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Atom: according to the ancient Greeks, the smallest, indivisible particle of matter (negative "a", plus "tome", for "cut", i.e. something that cannot be cut any further, into anything smaller). The belief that all matter consisted of atoms was invented by Leucippus and Democritus, and shared by Epicurus and his followers.

Atoms, according to Epicurus, are permanant units of existence, and have very few properties: shape, size, and weight. The properties of compound bodies, which are much more numerous, owe their varied existence to the numerous ways in which atoms can be temporarily arranged.

The main ethical conclusion that Epicurus drew from the atomic nature of matter was the principle of universal mutability and mortality, i.e. that all things are composed of, and will eventually disintegrate into atoms. Epicurus and his followers often started their argumentation against claims, hopes, or promises of immortality from this fundamental point of departure.

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