Cassius Administrator
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Posts by Cassius

    I think this is covered by the texts (such as Alexander the Oracle monger) which discuss detecting fraud, and that gives us a lot to talk about. Extending this too far in terms of contemporary political issues will get us in trouble with our forum rules so I would advise against going that direction and instead stay on the generic level of how we detect imposition in gernal and how we deal with who should be trusted and who not, and related issues of bias and prejudice, at a general level. There's probably plenty to explore there without crossing swords on exactly who is a trusted source and on what topic in 2022. But in general even there the reasons why some will disagree (even here) on who should be trusted and who not can be explored dispassionately I think.


    Not all who call out the name of Jesus are Christians, as the saying goes, and not all who speak in the name of "science" or "fairness" or " objectivity" can be trusted either. How do we make these distinctions? Is it purely or primarily or even partly a matter of consensus, or can in fact consensus be the enemy of truth, as Galileo might say? When do we know when to follow consensus and when not?

    Here's another way to step through the same reasoning process:

    1. The best life (the goal) is a life completely filled with pleasures of many kinds from which all pain has been expelled. [Torquatus' identification of the best life in On Ends: "The truth of the position that pleasure is the ultimate good will most readily appear from the following illustration. Let us imagine a man living in the continuous enjoyment of numerous and vivid pleasures alike of body and of mind, undisturbed either by the presence or by the prospect of pain: what possible state of existence could we describe as being more excellent or more desirable? One so situated must possess in the first place a strength of mind that is proof against all fear of death or of pain; he will know that death means complete unconsciousness, and that pain is generally light if long and short if strong, so that its intensity is compensated by brief duration and its continuance by diminishing severity. Let such a man moreover have no dread of any supernatural power; let him never suffer the pleasures of the past to fade away, but constantly renew their enjoyment in recollection, and his lot will be one which will not admit of further improvement." ... "If then even the glory of the Virtues, on which all the other philosophers love to expatiate so eloquently, has in the last resort no meaning unless it be based on pleasure, whereas pleasure is the only thing that is intrinsically attractive and alluring, it cannot be doubted that pleasure is the one supreme and final Good and that a life of happiness is nothing else than a life of pleasure." Letter to Menoeceus: " And for this cause we call pleasure the beginning and end of the blessed life. For we recognize pleasure as the first good innate in us, and from pleasure we begin every act of choice and avoidance, and to pleasure we return again, using the feeling as the standard by which we judge every good."]
    2. It is impossible to expel all pain from life unless you expel fear of the gods and fear of death and fear of unmanageable pain. [PD12. "A man cannot dispel his fear about the most important matters if he does not know what is the nature of the universe, but suspects the truth of some mythical story. So that, without natural science, it is not possible to attain our pleasures unalloyed. PD13. There is no profit in securing protection in relation to men, if things above, and things beneath the earth, and indeed all in the boundless universe, remain matters of suspicion. PD04. Pain does not last continuously in the flesh, but the acutest pain is there for a very short time, and even that which just exceeds the pleasure in the flesh does not continue for many days at once. But chronic illnesses permit a predominance of pleasure over pain in the flesh."]
    3. It is impossible to expel all fear of the gods and fear of death and fear of unmanageable pain through the senses alone, and for this Epicurean philosophy is needed. [PD18. "The pleasure in the flesh is not increased when once the pain due to want is removed, but is only varied: and the limit as regards pleasure in the mind is begotten by the reasoned understanding of these very pleasures, and of the emotions akin to them, which used to cause the greatest fear to the mind." PD20. "The flesh perceives the limits of pleasure as unlimited, and unlimited time is required to supply it. But the mind, having attained a reasoned understanding of the ultimate good of the flesh and its limits, and having dissipated the fears concerning the time to come, supplies us with the complete life, and we have no further need of infinite time; but neither does the mind shun pleasure, nor, when circumstances begin to bring about the departure from life, does it approach its end as though it fell short, in any way, of the best life." PD03. "The limit of quantity in pleasures is the removal of all that is painful. Wherever pleasure is present, as long as it is there, there is neither pain of body, nor of mind, nor of both at once." PD04. "Pain does not last continuously in the flesh, but the acutest pain is there for a very short time, and even that which just exceeds the pleasure in the flesh does not continue for many days at once. But chronic illnesses permit a predominance of pleasure over pain in the flesh."]
