Other Fragments from Epicurus

  • translated by Cyril Bailey - Oxford, 1926. Numbering of items in the list below is taken from the Bailey edition.

  • Another selection of fragments, taken from Hermann Usener's "Epicurea" and compiled and translated into English by the Epicurus.info website is located here. This page is in early stages of construction, but link to the original Epicurus.info version is also available here.

Remains Assigned To Certain Books

Concerning Choice and Avoidance.

(1) Freedom from trouble in the mind and from pain in the body are static pleasures, but joy and exultation are considered as active pleasures involving motion.


(2) Will the wise man do things that the laws forbid, knowing that he will not be found out? A simple answer is not easy to find.

The Shorter Summary

(3) Prophecy does not exist, and even if it did exist, things that come to pass must be counted nothing to us.

Against Theophrastus

(4) But even apart from this argument I do not know how one should say that things in the dark have color.


(5) Polyaenus: Do you, Epicurus, deny the existence of the warmth produced by wine? (Some one interrupted:) It does not appear that wine is unconditionally productive of heat. (And a little later:) It seems that wine is not unconditionally productive of heat, but wine of a certain quantity might be said to produce heat in a certain body.

(6) Therefore we must not speak of wine as unconditionally productive of heat, but rather say that a certain quantity of wine will produce heat in a certain body which is in a certain disposition, or that a different quantity will produce cold in a different body. For in the compound body of wine there are certain particles out of which cold might be produced, if, as need arises, united with different particles they could form a structure which would cause cold. So that those are deceived who say that wine is unconditionally heating or cooling.

(7) Wine often enters the body without exerting any power either of heating or of cooling, but when the structure is disturbed and an atomic rearrangement takes place, the atoms which create heat at one time come together and by their number give heat and inflammation to the body, at another they retire and so cool it.

(8) Sexual intercourse has never done a man good, and he is lucky if it has not harmed him.

(9) It is strange indeed that you were not at all impeded by your youth, as you would say yourself, from attaining, young as you were, a distinction in the art of rhetoric far above all your contemporaries, even the experienced and famous. It is strange indeed, I say, that you were not at all impeded by your youth from winning distinction in the art of rhetoric, which seems to require much practice and habituation, whereas youth can be an impediment to the understanding of the true nature of the world, towards which knowledge might seem to contribute more than practice and habituation.

On The End of Life

(10) I know not how I can conceive the good, if I withdraw the pleasures of taste, and withdraw the pleasures of love, and withdraw the pleasures of hearing, and withdraw the pleasurable emotions caused to sight by beautiful form.

(11) The stable condition of well-being in the body and the sure hope of its continuance holds the fullest and surest joy for those who can rightly calculate it.

(12) Beauty and virtue and the like are to be honored if they give pleasure; but if they do not give pleasure, we must bid them farewell.

On Nature

Book I

(13) The nature of the universe consists of bodies and void.

(14) The nature of all existing things is bodies and space.

Book XI

(15) For if it (the sun) had lost its size through the distance, much more would it have lost its color: for there is no other distance better adapted for such loss than that of the sun.

From Uncertain Works

(16) The atom is a hard body free from any admixture of void; the void is intangible existence.

(17) Away with them all: for he (Nausiphanes), like many another slave, was in travail with that wordy braggart, sophistic.

Remains of Letters

(18) If they have this in mind, they are victorious over the evils of want and poverty.

(19) Even if war comes, he would not count it terrible, if the gods are propitious. He has led and will lead a pure life in Matro’s company, by favor of the gods.

(20) Tell me, Polyaenus, do you know what has been a great joy to us?

Letters to Several Persons

To the philosophers in Mytilene.

(21) This drove him to such a state of fury that he abused me and ironically called me master.

(22) I suppose that those grumblers will believe me to be a disciple of The Mollusc and to have listened to his teaching in company with a few bibulous youths. For indeed the fellow was a bad man and his habits such as could never lead to wisdom.

Letters to Individuals

To Anaxarchus.

(23) But I summon you to continuous pleasures and not to vain and empty virtues which have but disturbing hopes of results.

To Apelles.

(24) I congratulate you, Apelles, in that you have approached philosophy free from all contamination.

To Themista.

