Threads of Epicureanism in Art and Literature

  • Note; If I have Cassius' permission, I wanted a place to simply list minor treatments of Epicurean characters, motifs, and themes in works by Non-Epicureans. The purpose is a simple reference; if you find something interesting, add it to the list. If something on the list merits attention and/or discussion, start a thread and we'll talk about it! Entries should include Author, Title, Year/Period, Brief Description of Relevance.


    Walter Pater; "Marius the Epicurean"; 1885; Victorian Historical Novel set in Imperial Rome

    Alfred Tennyson; "Lucretius"; 1868; Victorian Poem treating the alleged madness of Lucretius

    Sir Francis Hastings Doyle; "The Epicurean"; 1841; A Poem that actually takes Epicureanism seriously! Here

    George Eliot; "Romola"; 1863; A Novel. By reputation, the character of Tito Melema is an unsympathetic portrayal of an Epicurean.

    Pierre Jean de Beranger; "The Epicurean's Prayer"; ~1850; A difficult poem. I suspect it loses something in translation? Here

    Piero di Cosimo; "The Forest Fire"; 1505; A painting, said to be inspired by De Rerum Natura.


    I hope this thread works out! Someone (I think Charles?) planted the seed in my head a few weeks ago. Once we've got something good going we could work on arranging by period and artistic movement.

    Edit; To clarify, "Non-Epicurean" here just means a figure that we don't already know to be Epicurean. It's ok—and welcome!—if the figure is sympathetic to the school.

  • Great idea Joshua! Let me know if you'd like subdivisions or other structure that the forum software can help with. Like you said it probably makes sense to just list things first, then we can break down by category and maybe provide more in depth descriptions.

  • Thomas Moore (no, not THE Thomas Moore); "The Epicurean"; 1827; Irish novel about a fictional Epicurean scholarch converting to Christian monasticism.

  • No, I haven't. I was reading about Byron for reasons mentioned in the other thread, and this one turned up. He was Byron's literary executor. Apparently he is regarded as the National Bard of Ireland, so it's somewhat surprising that he's never crossed my radar (possibly his memory is eclipsed by James Joyce).

  • Desiderius Erasmus; "The Epicurean"; 1545; Dialogue by the famous Dutch Christian Humanist, arguing that Christianity is the only way to a life of real pleasure.

    Robert Burns; "Contented wi' Little and Cantie wi' Mair"; 1795; Poem in Scottish dialect blending Epicurean and Stoic themes.

    Robert Frost; "Lucretius Versus the Lake Poets"; 1947; A poem on the meaning of the word nature, contrasting Lucretius with the British Romantics