which of them sweep headlong onward and are unbounded, being all the more insatiable the more they are satisfied.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.33.93: You are, I take it, aware that Epicurus has distinguished different kinds of desire, not perhaps with too much exactness, but nevertheless in a way that is of service.  In part, they are, he says natural and necessary, in part natural and not necessary, in part neither one nor the other; scarcely anything is required to satisfy the necessary pleasures, for the stores of nature are available; and the second kind of desires is, he thinks, neither hard to satisfy nor indeed hard to go without; the third kind he thought should be utterly rejected, because they were completely meaningless and so far from counting as necessary, had no relation to nature either.

Scholion on Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, III.13, p. 1118b 8 [fr. 48v Ald.]:

Plutarch, Beasts are Rational, c. 6 p. 989B: Temperance, then, is a curtailment and an ordering of the desires that eliminate those that are extraneous or superfluous and discipline in modest and timely fashion those that are necessary.  You can, of course, observe countless differences in the desires … and the desire to eat and drink is at once natural and necessary, while the pleasures of love, which, though they find their origin in nature, yet may be forgone and discarded without much inconvenience, have been called natural but unnecessary.  But there are desires of another kind, neither necessary nor natural, that are imported in a deluge from without as a result of your inane illusions and because you lack true culture.  So great is their multitude that the natural desires are, every one of them, all but overwhelmed, as though an alien rabble were overpowering the native citizenry.  But beasts have souls completely inaccessible and closed to these adventitious passions and live their lives as free from empty illusions as though they dwelt far form the sea.  They fall short in the matter of delicate and luxurious living, but solidly protect their sobriety and the better regulation of their desires since those that dwell within them are neither numerous nor alien.

Cf. Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.49: But otherwise, insofar as one has fallen into extravagance, they say that one has a desire that is not necessary and does not arise by necessity from something that causes pain, but from something which causes distress or discomfort only by being absent, or else from delight, or wholly from empty and misleading beliefs; and such a desire does not refer back to any natural lack or to something which by its absence ruins our constitution.  Ordinary foods suffice to provide what nature necessarily requires, and because they are simple and small in quantity, they are easy to get.  Hence, {Porphyry’s own inference:} a meat-eater needs inanimate foods as well, but someone satisfied with inanimate food needs half as much, and that easy to get and needing small expense to prepare.


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 31, [p. 209, 21 Nauck]: The love of true philosophy dissolves every anxious and painful longing.


Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.54: From causes like these, and from analogous causes, there arises an insatiable desire for longevity, wealth, money and fame, because people think that with these they will, given a longer time, increase their sum of good, and because they fear the terror of death as something without limit.  The pleasure experienced from luxury comes nowhere near the pleasure experienced from self-sufficiency; it is very pleasant to think just how little one needs.  Take away luxury, take away sexual excitement and the desire for external recognition, and what further need is there for inert wealth, which is useful to us for nothing but only weighs us down?  This is the way to be filled full, and the pleasure from this kind of satiety is unmixed.  We must also make the body unaccustomed, so far as is possible, to the pleasures of excess, but accustomed to the fulfillment which comes from satisfying hunger; we must eat in order to get through everything, and must take as our limit not the unlimited, but the necessary.  Thus it too, by self-sufficiency and assimilation to the divine, can obtain the good that is possible for it.  Thus it will be genuinely rich, measuring its wealth by the natural limit, not by empty beliefs.  Thus it will not be suspended on hopes of the greatest pleasure, without being sure of getting it; for that pleasure causes maximum disruption.  But it will be self-sufficient in what is present and in what has already happened, and will not be tormented by the thought of not remaining for longer.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.34.97: Similar reasoning [cf. U439] is applied to food, ad the costly splendor of banquets is belittled, because they say nature is contented with little effort.  For who does not see that need is the seasoning for all such things? [cf. Horace, Satires, II.2.70-88] 99: And yet, if nature should feel the need of something yet more savory, what a quantity of things are provided by earth and trees in ready abundance and of excellent savor!  Add dryness which follows upon restraint in diet, add unimpaired health; contrast with this, sweating, belching men stuffed with food like fattened oxen – then you will understand that those who are in hottest pursuit of pleasure are furthest from catching it, and that the pleasantness of food lies in appetite, not in repletion. [Cf. Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus, 132; Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.8.22]  35.102: Time would fail me should I wish to maintain the cause of poverty; for the matter is evident and nature herself teaches us daily how few, how small her needs, are, how cheaply satisfied.

Ibid., V.9.26: He praises pain living – that is indeed worthy of a philosopher, but only in the mouth of Socrates or Antisthenes, not of the man who can say that pleasure is the supreme good.  III.20.49: He prefers plain to a rich diet.

Cf. Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, XVII.43:


Seneca, Moral Dialogs, VII, To Gallio, or On the Blessed Life, 13.1: Personally I hold the opinion – I shall express it though the members of our school may protest – that the teachings of Epicurus are upright and holy and, if you consider them closely, austere; for his famous doctrine of pleasure is reduced to small and narrow proportions, and the rule that we Stoics lay down for virtue, this same rule he lays down for pleasure – he bids that it obey Nature.  But it takes a very little luxury to satisfy Nature!  What then is the case?  … And so I shall not say, as do most of our school, that the school of Epicurus is an academy of vice, but this is what I say – it has a bad name, is of ill-repute, and yet undeservedly.

Ibid., 12.4: Those who have plunged into pleasures … they hide their debauchery in the lap of philosophy and flock to the place where they may hear the praise of pleasure and they do not consider how sober and abstemious the “pleasure” of Epicurus really is – so by Hercules, I think it is – but they fly to a mere name seeking some justification and screen for their lusts.


Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.50-: So when using philosophy one must consider food too, insofar as that school’s attentive concern allows; and when something is removed by that school because it will not authorize complete assurance, it should not be added to the provision of wealth and foods.  Philosophy, then, should be used to handle such matters, and it will immediately turn out that pursuing a minimal, simple and light diet is far better; for least disturbance comes from least.  Preparing food brings many impediments in its wake, from the weighing down of the body, from the trouble of preparation, from disrupting the sustained activity of reason about the most important principles, or from some other cause.  So preparation immediately becomes unprofitable, and cannot compensate for the disturbances it entails.


Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.51: Pain caused by hunger is much milder than pain caused by eating to excess, unless someone deludes himself with empty beliefs.


Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.51: Diversity in one’s diet not only fails to relieve the troubles of the soul, it will not even increase pleasure in the flesh.  For pleasure has limits, which is the point at which removal of pain is achieved.


Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.51-: Meat-eating does not remove any trouble from our nature, or any want which, if not satisfied, leads to pain.  The gratification it provides is violent, and is quickly mixed with the opposite.  For it contributes not to the maintenance of life but to the variation of pleasures: it resembles sex or drinking imported wines, and our nature can survive without these.  The things without which nature could not survive are small in very way and can be got easily, with justice and liberal-mindedness, tranquility and the utmost ease.  Moreover, meat does not contribute to health either, but rather impedes it.  Health is maintained by the same things through which it is acquired; and it is acquired by a very light and fleshless diet, so that must be how it is sustained.


Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.53: Epicurus rightly surmised that we should beware of food which we want to enjoy and which we pursue, but find disagreeable once we get it.  All rich, heavy food is like this, and when people are carried away by wanting it, they land in expense, illness, glut, or worry.  For this reason we should guard against excess even of simple things, and in all cases we must examine what happens as a result of enjoyment or possession, how big a thing it is, and whether it relieves any trouble of body or soul.  Otherwise, in every case, tension, such as life engenders, will arise from gratification.  We must not go beyond the bounds, but keep within the boundary and measure that applies to such things.


Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.48-: For most of the Epicureans, starting with their leader, appear to be satisfied with barley-bread and fruit, and they have filled treatises with arguments that nature needs little and that its requirements are adequately met by simple, available food.  Riches in accordance with nature, they say, are limited and easy to get; riches in accordance with empty beliefs are unlimited and hard to get {= Principle Doctrine 15}.  Disturbance caused to the body by want is well and sufficiently removed by things which are easy to get, which have the simple nature of fluid and dry.

St. Jerome, Against Jovinianus, II.11 t. II [p. 340C Vall.]: Epicurus, the defender of pleasure, in all his books speaks of nothing but vegetables and fruits; and he says that we ought to live on cheap food because the preparation of sumptuous banquets of flesh involves great care and suffering, and greater pains attend the search for such delicacies than pleasures the consumption of them. Our bodies need only something to eat and drink. Where there is bread and water, and the like, nature is satisfied. Whatever more there may be does not go to meet the wants of life, but are ministers to vicious pleasure. Eating and drinking does not quench the longing for luxuries, but appeases hunger and thirst. Persons who feed on flesh want also gratifications not found in flesh. But they who adopt a simple diet do not look for flesh. Further, we cannot devote ourselves to wisdom if our thoughts are running on a well-laden table, the supply of which requires an excess of work and anxiety. The wants of nature are soon satisfied: cold and hunger can be banished with simple food and clothing.


Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.5: One who is too stingy learns [from Epicurus] that life can be endured on water and barley.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 16, p. 1097D: Now the point that even for the pleasures of the body our nature requires costly provision, and that the most pleasant enjoyment is not to be found in barley-cake and lentil soup, but that the appetite of the sensualist demands succulent viands and Thasian wine and perfumes … and not only this, but young and attractive women  … this point let us waive.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.28.90: “Come,” you will say, “these are trivial objections.  The Sage is endowed with Nature’s own riches, and these as Epicurus has shown, are easy to obtain”   {cf. Principal Doctrine 16}

Ibid., II.28.91: He said that natural wealth is easily won, because nature is satisfied with little.


Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, XVII.23: “Thanks be to blessed Nature because she has made what is necessary easy to supply, and what is not easy unnecessary.”


Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.51: The hope of lacking nothing must be with the philosopher throughout his life.  Things which are easy to get safeguard this hope sufficiently; expensive things make it a vain hope.  That is why most people, even though they have many possessions, make endless efforts because they think they will lack enough.  We are satisfied with available, simple things if we keep in mind that all the wealth in the world is not strong enough to give the soul a worthy release from disturbance, but the trouble of the flesh is removed by very moderate, ordinary things which are very easy to get. And if even things on this level fall short, that does not disturb the person who rehearses death. {c.f. U205}


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 27, [p. 208, 2 Nauck]: It is rare to find a man who is with regard to the goal set by nature and rich with regard to groundless opinions.  For no imprudent man is satisfied by what he has, but rather is distressed by what he does not have.  So just as people with a fever are always thirsty and desire the most unsuitable things because of the malignancy of their , so too those whose souls are in a bad condition always feel that they are totally impoverished and enmeshed in all sorts of desire as a result of their gluttony.

Athenaeus, by way of Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.12:

Oh men, you labor for pernicious ends;
And out of eager avarice, begin
Quarrels and wars. And yet the wealth of nature
Fixes a narrow limit for desires,
Though empty judgment is insatiable.

This lesson the wise child of Neocles
Had learnt by ear, instructed by the Muses,
Or at the sacred shrine of Delphi’s God.

Plutarch, On the Desire for Wealth, 4 p. 524F: … since for men of sense natural wealth does have a limit and boundary, which is drawn around it by utility as by a compass.

Bynzantine Gnomologion [Wachsmuth, Studien zu den griechischen Florilgien, p. 197 n 189]:Wealth in accordance with nature reaches fulfillment with bread, water and ordinary shelter for the body; excess wealth, in accordance with the cravings of the soul, brings this also: afflictions of desire without end.

Juvenal, Satires, 14.316: Yet if any should ask of me what measure of fortune is enough, I will tell him: as much as thirst, cold and hunger demand; as much as sufficed you, Epicurus, in your little garden; as much as in earlier days was to be found in the house of Socrates.

Horace, Epistles, I.12.3:

Cease your complaints: no one ever is poor if his needs are supplied, and
Once all is well with your stomach, your chest, and your feet, there is nothing
More that the treasure of kings could possibly add to your riches.

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.32.89: Nay, with how little is Epicurus himself contented!  No one has said more about plain living.  For take the things which make men desire money to provide the means for love, for ambition, for their daily expenditure – as he is far removed from all such things, why should he feel much need of money or rather why should he trouble about it at all?

Ibid., V.31.89: Do you think that Epicurus and the rest of the philosophers are not adequately prepared to meet all others things that are considered evil?  What man is not sorely afraid of poverty?  And yet not a single philosopher is so.

Horace, Epistles, I.10.32:

Flee grand things. A life can be lived in a poor man’s
Cottage surpassing the lives of a king or a king’s friends

Aelian, Various Histories, IV.13 (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, XVII.30): Epicurus, of the burgh of Gargettus, had shouted, saying: “Nothing satisfies the man who is not satisfied with a little.”

Cf. Horace, Epistles, I.2.46: He who happens to have enough does not desire anything else.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 9.20: Epicurus himself, the reviler of Stilpo, used similar language.  Put it down to my credit, though I have already wiped out my debt for the present day.  He says “Whoever does not regard what he has as most ample wealth, is unhappy, even if he was master of the entire world.”  Or, if the following seems better-worded to you (for we must try to render meaning and not the mere words): “A man may rule the world and still be unhappy, if he does not feel that he is supremely happy.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 2.5: My thought for today is something which I found in Epicurus (yes, I actually make a practice of going over to the enemy’s camp – by way of reconnaissance, not as a deserter!).  “A cheerful poverty,” he says, “is an honorable state.”  But if it is cheerful it is not poverty at all.  It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.

Cf. Horace, Odes, II.16.13 (below)


Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, VI.2, p. 266.38: Further, as Euripides wrote: “For the temperate, enough is sufficient” {Fenicie, 554}, Epicurus expressly says, “Sufficiency is the greatest riches of all.” {cf. U202}

Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 28, [p. 208, 19 Nauck]: Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth.

Saint Augustine, On the Utility of Faith, 4, 10, t. VIII [p. 52A Venice edition, 1719]:


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 4.10: But I must end my letter.  Let me share with you the saying which pleased me today.  It too is culled from another man’s Garden: “Poverty, brought into conformity with the law of nature, is great wealth.”  Do you know what limits that law of nature ordains for us?  Merely to avert hunger, thirst, and cold.  …  Nature’s needs are easily provided and ready at hand.  It is the superfluous things for which men sweat…

Ibid., 27.9: But let me pay off my debt and say farewell: “Real wealth is poverty adjusted to the law of Nature.”  Epicurus has this saying in various ways and contexts; but it can never be repeated too often, since it can never be learned too well.

Cf. Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, V.1117:

But if anyone were to conduct his life by reason,
he would find great riches in living a peaceful life
and being contented, one is never short of a little.

Horace, Odes, II.16.13: “On little one lives well.”

Horace, Epistles, I.10.39:

Fearful of poverty rather than fearful of riches, he must forfeit
Liberty, and in his greed must forever be serving a master.

Horace, Satires, II.2.1: “Values of simple and frugal existence, good friends, is my subject.”


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 28, [p. 208, 15 Nauck]: Most men fear frugality in their lifestyle and through their fear are led to actions most likely to produce fear.


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 28, [p. 208, 17 Nauck]: Many men when they have acquired riches have not found the escape from their problems but have only exchanged them for greater problems.

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 17.11: I cannot say farewell without paying a price.  But what of it?  I shall borrow from Epicurus: “The acquisition of riches has been for many, not an end, but a change, of troubles.”


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 29, [p. 209, 5 Nauck]: By means of occupations worthy of a beast, abundance of riches is heaped up, but a miserable life results.


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 28, [p. 208, 23 Nauck]: “Therefore they {the philosophers} exhort us to practice not how we must provide for some necessity, but how we will remain secure when it is not provided.”

Porphyry, On Abstinence, I.50: What one must do, the Epicureans say, is not to gather together the necessities of life and add philosophy as an accessory, but to provide for genuine assurance of soul and then deal with daily needs.  We entrust our concerns to a bad manager if we assess and provide what nature needs without the help of philosophy.


Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, III.7.15: {deriding Epicureanism}  Now wealth is a good, and when it comes to pleasures is, so to speak, the thing must productive of them.  Why should you not acquire it?


Hermias, Commentary on Plato’s “Phaedrus,” p. 76: Some, in fact, consider love to be absolutely bad, defining it as an intense craving for carnal pleasure, united with frenzy and disquietude.

Alexander of Aphrodisia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Topics,” p. 75 (= Suda under “eros,” {?-?}, [p. 535, 14 Bernh.]):

Cf. Scholiast on Dionysius Thrax {“Dionysius the Thracian”}, The Art of Grammar, [p. 667, 13 Bekk.]: The Epicureans define love as an intense craving for carnal pleasures.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 18.14: It’s time I started wrapping up this letter. “Not till you’ve settled your account,” you say. Well, I’ll refer you to Epicurus for payment: “Anger carried to excess begets madness.” How true this is you’re bound to know, since you have had not only slaves, but also enemies.

Cf. Horace, Epistles, I.2.62:

Rage is but madness in shorter duration; your temper must either
Bend to your will or bend you, so control it with chain or with bridle.
Apollonius, by way of Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, XX.49: The flower of hot-temperedness is folly.

On Rational Living


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 29, [p. 208.30 Nauck]: Unhappiness comes either through fear or through vain and unbridled desire: but if a man curbs these, he can win for himself the blessedness of wisdom.


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 31, [p. 209.19 Nauck]: “Pain does not consist in lacking the goods of the masses, but rather in enduring the unprofitable suffering that comes from empty false opinions.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 12.10: What could be more splendid than the following saying which I’m entrusting to this letter of mine for delivery to you: “To live under constraint is a misfortune, but there is no constraint to live under constraint.”  Of course not, when on every side there are plenty of short and easy roads to freedom there for the taking…  You protest: “It was Epicurus who said that!  What business have you got with someone else’s property?” Whatever is true is my property.  And I shall persist in inflicting Epicurus on you, in order to bring it home to people who take an oath of allegiance to someone and never afterward consider what is being said but only who said it, that the things of greatest merit are common property.

Cf. Maximus of Tyre, Dissertations, III.10 [p. 45 Reiske]: What, then, is more painful than necessity?


