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Bust of Epicurus in the Capitoline Museum
Epicurus [Έπίκουρος] (341 BCE - 270 BCE), was an ancient Greek philosopher, the founder of Epicureanism, one of the most popular schools of thought in Hellenistic Philosophy.

Biographical Sketch

Epicurus was born on the Greek island of Samos to Athenian parents. He was one of four brothers.

Tradition has it that he became interested in philosophy at age 14, when he became irritated by his teacher's inability to answer the question: "If, as Hesiod says, Chaos was created first, what was Chaos created from?" When the teacher replied that this was a question for philosophers, Epicurus supposedly retorted: "then to the philosophers I shall go!"

Between the ages of 18 and 20, he was obliged to report to Athens for two years of compulsory military service as an ephebos. The future playwright Menander began his training the following year, his duty overlapping with Epicurus'. Their terms coincided with The Lamian war, in which Athenians lost their bid for independence against the Macedonian regent Antipater.

Epicurus then rejoined his family, who were compelled to abandon Samos and resettle in the Ionian city of Colophon. Epicurus continued to receive education from the likes of Pamphilus, a Platonist, and Nausiphanes, a Democritean. Despite this exposure, Epicurus would later insist that he was entirely self-taught.

By the age of 32 (310 or 309 BCE) Epicurus set up his first school at Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos. Here is where the new philosophy of Epicureanism would receive his first airing. At Mytilene he befriended Hermarchus, who would eventually succeed him as leader of the Epicurean school. Epicurus made a number of other converts at Mytilene, but possibly because he created too many enemies there as well, he soon relocated to Lampsacus. In Lampsacus he would win over many more important converts, including Metrodorus, who would become his closest associate, Leonteus and Idomeneus, wealthy benefactors, and Colotes, and young and eager student who would join the Epicurean crusade of writing voluminous polemics against the other philosophical schools.

In 307 BCE, at age 35, Epicurus brought his school to Athens. The city now enjoyed populist reforms in the wake of its recent overthrow of Demetrius of Phaleron by Demetrius, son of Antigonus the One-eyed. His school there would become known as the Garden, reflecting the school's setting at the garden he had purchased outside the city walls for the sum of eighty minae. Other than during occasional reunions with friends in Lampsacus, Epicurus lived Athens continuously until his death.

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