Epicurus (Epikouros or 'Eπίκουρος (born Samos 341 BC–died Athens, 270 BC) was an Ancient Greek philosopher who was the founder of Epicureanism, one of the most popular schools of Hellenisitic Philosophy.
Epicurus was born into an Athenian émigré family — his parents, Neocles and Chaerestrate, both Athenian citizens, were sent to an Athenian settlement on the Aegean island of Samos. According to Apollodorus (reported by Diogenes Laertius at X.14-15), he was born on the seventh day of the month Gamelion in the second year of the 127th Olympiad, in the archonship of Pytharatus (about February 341 BC). He returned to Athens at the age of eighteen to serve in military training. The playwright Menander served in the same age-class of the ephebes as Epicurus.
He joined his father in Colophon after the Athenian settlers at Samos were expelled by Perdiccas due to their revolt after Alexander the Great died (c. 320 BC). He spent the next several years in Colophon, Lampsacus, and Mytilene, where he founded his school at the age of 32 and gathered many disciples. In the archonship of Anaxicrates (307-306 BC), he returned to Athens where he formed his school known as The Garden, named for the garden he owned about halfway between the Stoa and the Academy that served as the school's meetingplace.
Epicurus died in the second year of the 127th Olympiad, in the archonship of Pytharatus, at the age of 72. He reportedly suffered from a renal calculus, and despite the prolonged pain involved, he is reported as saying in a letter to Idomeneus:
"We have written this letter to you on a happy day to us, which is also the last day of our life. For strangury has attacked me, and also a dysentery, so violent that nothing can be added to the violence of my sufferings. But the cheerfulness of my mind, which arises from there collection of all my philosophical contemplation, counterbalances all these afflictions. And I beg you to take care of the children of Metrodorus, in a manner worth of the devotion shown by the youth to me, and to philosophy" (Diogenes Laertius , X.22, trans. C.D. Yonge).
Epicurus' School and Teachings
Epicurus' teachings represented a departure from the other major Greek thinkers of his period, and before, but was nevertheless founded on many of the same principles as Democritus.
He admitted women and slaves into his school, emphasized the senses in his epistemology, and was one of the first Greeks to break from the god-fearing and god-worshipping tradition common at the time, even while affirming that religious activities are useful as a way to contemplate the gods and to use them as an example of the pleasant life.
He is best known for advocating the pursuit of or indulgence in pleasure with a guilt-free attitude as a necessary moral good. He did not advocate over-indulgence, however, saying that the greatest pleasure is merely the absence of pain. All other pleasures are simply variation.There are connections to the philosophies of Ayn Rand and Osho as well as Zen.
The most known Epicurian verse, which epitomizes the Epicurian philosophy, is lathe biōsas λάθε βιώσας (Plutarchus De latenter vivendo 1128c; Flavius Philostratus Vita Apollonii 8.28.12), meaning "live secretly", "get through life without drawing attention to yourself", i. e. live without pursuing glory or wealth or power, but anonymously, enjoying little things like food, the company of friends etc.
Elements of Epicurean philosophy have resonated and resurfaced in various diverse thinkers and movements throughout Western intellectual history. The Epicurean paradox is a famous argument against the existence of God.
Epicurus discussed a human being's natural right to "life, liberty, and safety."
This was later picked up by the democratic thinkers of the French Revolution, and others, like John Locke, who wrote that people had a right to "life, liberty, and property."
This triad was carried forward into the American freedom movement and Declaration of Independence, by American founding father, Thomas Jefferson, as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."