Gnomolgion from the Parisinus codex, 1168, f. 115 (Maxims of Epicurus): The crude soul is puffed up by prosperity and cast down by misfortune.


Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 30, [p. 209.12 Nauck]: “Nature also teaches us to regard the outcomes of fortune of little account and to know how to face misfortune when we are favored by fortune, but not to consider the favors of fortune important when we experience misfortune.  And Nature teaches us to accept, unperturbed, the good outcomes of fortune, while standing prepared in the face of the seeming evils which come from fate.  For all that the masses regard as good is a fleeting fancy, but wisdom and knowledge have nothing in common with fortune.”

Cf. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, II.3.8 [U604]: Shall we allow this man … to be forgetful of himself and be disdainful of fortune at the moment when all that he holds good and evil is at fortune’s disposal?


Plutarch, On Peace of Mind, 16 p. 474C: “He who has least need of tomorrow,” as Epicurus says, “most gladly rises to greet tomorrow.”

Cf. Horace, Epistles, I.4.13:

Believe that each day which breaks is your last,
Then you will find your delight in another one’s rising unhoped for.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 15.10: … a striking maxim that comes from Greece – here it is: “The life of folly is empty of gratitude and full of anxiety – it is focused wholly on the future.”  “Who said that?” you ask.  The same man as before. {Epicurus}

Cf. Horace, Epistles, I.18.110: “I do not dangle in air like a leaf with my hopes all uncertain.”

Horace, Odes, II.16.25:

If the present moment contents you, never
Mind the future, temper unpleasant things with
Quiet smiles…

Ibid., I.11.8:

Even as we now talk.
Harvest this day, {“Carpe Diem”}
discount tomorrow’s gains.

Horace, Odes, II.16.17:

Why, in life’s brief span,
Do we bravely fight for man things?

Ibid., I.4.15:

Briefness of lifespan forbids us
To open a long-range hope’s investment.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.38: [Epicurus says, in effect:] “Let us serve pleasure, then, in whatever way we can, for in a short time we will be nothing whatsoever.  Let us suffer no day, therefore, no point of time to flow by for us without pleasure, lest, since we ourselves are at sometime to perish, the very fact that we live may perish.”  Although he does not say this in so many words, however, he teaches this is fact.


Uncertain Author, Vol. Herc. 2, X.74 col. VI: Among mortal men, there is no one who can escape death.  And indeed, seeing that everyone, as Epicurus says, from the very moment of birth remain for a certain time …


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 23.9: Now is the time for me to pay my debt.  I can give you a saying of your friend Epicurus and thus clear this letter of its obligation: “It is bothersome always to be beginning life.”  Or another, which will perhaps express the meaning better: “They live unwell – those who are always beginning to live.”  You are right in asking why – the saying certainly stands in need of commentary.  It is because the life of such persons is always incomplete.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 13.16: But now, to close my letter, Have only to stamp the usual seal upon it, in other words, to commit thereto some noble message to be delivered to you: “The fool, with all his other faults, has this also: he is always getting ready to live.”  Consider what this maxim means … and you will understand how revolting is the fickleness of men who lay down every day new foundations of life, and begin to build up fresh hopes even at the brink of the grave.  … I should not name the author of this motto, except that it is somewhat unknown and is not one of those popular sayings of Epicurus which I have myself to praise and to appropriate.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 22.13: … and lo, here is [a maxim] that occurs to my mind; I do not know whether its truth or its nobility of utterance is the greater.  “Spoken by whom?” you ask.  By Epicurus; for I am still appropriating other men’s belongings.  The words are: “Everyone goes out of life just as if he had but lately entered it.”  Take anyone off his guard, young, old , or middle-aged; you will find that all are equally afraid of death, and equally ignorant of life.  No one has anything finished, because we have kept putting off into the future all our undertakings.  No thought in the quotation given above pleases me more than that it taunts old men with being infants. “No one,” he says, “leaves this world in a different manner from one who has just been born.”  That is not true; for we are worse when we die than when we were born; but this our fault, and not that of Nature.

Cf. Pseudo-Plato, Axiochus, p. 365D: Indeed Axiochus, you confound lack of sensation with sensations in an irrational way.  You invent and say incoherent things, without thinking that, in the meanwhile, you cause yourself suffering by the lack of sensibility, and you cause yourself sorrow by the despoilment and privation of pleasures, as if you were dying to live another life, and would not change your condition of total insensibility – the same as it was before your birth.  How, then, since the time of the rule of Dracon and Cleisthenes have you not suffered a single evil?

Plutarch, A Letter to Apollonius, 15 p. 109E: Those who have died return to the same state in which they were before birth; therefore, as nothing was either good or evil for us before birth, even so will it be with us after death.  And just as all events before our lifetime were nothing to us, even so will all events subsequent to our lifetime be nothing to us.  …  For the condition after the end of life is the same as that before birth.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 24.22: Epicurus criticizes those who crave, as much as those who shrink from death: “It is absurd,” he says, “to run towards death because you are tired of life, when it is your manner of life that has made you run towards death.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 24.23: To these thoughts {= U496 & U498} you may add a third, of the same stamp: “Men are so thoughtless, nay, so mad, that some, through fear of death, force themselves to die.”

Cf. Plutarch, A Letter to Apollonius, 15 p. 110A: As a matter of fact, many people, because of their utter fatuity and their false opinion regarding death, die in their effort to keep from dying.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 24.23: Epicurus says … in another passage: “What is so absurd as to seek death, when it is through fear of death that you have robbed your life of peace?”


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.40.117: Let everything be piled up on one single man so that he loses together sight and hearing, suffers too the most acute bodily pains – these, in the first place, commonly finish off a man just by themselves.  But if, maybe, they are indefinitely prolonged and torture him nevertheless, more violently than he sees reason for enduring, what reason have we, gracious heaven, for continuing to suffer?  For there is haven close at hand, since death is at the same time an eternal refuge where nothing is felt. … 41.118: For my part, I think that in life we should observe the rule which is followed at Greek banquets – “Let him either drink,” it says, “or go!”  And rightly, for either he should enjoy the pleasure of tippling along with the others or get away early, so that a sober man may not be a victim to the violence of those who are heated with wine.  Thus by running away one can escape the assaults of fortune which one cannot face.  This is the same advice as Epicurus gives and Hieronymus repeats it in as many words.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 23, p. 1103E: … this most sage and divine doctrine: that the end of the soul’s troubles is to be destroyed and perish and be nothing.

Ibid., 23, p. 1103C: Those who do not experience this {good fortune as divine providence} amputate the greatest pleasure of prosperity, while in misfortune they leave themselves no source of help.  They can see but one haven of refuge in adversity: dissolution, and the loss of all sensation.

Ibid., 27, p. 1105A: For the doctrine that goes “what is dissipated has no sensation, and what has no sensation is nothing to us” {Principal Doctrine II} does not remove the terror of death, but rather confirms it by adding what amounts to a proof.  For this is the very thing our nature dreads: “May all of you be turned to earth and water,” {Homer, Iliad, IX 408-409} i.e., the dissolution of the soul into what has neither thought nor feeling.  Epicurus, by making the dissolution a scattering into emptiness and atoms, does still more to root out our hope of preservation.

Ibid., 29, p. 1106B: To those, on the other hand, who hold that life comes in the end to insentience and dissolution…

Ibid., 29, p. 1106C: So the doctrine of Epicurus promises the wretch no very happy relief from adversity, only the extinction and dissolution of his soul.  But from the prudent and wise and those who abound in all good things it takes away all cheer by altering their condition from blissful living to not living or being at all.

Saint Augustine, Letter 104 Letter to Nectarius, 3, t. II [p. 290C Venice edition, 1719]: What I have read in your literature is more like this: that the life itself which we enjoy is brief, yet you think and you maintain it as a common saying that there can be eternal loss in this life.  It is true that some of your authors consider death as the end of all misfortune, but not all of them; it is chiefly the opinion of the Epicureans and those who think the soul is mortal.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 30, p. 1106D: Nevertheless, they assert that when the foreboding of incessant evils to which no period is appointed is dispelled, they are left with a benefit that is in the highest degree assured and pleasant – the thought of release – and that is done by Epicurus’ doctrine when it terminates the fear of death with the dissolution of the soul.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 30, p. 1107A: And if, as Epicurus imagines, for most people the process of dying is painful, the fear of death is quite beyond any comfort, since death ushers us through misery to loss of every good.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 30.14: He {Aufidius Bassus, an elderly friend} often said, in accordance with the counsels of Epicurus: “I hope, first of all, that there is no pain at the moment when a man breaths his last; but if there is, one will find an element of comfort in its very shortness.  For no great pain lasts long.  And at all events, a man will find relief at the very time when should and body are being torn asunder, even though the profess be accompanied by excruciating pain, in the thought that after this pain is over he can feel no more pain.  I am sure, however, that an old man’s soul is on his very lips, and that only a little force is necessary to disengage it from the body.  A fire which has seized upon a substance that sustains it needs water to quench it, or sometimes, the destruction of the building itself; but the fire which lacks sustaining fuel dies away of its own accord.”   … 16: Bassus kept saying: “It is due to our own fault that we feel this torture, because we shrink from dying only when we believe that our end is near at hand.”  But who is not near death?  It is ready for us in all places and at all times.  “Let us consider,” he went on to say, “when some agency of death seems imminent, how much nearer are other varieties of dying, which are not feared by us.”  A man is threatened with death by an enemy, but this form of death is anticipated by an attack of indigestion.

