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Headword: Ἐπίκουρος
Adler number: epsilon,2405
Translated headword: Epicurus, Epikouros
Vetting Status: high
This man assigned no importance to religion;[1] but there were three brothers [sc. of his],[2] who died in the most pitiful way, struck down by countless diseases.[3] As for Epicurus, although still young, he was not able to easily descend from his bed by himself, but he was short-sighted and fearful of facing the sunlight, for he disliked the most brilliant and shining of the gods. And indeed he turned his eyes away even from the light of fire, and from his lower orifices blood used to drip down, and such was the consumption of his body that he was not even able to carry the weight of his own clothes.[4] And Metrodorus[5] and Polyaenus[6], both of them his companions, died in the worst way men can die, and indeed they took for their impiety a requital that nobody might ever blame. So easily overcome by pleasure was Epicurus that in his last moments he wrote in his will a disposition that a sacrifice be offered once a year to his father, his mother and his brothers, and to the previously mentioned Metrodorus and Polyaenus, but twice a year to himself;[7] so that even in this the sage honored the higher degree of profligacy. And he had some tables of stone built, and gave orders that these be put in his tomb, this greedy and gluttonous man. He devised these things not because he was rich, but because his appetites had driven him mad, as if those things should die along with him. They banished the Epicureans from Rome by a public senatorial decree.[8] And also the Messenians, the ones who live in Arcadia, expelled those reputed to be members of this, let us say, "manger", saying that they were corrupters of the youth and attaching to their doctrine the stain of infamy because of their effeminacy and impiety; and they gave orders that, before sunset, the Epicureans be out of the borders of Messenia and that after they had left, the priests purify the temples and the timouchoi (this is the name Messenians give to their magistrates) purify the whole city, as delivered from some filthy contaminations and offscourings. [Note] that in Crete the citizens of Lyktos[9] chased away some Epicureans who had come there. And a law was written in the local language, stating that whoever thought of adhering to this effeminate and ignominious and hideous doctrine were enemies of the gods and should be banished from Lyktos; but if anybody dared to come and neglect the orders of the law, he should be bound in a pillory near the office of the magistrates for twenty days, naked and with his body spread with honey and milk, so that he would be a meal for bees and flies and the insects would in the stated time kill them. After this time, if he were still alive, he should be thrown from a cliff, dressed in women's clothes.
Greek Original:
Ἐπίκουρος: οὗτος τὸ θεῖον παρ' οὐδὲν ἐτίθετο: ἀδελφοὶ δὲ τρεῖς ἦσαν, [οἳ] μυρίοις ἀρρωστήμασι περιπλακέντες ἀπέθανον οἴκτιστα. ὅγε μὴν Ἐπίκουρος ἔτι νέος ὢν αὐτὸς οὐ ῥᾳδίως ἀπὸ τῆς κλίνης οἷός τε ἦν κατιέναι, ἀμβλυώττων τε καὶ πρὸς τὴν τοῦ ἡλίου αἴγλην δειλὸς ὢν καὶ τῷ φαιδροτάτῳ τε καὶ ἐναργεστάτῳ τῶν θεῶν ἀπεχθανόμενος. καὶ μέντοι καὶ τὴν τοῦ πυρὸς αὐγὴν ἀπεστρέφετο αἷμά τε αὐτῷ διὰ τῶν πόρων ἀπεκρίνετο τῶν κάτω, τοσαύτη δὲ ἄρα ἡ σύντηξις ἡ τοῦ σώματος ἦν, ὡς ἀδυνατεῖν καὶ τὴν τῶν ἱματίων φέρειν ἐπιβολήν. καὶ Μητρόδωρος δὲ καὶ Πολύαινος, ἄμφω τὼ ἑταίρω αὐτοῦ, κάκιστα ἀνθρώπων ἀπέθανον: καὶ μέντοι τῆς ἀθεί̈ας ἠνέγκαντο μισθὸν οὐδαμὰ οὐδαμῆ μεμπτόν. οὕτω δὲ ἄρα ἦν ἡδονῆς ἥττων ὁ Ἐπίκουρος, ὥστε διὰ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἐν ταῖς διαθήκαις αὐτοῦ ἔγραψε τῷ μὲν πατρὶ καὶ τῇ μητρὶ καὶ τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἐναγίζειν ἅπαξ τοῦ ἔτους καὶ Μητροδώρῳ καὶ Πολυαίνῳ τοῖς προειρημένοις, ἑαυτῷ δὲ δισσῶς εἰπεῖν, τῆς ἀσωτίας τὸ πλέον προτιμῶν καὶ ἐνταῦθα ὁ σοφός: καὶ τραπέζας λίθων πεποίηται, καὶ ὡς ἀναθήματα ἐν τῷ τάφῳ προσέταξε τεθῆναι ὁ προτένθης τε καὶ ὀψοφάγος οὗτος. καὶ ταῦτα ἐπέσκηψεν οὐκ ὢν ἐν περιουσίᾳ, λυττῶν οὖν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις, ὥσπερ οὖν καὶ ἐκείνων σὺν αὐτῷ τεθνηξομένων. ἐξήλασαν δὲ τοὺς Ἐπικουρείους τῆς Ῥώμης δόγματι τῆς βουλῆς κοινῷ. καὶ Μεσσήνιοι δὲ ἐν Ἀρκαδίᾳ τοὺς ἐκ τῆς αὐτῆς οἱονεὶ φάτνης ἐδηδοκότας ἐξήλασαν λυμεῶνας μὲν εἶναι τῶν νέων λέγοντες, κηλῖδα μὲν φιλοσοφίᾳ προσβάλλοντες διά τε μαλακίαν καὶ ἀθεότητα: καὶ προσέταξάν γε πρὸ τῶν τοῦ ἡλίου δυσμῶν ἔξω τῶν ὅρων τῆς Μεσσηνίας γῆς εἶναι αὐτούς, ἐκφρησθέντων δὲ τοὺς ἱερέας