The Life Of Epicurus Essay Research Paper — страница 2

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institution dominated by partisans of the Lyceum, the Gymnasium was a dangerous setting for Epicurus’s public advocacy of a new philosophy. Platonists and Aristotelians fancied the role of philosopher-king (or at least the role of favored advisor to the king, as Aristotle was to Alexander), and were not kindly disposed towards philosophers of rival schools spreading heterodox ideas on their turf. The aroused Mytilene orthodoxy moved against Epicurus, threatening to charge him with impiety and other thought-crimes that placed his life in grave danger. Rather than remaining at the mercy of a hostile gymnasiarch, Epicurus chose instead to make a dangerous mid-Winter sea-voyage to the Ionian coast, and was “almost swallowed up by the sea” according to one ancient biographer.

Epicurus not only made his dramatic escape from Mytilene, he departed from the realm of Antigonus Monophthalmus altogether and migrated to the relatively liberal city of Lampsacus on the Hellespont. In Lampsacus he began to build up a devoted circle of friends who became the nucleus of his new school. Hermarchus came over from Mytilene with Epicurus. They were soon joined by prominent Lampsacenes, including the financier Idomeneus, Leonteus and his wife Themista, the satirist Colotes, the mathematician Polyaenus, and the most famous popularizer of Epicureanism, Metrodorus. Epicurus was recognized as the leader, or hegemon of the school, while Hermarchus, Metrodorus, and Polyaenus became the associate leaders or kathhegemones. Metrodorus By 306 B.C., continued political turmoil in

Athens had discredited the ambitious Aristotelians and Platonists, and the politicization of philosophy and the attendant intolerance had become pass . With Athens under a more tolerant regime, the way was clear for Epicurus to return and establish his school there. Epicurus bought a small house and a garden to house his circle of friends, and his school came to be known as “the Garden” because of their instructional sessions at the garden. The main work of the Garden, however, was carried on at Epicurus’s house, where manuscripts and letters were produced and sent to the growing circle of converts throughout the Greek world. It was in Athens where Epicurus’s philosophy reached its mature form and Epicureanism was systematically propagated throughout the Hellensitic

world. In carrying on this activity, Epicurus’s previous clashes with authority convinced him that it was best to stay out of politics and avoid playing to popular prejudices. Instead of trying to win over whole cities and nations as had previous philosophers, Epicurus instead aimed at attracting individuals to an Epicurean subculture while observing the religious and legal forms of the larger society (an important consideration in an era when philosophers were routinely executed or exiled for impiety) and developing an attitude of tolerance towards non-Epicureans. The Garden had a carefully-designed program of advertising and education to attract and instruct students, and those who accepted Epicurean teachings were encouraged to formally proclaim their Epicurean identity,

build friendships with each other, revere the founders of the Garden as role-models, and celebrate specifically-Epicurean festivals. Another unique aspect of the Garden was its avoidance of corporate and communal forms of organization. Legally speaking, the Garden itself was an unincorporated association of teachers and manuscript copyists who worked in Epicurus’s household and supported by teaching and manuscript fees and voluntary donations. There was no communal sharing of property among Epicureans nor mandatory assessment of the followers to support Epicurean leaders, which had the welcome effect of making the leaders accountable to the followers and forestalling factional conflicts over money. The long-term stability of the Epicurean movement in ancient times owes a great

deal to Epicurus’s organizational talent in removing the incentives for authoritarianism and internal conflict among Epicureans and finding a workable modus vivendi for dealing with non-Epicureans. It was in this environment that Epicurus came to be known for his close friendships and his unusually liberal attitudes, even allowing women (including the courtesan Leontion, the author of a tract against Theophrastus) and slaves into his inner circle in sharp contrast to the elitist orientation of the Academy and the Lyceum. Later detractors tried to arouse prejudice against Epicureans by accusing them of licentiousness and over-indulgence, but first-hand testimony portrayed Epicurus as having “unsurpassed goodwill to all men” and very warm relations with his family and a