Epicurus (341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek Philosopher who founded a school of philosophy now called Epicureanism. Only a few fragments and letters of Epicurus’s 300 written works remain. Much of what is known about Epicurean philosophy derives from later followers and commentators.
For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. Epicurus never married and had no known children. He was most likely a vegetarian.
In Athens, Epicurus bought a property for his school called “Garden”, later the name of Epicurus school. His school was the first of the ancient Greek philosophical schools to admit women as a rule rather than an exception.
He taught that the root of all human neurosis was death denial, and the tendency for human beings to assume that death will be horrific and painful, which he claimed causes unnecessary anxiety, selfish self-protective behaviors, and hypocrisy. According to Epicurus, death is the end of both the body and the soul and therefore should not be feared. He also taught that the gods neither reward nor punish humans; that the universe is infinite and eternal; and that occurrences in the natural world are ultimately the result of atoms moving and interacting in empty space.
From this doctrine arose the Epicurean epitaph: Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo (I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care) – which is inscribed on the gravestones of his followers and seen on many ancient gravestones of the Roman Empire.
Wisdom quotes from Epicurus:
- Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.
Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.
A free life cannot acquire many possessions, because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs.
Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.
If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.
The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.
- Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul.
We must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed toward attaining it.
- He who has peace of mind disturbs neither himself nor another.
- I was not, I was, I am not, I care not. (Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo)