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The Invention and Gendering of Epicurus

Pamela Gordon

Publication Year: 2012

The school of Greek philosopher Epicurus, which became known as the Garden, famously put great stock in happiness and pleasure. As a philosophical community, and a way of seeing the world, Epicureanism had a centuries-long life in Athens and Rome, as well as across the Mediterranean. The Invention and Gendering of Epicurus studies how the Garden's outlook on pleasure captured Greek and Roman imaginations---particularly among non-Epicureans---for generations after its legendary founding. Unsympathetic sources from disparate eras generally focus not on historic personages but on the symbolic Epicurean. And yet the traditions of this imagined Garden, with its disreputable women and unmanly men, give us intermittent glimpses of historical Epicureans and their conceptions of the Epicurean life. Pamela Gordon suggests how a close hearing and contextualization of anti-Epicurean discourse leads us to a better understanding of the cultural history of Epicureanism. Her primary focus is on sources hostile to the Garden, but her Epicurean-friendly perspective is apparent throughout. Her engagement with ancient anti-Epicurean texts makes more palpable their impact on modern responses to the Garden. Intended both for students and for scholars of Epicureanism and its response, the volume is organized primarily according to the themes common among Epicurus' detractors. It considers the place of women in Epicurean circles, as well as the role of Epicurean philosophy in Homer and other writers.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page, Copyright, Acknowledgments

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Contents

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pp. ix-

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Introduction

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pp. 1-13

As a philosophical community and as a way of seeing the world, Epicureanism had a centuries-long life in Athens and Rome, as well as in cities and towns across the Mediterranean. In the words of Diogenes Laertius, who records in the third century CE that the school in Athens had already survived without...

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1. The First Lampoons of Epicurus

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pp. 14-37

Epicurus’ close associate and disciple Metrodorus had a brother named Timocrates, who claimed that he “loved his brother as nobody else could and hated him as nobody else could.”2 The reference to this remark has survived in On Frank Speech, a work by the first-century...

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1. Odysseus and the Telos

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pp. 38-71

The archetypal hedonists of ancient Greek literature are the Phaeacians, the comfort-loving inhabitants of the mythical island of Scheria in Homer’s Odyssey.2 Some ancient readers viewed Odysseus’ last landfall before reaching Ithaca as a peaceful utopia far removed from the toils of the outside...

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3. A Woman Named “Pleasing”

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pp. 72-108

At the entrance to the Vatican Library in Rome sits an oversized statue of a figure commonly identified as Saint Hippolytus.2 The statue is clearly a pastiche: the lower half is the fragment of a second-century CE Roman copy of an earlier Greek original, most of the upper half is part of another...

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4. Virtus and Voluptas

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pp. 109-138

Seneca begins one of his epistles to Lucilius with a conventional acknowledgment of a recent communication from his correspondent: Magnam ex epistula tua percepi voluptatem (“I received great pleasure from your...

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5. The Material Epicurean

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pp. 139-177

What does an Epicurean look like? This question received great attention in antiquity. For Epicurean women, ancient commentary is nearly nonexistent. We may have a representation of the feet of an Epicurean woman—either Leontion or Themista...

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Conclusion: The Size of the Sun and the Gender of the Philosopher

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pp. 178-196

According to Epicurean theory, the sun is “as large as it looks,” or roughly a foot wide.2 This miscalculation attracted a great deal of ridicule in antiquity, but the second-century CE Stoic Cleomedes departed from the routine derision by attributing the error to a compromised masculinity...

Works Cited

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pp. 197-212

Index Locorum

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pp. 213-218

General Index

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pp. 219-222


E-ISBN-13: 9780472028177
E-ISBN-10: 0472028170
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472118083
Print-ISBN-10: 0472118080

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Epicureans (Greek philosophy).
  • Epicurus -- Criticism and interpretation.
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