    4. The key element of Epicurean philosophy needed to accomplish this is the understanding of how to have confidence in conclusions formed through use of the observations of the senses (which includes the ability to detect and reject deceptions and imaginary threats). [PD22, PD23] [Torquatus: "Further, our mental perceptions all arise from our sensations; and if these are all to be true, as the system of Epicurus proves to us, then only will cognition and perception become possible. Now those who invalidate sensations and say that perception is altogether impossible, cannot even clear the way for this very argument of theirs when they have thrust the senses aside. Moreover, when cognition and knowledge have been invalidated, every principle concerning the conduct of life and the performance of its business becomes invalidated. So from natural science we borrow courage to withstand the fear of death, and firmness to face superstitious dread, and tranquility of mind, through the removal of ignorance concerning the mysteries of the world, and self-control, arising from the elucidation of the nature of the passions and their different classes, and as I shewed just now, our leader again has established the canon and criterion of knowledge and thus has imparted to us a method for marking off falsehood from truth." Lucian - Alexander the Oracle-Monger: "And at this point, my dear Celsus, we may, if we will be candid, make some allowance for these Paphlagonians and Pontics; the poor uneducated ‘fat-heads’ might well be taken in when they handled the serpent—a privilege conceded to all who choose—and saw in that dim light its head with the mouth that opened and shut. It was an occasion for a Democritus, nay, for an Epicurus or a Metrodorus, perhaps, a man whose intelligence was steeled against such assaults by skepticism and insight, one who, if he could not detect the precise imposture, would at any rate have been perfectly certain that, though this escaped him, the whole thing was a lie and an impossibility."]
    5. Proper reasoning based on the senses requires the understanding that the senses report honestly, but that the data from the senses must be processed for consistency until it is appropriate to have confidence that the opinion we form from them is true. Until then we "wait" before selecting any single opinion as true. At first we look for and identify as possible any and all opinions that are consistent with available evidence. Only when we can eliminate all but one as consistent with the evidence do we hold that only one opinion is true. Sometimes we can only conclude that any of several opinions, and even more than one, may be true. This is sufficient for peace of mind so long as we have identified at least one that is consistent with nature, leaving us free of fear of a supernatural cause. [PD24] [Torquatus: " He judged that the logic of your school possesses no efficacy either for the amelioration of life or for the facilitation of debate. He laid the greatest stress on natural science. That branch of knowledge enables us to realize clearly the force of words and the natural conditions of speech and the theory of consistent and contradictory expressions; and when we have learned the constitution of the universe we are relieved of superstition, are emancipated from the dread of death, are not agitated through ignorance of phenomena, from which ignorance, more than any thing else, terrible panics often arise ; finally, our characters will also be improved when we have learned what it is that nature craves. Then again if we grasp a firm knowledge of phenomena, and uphold that canon, which almost fell from heaven into human ken, that test to which we are to bring all our judgments concerning things, we shall never succumb to any man’s eloquence and abandon our opinions."]
    6. The first and most fundamental step in the Epicurean process of chain reasoning is the observation that nothing is ever created from nothing at the will of gods or through any other means. From this observation, and from the related observation that nothing is ever destroyed to nothing, we conclude that at the heart of existence are eternal unchanging atoms moving though void, which allows us a fully sufficient explanation of the natural functioning of the universe that we observe around us, without need of supernatural or imaginary forces for which there is no evidence. [Lucretius Book 1 and 2, Letter to Herodotus] [Lucretius Book 1: "[146] These terrors of the mind, this darkness then, not the Sun’s beams, nor the bright rays of day, can ever dispel, but Nature’s light and reason, whose first of principles shall be my guide: Nothing was by the Gods of nothing made. For hence it is that fear disturbs the mind, that strange events in Earth and Heaven are seen, whose causes cannot appear by reason’s eye, and then we say they were from Powers Divine. But when we rest convinced that nothing can arise from nothing, then the way is clear to our pursuit; we distinctly see whence every thing comes into being, and how things are formed, without the help and trouble of the Gods. If things proceed from nothing, every thing might spring from any thing, and want no seed; Men from the sea might first arise, and fish and birds break from the Earth, and herds and tender flocks drop from the sky, and every kind of beast, fixed to no certain place, might find a being in deserts or in cultivated fields.... Again, if things could spring from nought, what need of time for bodies to fulfill their growth by accession of new matter? An infant then might instantly become a youth, and trees start up in full perfection from the Earth. But ‘tis not so, ‘tis plain; for things, we know, grow by degrees from certain seeds, and still, as they grow, keep their kind; and thus you find each being rise into bulk, and thrives from seed and matter proper to itself."]
    7. This chain reasoning process continues from that point to allow us to conclude with confidence a number of crucial opinions, among the most important of which are: that the universe is eternal in time, that the universe is infinite in space, that nothing has an eternal unchanging existence except matter and void, that bodies are constantly changing and in the normal course of events do not remain together forever (thus the human soul does not survive death), and that the universe has no supernatural forces ruling over it. [Lucretius Book 1 and 2, Letter to Herodotus: "Having made these points clear, we must now consider things imperceptible to the senses. First of all, that nothing is created out of that which does not exist: for if it were, everything would be created out of everything with no need of seeds. [39] And again, if that which disappears were destroyed into that which did not exist, all things would have perished, since that into which they were dissolved would not exist. Furthermore, the universe always was such as it is now, and always will be the same. For there is nothing into which it changes: for outside the universe there is nothing which could come into it and bring about the change. Moreover, the universe is bodies and space: for that bodies exist, sense itself witnesses in the experience of all men, and in accordance with the evidence of sense we must of necessity judge of the imperceptible by reasoning, as I have already said. [40] And if there were not that which we term void and place and intangible existence, bodies would have nowhere to exist and nothing through which to move, as they are seen to move. And besides these two, nothing can even be thought of either by conception or on the analogy of things conceivable such as could be grasped as whole existences and not spoken of as the accidents or properties of such existences."]
    8. These conclusions allow us to have confidence that there are no eternal forms or eternal essences on which any kind of absolute rules of human conduct (absolute notions of "virtue") can have any basis, and that the ultimate and only true basis of human conduct are the faculties given us by nature - the feelings of pleasure and pain. [Torquatus Narrative from On Ends, including as to virtue: "Those who place the Chief Good in virtue alone are beguiled by the glamour of a name, and do not understand the true demands of nature. If they will consent to listen to Epicurus, they will be delivered from the grossest error. Your school dilates on the transcendent beauty of the virtues; but were they not productive of pleasure, who would deem them either praiseworthy or desirable? We esteem the art of medicine not for its interest as a science, but for its conduciveness to health; the art of navigation is commended for its practical and not its scientific value, because it conveys the rules for sailing a ship with success. So also Wisdom, which must be considered as the art of living, if it effected no result would not be desired; but as it is, it is desired, because it is the artificer that procures and produces pleasure." And as to pleasure and pain: "Strip mankind of sensation, and nothing remains; it follows that Nature herself is the judge of that which is in accordance with or contrary to nature. What does Nature perceive or what does she judge of, beside pleasure and pain, to guide her actions of desire and of avoidance?"]
    9. Just as the senses alone are incapable of eliminating all fear of gods and death and unmanageable pain without proper (Epicurean) philosophy, it is necessary for us to employ proper Epicurean philosophy to determine when to choose pain or to avoid choosing a particular pleasure for the sake of achieving greater pleasure through that prudent selection. [Letter to Menoeceus: And since pleasure is the first good and natural to us, for this very reason we do not choose every pleasure, but sometimes we pass over many pleasures, when greater discomfort accrues to us as the result of them: and similarly we think many pains better than pleasures, since a greater pleasure comes to us when we have endured pains for a long time. Every pleasure then because of its natural kinship to us is good, yet not every pleasure is to be chosen: even as every pain also is an evil, yet not all are always of a nature to be avoided. [130] Yet by a scale of comparison and by the consideration of advantages and disadvantages we must form our judgment on all these matters. For the good on certain occasions we treat as bad, and conversely the bad as good.' Torquatus: "But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of reprobating pleasure and extolling pain arose. To do so, I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure? On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of the pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain emergencies and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains."]
    10. All of this is why we need Epicurean philosophy and why - because he was the first to identify this system through which we can free ourselves from false religions and false fears - Epicurus deserves to be seen as one of the greatest reformers and benefactors in human history. [Torquatus narrative in On Ends, including: "If then the doctrine I have set forth is clearer and more luminous than daylight itself; if it is derived entirely from Nature's source; if my whole discourse relies throughout for confirmation on the unbiased and unimpeachable evidence of the senses; if lisping infants, nay even dumb animals, prompted by Nature's teaching, almost find voice to proclaim that there is no welfare but pleasure, no hardship but pain—and their judgment in these matters is neither sophisticated nor biased—ought we not to feel the greatest gratitude to him who caught this utterance of Nature's voice, and grasped its import so firmly and so fully that he has guided all sane-minded men into the paths of peace and happiness, calmness and repose?" Lucretius Book 1: "When human life, all too conspicuous, lay foully groveling on earth, weighed down by grim religion looming from the skies, horribly threatening mortal men, a man, a Greek, first raised his mortal eyes bravely against this menace. No report of gods, no lightning-flash, no thunder-peal made this man cower, but drove him all the more with passionate manliness of mind and will to be the first to spring the tight-barred gates of Nature's hold asunder. So his force, his vital force of mind, a conqueror beyond the flaming ramparts of the world, explored the vast immensities of space with wit and wisdom, and came back to us triumphant, bringing news of what can be and what cannot, limits and boundaries, the borderline, the bench mark, set forever. Religion, so, is trampled underfoot, and by his victory we reach the stars."]


