The Epicurean Inscription (Abridged)
by Diogenes of Oinoanda (c. 200 CE)
Translation by Martin Ferguson Smith

© 1992 by Bibliopolis; Napoli, Italy, All rights reserved
(Reproduced by Permission)



Purple text indicates that the words translated are wholly or largely restored.
Ellipses (...) of various lengths indicate gaps of various lengths in the text.


Fr. 1

Diogenes of Oinoanda's epitome on sensation and nature.

Fr. 2

...observing that most people suffer from false notions about things and do not listen to the body when it brings important and just accusations against the soul, alleging that it is unwarrantably mauled and maltreated by the soul and dragged to things which are not necessary (in fact, the wants of the body are small and easy to obtain — and the soul too can live well by sharing in their enjoyment — while those of the soul are both great and difficult to obtain and, besides being of no benefit to our nature, actually involve dangers). So (to reiterate what I was saying) observing that these people are in this predicament, I bewailed their behaviour and wept over the wasting of their lives, and I considered it the responsibility of a good man to give benevolent assistance, to the utmost of one's ability, to those of them who are well-constituted.  This is the first reason for the inscription.

I declare that the vain fear of death and that of the gods grip many of us, and that joy of real value is generated not by theatres and ...and baths and perfumes and ointments, which we have left to the masses, but by natural science...

Fr. 3

And I wanted to refute those who accuse natural science of being unable to be of any benefit to us.  In this way, citizens, even though I am not engaging in public affairs, I say these things through the inscription just as if I were taking action, and in an endeavour to prove that what benefits our nature, namely freedom from disturbance, is identical for one and all.

And so, having described the second reason for the inscription, I now go on to mention my mission and to explain its character and nature.

Having already reached the sunset of my life (being almost on the verge of departure from the world on account of old age), I wanted, before being overtaken by death, to compose a fine anthem to celebrate the fullness of pleasure and so to help now those who are well-constituted. Now, if only one person or two or three or four or five or six or any larger number you choose, sir, provided that it is not very large, were in a bad predicament, I should address them individually and do all in my power to give them the best advice. But, as I have said before, the majority of people suffer from a common disease, as in a plague, with their false notions about things, and their number is increasing (for in mutual emulation they catch the disease from one another, like sheep) moreover, it is right to help also generations to come (for they too belong to us, though they are still unborn) and, besides, love of humanity prompts us to aid also the foreigners who come here. Now, since the remedies of the inscription reach a larger number of people, I wished to use this stoa to advertise publicly the medicines that bring salvation. These medicines we have put fully to the test; for we have dispelled the fears that grip us without justification, and, as for pains, those that are groundless we have completely excised, while those that are natural we have reduced to an absolute minimum, making their magnitude minute.

Fr. 4

... us ... the first ...

... as is supposed by some of the philosophers and especially the Socratics. They say that pursuing natural science and busying oneself with investigation of celestial phenomena is superfluous and unprofitable, and they do not even deign to concern themselves with such matters. 

Fr. 5

Others do not explicitly stigmatise natural science as unnecessary, being ashamed to acknowledge this, but use another means of discarding it. For, when they assert that things are inapprehensible, what else are they saying than that there is no need for us to pursue natural science?  After all, who will choose to seek what he can never find?

Now Aristotle and those who hold the same Peripatetic views as Aristotle say that nothing is scientifically knowable, because things are continually in flux and, on account of the rapidity of the flux, evade our apprehension. We on the other hand acknowledge their flux, but not its being so rapid that the nature of each thing is at no time apprehensible by sense- perception. And indeed in no way would the upholders of the view under discussion have been able to say (and this is just what they do maintain that at one time this is white and this black, while at another time neither this is white nor that black, if they had not had previous knowledge of the nature of both white and black.

And the so-called ephectic philosophers, of whom Lacydes of Cyrene...

Fr. 6

As for the first bodies, also called elements, which on the one hand have subsisted from the beginning and are indestructible, and on the other hand generate things, we shall explain what they are after we have demolished the theories of others.

