Venus: Conceiving The Good

  • If you can't walk and chew gum at the same time you aren't going to be a very successful human, and if you can't navigate between the extremes of asceticism and extravagance then you certainly aren't going to be a successful Epicurean.

    So in that spirit if you can't consider the image of Venus with which Lucretius opened "On the Nature of Things," or of Aphrodite, the patron goddess of all those of ancient Greece who honored Pleasure, without tripping up on the perils of intoxicated hedonism, then you're not on your way toward understanding the ancient Epicurean elevation of Pleasure as the alpha and omega of the blessed life.

    So here are a couple of artistic evocations of that understanding.


    Charito has completed sixty years,

    but still black is her long wavy hair

    and still upheld those white, marble cones of her bosom stand firm without encircling by brassiere.

    And her skin without a wrinkle, still ambrosia,

    still fascination, still distills ten thousand graces.

    But you lovers who shrink not from fierce desires,

    come hither, forgetting of her decades.

  • The Epigrams of Philodemus:

    I particularly like the implications of this one, imagined to be said by Venus to humans who throw their lives away pursuing asceticism rather than pleasure. It mirrors several sayings including "30. Some men spend their whole life furnishing for themselves the things proper to life without realizing that at our birth each of us was poured a mortal brew to drink."

    [5.306] { G-P 13 } G

    Addressed by a Girl to a Man

    You weep, you speak in piteous accents, you look strangely at me, you are jealous, you touch me often and go on kissing me. That is like a lover ; but when I say "Here I am next you" and you dawdle, you have absolutely nothing of the lover in you.

  • pasted-from-clipboard.png" ... there was an established tradition of reading Odysseus' professed appreciation of Phaeaciean pleasures as an Epicurean manifesto."

    I maintain there is no telos more pleasing than when good cheer fills all the people, and guests sitting side by side throughout the halls listen to the bard, and the tables are loaded with bread and meat, and a steward drawing wine from the bowl brings it round to our cups. To my mind this (telos) is something most beautiful.

  • It's possible that the explicit worship of Aphrodite is not as strong anywhere today as it is in Brasil where she's known as Oxum (in Cuba she's Ochún, in Yorubaland, Nigeria she's Oshun). There are hospitals, temples, festivals in her honor. Here's a Candomble chant for her:

    It is said that she is the Orisha (deity) that makes life worth living, which gives her a special place obviously in the ethical philosophy of Candomble because she refreshes and "sweetens the world" with her "sweet waters" of the river (the bitter / salty waters of the ocean belong to Yemayá) … these days I'm trying to stay away from the "bitter waters" of politics and drink more of the sweet waters of Oxum.

    "Please always remember my doctrines!" - Epicurus' last words