Epicurean quotes

Philosophy

“The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”

 “Vain is the word of that philosopher which does not heal any suffering of man.”

“We must laugh and philosophize and manage our households and look after our other affairs all at the same time, and never stop proclaiming the words of the true philosophy.”

“It is not the pretended but the real pursuit of philosophy that is needed for we do not need the appearance of good health but to enjoy it in truth.”

“Meditate then, on all these things, and on those things which are related to them, both day and night, and both alone and with like-minded companions. For if you will do this, you will never be disturbed while asleep or awake by imagined fears, but you will live like a god among men. For a man who lives among immortal blessings is in no respect like a mortal being.”

“Let no one delay the study of philosophy while young nor weary of it when old.”

“He who says either that the time for philosophy has not yet come or that it has passed is like someone who says that the time for happiness has not yet come or that it has passed.”

“We should not view the young man as happy, but rather the old man whose life has been fortunate. The young man at the height of his powers is often befuddled by chance and driven from his course; but the old man has dropped anchor in old age as in a harbor, since he secures in sure and thankful memory goods for which he was once scarcely confident of.”

“Both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom: the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come.”

“Remember that you are mortal and have a limited time to live and have devoted yourself to discussions on nature for all time and eternity and have seen.”

“In a philosophical dispute, he gains most who is defeated, since he learns the most.”

“Question each of your desires: “What will happen to me if that which this desire seeks is achieved, and what if it is not?”

“I have never wished to cater to the crowd; for what I know they do not approve, and what they approve I do not know.”

“He who has peace of mind disturbs neither himself nor another.”

“We must envy no one; for the good do not deserve envy and as for the bad, the more they prosper, the more they ruin it for themselves.”

“Necessity is an evil; but there is no necessity for continuing to live with necessity.”

“Fools are tormented by the memory of former evils; wise men have the delight of renewing in grateful remembrance the blessings of the past. We have the power both to obliterate our misfortunes in an almost perpetual forgetfulness and to summon up pleasant and agreeable memories of our successes. But when we fix our mental vision closely on the events of the past, then sorrow or gladness ensues according as these were evil or good.”

“We should find solace for misfortune in the happy memory of what has been and in the knowledge that what has been cannot be undone.”

“Live unnoticed-lathe viōsas (λάθε βιώσας).”

“We must free ourselves from the prison of public education and politics.”

“The fool’s life is empty of gratitude and full of fears; its course lies wholly toward the future.”

“Don't fear the gods,
Don't worry about death;
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure.”

“Natural justice is a symbol or expression of usefulness, to prevent one person from harming or being harmed by another.”

“It is impossible for a man who secretly violates the terms of the agreement not to harm or be harmed to feel confident that he will remain undiscovered, even if he has already escaped ten thousand times; for until his death he is never sure that he will not be detected.”

“Justice... is a kind of compact not to harm or be harmed.”

Friendship

“The noble man is chiefly concerned with wisdom and friendship; of these, the former is a mortal good, the latter and immortal one.”

“Neither he who is always seeking material aid from his friends nor he who never considers such aid is a true friend; for one engages in petty trade, taking a favor instead of gratitude, and the other deprives himself of hope for the future.”

“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.”

“To eat and drink without a friend is to devour like the lion and the wolf.”

“All friendship is desirable in itself, though it starts from the need of help.”

“Of all the things which wisdom acquires to produce the blessedness of the complete life, for the greatest is the possession of friendship.”

“Friendship dances around the world bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness.”

“The wise man feels no more pain when being tortured himself than when his friend tortured, and will die for him; for if he betrays his friend, his whole life will be confounded by distrust and completely upset.”

Gods

“The opinions held by most people about the gods are not true conceptions of them but fallacious notions, according to which awful penalties are meted out to the evil and the greatest of blessings to the good.”

“The blessed and indestructible being of the divine has no concerns of its own, nor does it make trouble for others. It is not affected by feelings of anger or benevolence, because these are found where there is lack of strength.”

“If the gods listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished: for they are forever praying for evil against one another.”

“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.”

Happiness

“Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.”

“By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul.”

