The EpicureanFriends Files section is where we store longer documents created offsite which are of special interest to our readers. You can use the "Categories" box on the right to find specific sections of the library.
The date of Epicurus's birth has been a source of confusion and debate since at least the 1800s; however, the evidence for a clear and consistent date has been in plain view all along.
There are good reasons to accept that the date of Epicurus's birth in Apollodorus' Chronicle referenced by Diogenes Laertius in The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (LOEP 10.14) should be translated as "in the seventh month of Gamelion" and not "on the seventh day of the month of Gamelion" as numerous scholars have proposed.
Additionally, it has been shown that τῇ προτέρᾳ δεκάτῃ τοῦ Γαμηλιῶνος in Epicurus's Will refers to the 20th day of the lunar cycle in the ancient Athenian calendar and not to the tenth day of the month. A more literal translation would be "on 'the earlier tenth' of Gamelion."
In light of these corrections to the interpretation of the texts, there is reason to accept, with a high degree of confidence, that Epicurus's birthday was customarily celebrated annually on Gamelion 20 because that was his actual birthday. It is to this "Annual Feast of the 20th" (εἰκάδα δειπνίζων ἐνιαύσιον) to which Philodemus was inviting Piso in Epigram 11.44 in the Greek Anthology. It follows that the decision to choose the 20th of each month as the date for the monthly assembly of Epicurus's students would be in keeping with other monthly observances of the “birthdays” of “divine beings” in the Athenian calendar. In fact, Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (35.2), states explicitly that Epicurus's birthday was celebrated every 20th of the month.
Furthermore, since the ancient Athenian month of Gamelion most closely matches January in the current Gregorian calendar, an optimal choice for modern Epicureans to keep to the spirit of Epicurus's Will would be to celebrate Epicurus’s Birthday on January 20 every year. If a "movable feast day" is desired to more closely adhere to the ancient calendar, one can use a reconstructed Ancient Athenian calendar such as the Hellenic Month Established Per Athens to celebrate the event on Gamelion 20.
The paper is also available on Internet Archive.
(For the forum thread that led to the writing of this paper, click here.)
- 3.06 MB
- 31 Downloads