The Life Of Epicurus Essay Research Paper

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The Life Of Epicurus Essay, Research Paper The Life of Epicurus Epicurus was born on February 4th, 341 B.C., the second of four brothers, on the island of Samos in the Aegean Sea just off the west coast of what is now Turkey (a region called Ionia). Epicurus’s parents were cleruchs, a class of poor Athenian citizens who settled territory appropriated from the tributary states of Athens. Cleruchs were looked down upon by Athenian residents and scorned as foreign invaders by the natives of the territories they settled, which made their social position precarious. This proved to be the case for Epicurus’s family, which was forced to evacuate Samos in 322 B.C., just a year after Epicurus was drafted into the Athenian army. His father, the school teacher Neocles, and mother

Chaerestrate subsequently moved the family home to the near-by coastal city of Colophon. Epicurus’s childhood took place during a momentous period in Greek history. The Greeks had long been divided into many city-states spread over the Aegean basin (including modern Greece, Thrace, and the Ionian coast) and southern Italy and Sicily. During Epicurus’s childhood, Alexander of Macedon made his remarkable conquest of Greece, the Persian Empire, and Egypt. Greek culture was spread into various cities as far east as Afghanistan and Pakistan. While Alexander’s empire didn’t survive his death in 323 B.C., the successor states that eventually emerged out of the wars among Alexander’s generals retained a strong element of Greek language and culture, particularly among the upper

strata of society. These states, especially the Seleucid Empire that took over the territory of Persia, the Ptolemaic Empire that took over Egypt, and the Antigonid Empire that took over the Macedonian homeland were far vaster and more centralized than the old Greek city-states, with the consequence that the relationship between the typical Greek individual and the state he lived in underwent a radical change. Alexander of Macedon While Epicurus was serving in the Athenian army, Alexander’s death threw Greece into great turmoil, with Athenian politicians meeting a lethal end with disturbing regularity. If the dark nature of politics was making itself felt with particular poignancy at this time, so too were the bright attractions of Greek philosophy. Just as there was great

political instability, there was also a great intellectual ferment as various philosophers and their schools attempted to win the hearts and minds of the ruling classes and the citizens. Prior to going to Athens, Epicurus had received a basic education and had been exposed to the philosophy of Plato as taught by Pamphilus. In Athens, it is not known exactly what experiences Epicurus had, but it is likely that he encountered teachers from the Lyceum founded by Aristotle (headed at this time by Aristotle’s distinguished successor Theophrastus) as well as the Academy founded by Plato. After briefly returning to his family at Colophon, Epicurus began his study of philosophy in earnest, moving to the island of Rhodes to take instruction from the highly-regarded Aristotelian

Praxiphanes. The teachings of the Lyceum did not sit well with Epicurus, who quickly moved on to study the atomistic system of Democritus under Nausiphanes of Teos. The association with Nausiphanes lasted considerably longer, but eventually Epicurus had a falling out with him as well. The quarrel between Epicurus and Nausiphanes had a more distinctly personal edge to it, but we can also surmise that Epicurus’s capacity for original thought was beginning to infuriate his teachers. Hermarchus By 311 B.C., Epicurus was ready to venture forth and teach his own unique variation of the Democritean physics, and perhaps an early version of his ethical system as well. He moved to the island of Lesbos to teach at the Gymnasium in the city of Mytilene. As a publicly-funded educational