“[Peasure] is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of merrymaking, not sexual love, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest disturbances take possession of the soul.”

“The magnitude of pleasure reaches its limit in the removal of all pain. When such pleasure is present, so long as it is uninterrupted, there is no pain either of body or of mind or of both together.”

“Unlimited time and limited time afford an equal amount of pleasure, if we measure the limits of that pleasure by reason.”

“No pleasure is in itself evil, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail annoyances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.”

“It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.”

“We must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed toward attaining it.”

“We have been born once and cannot be born a second time; for all eternity we shall no longer exist. But you, although you are not in control of tomorrow, are postponing your happiness. Life is wasted by delaying, and each one of us dies amid worries.”

“One who understands the limits of the good life knows that what eliminates the pains brought on by need and what makes the whole of life perfect is easily obtained, so that there is no need for enterprises that entail the struggle for success.”

“Every pain is easy to disregard; for that which is intense is of brief duration, and those bodily pains that last long are mild.”

Self reliance

“What cannot be satisfied is not a man's stomach, as most men think, but rather the false opinion that the stomach requires unlimited filling.”

“He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing.”

“The cry of the flesh is not to be hungry, thirsty, or cold; for he who is free of these and is confident of remain so might vie even with Zeus for happiness.”

“A free man cannot acquire many possessions, because this is no easy feat without becoming a hireling of mobs or dynasts. And yet he has a constant abundance of everything, and if he should chance to gain many possessions, he could easily portion them out so as to win his neighbors’ good will.”

“If thou will make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.”

“If you wish to make Pythocles rich, do not add to his store of money, but subtract from his desires.”

“The most important consequence of self-sufficiency is freedom.”

“Misfortune seldom intrudes upon the wise man; his greatest and highest interests are directed by reason throughout the course of life.”

“The wise man who has become accustomed to necessities knows better how to share with others than how to take from them, so great a treasure of self-sufficiency has he found.”

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not.”

“It is better for you to be free of fear lying upon a pallet, than to have a golden couch and a rich table and be full of trouble.”

“The misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool.”

“Chance seldom interferes with the wise man; his greatest and highest interests have been, are, and will be, directed by reason throughout his whole life.”

“The soul neither rids itself of disturbance nor gains a worthwhile joy through the possession of greatest wealth, nor by the honor and admiration bestowed by the crowd, or through any of the other things sought by unlimited desire.”

“There is also a limit in simple living, and he who fails to understand this falls into an error as great as that of the man who gives way to extravagance.”

Nature

“I am grateful to blessed Nature, because she made what is necessary easy to acquire and what is hard to acquire unnecessary.”

“The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to produce; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.”

Of our desires some are natural and necessary, others are natural but not necessary; and others are neither natural nor necessary, but are due to groundless opinion.”

“The study of nature does not create men who are fond of boasting and chattering or who show off the culture that impresses the many, but rather men who are strong and self-sufficient, and who take pride in their own personal qualities not in those that depend on external circumstances.”

“It is not possible for a man to banish all fear of the essential questions of life unless he understands the nature of the universe and unless he banishes all consideration that the fables told about the universe could be true. Therefore a man cannot enjoy full happiness, untroubled by turmoil, unless he acts to gain knowledge of the nature of things.”

“Things that are now and are to me come and have been.”

“If a person fights the clear evidence of his senses he will never be able to share in genuine tranquility.”

Death

“Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.”

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

“[A] right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not because it adds to it an infinite span of time, but because it takes away the craving for
immortality. For there is nothing terrible in life for the man who has truly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living.”

“Death is nothing to us, because a body that has been dispersed into elements experiences no sensations, and the absence of sensation is nothing to us.”

“Therefore, foolish is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will cause pain when it arrives but because anticipation of it is painful.”

“I was not, I was, I am not, I care not. (Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo).”

“I have anticipated you, Fortune, and entrenched myself against all your secret attacks. And we will not give ourselves up as captives to you or to any other circumstance; but when it is time for us to go, spitting contempt on life and on those who here vainly cling to it, we will leave life crying aloud in a glorious triumph-song that we have lived well.”