Alciphron, Letters, Letters of the Courtesans: Leontion to Lamia (Fictional Epistle)

  • Nothing is harder to please, it seems, than an old man who

    is just starting to behave like a boy again.
    How this Epicurus is controlling me, criticizing everything, suspecting

    everything, writing me incomprehensible letters and

    chasing me out of his garden. By Aphrodite, even if he

    had been an Adonis, though nearly eighty years old, I

    wouldn’t put up with him, this lice-ridden and sickly man

    who is all wrapped up in fleece instead of felt. How long

    must one endure this philosopher? Let him have his

    Principal Doctrines on Nature and his distorted Canons, and

    permit me to live according to nature, my own mistress,

    without anger and violence. I really have such a besieger,

    not at all like you, Lamia, have in Demetrius. It’s not

    possible to lead a virtuous life on account of this man. He

    wants to be a Socrates with his chatter and irony, and he

    believes Pythocles is an Alcibiades and thinks he can make

    me his Xanthippe. I will end up leaving for whatever place

    and flee from land to land rather than to endure his

    incessant letters.


    But now he has ventured into the most terrible and

    intolerable act of all, which is why I’m writing to you,

    hoping you’ll tell me what to do. You know that handsome

    fellow Timarchus from Cephisia. I don’t deny that I’m

    quite familiar with the young man (I have for a long time

    been truthful to you, Lamia) and I almost got my first lesson in love from him; he took my virginity when I was living

    next door. Since that time he has never ceased sending me

    all sorts of nice things like clothes, gold, Indian maids and

    Indian servants. I won’t mention the rest.

    But he anticipates the seasons in the smallest delicacies, so that nobody

    may taste them before I do. So that’s the kind of lover

    about whom Epicurus says, ‘Shut him out and don’t let him

    come near you.’ What kind of names do you think he’s calling him?

    Not as an Athenian or a philosopher *** or of

    Cappadocia coming to Greece for the first time. Even if

    the whole city of Athens were full of Epicures, by Artemis, I

    wouldn’t weigh them all against Timarchus’s arm, or even

    against his finger!


    What do you say, Lamia? Isn’t this true? Am I not right?

    And don’t, I beg of you by Aphrodite, don’t let this answer

    enter your mind: ‘But he’s a philosopher, he’s distinguished, he has many friends.’ He may even take what I

    have, and teach others. It is not doctrine that warms me,

    but the object of my desire, and I desire Timarchus, by

    Demeter! What’s more, on account of me the young man

    has been forced to abandon everything, the Lyceum, his

    youth, his comrades and friends, in order to live with Epicurus and flatter him and chant his windy doctrines. This

    Atreus says, ‘Get out of my realm and don’t approach

    Leontium!’ Like it wouldn’t be more fair if Timarchus said

    ‘No, don’t you approach mine!’ And the man who is young puts up with his elderly rival,

    the latecomer, but the other can’t stand him who has a more rightful claim.


    By the gods, I implore you, Lamia, what should I do?

    By the mysteries, by the release from these misfortunes,

    when I think about my separation from Timarchus I immediately turn cold, my hands and feet begin to sweat and my

    heart turns upside down. I beg you, take me into your

    house for a few days, and I’ll make him aware of what good

    things he was enjoying with me in the house. He’s not

    going to stand the boredom any more; that I know for sure.

    He will immediately send out Metrodorus, Hermarchus

    and Polyaenus as ambassadors. How often, Lamia, do you

    think I’ve told him in private: ‘What are you doing,

    Epicurus? Don’t you know how Timocrates, the brother of

    Metrodorous, is making fun of you because of this, in the

    assembly, in the theatre, in front of the other sophists?’ But

    what can I do with this man? He’s shameless in his desire,

    and I’m going to be just like him, shameless, and not let go

    of my Timarchus. Farewell.

    “If the joys found in nature are crimes, then man’s pleasure and happiness is to be criminal.”

  • http://uu.diva-portal.org/smas…va2:564007/FULLTEXT01.pdf

    Epicurus is name-dropped in another letter about Menander, but Alciphron should never be considered a good source, he was a sophist and there's virtually nothing known about his life, including the time he lived in.

    “If the joys found in nature are crimes, then man’s pleasure and happiness is to be criminal.”

  • While searching for the appropriate forum category for this post I discovered that you've cited him along that long list of quotations & citations for the fullness of pleasure model.

    The Full Cup / Fullness of Pleasure Model

    "Alciphron, Letters, III.55.8 (Autocletus to Hetoemaristus {“Gatecrasher” to “Prompt-to-breakfast”}): Zenocrates the Epicurean took the harp-girls in his arms, gazing upon them from half-closed eyes with a languishing and melting look, and saying that this was “tranquility of the flesh” and “the full intensity of pleasure.”

    “If the joys found in nature are crimes, then man’s pleasure and happiness is to be criminal.”