(25) If you two don’t come to me, I am capable of arriving with a hop, skip, and jump, wherever you and Themista summon me.

To Idomeneus.

(26) Send us therefore offerings for the sustenance of our holy body on behalf of yourself and your children. This is how it occurs to me to put it.

(27) O thou who hast from thy youth regarded all my promptings as sweet.

(28) If you wish to make Pythocles rich, do not give him more money, but diminish his desire.

(29) We think highly of frugality not that we may always keep to a cheap and simple diet, but that we may be free from desire regarding it.

(30) On this truly happy day of my life, as I am at the point of death, I write this to you. The disease in my bladder and stomach are pursuing their course, lacking nothing of their natural severity: but against all this is the joy in my heart at the recollection of my conversations with you. Do you, as I might expect from your devotion from boyhood to me and to philosophy, take good care of the children of Metrodorus.

To Colotes.

(31) In your feeling of reverence for what I was then saying you were seized with an unaccountable desire to embrace me and clasp my knees and show me all the signs of homage paid by men in prayers and supplications to others; so you made me return all these proofs of veneration and respect to you.
Go on thy way as an immortal and think of us too as immortal.

To Leontion.

(32) Lord and Saviour, my dearest Leontion, what a hurrahing you drew from us, when we read aloud your dear letter.

To Pythocles.

(33) Blest youth, set sail in your bark and flee from every form of culture.

(34) I will sit down and wait for your lovely and godlike appearance.

Letters to Uncertain Persons

To a boy or a girl.

(35) We have arrived at Lampsacus safe and sound, Pythocles and Hermarchus and Ctesippus and I, and there we found Themista and our other friends all well. I hope you too are well and your mamma, and that you are always obedient to pappa and Matro, as you used to be. Let me tell you that the reason that I and all the rest of us love you is that you are always obedient to them.

Letter written in his last days

(36) Seven days before writing this the stoppage became complete and I suffered pains such as bring men to their last day. If anything happens to me, do you look after the children of Metrodorus for four or five years, but do not spend any more on them than you now spend each year on me.

Letters To Unknown Recipients

(37) I am thrilled with pleasure in the body, when I live on bread and water, and I spit upon luxurious pleasures not for their own sake, but because of the inconveniences that follow them.

(38) As I said to you when you were going away, take care also of his brother Apollodorus. He is not a bad boy, but causes me anxiety, when he does what he does not mean to do.

(39) Send me some preserved cheese, that when I like I may have a feast.

(40) You have looked after me wonderfully generously in sending me food, and have given proofs heaven-high of your good will to me.

(41) The only contribution I require is that which . . ordered the disciples to send me, even if they are among the Hyperboreans. I wish to receive from each of you two a hundred and twenty drachmae a year and no more. Ctesippus has brought me the annual contribution which you sent for your father and yourself.

(42) He will have a valuable return in the instruction which I have given him.

(43) I was never anxious to please the mob. For what pleased them, I did not know, and what I did know, was far removed from their comprehension.

(44) Think it not unnatural that when the flesh cries aloud, the soul cries too. The flesh cries out to be saved from hunger, thirst, and cold. It is hard for the soul to repress these cries, and dangerous for it to disregard nature’s appeal to her because of her own wonted independence day by day.

(45) The man who follows nature and not vain opinions is independent in all things. For in reference to what is enough for nature every possession is riches, but in reference to unlimited desires even the greatest wealth is (not riches but poverty).

(46) In so far as you are in difficulties, it is because you forget nature; for you create for yourself unlimited fears and desires.

(47) (Vatican Saying 14) We are born once and cannot be born twice, but for all time must be no more. But you, who are not (master) of tomorrow, postpone your happiness; life is wasted in procrastination and each one of us dies without allowing himself leisure.

(48) It is better for you to be free of fear lying upon a pallet, than to have a golden couch and a rich table and be full of trouble.

(49) . . . remembering your letter and your discussion about the men who are not able to see the analogy between phenomena and the unseen nor the harmony which exists between sensations and the unseen and again the contradiction.

(50) Sweet is the memory of a dead friend.

(51) Do not avoid conferring small favors for then you will seem to be of like character towards great things.

(52) If your enemy makes a request to you, do not turn from his petition, but be on your guard, for he is like a dog.