On the Virtues


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.138: {Epicurus maintains that} we choose the virtues too for the sake of pleasure and not for their own sake, as we take medicine for the sake of health. So too in the twentieth book of his Epilecta says Diogenes, who also calls education ‘recreation.’

Seneca, Moral Dialogs, VII, To Gallio, or On the Blessed Life, 9.1: “But even you,” retorted, “cultivate virtue for no other reason than because you hope for some pleasure from it.” But, in the first place, even though virtue is sure to bestow pleasure, it is not for this reason that virtue is sought; for it is not this, but something more than this that she bestows, nor does she labor for this, but her labor, while directed toward something else, achieves this also.

Alexander of Aphrodisia, Commentary on Aristotle’s “Topics,” p. 12 {Van Ophusijsen 19.8}:There is then, among philosophical opinions, first, those which are shared by all who are wise … that the virtues are goods; or by the majority of them, such as that virtue is choiceworthy for its own sake – even  if Epicurus disagrees – and  that happiness comes into being by virtue.


Maximus of Tyre, Dissertations, III.5 [p. 34 Reiske; 32.5 Trapp]: Since our task is to compare Virtue with Pleasure, I will not abuse Virtue, but I will say this much: if you deprive Virtue of what is pleasant in it, you will also deprive it of its practicability.  No good thing is made the object of choice in the absence of Pleasure; the man who labors virtuously labors willingly because of his affection for Pleasure, present or anticipated.  Just as in financial transactions no one willingly exchanges a talent for a drachma, unless “Zeus has stolen his wits” {Iliad, 6.234}, but such exchanges, however evenly balanced, must benefit the giver in a manner consistent with the interest of the receiver; just so in our dealings with hard work, no one labors for love of labor (what could be less desirable, after all), but instead bargains his present labors against what a more urbane commentator might call “the Good,” but a more veracious one would call Pleasure – because even if you say ‘the Good,’ you mean Pleasure; goodness would hardly be goodness were it not also supremely pleasurable.  6:  I believe this whole argument can be turned around: these very considerations suffice to prove that Pleasure is more worthy of choice than all other things, since for its sake men are prepared to accept death and injuries and labors and countless other vexations.

Ibid., III.10 [p. 44 Reiske; 32.10 Trapp]: At the cost of trivial pains, you have paved the way for great pleasures.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.138: Epicurus describes virtue as indispensable for pleasure – the one thing without which pleasure cannot exist. Everything else (food, for instance) are separable – not indispensable to pleasure.

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.20.49: Epicurus says a pleasurable life is impossible unless accompanied by virtue.

Seneca, Moral Dialogs, VII, To Gallio, or On the Blessed Life, 6.3: And so they say that it is not possible to separate pleasure from virtue, and they profess that no one can live virtuously without also living pleasantly, nor pleasantly without also living virtuously.

Ibid., 9.4: Why do you recommend pleasure to me?  It is the good of man that I am searching for, not that of his belly, which is more insatiable than the belly of domestic or wild beasts.  “You are misrepresenting what I say,” you retort, “for I admit that no man can live pleasantly without at the same time living virtuously as well, and this is patently impossible for dumb beasts and for those who measure their good by mere food.  Distinctly, I say, and openly I testify that the life that I call pleasant is impossible without the addition of virtue.”

Ibid., 12.3: Let them cease, therefore, to join irreconcilable things and to link pleasure with virtue – a vicious procedure which flatters the worst class of men.  The man who has plunged into pleasures, in the midst of his constant belching and drunkenness, because he knows that he is living with pleasure, believes that he is living with virtue as well; for he hears first that pleasure cannot be separated from virtue, then dubs his vices wisdom, and parades what ought to be concealed.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.20.48: Epicurus has disconnected the highest good from virtue.  “Yes, he but often praises virtue.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 85.18: Epicurus also asserts that one who possesses virtue is happy, but that virtue of itself is not sufficient for a happy life, because the pleasure that results from virtue, and not virtue itself, makes one happy.


Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, II.21, [p. 178.51 Sylb.]: Epicurus indeed, and the Cyrenaics, say that pleasure is the first duty; for it is for the sake of pleasure, they say, that virtue was introduced, and produced pleasure.


Cicero, On Divination, I.39.87: … [Epicurus’] view that there is no such thing as disinterested virtue.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, IV.26.73: Epicurus, who … makes a mockery of our notions of virtuous and depraved and says we are preoccupied with words and uttering sounds empty of meaning…

Ibid., IV.26.73: The [Epicurean] philosophers hold the view that virtue in and by itself is quite ineffective.  Everything that we say is honorable and praiseworthy, they say is mere emptiness – tricked out in a sounding phrase that has no meaning.  Nevertheless they think that the Sage is always happy.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.15.48: [= U69]

Ibid., II.16.51 (Cicero to Torquatus): When you informed us that Epicurus proclaims “It is impossible to live pleasantly without living wisely and honorably and justly” {= Principal Doctrine 5}, your words derived potency from the grandeur of the things that they denoted.  You drew yourself up to your full height, and kept stopping and fixing us with your gaze, as if solemnly stating that Epicurus does occasionally commend morality and justice.  Were those names never mentioned by philosophers, we should have no use for philosophy; how well they sounded on your lips!

Cicero, Laelius, or An Essay on Friendship, 23.86: Even virtue itself is regarded with contempt by many, and is said to be mere pretense and display.

Porphyrio, Commentary on Horace’s “Epistles,” I.17.41: Either virtue is a mere empty name…  Epicurus said that virtue is a vain and empty name, as he linked all actions to how well they consummate pleasure.

Commentary on Lucan, Pharsalia (The Civil War), IX.563: The Epicureans say that virtue is devoid of substance and is an empty name and that because of this, no one can become wise conforming to the precepts of the Stoics, but can only make promises.

Lucian, The Double Indictment, 21 (Epicurus {portrayed as defending the cause of Dionysius the Apostate}): “… hating the tedium of life with her {i.e., Stoicism), and considering as nonsense that happiness which, she says, accompanies pain…”

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, II.20.25: “Learn now how righteousness is nothing, how reverence is folly, how a father is nothing, how a son is nothing.”

Himerius, Speeches, by way of Photius I, library codex 243, p. 356A 13: All virtue is lost, by the reasoning and the doctrine of Epicurus; stop the courts, due process, the rewarding of good people and the punishment of the bad.


Aetius, Doxography, XII p. 547A: And in his work On the End-Goal, he says again: “{=U70}”  And in other passages, he says “I spit upon the honorable and those who vainly admire it, whenever it produces no pleasure.”

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 30, p. 1124E: … and when men take for sages those who “spit on excellence, unless pleasure attends it.” [c.f. 1124E @ U368]

Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept?, 4, p. 1129B: … to live together with Leontium and “spit on noble action,” and place the good in the “flesh” and in “titillations.”

Plutarch, Against Colotes, 2, p. 1108C: … those who keep shouting that the good is to be found in the belly and that they would not give a copper coin with a hole in it for all the virtues in bulk apart from pleasure.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 13, p. 1095F: Do they not confess that they are waging war without truce or negotiation on all that is beautiful, so long as it is not pleasurable as well?  What holy and pure thing do they welcome and cherish?


Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, II.22.21: So then, this will be in my interest: to keep my good faith, my self-respect, my forbearance, my abstinence, and my cooperation, and to maintain my relations with other men.  But if I put what is mine in one scale, and what is honorable in the other, then the statement of Epicurus assumes strength, in which he declares that “the honorable is either nothing at all, or at best only what people hold in esteem.”

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.15.48 [= U69]; ibid., 49: Here is a famous philosopher, whose influence has spread not only over Greece and Italy but throughout all barbarian lands as well, protesting that he cannot understand what moral worth is, if it does not consist in pleasure – unless indeed it be that which wins the approval and applause of the multitude.

Idem., Cicero Academica II.46.140 (Lucullus): [= U400]


Cicero, On Duties, III.33.117: If I should listen to him, I should find that in many passages he has a great deal to say about temperance and self-control; but “the water ill not run,” as they say.  For how can he commend self-control and yet posit pleasure as the supreme good?  … And yet when it comes to these three cardinal virtues, these philosophers shift and turn as best they can, and not without cleverness.  They admit wisdom into their system as the knowledge that provides pleasures and banishes pain; they clear the way for fortitude also in some way to fit in with their doctrines, when they teach that it is a rational means for looking with indifference upon death and for enduring pain.  They even bring temperance in – not every easily, to be sure, but still as best they can; for they hold that the height of pleasure is found in the absence of pain.  Justice totters, or rather I should say, lies already prostrate; so also with all those virtues which are discernible in social life and the fellowship of human society.  For neither goodness nor generosity nor courtesy can exist, anymore than friendship can, if they are not sought of and for themselves, but are cultivated only for the sake of sensual pleasure or personal advantage.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.12.37: … the Virtues, which Reason would have in charge of all things, but you considered as the handmaids and subordinates of the pleasures.

Cf. Seneca, Moral Dialogs, VII, To Gallio, or On the Blessed Life, 13.5: To hand over virtue, the loftiest of mistresses, to be the handmaid of pleasure is the part of a man who has nothing great in his soul.


Plutarch, Stoic Self-Contradictions, 26, p. 1046E: Now if [Chrysippus] held prudence to be a good productive of happiness, as Epicurus did…


Origen, Against Celsus, V.47, [p. 270 Hoesch.]: And so too the “courage” of Epicurus is one sort of thing, who would undergo some pains in order to escape from a greater number; and a different thing for the philosopher of the Stoa, who would choose all virtue for its own sake.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.120: {The Epicurean school teaches that} courage is not a natural gift but arises from circumstances.


Origen, Against Celsus, V.47, [p. 270 Hoesch.]: … but righteousness is shown to be one thing according to the view of Epicurus, and another according to the Stoics (who deny the threefold division of the soul), and yet a different thing according to the followers of Plato, who hold that righteousness is the proper business of the parts of the soul.

Saint Augustine, Sermon 348.3, t. V [p. 1343- Venice edition, 1719]:


Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, VI.2 [p. 441 Stählin]: And again, if Aristophanes writes:

“You will have a secure life, being just
and without anxiety nor fear
you will live well,”
{Aristophanes, uncertain fragment 19, in Mein., Greek Comics, II p. 1181}

… Epicurus says “The greatest fruit of justice is peace of mind.”


Plutarch, Virtue and Vice, 3, p. 101B: Where, then, is the pleasure in vice, if in no part of it is to be found freedom from care and grief or contentment or tranquility or calm?  For a well-balanced and healthy condition of the body gives room for engendering the pleasures of the flesh; but in the soul lasting joy and gladness cannot possibly be engendered, unless it provided itself first with cheerfulness, fearlessness, and courageousness as a basis to rest upon, or as a clam tranquility that no billows disturb; otherwise, even though some hope or delectation lure us with a smile, anxiety suddenly breaks forth, like a hidden rock appearing in fair weather and the soul is overwhelmed and confounded.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.120: The school holds that not all sins are equal.

Horace, Satires, I.3.96 (criticizing the Stoics):

People who rate all offences as equally wicked are brought up
Short when they face reality: private and public opinions
Find it abhorrent and hardly useful for the general welfare –
Usefulness, one may say, is the mother of justice and fairness.


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 28.9: It is time I left off – not before I have paid the usual duty though!  “A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation.”  This remark of Epicurus’ is to me a very good one.  For a person who is not aware that he is doing anything wrong has no desire to be put right.  You have to catch yourself doing it before you can reform.

Cf. Horace, Epistles, I.1.41:

Virtue begins with avoidance of vice,
And the first rule of wisdom
Is to abstain from one’s folly.

On Human Society


Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.42: [Epicurus maintains that] pleasure is the greatest good; there is no human society – each one takes thought for himself. {Cf. U581}

Cf. Cicero, Letters to Atticus, VII.2.4: …Carneades {spoke} with more wisdom than our philosophers Lucius and Patron, who in sticking to selfish hedonism and denying altruism, and saying that man must be virtuous for fear of the consequences of vice and not because virtue is an end in itself, fail to see that they are describing a manner not of goodness but of craftiness.

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, II.20.6: So too Epicurus, when he wishes to abolish the natural fellowship of men with one another, makes use of the very thing he is destroying.  For what does he say?  “Don’t be deceived, men, or misled or mistaken: there is no natural fellowship of rational beings with each other.  Believe me: those who say otherwise are deceiving you and reasoning falsely.”

Ibid., II.20.20: So with Epicurus: he cut off everything that characterizes a man, the head of a household, a citizen, and a friend, but he did not succeed in cutting off the desires of human beings; for that he could not do.


Horace, Satires, I.3.98:

Usefulness, one may say, is the mother of justice and fairness.

Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept? 4, p. 1129B: But consider one who in natural philosophy extols God and justice and providence, in ethics: law and society and participation in public affairs, and in political life the upright and not the utilitarian act, what need has he to live unknown?


Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, I.23.1: Even Epicurus understands that we are by nature social beings, but having once set our good in the husk which we wear, he cannot go on and say anything inconsistent with this.  For, he next insists emphatically upon the principle that we ought neither to admire nor to accept anything that is detached from the nature of the good; and he is right in so doing.  But how, then can we still be social beings, if affection for our own children is not a natural sentiment?  Why do you dissuade the wise man from bring up children?  Why are you afraid that sorrow will come to him on their account?  … 5: Nay, he knows, that if once a child is born, it is no longer in our power not to love it or to care for it.  For the same reason Epicurus says that a man of sense does not engage in politics either…  7: Yet, despite the fact that he knows this, he still has the audacity to say, “Let us not bring up children.”

Ibid., IV.11.1: Some people raise doubts whether the social instinct is a necessary element in the nature of man.

Ibid., III.7.19: In the name God, I ask you, can you imagine an Epicurean State?  One man says, “I do not marry.” “Neither do I,” says another, “for people ought not to marry.”  No, nor have children; no, nor perform the duties of a citizen.  What will happen then?  Where are the citizens to come from?  Who will educate them?  …  Yes, and what will they teach them?


Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, II.23, p. 181.25: Democritus repudiates marriage and the procreation of children, on account of the many annoyances arising thereby, and the detraction from more necessary things. Epicurus agrees, as do those who place good in pleasure, and in the absence of trouble and pain.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.5: One who hates women has enumerated for him [by Epicurus] the benefits of celibacy, and childlessness is proclaimed to one who has bad children.


Plutarch, On Affection for Offspring, 2, p. 495A: Are we, then, to believe that Nature has implanted these emotions in these creatures because she is solicitous for the offspring of hens and dogs and bears, and not, rather, because she is striving to make us ashamed and to wound us, when we reflect that these instances are examples to those of us who would follow the lead of Nature, but to those who are callous, as rebukes for their insensibility, by citing which they disparage human nature as being the only kind that has no disinterested affection and that does not know how to love without prospect of gain?  In our theaters, indeed, people applaud the verse of the poet who sad, “What man will love his follow-man for pay?” {Uncertain comic author, t. V p. 122 Mein.} And yet, according to Epicurus, it is for pay that a father loves his son, a mother her child, and children their parents.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 27, p. 1123A: Do you people not dismiss the instinctive love of parents for their offspring – a fact accepted by all?

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, VII.2.4: I am glad you take delight in your baby daughter, and have satisfied yourself that a desire for children is natural.  For if it is not, there can be no natural tie between people; remove that tie and social life is destroyed. “Heaven bless the consequence,” says Carneades, but with more with more wisdom than our philosophers Lucius and Patron…


Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.5: For one who is irreverent toward his parents there is [from Epicurus] the idea that there is no bond in nature.


Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, 43.139: “Laws are made for the sake of the wise, not to prevent them from inflicting wrong but to secure them from suffering it.”

Porphyry, Letter to Marcella, 27: “The written laws are laid down for the sake of temperate men, not to keep them from doing wrong but from being wronged.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 97.15: Let us disagree with Epicurus on one point, when he declares that there is no natural justice, and that crime should be avoided because one cannot escape the fear which results therefrom; let us agree with him on the other – that bad deeds are lashed by the whip of conscience, and that conscience is tortured to the greatest degree because unending anxiety drives and whips it on, and it cannot rely upon the guarantors of its own peace of mind.  For this, Epicurus, is the very proof that we are by nature reluctant to commit crime, because even in circumstances of safety there is no one who does not feel fear.

Horace, Satires, I.3.113:

Nature, however, can not differentiate just things from unjust,
As she distinguishes things to be shunned from the things to be sought for.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 6, p. 1090C: That their general prospects are poor even for a life without mental anguish you may also judge in the light of the remarks they address to others.  Criminals and transgressors of the laws, says Epicurus, pass their entire lives in misery and apprehension, since even though they may succeed in escaping detection, they can have no assurance of doing so.  Consequently, fear of the next moment weighs heavy on them and precludes any delight or confidence in their present situation.

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 97.13: Hence I hold Epicurus’ saying to be most apt: “That the guilty may happen to remain hidden is possible,” or, if you think that the meaning can be made more clear in this way: “The reason that there is no advantage for wrong-doers to remain hidden is that (even though they got lucky) they have not the assurance of remaining so.”

Cf. Atticus, by way of Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, XV 5.5: It is not impossible to feel assurance of being undetected in wrong-doing, if indeed it be necessary to avoid detection by men: it is not necessary, however, on every occasion even to seek to avoid detection, where a man has power to overmaster those who have discovered him. So the disbelief in providence is a ready way to wrong-doing.  For a very worthy person indeed is he, who after holding out pleasure to us as a good, and granting us security from the gods, still thinks to provide a plan to prevent wrong-doing. He acts like a physician who, having neglected to give help while the sick man was yet alive, attempts after death to devise certain contrivances for curing the dead man.

Arrian, Diatribes of Epictetus, III.7.11: A man acts foolishly {according to Epictetus’ derisive portrayal of Epicureanism}, if, when he is a Judge and able to take the property of other men, he keeps his hands off it.  But, if you please, let us consider this point only, that the theft be done secretly, safely, without anybody’s knowledge.  For even Epicurus himself does not declare the act of theft evil – only getting caught.  Only because it is impossible for one to be certain that he will not be detected, does he say, “Do not steal.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, V.1152:

Hence, the fear of punishment spoils the {ill-gotten} prizes.

Violence and wrong catch people in their own nets

and those who start such things are most often entangled.

It is not easy to pass a peaceful life

if you act in a way that disturbs the general peace.

Although you elude the gods and the human race

you still must wonder whether your secret will be kept forever.


Uncertain Epicurean Author, Vol. Herc. 2, VII.21 col. XXVIII: The chief of all goods, even if there weren’t any other, is that by which he who possesses it advances toward virtue.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 25, p. 1104B: Epicurus supposes that fear of punishment is the only motive to which we can properly appeal in deterring from crime.


Origen, Against Celsus, VII.63, [p. 385 Hoesch.]: For example, the philosophers who follow Zeno of Citium abstain from committing adultery, the followers of Epicurus do so too, as well as others again who do so on no philosophical principles; but observe what different reasons determine the conduct of these different classes.  The first consider the interests of society, and hold it to be forbidden by nature that a man who is a reasonable being should corrupt a woman whom the laws have already given to another, and should thus break up the household of another man.  The Epicureans do not reason in this way; but if they abstain from adultery, it is because, regarding pleasure as the chief end of man, they perceive that one who gives himself up to adultery, encounters for the sake of this one pleasure a multitude of obstacles to pleasure, such as imprisonment, exile, and death itself.  They often, indeed, run considerable risk at the outset, while watching for the departure from the house of the master and those in his interest.  So that, supposing it possible for a man to commit adultery, and escape the knowledge of the husband, of his servants, and of others whose esteem he would forfeit, then the Epicurean would yield to the commission of the crime for the sake of pleasure.

Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, III.6, p. 120B: And Epicurus himself, too, as well as teaching atheism, teaches along with it incest with mothers and sisters, and this in transgression of the laws which forbid it; Ibid., p 120C: Why, then, do Epicurus and the Stoics teach incest and sodomy, with which doctrines they have filled libraries, so that from boyhood this lawless intercourse is learned?

Cf. St. Justin Martyr, Apology, II.12 p. 50E: And imitating Jupiter and the other gods in sodomy and shameless intercourse with woman, might we not bring as our apology the writings of Epicurus and the poets?

On Security Among Men


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.117: There are three motives to injurious acts among men – hatred, envy, and contempt.  These the wise man overcomes by reason.


Gnomologion from the Parisinus codex, 1168, f. 115u (Maxims of Epicurus): It is not possible for he who incites fear upon others to lack fear within himself.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.26.84: Hatred and envy will be easy to avoid – Epicurus gives rules for doing so.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, I.20.65 (Torquatus to Cicero): On the subject of friendship… Epicurus’ pronouncement about friendship is that of all the means to happiness that wisdom has devised, none is greater, none more fruitful, none more delightful than this. Nor did he only commend this doctrine by his eloquence, but far more by the example of his life and conduct.

Cf., Ibid., II.25.80 (Cicero to Torquatus): The system you uphold… undermines the very foundations of friendship, however much Epicurus may, as he does, praise friendship up to the heavens.

Ibid., II.25.80 (Cicero to Torquatus): It does you not good to repeat Epicurus’ admirable remarks in praise of friendship – I am not asking what Epicurus actually says, but what he can say consistently while holding the theory he professes.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.120: {The Epicurean school teaches that} friendship is prompted by our needs. One of the friends, however, must make the first advances (just as one has to cast seed into the earth), but it is maintained by a partnership in the enjoyment of life’s pleasures.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.42: Epicurus says… there is no one who loves another but for his own sake.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.26.82 (Cicero to Torquatus): Let us return to what you said about friendship. In one of your remarks I seemed to recognize a saying of Epicurus himself – that friendship cannot be divorced from pleasure, and that it deserves to be cultivated for the reason that without it we cannot live secure and free from alarm, and therefore cannot live pleasantly.

Cf., Ibid., II.26.84 (Cicero to Torquatus): “Friendship is originally sought after from motives of utility.” {The Epicureans says} “Friends are protection.”


Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 19.10: Epicurus says “you should be more concerned about inspecting whom you eat and drink with, than what you eat and drink.  For feeding without a friend is the life of a lion and a wolf.”  This privilege will not be yours unless you withdraw from the world. Otherwise, you will have as guests only those whom your slave-secretary sorts out from the throng of callers.  It is, however, a mistake to select your friend in the reception-hall or to test him at the dinner-table.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.11: {Diocles} further says that Epicurus did not think it right that their {the Epicureans’} property should be held in common, as required by the doctrine of Pythagoras regarding the goods of friends; such a practice in his opinion implied mistrust, and without confidence there is no friendship.

Cicero, Letters to Friends, VII.12: {February, 53 BCE} My dear friend Pansa {Caius Vibius Pansa} has informed me that you {Caius Trebatius Testa} have become an Epicurean … What will be your legal ruling on Communi Dividundo {dividing what is held in common}, when nothing can be held in common among those whose one standard of conduct is their own pleasure?


Plutarch, Philosophers and Men in Power, 3, p. 778E: And yet, Epicurus, who places happiness in the deepest tranquility, as in a sheltered and landlocked harbor, says that it is not only nobler, but also pleasanter, to confer than to receive benefits.


Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2, fragment. 55: … and they present for frank criticism what concerns themselves in the presence of the students, to be put before Epicurus and for the sake of correction.  Nevertheless, if it is pleasing to someone, let it be said: “Why is it that the purifier of everyone {i.e., Epicurus} for the sake of correction of the errors arising from foolishness, would not present even one …” {sc., perhaps, “…of his errors as an example”}


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 8, p. 1111B: Epicurus chooses friends for the pleasure he gets, but says that he assumes the greatest pains on their behalf.


Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Vol. Herc. 1, V.2, fragment. 45 (part): And the overall and most important thing is, we shall obey Epicurus, according to whom we have chose to live, as even….

On Honor and Glory


Plutarch, On How to Study Poetry, 14, p. 37A: “It is not great sums of money nor vast possessions nor exalted  occupations nor offices of authority which produce happiness and blessedness, but rather freedom from pain and calmness and a disposition of the soul that sets its limitations in accordance with nature.”


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 18, p. 1100A: Epicurus admitted that some pleasures come from fame.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, II.12.28: Put the same question to Epicurus: he will say that a moderate degree of pain is worse evil than the deepest disgrace, for no evil is involved in disgrace alone, unless it should be attended by painful circumstances.  What pain then does Epicurus feel when he actually affirms that pain is the greatest evil?  And yet I cannot look to find any worse disgrace than such a sentiment in the mouth of a philosopher.

Cicero, Against Lucius Calpurnius Piso, 27.65: Pain is an evil, according to your view.  Reputation, infamy, disgrace, degradation – these are mere words, mere trifles.


Plutarch, Is “Live Unknown” a Wise Precept? 3-4, p. 1128F-: “Live unknown.”

Flavius Claudius Julianus (Julian the Emperor), Letter to Themistius the Philosopher, [p. 471 Pet.; 330.15 Hertlein]: Do you think that such a man, upon hearing these arguments … would he not … approve the wisdom of the son of Neocles, who bid us to “live unknown?”  Indeed, you apparently perceived this, and by your abuse of Epicurus you tried to forestall me and to eradicate beforehand any such purpose.  For you go on to say that it was to be expected that so idle a man as he should commend leisure and conversations during walks.  Now for my part I have long been firmly convinced that Epicurus was mistaken in that view of his, {but whether it be proper to urge into public life any and every man, both him who lacks natural abilities and him who is not yet completely equipped, is a point that deserves the most careful consideration.}

Ibid., [p. 478 Pet.; 335.19 Hertlein]: To admire the Epicureans’ lack of engagement in political life, and their gardens…

Themistius, Discourses, XXVI, [p. 390.21 Dind.; 324.2 Penella]: In theory, we expel Epicurus, son of Neocles, and exclude him from our list [of philosophers] because he approved of the injunction “live unnoticed” and was responsible for the doctrine that human beings are not sociable and civilized by nature; but in reality we approve of his opinion…

Cf. Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, VIII.28 p. 368: All through his life, [Apollonius] is said often to have exclaimed: “Live unobserved, and if that cannot be, slip unobserved from life.”

Horace, Epistles, I.18.102:

Is serenity found amid honors and neat little profits
Or does it wait on the untraveled road and the hidden byway?

Ibid., I.17.10:

Nor is a life badly spent, which from birth until death goes unnoticed.

Ovid, Tristia, III.4.25: Believe me, he who keeps himself well-hidden has lived well.

Seneca, Thyestes, 393-403:

Let me be filled with sweet repose
In humble station fixed.
Let me enjoy untroubled ease, and
To my fellow citizens, unknown.
Let my life’s stream flow in silence,
So when my days have passed noiselessly away,
Lowly may I die and full of years.
Death lies heavily on he,
Who is too well known by all,
And dies to himself unknown.


Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus, 20.3: They {Epicurus and his school} would have nothing to do with civil government on the ground that it was injurious and the ruin of happiness.

Saint Augustine, Against the Academicians, III.16.35 t. I [p. 290F Venice Edition, 1719]:{Rhetorically addressing Cicero} If we are to live according to what is plausible to another, then you shouldn’t have governed the Roman Republic, since it seemed to Epicurus that one ought not do this.

Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 2, p. 1087B: … the people who shout “No manly boxers are we,” or orators, or champions of the commonwealth, or magistrates; “We ever hold the table dear instead.” {Homer, Odyssey, VIIII 246-248} and “every agreeable stirring of the flesh that is transmitted upward to give some pleasure and delight to the mind.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, V.1127:

It is indeed much better to obey in peace
Than to desire to hold the world in fee and to rule kingdoms.

The Comic Sotion of Alexandria, by way of Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, VIII p. 336F: “Ethics, embassies, military tactics – fine pretenses that sound hollow, like dreams.”

Cf. Philodemus, Vol. Herc. (2) VII.176:


Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.3: The teaching of Epicurus … speaks according to the natural bent of each individual.  … He prohibits the cowardly from an advance to public life, the lazy form exercise, the timid from engaging in military service.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 31, p. 1125C: … who write in these very words: “We must proceed to tell how a person will best uphold the purpose of his nature and how of his own free will he is not to present himself for public office at all.”


Plutarch, On Peace of Mind, 2 p. 465F (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, 29.79): For this reason not even Epicurus believes that men who are eager for honor and glory should lead an inactive life, but that they should fulfill their natures by engaging in politics and entering public life, on the ground that, because of their natural dispositions, they are more likely to be disturbed and harmed by inactivity if they do not obtain what they desire.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 31, p. 1125C: But who are the men that nullify these things, overthrowing the state and utterly abolishing the laws? Is it not those who withdraw themselves and their disciples from participation in the state? Is it not those who say that the crown of an untroubled spirit is a prize beyond all comparison with success in some great command? Is it not those who say that to be king is a fault and a mistake?


Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.6: He who is eager for fame and power is instructed [by Epicurus] to cultivate kings and royal acquaintances; he who cannot bear annoyance to shun the palace.


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 34, p. 1127D: Epicurus and Metrodorus … speak spitefully of the earliest and wisest lawgivers.

Ibid., 21, p. 1119C: For this is what Typhon {a mythological monster} signifies, and your master has implanted plenty of him in you with his war against the gods and godlike men.

The Comic Sotion of Alexandria, by way of Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, VIII p. 336F: “You will only have what you eat and drink.  All the rest is dust – Pericles,  Codrus, Cimon”


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 15, p. 1097C: But even if one wished, one could not pass over the man’s absurd inconsistency: He treads underfoot and belittles the actions of Themistocles and Miltiades, and yet writes this to his friends about himself… “{=U183}”


Plutarch, Against Colotes, 33, p. 1127A: They mention statesmen only to deride them and belittle their fame, for instance Epaminondas, who they say had but one good thing about him, and even that ‘mikkon’ {Boeotian dialect for ‘micron’ = ‘small’; i.e., the one good thing about him, his abstention from unnecessary pleasures, was an example of the Boeotian insensibility} for this is their expression, and dubbing the man himself ‘iron guts’ and asking what possessed him to go walking across the Peloponnese and not sit at home with a nice felt cap on his head {his campaign took place in winter}, wholly concerned – we must suppose – with the care and feeding of his belly.

On the Sage

On the Studies of the Sage


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: It is not possible for one Sage to be wiser than another.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: He will formulate beliefs and not be a pure skeptic.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119: He will leave written words behind him.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: He will found a school.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.118: The Sage will not give rhetorical speeches.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119: He will not compose panegyric {a formal public speech delivered in high praise of someone or something}.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: He will earn money, if he should be in poverty, but only for his wisdom.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: {…the Sage will be able to converse correctly about music and poetry} without however actually writing poems himself.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: Only the Sage will be able to converse correctly about music and poetry.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.120: He will be fond of the country.


Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.5: For one fleeing the crowd, solitude is praised [by Epicurus].

On Duties


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.120: {The Sage, according to Epicurus,} will mind his property and plan for the future.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.120: He will pay only as much regard to his reputation as needed to be not looked down upon.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.118: The Epicureans believe the Sage should not fall in love; … according to them, love does not come by divine inspiration – so Diogenes says in his twelfth book.

Chrysippus, by way of Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, LXIII.31:


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: The Sage will set up votive images.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119: He is willing to take a suit to court.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: He will pay court to a king if need be.


Uncertain Epicurean Author, Vol. Herc. 2, VII.15 col. XIX

The Attitude of the Sage


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 4, p. 1089A: Whether the other set {i.e., the Epicureans, in contrast with the Cyrenaics} who hold that the superiority of the Sage lies above all in this: vividly remembering and keeping intact in himself the sights and feelings and movements associated with pleasure – are thus recommending a practice unworthy of the name of wisdom by allowing the slops of pleasure to remain in the soul of the Sage as in the house of a spendthrift, let us not say.


Cicero, In defense of Publius Sestius, 10.23: He {Publius Clodius} praised those most who are said to be above all others the teachers and eulogists of pleasure {the Epicureans}. … He added that these same men were quite right in saying that the wise do everything for their own interests; that no sane man should engage in public affairs; that nothing was preferable to a life of tranquility crammed full of pleasures.  But those who said that men should aim at an honorable position, should consult the public interest, should think of duty throughout life not of self-interest, should face danger for their country, receive wounds, welcome death – these he called visionaries and madmen.


Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.17.39: For when [Epicurus] holds that a Sage does all things for his own sake, he considers his own advantage in everything he does.  Ibid., 17.4: [Epicurus] counsels the Sage to bestow nothing on any man, for all things that are his own concerns make him wise.


Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, IV.22, [p. 228.7 Sylb.]: Even Epicurus says that a man who he esteemed wise “would not do wrong to anyone for the sake of gain; for he could not persuade himself that he would escape detection.”  So then, if he knew he would not be detected, he would, accordingly, do evil.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.118: In regards to women, he will obey legal restrictions, as Diogenes says in his epitome of Epicurus’ ethical doctrines.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.120: He will guard himself against chance.

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III.20.49: Epicurus says … that fortune has no power over the Sage.


Seneca, On the Integrity of the Sage (to Serenus), 16.1: Even if Epicurus, who most of all indulged the flesh, is up in arms against injury, how can such an attitude on our part seem incredible or to be beyond the bounds of human nature?   He says that injuries are tolerable for the Sage; we {Stoics} say that injuries do not exist for him.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.36.103: Will obscurity, insignificance, or unpopularity prevent the Sage from being happy? … 104: It must be understood that popular acclaim is neither to be coveted for its own sake, nor is obscurity to be sorely feared.  “I came to Athens,” said Democritus, “and no one knew me.”  What dignified resoluteness for a man to glorify having no glory!  As flute-players and harpists follow their own tastes – not the tastes of the multitude – in regulating the rhythm of music, should not the wise man, gifted as he is with a far higher art, seek out what is truest, rather than the pleasure of the populace?  Can anything be more foolish than to suppose that those, whom individually one despises as illiterate mechanics, are worth anything collectively?  The wise man will in fact despise our worthless ambitions and reject the distinctions bestowed by the people even if they come unsought.  … 105: What anguish they escape who have no dealings whatever with the people!  For what is more delightful than leisure devoted to literature?  That literature I mean which gives us the knowledge of the infinite greatness of nature, and I, in this actual world of ours, of the sky, the lands, and the seas.  106: Now when honors are despised, and money also despised, what is there left to be dreaded?  Exile, I suppose, which is reckoned among the greatest evils.  … 108: In facing all mishaps, the easiest is the method of those who refer the aims they follow in life to the standard of pleasure, and this means that they can live happily wherever this is provided; Teucer’s saying can be fitted to every condition: “One’s county is wherever one’s happy.”


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.117: {susceptibility to emotion} will be no hindrance to exercising his wisdom {the wisdom of the Sage}.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: Whether or not he is well off will be a matter of indifference to him.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.118: He alone will feel gratitude towards friends, present and absent alike, and show it by word and deed.