Well, Heraclitus of Ephesus identified fire as elemental, Thales of Miletus water, Diogenes of Apollonia and Anaximenes air, Empedocles of Acragas fire and air and water and earth, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae the homoeomeries of each thing, and the Stoics matter and God.  As for Democritus of Abdera, he did well to identify atoms as elemental, but since his conception of them was in some respects mistaken, he will be considered in the exposition of our theories. 

Now we shall bring charges against the said men, not out of contentiousness towards them, but because we wish the truth to be safeguarded; and we shall deal with Heraclitus first, since he has been placed first on our list.

You are mistaken, Heraclitus, in saying that fire is elemental, for neither is it indestructible, since we observe it being destroyed, nor can it generate things...

Fr. 7

........................ this .......... is nothing .......  void ....... to be acted upon, .... to be acted upon .... infinity .... nothing ..... cannot ... the last, because he (?) knows it.

Even Democritus erred in a manner unworthy of himself when he said that atoms alone among existing things have true reality, while everything else exists by convention. For, according to your account, Democritus, it will be impossible for us even to live, let alone discover the truth, since we shall be unable to protect ourselves from either fire or slaughter or any other force.

Fr. 8

Since the first bodies cannot be broken up by anyone, whether he is god or man, one is left to conclude that these things are absolutely indestructible, beyond the reach of necessity. For if they were destroyed, in accordance with necessity, into the nonexistent, all things would have perished.

Fr. 9

And often mirrors too will be my witnesses that likenesses and appearances are real entities.  For what I say will certainly not be denied at all by the image which will give supporting evidence on oath in mirrors.  We should not see ourselves in them, nor indeed would any reflection be created, if there were not a continual flow being borne from us to the mirrors and bringing back an image to us. For this too is convincing proof of the effluence, seeing that each of the parts is carried to the point straight ahead.

Now the images that flow from objects, by impinging on our eyes, cause us both to see external realities and, through entering our soul, to think of them. So it is through impingements that the soul receives in turn the things seen by the eyes; and after the impingements of the first images, our nature is rendered porous in such a manner that, even if the objects which it first saw are no longer present, images similar to the first ones are received by the mind, creating visions both when we are awake and in sleep.

And let us not be surprised that this happens even when we are asleep; for images flow to us in the same way at that time too.  How so? When we are asleep, with all the senses as if it were paralysed and extinguished again in sleep, the soul, which is still wide awake and yet is unable to recognise the predicament and condition of the senses at that time, on receiving the images that approach it, conceives an untested and false opinion concerning them, as if it were actually apprehending the solid nature of true realities; for the means of testing the opinion are asleep at that time. These are the senses; for the rule and standard of truth with respect to our dreams remain these.

In opposition to your argument, Democritus, we now say this: the nature of dreams is in no way god-sent, as you maintain, or monitory, but rather dreams are produced, I say, by certain natural entities, with the result that the fallacious argument is turned aside, for, as I have shown, the same images which cause vision cause dreams as well as thought.

 Fr. 10

... asleep ... So visions are not empty illusions of the mind, as the Stoics hold.  For indeed, if on the one hand they call them empty on the ground that, while they have a corporeal nature, it is exceedingly subtle and does not impinge on the senses, they have expressed themselves wrongly, since it was necessary to call them corporeal, despite their subtlety.  If on the other hand they call them empty on the ground that they have no corporeal nature at all -- and it is in fact this rather than the former which they mean --, how can the empty be represented?

What then are they?  Visions in fact have a composition which is subtle and eludes our sight, but which is not empty.  For the mind, being superior in subtlety, .... provides ... the starting-point and ... things ... and moves ........... imagining that we shall be struck with a sword or shall fall from a precipice, we spring up in consequence of our fear, even when we are in company.  To these examples I add this further one: since in our dreams, as also when we are awake, we perform sexual acts, it is no good arguing that the pleasure we derive from them is unreal because we are asleep.  So one must not call these visions empty, since they actually possess such great power.

