Epicurean mosaics in Autun - France

  • Today I visited the Epicurean mosaics in Autun - France at the Rolin museum. It feels very close to Epicurus and Metrodorus.

  • I looked for the house where the mosaics were found. Next to it is now a private garden: 'Le Jardin'.

  • I realized this thread dovetails with our discussion on this thread regarding the Celts and Gauls since these mosaics are in a Gallo-Roman villa.

  • Some additional photos of the Roman Autun, to have an impression of the environment in which the Epicurean community lived.

    The ruin that is named after the god Janus (but that is not correct).

    The city walls with gates.

    The amphitheatre. The largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire. The seats came up to the current treetops.

  • A Googel translation of the French text in the museum.

    The image of Epicurus is itself almost as incomplete as the text. He sits on a seat of which we have no trace but we can restore with plausibility a throne with feet in lion's feet. The philosopher is dressed in a white coat, a tight section of which passes in front of the left shoulder to fall next to the knee. The left hand, raised to the height of the waist, the palm upwards, sketches a gesture of discussion, of which there is no exact equivalent in ancient statuary. Epicurus' right arm is stretched to the side in a broad gesture; the hand, disappeared, brandished an object of which remains, at the bottom left of the fragment, the slightly convex outline in two rows of gray-green tesserae (curved stick?). The text that accompanies it, very mutilated, is that of a sentence apparently famous in antiquity: "It is not possible to live with pleasure without living with prudence, honesty and justice, nor to live with prudence, honesty and justice without living with pleasure."

  • Googel translation.

    The three inscriptions tend to prove that Epicureanism can be an important element in the search for and maintenance of civic concord. This theme of civil peace as a result of moderation is ultimately the one that makes it possible to make the most balanced synthesis of all aspects of the Autun mosaic. The quality of the texts and images must be put in relation with the schools of Autun, so renowned since their foundation (Tacitus, Annales, III, 43; Eumène, Discours pour la restauration des Ecoles d'Autun, Panegyr. LaLV); the teaching of rhetoric was to play a great role and the sentences taken from the Letters of Epicurus and Metrodorus were particularly appreciated.

    Faced with this great refinement, the play between two types of writing that makes it possible to advance the date of the end of the Second Century, we can wonder about the owner of this house: perhaps a rhetorician?, in any case a notable trained by the Schools that made the city of Autun a hotbed of Hellenism in Gaul.

  • Thank you for all of this, Marco! A while ago I posted something to the forum written by one of Stephen Greenblatt's critics. She (a Christian interested in medieval theology) wrote that Epicureanism was never widespread after the Renaissance, or even before it.

    Never widespread in antiquity!? This can only be attributed to a failure to examine the evidence. Thank you for providing some of it here!