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Form: Gr. Epikouros.
A Greek philosopher, founder of the Epicurean school, which was so named after him. He was born 342 B.C. in the Attic deme of Gargettus, and spent his early years in Samos, where his father had settled as a cleruchus. (See COLONIES, Greek.) While still young he returned to Athens, and there acquired by independent reading a comprehensive knowledge of previous philosophies. In 310 (aetat. 32) he began to teach philosophy, first in Mytilene, and afterwards in Lampsacus. After 304 he carried on his profession at Athens. Here he bought a garden,in which he lived in retirement in a very modest and simple style, surrounded by his brother and his friends. He died (B.C. 268, aetat. 74) of calculus, after terrible sufferings. But to the last moment he never lost the tranquil serenity which had characterized his whole life. Such was his authority with his disciples that none of them ventured to make any innovation in his doctrines. His school continued to flourish in Athens, under fourteen masters, for 227 years; and much longer in other cities. His writings were remarkably numerous, and in parts very comprehensive. They were admired for their clearness, but their form was found fault with as too careless. Epicurus used to say himself that writing gave him no trouble. All that remains of them [exclusive of what may be gleaned from quotations in later writers], is: (1) a compendium of his doctrine in forty-four short propositions, written for his scholars to learn by heart. This we must, however, remember is not preserved in its original form. (2) Some fragments, not inconsiderable, but much mutilated and very incomplete, of his great work On Nature, in thirty books. These are preserved in the Herculanean papyri. (3) Three letters have survived from the body of his correspondence, besides his will. For his system, see PHILOSOPHY.
Type: Standard
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