• Ancient Digger teaches Archaeology and History to all Ages!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

History 101: Who Was Epicurus and the Epicureans?

The Epicureans believed that the key to happiness was the enjoyment of pleasure, although they did not advise the life of wine, women, and song that is today associated with the term “Epicurean”.

An epicurean typically partakes in simple pleasures, yet they also abstain from bodily desires such as sex and appetites verging on denial. Epicurus argued that when eating one should not eat too heavily, for it could lead to disappointment later, such as the grim realization that one could not afford such delicacies in the future. Likewise, sex could lead to increased lust and dissatisfaction with the sexual partner.

Epicurus established his philosophy based on the foundation of his ethical system in the material world, which he said was made up of tiny atoms moving through space in accordance with natural law. Epicurus, as well as all of the epicureans, believed in the existence of the gods. However, he did declare that Gods have no place in worldly affairs. It was thought that the gods were too far away from the earth to have any interest in what man was doing; so it did not do any good to pray or to sacrifice to them. The gods, they believed, did not create the universe, nor did they inflict punishment or bestow blessings on anyone, but they were supremely happy; this was the goal to strive for during one’s own human life.

Epicurus taught that oracles, omens, and dreams have no significance and he rejected all ideals of immortality and mysticism. He believed in the soul and even suggested that the soul is as mortal as the body. Epicurus rejected any possibility of an afterlife, while still contending that one need not fear death:

“Death is nothing to us; for that which is dissolved, is without sensation, and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.”

Bertrand Russell describes the reception of Epicureanism’s conception of death:

[T]he fear of death is so deeply rooted in instinct that the gospel of Epicurus could not, at any time, make a wide popular appeal; it remained always the creed of a cultivated minority. Even among philosophers, after the time of Augustus, it was, as a rule, rejected in favour of Stoicism. It survived, it is true, though with diminishing vigour, for six hundred years after the death of Epicurus; but as men became increasingly oppressed by the miseries of our terrestrial existence, they demanded continually stronger medicine from philosophy or religion. The philosophers took refuge, with few exceptions, in Neoplatonism; the uneducated turned to various Eastern superstitions, and then, in continually increasing numbers, to Christianity, which, in its early form, placed all good in life beyond the grave, thus offering men a gospel which was the exact opposite of that of Epicurus.

Epicurus had no regard for politial and social life. The state to him was more of a convenience and the wise man should not participate in public life. Additionally, for Epicurus and his epicureans, happiness consisted primarily of freedom from physical pain and worldly cares and fears. One can not rid themselves of the evil in this world and thus should withdraw from philosophy, enjoy the fellowship of a few friends, and savor the serenity of your mind.

Although the ideals of Epicurus and the Epicureans stressed that overindulgence in all aspects of the world was frowned upon, it was not easily avoided for some. Even today, we experience the need to partake in petty privileges to feel satisfied. Not much as changed.

Also check out:


Post a Comment

We appreciate comments, but we delete SPAM.

Like Ancient Digger? Why Not Follow Us?

Subscribe Via RSS Feed Follow Ancient Digger on Facebook Follow Ancient Digger on Twitter Subscribe to Ancient Digger Via Email

Get widget



Ancient Digger Archaeology Copyright © 2015 LKart Theme is Designed by Lasantha