The Epicuriana©

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The Epicuriana©

THE EPICURIANA© is an imaginary life of Epicurus of Samos, a much-maligned philosopher of the Greek ‘Golden Age’, whose radical, yet straightforward ideas struck a chord with me many decades ago.

Instead of dry, abstract teaching, I sensed a vibrant, kindred spirit across the ages, and absorbed all that I could find about this elusive personality. I then put him aside for many years while I tended to my family, career, and friends, though the steadfast influence of his ideas persisted.

Finally, I wanted to see if I could capture some of that enthralling life which I sensed was lurking between the lines of his aphorisms, letters, and accounts of others who knew him. I tried several means of describing what I felt, beginning with an abandoned biography which despite my best efforts, read as flat and wooden. I finally settled on the flowing, dialogue nature of a novel, but told firsthand by Epicurus himself, from his own lived experience, or at least how I imagined it to be.

The tale begins in 271 BC, as the aging Epicurus recounts the sad, yet mysterious, ‘suicide’ of his devoted mother.

While it continues to haunt him, the loss nevertheless, is a life-defining event which sets Epicurus on his course as an audacious philosopher, albeit one who always remains at odds with the traditional schools. Millennia later, in 2015 AD, archeological excavations at Herculaneum, the ancient port of Pompeii, unearth carbonized papyrus scrolls from the volcanic detritus.

The fragile scrolls are finally decrypted sufficiently to reveal a startling discovery: the long-lost journal of Epicurus, the so-called ‘Epicuriana’. We become privy to Epicurus’ worldly adventures, but also his inner fears and aspirations, as well as the single, true romance of his life, steamy and intimate, with the intelligent but feisty Servilia.

Epicurus’ formative years are plagued by missteps such as the aggressive mob in the Agora of Mytilene confronting his first teaching experience; the savage sea battle between the Hector, a seemingly vulnerable merchantman, and the sadistic pirate crew of the Sea Wolf, in which Epicurus calls in his deadly hoplite skill with slingshot; or his subsequent indictment for murder by the Gymniasarch of Lesbos.

On a domestic note, we visit the black basalt hill used for romantic trysts with Servilia; and the luxurious Caldera villa of her enigmatic Roman father, Valerius, whose motives and goodwill remain deeply suspect by Epicurus, until such time as the truth is revealed. Epicurus promoted many revolutionary ideas, not the least of which was the ‘radical belief’ that the immensity of the universe is composed of infinitesimally small ‘atoms’ (an ancient Greek word).

But fame does not come easily, nor does it rest lightly!

Always ominous in the background, lie the powerful, entrenched philosophy schools, founded by Plato and his pupil Aristotle, plotting to destroy his credibility by any possible means, fair or foul. Irate officialdom use trumped-up charges in an attempt to crucify him, while jealous followers spread scandalous rumors of sexual predation in order to gain control of his burgeoning school.

As well as a rollicking yarn of intrigue and derring-do, the Epicuriana challenges our stereotype of classical philosophers as rickety old curmudgeons with long grey beards, past their ‘use-by’ date, whose stern marble heads fill our museums.