Greek Ethical Thought from Homer to the Stoics

By Hilda D. Oakeley | Go to book overview

EPICURUS
342-270 B.C.

Epistle to Menoecius

Epicurus was an Athenian citizen born at Samos. In 310 B.C. he was teaching philosophy at Mitylene, but from 306 B.C. till his death he lived and taught at Athens. He appears to have led a truly philosophic life of simplicity, and wrote three hundred treatises. Although these are all lost (unless, as has been suggested, they may yet be found in the buried world of Herculaneum), a good deal is known about his doctrines, on account of the veneration for his teaching:

"Epicurus who quenches all other lights as the celestial sun rising puts out the stars."--LUCRETIUS.

Greek Text: Usener (from Diogenes), Epicurea.

In this epistle, which is believed to be genuine, Epicurus presents the essence of his moral philosophy. Philosophy is here understood as a spirit which leads to a certain kind of life. It will be evident that Epicurus' ideal for the wise man is in some respects far from that of later Hedonism. It is not upon the intensity of pleasures that he dwells, but upon the unruffled and untroubled mind in the healthy body. Epicurus' language here does not support Cicero's view that he meant by pleasure fundamentally physical pleasure. His portrait of the wise man has traits which remind us of Stoicism, but they lack the Stoic note of heroism.

Neither in youth put off the time for philosophy, nor in old age grow weary of philosophy; for it is never too early and never too late for attention to the health of the soul. He who says that the hour for philosophy has not yet come, or that it has gone by, is as one who should say that the hour for happiness has not yet arrived, or is no longer for him. Thus one ought to be a philosopher both in youth and in age; the latter that one may grow young again through contact with the good and remembering the past; the former so that one may be, even in youth, tranquil as the old in face of the future. We should then exercise ourselves in those

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Greek Ethical Thought from Homer to the Stoics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction vii
  • Contents xxxix
  • Greek Ethical Thought 1
  • Theognis - 565-490 B.C. 15
  • Simonides - 556-467 B.C. 17
  • Bacchylides - Probably 507-428 B.C. 18
  • Aeschylus - 525-456 B.C. 20
  • Sophocles - 495-406 B.C. 26
  • Euripides - 480-406 B.C. 29
  • Anaximander of Miletus 33
  • Philolaus - Fifth Century B.C. 33
  • Democritus of Abdera 36
  • Thucydides - 460-400 B.C. 39
  • Xenophon's "Memorabilia" 46
  • Plato - 427-347 B.C. 52
  • Aristotle - 384-322 B.C. 142
  • Epicurus - 342-270 B.C. 190
  • The Stoics - The First Heads of the Stoa 199
  • Epictetus - About A.D. 50 to A.D. 130 209
  • The Thoughts Of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus - Born A.D. 121. Emperor A.D. 161. Died A.D. 180 216
  • Index of Authors, Works, And Chief Ethical Subjects 223
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