Fragments from Uncertain Sources

On Philosophy

(53) (Vatican Saying 54) We must not pretend to study philosophy, but study it in reality; for it is not the appearance of health that we need, but real health.

(54) Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any suffering of man. For just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not expel the diseases of the body, so there is no profit in philosophy either, if it does not expel the suffering of the mind.

On Physics

(55) Nothing new happens in the universe, if you consider the infinite time past.

(56) We shall not be considering them any happier or less destructible, if we think of them as not speaking nor conversing with one another, but resembling dumb men.

(57) Let us at least sacrifice piously and rightly where it is customary, and let us do all things rightly according to the laws not troubling ourselves with common beliefs in what concerns the noblest and holiest of beings. Further let us be free of any charge in regard to their opinion For thus can one live in conformity with nature....

(58) If God listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished: for they are for ever praying for evil against one another.

On Ethics

(59) The beginning and the root of all good is the pleasure of the stomach; even wisdom and culture must be referred to this.

(60) We have need of pleasure when we are in pain from its absence: but when we are not feeling such pain, though we are in a condition of sensation, we have no need of pleasure. For the pleasure which arises from nature does not produce wickedness, but rather the longing connected with vain fancies.

(61) That which creates joy insuperable is the complete removal of a great evil. And this is the nature of good, if one can once grasp it rightly, and then hold by it, and not walk about babbling idly about the good.

(62) It is better to endure these particular pains so that we may enjoy greater joys. It is well to abstain from these particular pleasures in order that we may not suffer more severe pains.

(63) Let us not blame the flesh as the cause of great evils, nor blame circumstances for our distresses.

(64) Great pains quickly put an end to life; long-enduring pains are not severe.

(65) Excessive pain will bring you to death.

(66) Through love of true philosophy every disturbing and troublesome desire is ended.

(67) Thanks be to blessed Nature because she has made what is necessary easy to supply, and what is not easy unnecessary.

(68) It is common to find a man who is (poor) in respect of the natural end of life and rich in empty fancies. For of the fools none is satisfied with what he has, but is grieved for what he has not. Just as men with fever through the malignance of their (disease) are always thirsty and desire the most injurious things, so too those whose mind is in an evil state are always poor in everything and in their greed are plunged into ever-changing desires.

(69) Nothing satisfies the man who is not satisfied with a little.

(70) Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all riches.

(71) Most men fear frugality and through their fear are led to actions most likely to produce fear.

(72) Many men when they have acquired riches have not found the escape from their ills but only a change to greater ills.

(73) By means of occupations worthy of a beast abundance of riches is heaped up, but a miserable life results.

(74) Unhappiness comes either through fear or through vain and unbridled desire but if a man curbs these, he can win for himself the blessedness of understanding.

(75) It is not deprivation of these things which is pain, but rather the bearing of the useless pain that arises from vain fancies.

(76) The mean soul is puffed up by prosperity and cast down by misfortune.

(77) (Nature) teaches us to pay little heed to what fortune brings, and when we are prosperous to understand that we are unfortunate, and when we are unfortunate not to regard prosperity highly, and to receive unmoved the good things which come from fortune and to range ourselves boldly against the seeming evils which it brings: for all that the many regard as good or evil is fleeting, and wisdom has nothing in common with fortune.

(78) He who least needs tomorrow, will most gladly go to meet tomorrow.

(79) I spit upon the beautiful and those who vainly admire it, when it does not produce any pleasure.

(80) The greatest fruit of justice is serenity.

(81) The laws exist for the sake of the wise, not that they may not do wrong, but that they may not suffer it.

(82) Even if they are able to escape punishment, it is impossible to win security for escaping: and so the fear of the future which always presses upon them does not suffer them to be happy or to be free from anxiety in the present.

(83) The man who has attained the natural end of the human race will be equally good, even though no one is present.

(84) A man who causes fear cannot be free from fear.

(85) The happy and blessed state belongs not to abundance of riches or dignity of position or any office of power, but to freedom from pain and moderation in feelings and an attitude of mind which imposes the limits ordained by nature.

(86) Live unknown.

(87) We must say how best a man will maintain the natural end of life, and how no one will willingly at first aim at public office.