Core Epicurean texts available at EpicureanFriends.com
Documents Written Directly By Key Epicureans
- Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus. Epicurus' primary letter on physics and the beginning points of his philosophy.
- Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles. Epicurus' primary letter on understanding the phenomena we see in the sky.
- Epicurus' Letter to Menoeceus. Epicurus' primary letter on ethics and how to live.
- Lucretius' "On The Nature of Things" The monumental poetic presentation of Epicurean philosophy. This link takes you to the EpicureanFriends Lucretius Navigation Guide where you can select from several Lucretius translations. Please post comments and questions in the Lucretius forum here. A three column topical outline and finding aid for Lucretius is here
- Diogenes of Oinoanda's Inscription. This link takes you to a page in Catalonia where the Martin Ferguson Smith translation is available.
Compilations / Commentaries
- Biography of Epicurus By Diogenes Laertius. The ancient biography of Epicurus, containing several letters and the list of his key doctrines.
- Torquatus from "On Ends." An excellent presentation of the Epicurean view of the relationship between "Pleasure" and "Virtue." This document was prepared by Cicero based on Epicurean texts available to him around 50 BC. Click the following for the Complete On Ends as translated by Reid.
- Velleius from "On The Nature of the Gods." A presentation on the Epicurean view of the gods as they exist in the intermundia. As with "On Ends," Cicero's "On the Nature of the Gods" was prepared based presumably on Epicurean authorities of his time.
- Principal Doctrines. This list of forty doctrines focuses on attitudes and observations important in living an Epicurean life.
- Vatican List of Sayings of Epicurus. This list of Epicurean sayings was found in the Vatican Library.
- Letter to Idomeneus. Epicurus' letter on his dying day.
- The Will of Epicurus. Epicurus' last will and testament.
- Usener's Fragments (Anderson Version)
- Twelve Fundamentals of Nature. This list of twelve observations about Nature serves as the starting point for the Epicurean view of the universe.
- List of Treatises Available At Archive.org and other places (NewEpicurean.com Library page)
- Letters Between Cicero and Cassius Longinus
- Plutarch - That It Is Not Possible To Live Pleasurably By The Doctrines of Epicurus
- Letters Between Cicero And Cassius Longinus (at Attalus.org)
We are frequently asked about a list of recommended reading. You will do yourself a big favor if you start with "Epicurus and His Philosophy" by Norman DeWitt, but below are several links to lists of books and discussions of reading suggestions that are freely available.
There are many controversies as to the proper interpretation of Epicurus. If, instead of starting with DeWitt or the primary sources, you choose to read a modern book written in the last 30 years, you will find Epicurus presented to you from the perspective that Epicurus was primarily interested in "absence of pain" rather than "pleasure." That is why many of us at this forum recommend Norman DeWitt's "Epicurus and His Philosophy" as a starting point. DeWitt's perspective is found in the opening chapter of his book which can be read for free here. An article - "Philosophy For The Millions" - summarizing DeWitt's perspective is here.
As an initial list for a new student of Epicurus start, I would suggest the following, in order of priority:
- "Epicurus and His Philosophy" by Norman DeWitt. A sympathetic detailed presentation of the many aspects of Epicurean philosophy for the general reader.
- The Biography of Epicurus by Diogenes Laertius. This includes the surviving letters of Epicurus, including those to Herodotus, Pythocles, and Menoeceus. The core Greek document from the ancient world preserving important aspects of Epicurus' life and work.
- "On The Nature of Things" - by Lucretius. A poetic abridgment of Epicurus' 37 Books of "On Nature," and the only complete presentation of Epicurean philosophy left to us from the ancient world.
- "Epicurus on Pleasure" - By Boris Nikolsky. An excellent discussion of a key controversy in modern Epicurean scholarship. Did Epicurus really focus on an important distinction between categories of pleasure known as "kinetic" and "katastematic"? Nikolsky says "No" and explains why.
- The chapters on Epicurus in Gosling and Taylor's "The Greeks On Pleasure." These chapters present an exhaustive review of Epicurus' "common-sense" approach to pleasure. Nikolsky cites Gosling and Taylor's work for his own insight into the erroneous contention that Epicurus valued "katastematic" pleasure higher than any other type.
- Cicero's "On Ends" - Torquatus Section An excellent and full presentation on the issue of "Pleasure vs Virtue" as expressed authoritatively in Latin as edited by Cicero.
- Cicero's "On The Nature of the Gods" - Velleius Section. An important surviving source for our knowledge of the Epicurean viewpoint of the "gods" as truly-existing material beings.
- The Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda - Martin Ferguson Smith translation. An important resource for validating our understanding of Epicurus, as expressed in an inscription on a wall in Asia Minor, sometime in the 200's AD.
- A Few Days In Athens" - Frances Wright. While not ancient and therefore not authoritative, an insightful and readable fictional story of life with a new student of Epicurus in ancient Athens. Highly praised by Thomas Jefferson.
- Lucian Core Texts on Epicurus: (1) Alexander the Oracle-Monger, (2) Hermotimus. Many works of Lucian contain Epicurean perspectives and are entertaining as well. These two are among the most notable from an Epicurean pespective.
- Philodemus "On Methods of Inference" This translation by DeLacy includes a very good appendix on the development of Epicurean empirical views, and on the relationship of Epicurean canon to Aristotle and other Greek approaches.
Here is a "library" page at NewEpicurean.com with links to where many additional translations are available for free on the internet.