    Note: As a reminder to myself if I update this I will also update the easier-to-find "article" version here.

    I think of all the three signs it is indeed likely Epicurue would be most happy to be associated with Aquarius and the Fifth Dimension song :)

    Except for maybe the "mystic crystal revelations"a lot of the other words fit.


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    Well just fwiw after reading all this, I would say (1) since no one appointed any of us arbiter of anything other than what we do ourselves, (2) it is desirable to have a uniform yearly date as the best celebration date, and (3) that January 20 is the closest date to the "real" birthday, then:


    (1) For commemoration purposes it makes sense to honor the decision of the Epicureans to celebrate on the nearest 20th (Jan 20) but that


    (2) for the sake of reminding everyone of the calendar issues it would be good to keep up to date a chart such as Nate is working on so that those of us who are most "fundamentalist" will be able to observe every year how the calculation actually worked and consider the weather etc of the period as the closest approximation to what they experienced at the time of the birth of Epicurus.


    That should take care of our needs and we can leave for further discussion the burning question of whether our birth sign friends would consider Epicurus to have been a Capricorn, Aquarius, or Pisces!

    No snarkiness issue at all. It's not like anyone needs anyone else's approval or that we are planning on taking some particular immediate action. What I am thinking is that I know for example that Pan has studied this and it would be just to compare thoughts. Not sure if Christos has or not. Mainly thinking that once you and Nate settle on what you think is a final summary that I will just ask them to take a look at it and see if they have any comments. I am thinking Nate says he is still thinking it through (?). And I think you indicated you might do another summary too? I will point them to the full thread but if there is an obvious conclusion summary will link to that too. So in sum just another situation where more eyes is generally good.

    I doubt we are capable of doing anything much other than a special zoom meeting. Maybe we should record a talk about the Greek calendar and why this is such a complicated question, but I am not sure anyone but Don and Nate is qualified to lead it and they would have to volunteer to be drafted for such a project. :-). I can provide the Zoom channel but we would probably need some graphics like those Nate has posted above.


    (And when I write "record a talk" I meant record the zoom session, but of course if anyone wanted to record a special video that would be great too. If so we could watch it together and then discuss it.)

    Here's an organizational note: I think the use of a FAQ is a very good idea given that lots of people probably look for a FAQ rather than trying to use search or otherwise pore thru the menu system or follow links all over the website. The forum menu system also provides a topic index, but both the FAQ and the Menu get complicated fast. Hopefully it helps that they can be opened and collapsed like outlines.


    For better or worse neither the FAQ nor the Menu system lend themselves to updating collaboratively. An admin has to go in and make each change, and that's probably too much trouble for them to be kept up to date easily.


    On the other hand as new threads get entered into the "When was Epicurus birthday?" forum then that list will just grow and grow too.


    So as a compromise what we can do at present for something like this is:


    1) The FAQ is prominently listed in the resource section.

    2) The FAQ contains a history section with the question "When Was Epicurus Born" with a quick answer but mainly a link to: (A) a "lexicon" entry that is editable by all the major participants in this thread which can hopefully be updated over time based on the most recent postings. I will expect to take care of that myself but others who have write access are welcome to update that as well. The FAQ entry will also link to (B) the discussion subforum which will continue to grow over time.


    As additional note this is probably the best way to organize the FAQ in general. First provide a concise answer to a question if possible, but then point to a collaborative document editable by some of our core people, and also to the discussion thread that can be participated in by all registered users.

    Gosh we just discussed this as recently as July? RE: Epicurus' Birthdate


    And here's the 2019 version: Epicurus' Birthday Calculations


    Your administrator is falling down on the job and we need to get his better organized. I will add this question to the FAQ and maybe designate one of these threads as a master thread and find a way to highlight it more prominently. I am sure this has been discussed probably at least once a year for the past five years or more and probably will continue to be asked, so it might even deserve a subforum of its own. Let me look into that.


    For now here is a FAQ entry and I will feature the FAQ more prominently on the home page: https://www.epicureanfriends.com/wcf/index.php?faq/#entry-35


    EDIT: Given that this question will keep getting asked, probably makes sense to open a subforum under the "Epicurus" section and try to move all the prior discussions from "General Discussion" into that thread.

    I guess part of the question is "What is 'it'?" Does 'it' mean "our best and most accurate calculation of the day of birth" or "the day we should schedule a group celebration?"


    Sometimes I even wonder what the "most accurate calculation" really means. Does it mean the day of the year in which the planets today are most closely configured around the sun in the same positions as they were at the time of Epicurus' birth?

    I skimmed back over the thread (almost a year at this point) to try to refresh my memory as to whether it had contained a "definition" (which I take as part of Root304's point). I am not sure that it does, and that might be something that needs to be discussed further to add to the clarity of the issue. I am not sure that there is an Epicurean text that really "defines" friendship is there? I seem to remember that there might be a definition in Aristotle (is it a "second self"?) but we shouldn't take for granted that Epicurus would agree with Aristotle.


    And of course given the absence of ideal forms or the like, how would the word best be used in the Epicurean context? What is the most accurate 'idea" to attach to the word "friendship" so that we may not go on explaining to infinity or use words devoid of meaning?


    Quote

    First of all, Herodotus, we must grasp the ideas attached to words, in order that we may be able to refer to them and so to judge the inferences of opinion or problems of investigation or reflection, so that we may not either leave everything uncertain and go on explaining to infinity or use words devoid of meaning. [38] For this purpose it is essential that the first mental image associated with each word should be regarded, and that there should be no need of explanation, if we are really to have a standard to which to refer a problem of investigation or reflection or a mental inference. And besides we must keep all our investigations in accord with our sensations, and in particular with the immediate apprehensions whether of the mind or of any one of the instruments of judgment, and likewise in accord with the feelings existing in us, in order that we may have indications whereby we may judge both the problem of sense perception and the unseen.

    Wow thank you for all that work Nate! A table like that showing the dates each year into the future is definitely something we need to add to a resource list somewhere.


    So the column labeled Hekatombaion 1 is the first day of the Greek New Year, and Gamelion 20 is what we believe is the actual birthday, or the 20th closest to his actual birthday? Maybe it would be a good idea to somehow annotate those column headings in case perhaps someone cuts and pastes the table and it gets separated from the text.

    I'm not going to push anybody. (I would *never* do that would I Joshua or any of our other poets here?)


    However we have some very creative minds in this group who are very good with poetry and imagery and even if we came up with a hundred different versions, none of which would compare to Lucretius, the exercise I think would be very enjoyable and educational.