On the other hand, however, if they are not empty , that does not mean that they are sentient and rational and really chat to us, as Democritus supposes; for films which are so subtle and lack the depth of a solid constitution cannot possibly possess these faculties.

So these theorists, the Stoics and Democritus, went astray in opposite directions: the Stoics deprive visions of a power which they do have, while Democritus endows them with a power which they do not have.  In fact the nature of dreams...

Fr. 12

The caves which they frequented with the advance of time, as they sought shelter from wintry storms, gave them the conception of houses, while the wraps which they made for their bodies, as they protected them either with foliage or with plants or even (for they were already killing animals) with skins, gave them the notion of clothes -- not yet plaited, but perhaps made by felting or some such process.  Then the advance of time inspired them or their descendants with the idea of the loom as well.

So no arts, any more than these, should be explained by the introduction of Athena or any other deity; for all were the offspring of needs and experiences in conjunction with time.

And with regard to vocal sounds -- I mean the words and phrases, of which the earth-born human beings produced the first utterances --, let us not introduce Hermes as teacher, as some claim he was (for this is palpable drivel), nor let us credit those philosophers who say that it was by deliberate invention and teaching that names were assigned to things in order that human beings might have distinctive designations for them to facilitate their communication with one another.  It is absurd, indeed more absurd than any absurdity, as well as quite impossible, that any one individual should have assembled such vast multitudes (at that time there were as yet no kings, and indeed, in the absence of any vocal sounds, no writing; and with regard to these multitudes it would have been quite impossible, except by means of decree, for their assembly to have taken place) and, having assembled them, should have taken hold of a rod (?) and proceeded to teach them like an elementary schoolmaster, touching each object and saying "let this be called 'stone,' this 'wood,' this 'human being' or 'dog' or 'ox' or 'ass' ..."

Fr. 13

The heavenly bodies, when the whirls of air cause such strong movement, are all violently tossed about, but some meet one another, while others do not; and some pursue a straight course up to a certain point, others, like the sun and moon, an oblique one, while others revolve in the same place, like the Bear; moreover, some move in a high orbit, others however in a low one. Yes, and this is a fact of which most people are ignorant: they suppose the sun at any rate to be as low as it appears to be, whereas it is not as low; for if it were so, the earth and everything on it would necessarily be set ablaze. So it is its image which we see low, not the sun itself. However, this is to digress. 

Let us now discuss risings and settings and related matters after making this preliminary point: if one is investigating things that are not directly perceptible, and if one sees that several explanations are possible, it is reckless to make a dogmatic pronouncement concerning any single one; such a procedure is characteristic of a seer rather than a wise man. It is correct, however, to say that, while all explanations are possible, this one is more plausible than that. 

It is therefore possible that the sun is a disc resembling red-hot charcoal and of an extremely fine texture, lifted up by the winds and functioning like a spring, in that some fire flows away from it, while other fire flows into it from the surroundings, on account of their multifarious mixture, in aggregations of small parts. Thus it is of itself naturally sufficient for the world ... 

Fr. 14

Hail, not unreasonably, is produced by a fine, loose conglomeration, which is due to the self-moving energy of what surrounds it and is formed either by a wind that is cold but high in the air or by filmy snow.

Fr. 15

... all men hoped ................ at a loss.  For if they experience distinct visions, and are unable to discover how these are produced, understandably, I think, they are involved in apprehension; and sometimes they are even convinced that there is a creator ...

Fr. 16

..... and they vehemently denounce the most pious people as atheistic.  And in fact it will become evident that it is not we who deny the gods, but others.

Thus Diagoras of Melos, with certain others who closely followed his theory, categorically asserted that gods do not exist and vigorously attacked all those who thought otherwise.