καθῆραι τὰ ἱερά, τούς γε μὴν τιμούχους [καλοῦσι δὴ ταύτῃ τοὺς ἄρχοντας Μεσσήνιοι] καὶ τὴν πόλιν καθῆραι πᾶσαν, οἷα δήπου λυμάτων τινῶν καὶ καθαρμάτων ἀπηλλαγμένην. ὅτι ἐν Κρήτῃ Λύκτιοι τῶν Ἐπικουρείων τινὰς ἐκεῖ παραβάλλοντας ἐξήλασαν. καὶ νόμος ἐγράφη τῇ ἐπιχωρίῳ φωνῇ, τοὺς τὴν θήλειαν σοφίαν καὶ ἀγεννῆ καὶ αἰσχρὰν ἐπινοήσαντας καὶ μέντοι τοῖς θεοῖς πολεμίους ἐκκεκηρύχθαι τῆς Λύκτου: ἐὰν δέ τις ἀφίκηται θρασυνόμενος καὶ τὰ ἐκ τοῦ νόμου παρ' οὐδὲν ποιήσηται, δεδέσθω ἐν κύφωνι πρὸς τῷ ἀρχείῳ ἡμερῶν εἴκοσιν, ἐπιρρεόμενος μέλιτι γυμνὸς καὶ γάλακτι, ἵνα ᾖ μελίτταις καὶ μυίαις δεῖπνον καὶ ἀναλώσωσι χρόνῳ τῷ προειρημένῳ αὐτούς. τούτου γε μὴν διελθόντος, ἐὰν ἔτι περιῇ, κατὰ κρημνοῦ ὠθείσθω στολὴν γυναικείαν περιβληθείς.
For Epicurus see already epsilon 2404 (and again epsilon 2406). The present entry is Aelian fr. 42a Domingo-Forasté (39 Hercher), from On Divine Manifestations; cf. epsilon 715, eta 630, kappa 2800, omicron 773, pi 2870, sigma 1637, tau 510, phi 132.
Following a scheme familiar in Christian writers (e.g. Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum), Aelian shows in this work the effects of divine punishment -- essentially, in terms of physical ailments -- on individuals guilty of being an "enemy of the gods"; this means, in the surviving fragments, people held to adhere to the Epicurean school. The attitude towards Epicurean doctrine that Aelian displays is based on the common perception of Epicureans as atheists and effeminates -- one stemming from the misunderstanding of the ethical aspect of Epicureanism, determining pleasure as the highest goal (see Epicurus, Epistula ad Meneceum 132 for the definition of pleasure). Like Plutarch and especially Athenaeus, Aelian essentially sees the Epicurean notion of pleasure as over-indulgence in food, and effeminacy.
[1] On Epicurus' indifference to popular religion see also Aelian fr. 64a D-F, 61 Hercher (also from On Divine Manifestation).
[2] Neokles, Chairedemos and Aristoboulos: see under epsilon 2040.
[3] Neither the diseases which killed Epicurus' brothers nor the physical ailments that afflicted the philosopher himself are attested elsewhere.
[4] The cause of Epicurus' death (in 270 BCE) was a urinary blockage and associated dysentery.
[5] Metrodorus of Lampsacus (c.331-278), a disciple and close friend of Epicurus, described as a "second Epicurus" by Cicero (De Finibus 2.28.92). After Metrodorus' death, Epicurus took care of his family and recommended his children to be cared for in his last will. Only fragments of his work survive.
[6] Polyaenus of Lampsacus (?340-278), a mathematician, whose friendship with Epicurus started when the philosopher opened a school in Lampsacus in 307-306. Both Polyaenus and Metrodorus, together with Hermarchus, had the rank of kathegemones, "secondary leaders", in the hierarchically-based Epicurean school.
[7] Epicurus' birthday was celebrated each year; the twentieth day of each month was celebrated in honor of Metrodorus. On the flattering attitude of the members of the school towards Epicurus cf. Plutarch, Against Colotes 1117AB.
[8] The reference is to the expulsion of the Epicureans Alcaeus and Philiscus in 154 BCE as a result of their ethical teaching.
[9] An ancient city in Crete, a former Lacedaemonian colony mentioned by Homer and Hesiod as participating to the Trojan War. See Stephanus of Byzantium s.v., and lambda 831.
Keywords: biography; Christianity; clothing; constitution; ethics; food; geography; law; medicine; philosophy; religion; zoology
Translated by: Antonella Ippolito on 26 September 2005@20:58:07.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (modified headword and translation; augmented notes and keywords) on 27 September 2005@06:02:15.
David Whitehead (further tweaks to translation; another x-ref) on 27 September 2005@09:34:24.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 20 November 2005@09:29:18.
David Whitehead (another x-ref in the primary note) on 4 February 2006@10:03:18.
David Whitehead (supplemented translation at one point) on 5 February 2006@04:49:00.
Catharine Roth (updated references) on 29 March 2012@01:14:10.
David Whitehead (more keywords; tweaking) on 15 October 2012@05:08:04.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 19 November 2014@19:44:20.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 22 January 2015@00:13:23.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 29 January 2016@03:42:56.
Catharine Roth (tweaked translation) on 9 September 2017@18:52:01.


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