    So it ought to be possible to combine some of the flourishes that we have in the Vatican Sayings, and it strikes me the Torquatus narrative as well, to come up with something that would really put a point on how there is nothing like confronting our mortality to inspire us to live life to its fullest while we have it.

    As has been mentioned several places, Emily Austin speculates in Chapter 22 of "Living For Pleasure" that Lucretius might have intended to track the full story of the Plague of Athens, which ends in the original version with an additional paragraph to which there is no parallel in Lucretius. What jumps out when we review the last paragraph which is not in Lucretius is that this is where it is relayed that the confrontation with death caused the Athenians to turn away from worries about gods and the afterlife and "virtue" and instead turn to enjoying the life that they have in hand. This is a perfect Epicurean lesson and there's no way that this paragraph would not be relevant to the poem. In fact, it probably would serve as the most perfect bookend that the poem could have.


    Don has supplied us with this link to the Thucydides version where the key extra paragraph is found.


    The full argument is best expressed in Austin's book, but we have brought this up in a prior thread and I think this is ought to be explored further. Not only would the extended parallel be a striking way to end the poem, but we know from several sources that Epicurus identified the feeling of escape from great danger, or calamity, as indicative of a meaningful definition of "the good."


    U423: Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 7, p. 1091A: Not only is the basis that they assume for the pleasurable life untrustworthy and insecure, it is quite trivial and paltry as well, inasmuch as their “thing delighted” – their good – is an escape from ills, and they say that they can conceive of no other, and indeed that our nature has no place at all in which to put its good except the place left when its evil is expelled. … Epicurus too makes a similar statement to the effect that the good is a thing that arises out of your very escape from evil and from your memory and reflection and gratitude that this has happened to you. His words are these: “That which produces a jubilation unsurpassed is the nature of good, if you apply your mind rightly and then stand firm and do not stroll about {a jibe at the Peripatetics}, prating meaninglessly about the good.”


    Ibid., 8, p. 1091E: Thus Epicurus, and Metrodorus too, suppose {that the middle is the summit and the end} when they take the position that escape from ill is the reality and upper limit of the good.


    Of course we also know that Lucretius makes a similar argument at the beginning of Book 2 (this from the Brown translation):


    'Tis pleasant, when a tempest drives the waves in the wide sea, to view the sad distress of others from the land; not that the pleasure is so sweet that others suffer, but the joy is this, to look upon the ills from which yourself are free. It likewise gives delight to view the bloody conflicts of a war, in battle ranged all over the plains, without a share of danger to yourself: But nothing is more sweet than to attain the serene 'tho lofty heights of true philosophy, well fortified by learning of the wise, and thence look down on others, and behold mankind wandering and roving every way, to find a path to happiness; they strive for wit, contend for nobility, labor nights and days with anxious care for heaps of wealth, and to be ministers of state.


    So it appears to me that one place to start would be to compare what we have from Thucydides to what we have in Lucretius and see if that might lead to clues on how to interpolate a more flourishing ending (the kind of ending that the enemies of Lucretius would have wanted to suppress even before the Judeo-Christian age). Here's an arrangement of the texts with a column for comments. Text from Thucydides comes from the Richard Crawley translation here. Text from Lucretius comes from the Brown edition here. This is just a first draft and I am sure this can be improved to break down the corresponding sections even more closely.


    ThucydidesLucretius
    47 Such was the funeral that took place during this winter, with which the first year of the war came to an end. In the first days of summer the Lacedaemonians and their allies, with two-thirds of their forces as before, invaded Attica, under the command of Archidamus, son of Zeuxidamus, King of Lacedaemon, and sat down and laid waste the country. Not many days after their arrival in Attica the plague first began to show itself among the Athenians. It was said that it had broken out in many places previously in the neighbourhood of Lemnos and elsewhere; but a pestilence of such extent and mortality was nowhere remembered. Neither were the physicians at first of any service, ignorant as they were of the proper way to treat it, but they died themselves the most thickly, as they visited the sick most often; nor did any human art succeed any better. Supplications in the temples, divinations, and so forth were found equally futile, till the overwhelming nature of the disaster at last put a stop to them altogether. 48 It first began, it is said, in the parts of Ethiopia above Egypt, and thence descended into Egypt and Libya and into most of the King's country. Suddenly falling upon Athens, it first attacked the population in Piraeus--which was the occasion of their saying that the Peloponnesians had poisoned the reservoirs, there being as yet no wells there--and afterwards appeared in the upper city, when the deaths became much more frequent. All speculation as to its origin and its causes, if causes can be found adequate to produce so great a disturbance, I leave to other writers, whether lay or professional; for myself, I shall simply set down its nature, and explain the symptoms by which perhaps it may be recognized by the student, if it should ever break out again. This I can the better do, as I had the disease myself, and watched its operation in the case of others.1138 Once such a plague as this, such deadly blasts, poisoned the coasts of Athens, founded by Cecrops. It raged through every street, unpeopled all the city, for coming from far (from Egypt, where it first began) and having passed through a long tract of air, and over the wide sea, it fixed at last upon the subjects of King Pandion. Men soon, by heaps, fell victim to the rage of death and the disease.
    49 That year then is admitted to have been otherwise unprecedentedly free from sickness; and such few cases as occurred all determined in this. As a rule, however, there was no ostensible cause; but people in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head, and redness and inflammation in the eyes, the inward parts, such as the throat or tongue, becoming bloody and emitting an unnatural and fetid breath. These symptoms were followed by sneezing and hoarseness, after which the pain soon reached the chest, and produced a hard cough. When it fixed in the stomach, it upset it; and discharges of bile of every kind named by physicians ensued, accompanied by very great distress. In most cases also an ineffectual retching followed, producing violent spasms, which in some cases ceased soon after, in others much later.