Protagoras of Abdera in effect put forward the same view as Diagoras, but expressed it differently to avoid its excessive audacity.  For he said that he did not know whether gods exist, which is the same as saying that he knew that they do not exist.  If indeed he had balanced the first statement with "However, I do not know that they do not exist," perhaps he would almost have a circumlocution to avoid the appearance of denying the gods completely.  But he said "I do not know that they exist," and not "I do not know that they do not exist," doing exactly the same as Diagoras, who indefatigably did not stop saying that he did not know that they exist.  Therefore, as I say, either Protagoras in that case in effect put forward the same view as Diagoras or ..

Fr. 17

..................................... in a chariot, making Triptolemus mount one and providing him with most wretched toils ..................................................... For indeed, while honouring supreme Zeus and Demeter as deities, we regard human beings not as their slaves, but as their friends.

Fr. 18

................ that we may not suppose, having shared in judging what is still the subject of dispute, ...

................ Let us not think that the gods are capable of examining people who are unjust and base and noble and just.  Otherwise the greatest disturbances will be created in our souls.

Fr. 19

Let us then contradict Homer, who talks all sorts of nonsense about them, representing them sometimes as adulterers, sometimes as lame, sometimes as thievish, or even as being struck by mortals with a spear, as well as inducing the craftsmen to produce inappropriate portrayals. Some statues of gods shoot arrows and are produced holding a bow, represented like Heracles in Homer; others are attended by a body-guard of wild beasts; others are angry with the prosperous, like Nemesis according to popular opinion; whereas we ought to make statues of the gods genial and smiling, so that we may smile back at them rather than be afraid of them.

Well, then, you people, let us reverence the gods rightly both at festivals and on unhallowed occasions, both publicly and privately, and let us observe the customs of our fathers in relation to them and let not the imperishable beings be falsely accused at all by us in our vain fear that they are responsible for all misfortunes, bringing sufferings to us and contriving burdensome obligations for themselves. And let us also call upon them by name ...

Fr. 20

It is impossible, to begin with, that he should have need of a city and fellow-citizens, as well as being quite absurd that he, as a god, should seek to have men as fellow-citizens. And there is this further point too: if he had created the world as a habitation and city for himself, I seek to know where he was living before the world was created; I do not find an answer, at any rate not one consistent with the doctrine of these people when they declare that this world is unique. So for that infinite time, apparently, the god of these people was cityless and homeless and, like an unfortunate man — I do not say "god" —, having neither city nor fellow-citizens, he was destitute and roaming about at random. If therefore the divine nature shall be deemed to have created things for its own sake, all this is absurd; and if for the sake of men, there are yet other more absurd consequences.

Let its divide the discussion into two -- the world and men themselves. And first let us speak about the world. 

If indeed all things are well arranged for men and nothing is antagonistic to them, our situation is like that of creatures made by a god. But let it be agreed first ....

Fr. 21

The sea has excessively large parts of this earth as its share, making a peninsula of the inhabited world; it is itself also full of yet other evils and, to cap all, has water which is not even drinkable, but briny and bitter, as if it had been purposely made like this by the god to prevent men from drinking.

Moreover, the so-called Dead Sea, which is really and truly dead (for it is never sailed), even deprives the local inhabitants of part of the land which they occupy; for it drives them away to a very considerable distance with its impetuous attacks and again floods their land as it withdraws, as though being on its guard lest they may do any cleaving of the earth with a plough. 

Such then are the things of the world.  But the things of men themselves -- let us now see if they are well arranged by divine providence.  Let us begin like this: fine indeed, my friends, is this creature man -- a creature that is rational, gifted with prescience of the future, and capable of leading a blissful life -- if he possesses virtue for its own sake and good dispositions.  But this creature does not possess wisdom or indeed virtue, according to the Stoics who hold that view; for the great folly of all men prevents them. And ... not ...

Fr. 22

... prostrate ourselves before your images. By making men tyrants you permit outrages. Let us also refer to soldiers who have inflicted numerous hardships on the whole world. And let us remember certain tribes and ..... in our  ...

Who then, father Zeus, if he hears any talk of gods who allow such great evils to afflict mankind ... ?

