DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A049-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved February 26, 2024, from

14. Influence

Epicureanism enjoyed exceptionally widespread popularity, but unlike its great rival Stoicism it never entered the intellectual bloodstream of the ancient world. Its stances were dismissed by many as Philistine, especially its official rejection of all cultural and intellectual activities not geared to the Epicurean good life. It was also increasingly viewed as atheistic, and its ascetic hedonism misrepresented as crude sensualism (hence the modern use of ‘epicure’). The school nevertheless continued to flourish down to and well beyond the end of the Hellenistic age. The poets Virgil and Horacehad Epicurean backgrounds, and other prominent Romans such as Cassius, the assassin of Julius Caesar, called themselves Epicureans. In the first three centuries of the Roman Empire many writers show some debt to Epicurean thought, including not only the novelist Petronius but even the Stoic Seneca and the Platonist Porphyry. When Marcus Aurelius (§1), Roman emperor ad 161–80, established four official chairs of philosophy at Athens, a chair of Epicureanism was among them. In later antiquity Epicureanism’s influence declined, although it continued to provide a target for thinkers, both Christian and pagan, in search of a godless philosophy to attack. Serious interest in it was revived by Renaissance humanists, and its atomism was an important influence on early modern physics, especially through Gassendi.

Citing this article:
Sedley, David. Influence. Epicureanism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A049-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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