    [1145] The head was first attacked with furious heats, and then the eyes turned bloodshot and inflamed; the jaws within sweated with black bloods; the throat (the passage of the voice) was stopped by ulcers; the tongue (the interpreter of the mind) overflowed with gore, and, faltered with the disease, felt rough, and scarce could move. And when the poison, through the jaws, had filled the breast, and flowed into the miserable stomach, then all the springs of life began to fail; the breath sent out a filthy smell abroad, like the rank stench of rotten carcasses, the powers of all the soul and all the body flag and grow faint, as in the gates of death. To these innumerable evils followed close a sad distress and sinking of the mind, loud sighs with bitter moans, and frequent sobbings, all the day and night, twitched and convulsed the nerves and every limb, and loosened every joint, and sorely racked the wretches, tired out with pains before.
    Externally the body was not very hot to the touch, nor pale in its appearance, but reddish, livid, and breaking out into small pustules and ulcers. But internally it burned so that the patient could not bear to have on him clothing or linen even of the very lightest description; or indeed to be otherwise than stark naked. What they would have liked best would have been to throw themselves into cold water; as indeed was done by some of the neglected sick, who plunged into the rain-tanks in their agonies of unquenchable thirst; though it made no difference whether they drank little or much.


    [1163] Yet you could not perceive, by the touch, that the surface of the body was inflamed with any extraordinary heat; it felt only warm to the hand, and looked red all over with burning pustules, as when the sacred fire spreads over the limbs. But all within was in a flame that pierced the very bones; the heat raged in the stomach as in a furnace; no garment, ever so light or thin, could be endured upon their limbs; they rushed into the wind and cold, some plunging their bodies, scorched with the disease, in rivers, and naked threw themselves in chilling streams; some ran with open mouths and headlong leaped into deep wells; the parching thirst, insatiable, so burnt their bodies it made whole showers of water seem no more than a few drops.

    Besides this, the miserable feeling of not being able to rest or sleep never ceased to torment them. The body meanwhile did not waste away so long as the distemper was at its height, but held out to a marvel against its ravages; so that when they succumbed, as in most cases, on the seventh or eighth day to the internal inflammation, they had still some strength in them.

    1178] The pain was without intermission, without end; the body lay quite spent, stretched out, the burning eyes wide open and, without sleep for many a restless night, rolled dreadfully about. The physician muttered to himself in silent fear, and leaves the patient in despair, 1182] for many signs of coming death appeared. The mind distracted with death and horror; a stern brow; a countenance fierce and furious; the ears tormented with a buzzing noise; the breath thick, or deep and seldom drawn; a frothy sweat, flowing in abundance over the neck; the spittle thin and dry, and yellow as saffron, and the salt matter could scarce be brought up through the jaws by coughing; a contraction of the nerves in the hands, and a trembling over all the limbs, and a coldness creeping up gradually from the feet; the nostrils pinched in, as at the point of death; the nose sharp, the eyes sunk, the temples hollow, the skin cold and hard, a frightful distortion of the mouth, and the skin of the forehead stretched and shining. Nor did the wretches lie long under the cold hands of death, for they expired commonly upon the eighth, or at the farthest upon the ninth day.

    But if they passed this stage, and the disease descended further into the bowels, inducing a violent ulceration there accompanied by severe diarrhoea, this brought on a weakness which was generally fatal. For the disorder first settled in the head, ran its course from thence through the whole of the body, and, even where it did not prove mortal, it still left its mark on the extremities; for it settled in the privy parts, the fingers and the toes, and many escaped with the loss of these, some too with that of their eyes. Others again were seized with an entire loss of memory on their first recovery, and did not know either themselves or their friends.[1199] But if any of the infected, as some did, escaped with life, either the filthy ulcers breaking, or by a most offensive looseness, they fell at last into a consumption, and then died; or streams of corrupted blood, with grievous headache, flowed from his stuffed nostrils, and thus his strength and life ran out, and the wretch bled to death. Such as escaped a sharp flux of filthy blood at the nose, the poison pierced into their nerves and limbs, and seized upon their very genitals; and some were so terrified at the approach of death that they suffered the virile member to be cut off to preserve life. Some remained alive without hands and feet, and some lost their eyes, so terrible was the fear of death to these miserable wretches. Some were seized with an entire forgetfulness of every thing; they did not so much as know themselves.
    50 But while the nature of the distemper was such as to baffle all description, and its attacks almost too grievous for human nature to endure, it was still in the following circumstance that its difference from all ordinary disorders was most clearly shown. All the birds and beasts that prey upon human bodies, either abstained from touching them (though there were many lying unburied), or died after tasting them. In proof of this, it was noticed that birds of this kind actually disappeared; they were not about the bodies, or indeed to be seen at all. But of course the effects which I have mentioned could best be studied in a domestic animal like the dog.
    1215 When heaps of bodies lay one upon another, unburied, upon the ground, yet the birds of prey, and the wild beasts, either kept at a distance to avoid the noisome stench, or if they tasted they soon died. At that time no birds appeared abroad in the day, nor did the wild beasts leave the woods by night; many of them were infected with the disease, and fell down dead; the faithful dogs especially lay gaping out their infected breath in every street, for the poison drove out life from every limb.
    51 Such then, if we pass over the varieties of particular cases which were many and peculiar, were the general features of the distemper. Meanwhile the town enjoyed an immunity from all the ordinary disorders; or if any case occurred, it ended in this. Some died in neglect, others in the midst of every attention. No remedy was found that could be used as a specific; for what did good in one case, did harm in another. Strong and weak constitutions proved equally incapable of resistance, all alike being swept away, although dieted with the utmost precaution.