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 81.11: “Do you maintain then that only the wise man knows how to return a favor?” … In order not to bring any odium upon myself, let me tell you that Epicurus says the same thing.  At any rate, Metrodorus remarks that only the wise man knows how to return a favor.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: For the sake of a friend, on such occasion, he is prepared to die.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119: Some he will try to dissuade {from marriage}.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: He will be grateful to anyone when he is corrected.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.120: He will be more delighted than others at festivals.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.118: Nor will he punish his servants; rather, he will pity them and make allowance on occasion for those who are of good character.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.121: He will be like himself even while asleep.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.117: He will be more susceptible to emotion than other men.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.119: The Sage will also feel grief, according to Diogenes in the fifth book of his Epilecta.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Philosophers, X.118: When tortured, he will give vent to cries and groans.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.38.110: Emotions of the soul, anxieties and distresses are alleviated by forgetfulness when the thoughts of the soul are diverted to pleasure.  Not without reason therefore, Epicurus ventured to say that the Sage always has more of good than evil because he always has pleasures; and from this he thinks there follows the conclusion we are in search of: that the Sage is always happy.  111: “Even if he is to go without the sense of sight, or of hearing?”  Even then – for he doesn’t love such things for themselves.  For to begin with, what pleasures, pray tell, does the blindness you dread so much have to go without?  Seeing that some even argue that all the other pleasures reside in the actual sensations, while the perceptions of sight do not go along with any delight felt in the eyes, in the same way as the perceptions of taste, smell, touch, hearing are confided to the actual organ of sensation – nothing of the sort takes place with the eyes.  It is the soul which receives the objects we see.  Now the soul may have delight in may different ways, even without the use of sight; for I am speaking of an educated and instructed man with whom life is thought; and the thought of the wise man scarcely ever calls in the support of the eyes to aid his researches.  For if night does not put a stop to happy life, why should a day that resembles night stop it?  … 39.114: Democritus lost his sight – he could not, to be sure, distinguish blank from white; but all the same he could distinguish good from bad, just from unjust, honorable from disgraceful, expedient from inexpedient, great from small, and it allowed him to live happily without seeing changes of color; it was not possible to do so without true ideas.  And this man believed that the sight of the eyes was an obstacle to the piercing vision of the soul and, while others often failed to see what lay at their feet, he ranged freely into the infinite without finding any boundary that brought him to a halt.  40, 116: Is there any evil really in deafness?  … all of us … are assuredly deaf in so many foreign languages which we do not understand.  “But the deaf do not hear the voice of a good singer.”  No, nor the screech of a saw either, when it is being sharpened, nor the grunting of a pig when its throat is being cut, nor the thunder of the roaring sea when they want to sleep.  And if, perhaps, music has charms for them, they should first reflect that many wise men lived happily before music was invented, secondly, that far greater pleasure can be derived from reading than hearing verse. Next, as a little while ago we diverted the blind to the pleasure of hearing, so we may divert the deaf to the pleasure of sight; for the man who can converse with himself will not need the conversation of another.


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 3, p. 1088B: By attaching the pleasurable life to painlessness they preclude us from dwelling longer on the point, since they admit themselves that pleasure of the flesh is a slight or rather an infinitesimal thing – that is, if this in not mere empty and pretentious talk … Epicurus asserts that in illness the Sage often actually laughs at the paroxysms of the disease.

Ibid., 5, p. 1090A: My judgment is that if they would take a tone more in keeping with their own bitter experience {of terrible diseases} and not incur in addition the odium of ranting, by courting applause with a bold display of hollow words, they ought either to refrain from taking the position that the “stable condition of the flesh” {cf. U424 & U68} is the source of all delight, or from asserting that persons in the throes of an excruciating disease feel delight and treat the affliction with insolent contempt.


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, II.7.17: As for Epicurus, however, he speaks in a way that makes him seem laughable to my mind.  For in one passage he asserts that if the wise man be burnt, if he be tortured – you are waiting perhaps for him to say, “he will submit, will endure, will not yield.”  High praise, by Hercules! – and worthy of the great god Hercules whose name I invoked.  But this is not enough for Epicurus – that hard stern spirit.  If the wise man finds himself inside Phalaris’ bull {description}, he will say “How sweet; how indifferent I am to this!”  … And yet those philosophers {the Stoics} who deny that pain is an evil do not generally go so far as to say that it is sweet to be tortured; they say that it is unpleasant, difficult, horrible, contrary to nature, and yet that it is not an evil.  Epicurus, who says that pain is the only evil and the worst of all evils, thinks that the Sage will call it sweet.  For my part I do not require you to describe pain in the same words as Epicurus, that devotee, as you know, of pleasure.  Let him, if he likes, say the same inside the bull of Phalaris as he would have said, had he been in his own bed; I do not consider wisdom so wonderfully powerful against pain.

Ibid., V.10.31: Epicurus too, note well, insists that the Sage always happy.  He is caught by the grandeur of the thought; but he would never say so if he paid attention to his own words – for what is less consistent than for the man who says that pain is either the highest or the only evil, to suppose also that the Safe, at the moment he is tortured by pain, will say “How sweet this is!”

Ibid., V.26.75: For my part, I should say, let the Peripatetics also and the Old Academy make an end some time or other of their stuttering and have the courage to say openly and loudly that happy life will reach down even into the bull of Phalaris.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.27.88 (Cicero to Torquatus): {Epicurus} thinks nothing of pain; for tells us that if he were being burnt to death, he would claim, “how delightful this is!”

Ibid., V.28.85: {it is doubtful} whether virtue has such efficacy that the virtuous will be happy even in the bull of Phalaris.

Cicero, Against Lucius Calpurnius Piso, 18.42: Well, these same philosophers who define evil as pain and good as pleasure assert that the wise man, even were he to be shut up in the bull of Phalaris and roasted above a fire, would assert that he was happy and felt perfect calm of mind.  What they meant as that the power of virtue is so great that the good man can never be otherwise than happy.

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 66.18: {I might say} “Epicurus even maintains that the wise man, though he is being burned in the bull of Phalaris, will cry out: ‘This is pleasant, and concerns me not at all.’”  Why need you wonder, if I maintain that he who reclines at a banquet and the victim who stoutly withstands torture possess equal goods, when Epicurus maintains a thing that is harder to believe, namely, that it is pleasant to be roasted in this way?

Ibid., 67.15: “If I am tortured, but bear it bravely, all is well; if I die, but die bravely, it is also well.”  Listen to Epicurus – he will tell you that it is actually pleasant.  I myself shall never pronounce an unmanly word to an act so honorable and austere.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, III.27.5: Epicurus was much more strong in saying “The Sage is always happy, and even enclosed in the bull of Phalaris, he will utter this pronouncement: ‘It is pleasant and I care nothing.’”  Who would not mock him, especially because a voluptuary placed upon himself the character of a strong man, and beyond measure at that!

Ibid., III.17.42: [Epicurus says] death should not be feared by a strong man, nor any pain, because even if he is tortured, if he burns, he may say that he cares not al all about it.

Ibid., III.17.5: [=U401]


Aelian, Various Histories, IV.13 (Johannes Stobaeus, Anthology, XVII.30): Epicurus said that he was ready to rival Zeus for happiness, as long as he had a barley cake and some water.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, II.21 [p. 178.41 Sylb.]: Epicurus, in placing happiness in not being hungry, or thirsty, or cold, uttered that godlike word, saying impiously that he would thereby vie even with Father Jove; teaching, as it were, that the life of pigs devouring rubbish and not of rational philosophers, was supremely happy.

[Cf. Theodoretus, Remedies for the Errors of the Greeks, XI [p. 154.2 Sylb.; p. 420 Gaisf.]]

Flavius Claudius Julianus (Julian the Emperor), Orations, VI, “To the Uneducated Cynics,” [p. 366 Pet.]: Then does he {Diogenes of Sinope} not seem to you of no importance, this man who was “cityless, homeless, a man without a country, owning not an obol, not a drachma, not a single slave,” nay, not even a loaf of bread – while Epicurus says that if he have bread enough and to spare he is not inferior to the gods on the score of happiness.

Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, II.27.88: Isn’t pleasure more desirable the longer it lasts?  On what ground then does Epicurus speak of a deity (for so he always does) as happy and immortal?  Take away his everlasting life, and Jove is no happier than Epicurus.  Each of them enjoys the Chief Good, that is to say, pleasure.  Wherein then is he inferior to a god, except that a god lives forever?

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 25.4: Let us return to the law of nature; for then riches are laid up for us.  The things which we actually need are free for all, or else cheap; nature craves only bread and water.  No one is poor according to this standard; when a man has limited his desires within these bounds, he can challenge the happiness of Jove himself, as Epicurus says.


Cicero, On End-Goals, Good and Bad, V.31.93: The very people who measure all things by pleasure and pain – do they not cry aloud that the Sage always has more things the he likes than that he dislikes?  Thus when so much importance is assigned to virtue by those who confess that they would not raise a hand for the sake of virtue if it did not produce pleasure, what are we to do?


Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.26.73: Is Epicurus, who merely puts on the mask of a philosopher and has bestowed the title on himself, to be allowed to say … that there is no circumstance in which the Sage, even if burnt, racked, cut into pieces, cannot cry out: “I count it all as nothing” – particularly as Epicurus restricts evil to pain and good to pleasure, makes a mockery of our notions of virtuous and depraved and says we are preoccupied with words and uttering sounds empty of meaning, and that nothing interests us except the bodily sensation of either rough or smooth.  Shall we allow this man …. to be forgetful of himself and be disdainful of fortune at the moment when all that he holds good and evil is at fortune’s disposal?  75: …he maintains that the Sage is always happy.

Ibid., III.20.49: He says that there is not time when the wise man is not happy.

Ibid., V.10.31: [@ U601]


Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 16, p. 1098B: But, it is objected, they shout that “they have had a pleasant life,” “revel in it” and “hymn the praises” of their own “way of living.”  {c.f., U181 & U600}


Philodemus, Vol. Herc. 2, I.158


Apollonius Dyskolus, The Adverb, [p. 566.3 Bekk.]

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