    [1225] The many funerals of the dead were hurried away without order, and unattended. Nor was their any certain remedy to be applied; for what was of service to some, and relieved the patient, and preserved life, was fatal and brought death to others.

    By far the most terrible feature in the malady was the dejection which ensued when any one felt himself sickening, for the despair into which they instantly fell took away their power of resistance, and left them a much easier prey to the disorder; besides which, there was the awful spectacle of men dying like sheep, through having caught the infection in nursing each other. This caused the greatest mortality. On the one hand, if they were afraid to visit each other, they perished from neglect; indeed many houses were emptied of their inmates for want of a nurse: on the other, if they ventured to do so, death was the consequence. This was especially the case with such as made any pretensions to goodness: honour made them unsparing of themselves in their attendance in their friends' houses, where even the members of the family were at last worn out by the moans of the dying, and succumbed to the force of the disaster. Yet it was with those who had recovered from the disease that the sick and the dying found most compassion. These knew what it was from experience, and had now no fear for themselves; for the same man was never attacked twice--never at least fatally. And such persons not only received the congratulations of others, but themselves also, in the elation of the moment, half entertained the vain hope that they were for the future safe from any disease whatsoever.

    [1230] But the most wretched and deplorable thing of all, at this time, was that when once a person found himself infected with the disease, as if a sentence of death had passed upon him, his spirits failed him, he fell into melancholy and despair, thought of nothing but death, and so gave up the ghost. And funerals were heaped one upon another, because the fierce contagion of the disease incessantly raged, and carried on the infection. And if any one, too fond of life, and fearing to die, avoided to visit the miserable sick, the same want of help was soon his own punishment; he died in a filthy and deplorable manner, abandoned, and without assistance, and perished by neglect, like the wretched beasts of the field. And those who were compelled by shame, and by the moving cries and piteous moans of their friends, to attend them in their distress, were seized by the infection, and died by the disease and the fatigue. Indeed the most pious among them lost their lives in this manner:

    [1247] And when they had endeavored to bury the bodies of whole families of their friends, among those of the friends of others, they returned, wearied with grief and weeping, and most of them took to their beds for sorrow. And there was not one to be found who, in this calamitous time, had not grievously suffered, either by the disease, or by death, or by the most bitter pain and anguish of mind. [1252] Besides, the shepherds and the herdsmen, and the lusty ploughman pined away with the infection; their bodies lay miserably stretched out in their close narrow huts, and died of poverty and the disease. You might frequently see the dead parents lying over their dead children, and again, the children expiring upon the bodies of their wretched mothers and fathers.
    52 An aggravation of the existing calamity was the influx from the country into the city, and this was especially felt by the new arrivals. As there were no houses to receive them, they had to be lodged at the hot season of the year in stifling cabins, where the mortality raged without restraint. The bodies of dying men lay one upon another, and half-dead creatures reeled about the streets and gathered round all the fountains in their longing for water.


    [1259] Nor was it a small addition to this plague that was brought from the country to the city; for the infected peasants flocked higher in multitudes from all parts, and carried the sickness along with them. They filled all the houses, and all places; and as they were pent up close together, death had the greater power to slay them in heaps. Many bodies lay along in the streets, gasping for thirst; and, rolling to the public conduits, they drank insatiably and were suffocated with water. Others you might see in the highways and common places, languishing, with their bodies half dead, horrible with filth, covered with rags, and rotting with the corruption of the limbs; there was nothing but skin upon the bones, and that putrefied with eating ulcers, and buried in nastiness.

    The sacred places also in which they had quartered themselves were full of corpses of persons that had died there, just as they were; for as the disaster passed all bounds, men, not knowing what was to become of them, became utterly careless of everything, whether sacred or profane. All the burial rites before in use were entirely upset, and they buried the bodies as best they could. Many from want of the proper appliances, through so many of their friends having died already, had recourse to the most shameless sepultures: sometimes getting the start of those who had raised a pile, they threw their own dead body upon the stranger's pyre and ignited it; sometimes they tossed the corpse which they were carrying on the top of another that was burning, and so went off.[1272] And lastly, death had filled all the temples of the gods with dead bodies, all the shrines of the celestial deities were loaded everywhere with carcasses. The priests furnished these places with such wretched guests. Nor was there any reverence paid to the gods; their divinities were no more regarded; for the present calamity overcame everything. Nor did the people any longer observe that custom of sepulture they had ever followed, which was to bury their dead in the city. They were all distracted and amazed, and every one buried his wretched friend as the exigency of things would permit. And sudden rage, and dreadful poverty, drove men into many outrageous actions: They would place their relations, with violent outcries, upon the funeral piles that were raised for others, and light the fire; and often quarrel, with much loss of blood, rather than forsake the bodies of their friends.
    53 Nor was this the only form of lawless extravagance which owed its origin to the plague. Men now coolly ventured on what they had formerly done in a corner, and not just as they pleased, seeing the rapid transitions produced by persons in prosperity suddenly dying and those who before had nothing succeeding to their property. So they resolved to spend quickly and enjoy themselves, regarding their lives and riches as alike things of a day. Perseverance in what men called honour was popular with none, it was so uncertain whether they would be spared to attain the object; but it was settled that present enjoyment, and all that contributed to it, was both honourable and useful. Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them. As for the first, they judged it to be just the same whether they worshipped them or not, as they saw all alike perishing; and for the last, no one expected to live to be brought to trial for his offences, but each felt that a far severer sentence had been already passed upon them all and hung ever over their heads, and before this fell it was only reasonable to enjoy life a little.? ? ? ? ? ? ?

    It looks like this is an obvious choice for the second selection - "The Towering Inferno." Like most sequels it doesn't quite live up to the original song Maureen McGovern sang for Poseidon Adventure, but it's still positive.


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    We may never love like this again

    Don't stop the flow

    We can't let go


    We may never love like this again

    And touch the sky

    Now we may try


    So while we here

    Let's give up all

    We listed the dreams inside us

    And set them free


    Oh, while we here

    Let's live a mark

    There's a candle in the dark

    It's here to guide us


    We may never love like this again

    But through the days

    Beyond the highs

    I'll see you

    Reaching out to hold me

    I don't know just

    Where or when

    Still I'm sure


    We'll love again, we'll love again

    We'll love again (we may never love like this again)

    In addition to the opening of Lucretius Book 2, we have good textual reason to think that Epicurus identified escape from calamity as "the nature of good." This subject came up tonight in a zoom discussion when Onenski made the same observation that Emily Austin makes in Chapter 22 of "Living For Pleasure" -- that the full story of the Plague of Athens contains an additional paragraph that is not in our extant texts of Lucretius, but which screams out to have been included (and in my speculation probably was included in the original texts!) Thanks to Don for this link to the Thucydides version where the key extra paragraph is found.


    The full argument is best expressed in Austin's book, but we have brought this up in a prior thread and I think this is going to prove to be a vastly productive topic in years to come. Below is the text from U423 that is most appropriate to the discussion, but the reason this post is placed in the Music category is that I think a good way to dramatize the issue is to think of movie scenes and/or songs that embody this feeling -- and there are LOTS of disaster movies we can draw from. The one that made the most impression when I was growing up was the song from the video below -- the Poseidon Adventure! Please add to the thread suggestions of your own because the whole disaster genre of movies is probably filled with dramatic scenes and memorable music.


    U423: Plutarch, That Epicurus actually makes a pleasant life impossible, 7, p. 1091A: Not only is the basis that they assume for the pleasurable life untrustworthy and insecure, it is quite trivial and paltry as well, inasmuch as their “thing delighted” – their good – is an escape from ills, and they say that they can conceive of no other, and indeed that our nature has no place at all in which to put its good except the place left when its evil is expelled. … Epicurus too makes a similar statement to the effect that the good is a thing that arises out of your very escape from evil and from your memory and reflection and gratitude that this has happened to you. His words are these: “That which produces a jubilation unsurpassed is the nature of good, if you apply your mind rightly and then stand firm and do not stroll about {a jibe at the Peripatetics}, prating meaninglessly about the good.”


    Ibid., 8, p. 1091E: Thus Epicurus, and Metrodorus too, suppose {that the middle is the summit and the end} when they take the position that escape from ill is the reality and upper limit of the good.



    So - as above - the video below is the first song that occurs to me. Please add others that have been meaningful to you. I think this might turn out to be a highly inspirational thread! I still remember this movie and song from 40+ years ago like it was yesterday, and the opening to book two of Lucretius remains one of its most memorable excerpts after 2000 years.


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    There's got to be a morning after

    If we can hold on through the night

    We have a chance to find the sunshine

    Let's keep on looking for the light


    Oh, can't you see the morning after

    It's waiting right outside the storm

    Why don't we cross the bridge together

    And find a place that's safe and warm


    It's not too late

    We should be giving

    Only with love can we climb

    It's not too late

    Not while we're living

    Let's put our hands out in time

    There's got to be a morning after

    We're moving closer to the shore

    I know we'll be there by tomorrow

    And we'll escape the darkness

    We won't be searching any more


    There's got to be a morning after

    (There's got to be a morning after)