Fr. 23

Enough of this subject, since it is not necessary to say anything in reference to (?) the trap posed by meanings that remain concealed (?), unless you think that we do not appreciate what great misfortunes some people have experienced on account of this ambiguity and intricate obliqueness of oracles, or that this is the right time for us to give a thorough explanation of the kind of disaster which the Spartans suffered after they had consulted the Delphic oracle concerning Arcadia.

Fr. 24

In this case a natural philosopher used arguments of a dialectician, attempting the art of divination concerning dreams and wholly trusting them. For ................... Antiphon, he says, predicted, when he was consulted by a runner, who was just about to compete for a prize at Olympia, that he would be beaten.  For the runner, he says, said, when consulting Antiphon, that he thought that an eagle was giving chase in his dreams. And Antiphon at once told him to remember that an eagle always drives other birds before it and is itself last.  However, he says that another interpreter declared, when he was consulted, that the god did not say at all to the runner "you will be beaten," and that the eagle is no cause for anxiety. If, thanks to Antiphon, he (the runner) had not shown him (the interpreter) up, so that he was able to see that the dream could be interpreted in entirely different ways, he would not have suspected that he was receiving unreliable advice.  ... For ... thing ... as dreams testify ...

Fr. 25

To the happy man, the unhappy man always seems more turbulent than him, since he is full of disturbance and confusion.


Fr. 28

Diogenes of Oinoanda’s epitome on emotions and actions.

Fr. 29

There are many who pursue philosophy for the sake of wealth and fame, with the aim of procuring these either from private individuals or from kings, by whom philosophy is deemed to be some great and precious possession.

Well, it is not in order to gain any of the above-mentioned objectives that we have embarked upon the same undertaking, but so that we may enjoy happiness through attainment of the goal craved by nature.

The identity of this goal and how neither wealth can furnish it, nor political fame, nor royal office, nor a life of luxury and sumptuous banquets, nor pleasures of choice love-affairs, nor anything else, while philosophy alone can secure it, we shall now explain after setting the whole question before you. For we have had this writing inscribed in public not for ourselves, but for you, citizens, so that we might render it available to all of you in an easily accessible form without oral instruction. And ... you ...

Fr. 30 

... time ... and we contrived this in order that, even while sitting at home, we might be able to exhibit the goods of philosophy, not to all people here indeed, but to those of them who are civil-spoken; and not least we did this for those who are called "foreigners," though they are not really so.  For, while the various segments of the earth give different people a different country, the whole compass of this world gives all people a single country, the entire earth, and a single home, the world.

I am not pressurising any of you into testifying thoughtlessly and unreflectively in favour of those who say "this is true" for I have not laid down the law on anything, not even on matters concerning the gods, unless together with reasoning.

One thing only I ask of you, as I did also just now: do not, even if you should be somewhat indifferent and listless, be like passers-by in your approach to the writings, consulting each of them in a patchy fashion and omitting to read everything ..

Fr. 31

Let us, then, immediately begin by discussing pleasures, and moreover by carefully examining the arguments in detail ...

Fr. 32

... the latter being as malicious as the former.

I shall discuss folly shortly, the virtues and pleasure now.

If, gentlemen, the point at issue between these people and us involved inquiry into "what is the means of happiness?" and they wanted to say "the virtues" (which would actually be true), it would be unnecessary to take any other step than to agree with them about this, without more ado. But since, as I say, the issue is not "what is the means of happiness?" but "what is happiness and what is the ultimate goal of our nature?",  I say both now and always, shouting out loudly to all Greeks and non-Greeks, that pleasure is the end of the best mode of life, while the virtues, which are inopportunely messed about by these people (being transferred from the place of the means to that of the end), are in no way an end, but the means to the end.

Let us therefore now state that this is true, making it our starting-point.

Suppose, then, someone were to ask someone, though it is a naive question, "who is it whom these virtues benefit?", obviously the answer will be "man."  The virtues certainly do not make provision for these birds flying past, enabling them to fly well, or for each of the other animals: they do not desert the nature with which they live and by which they have been engendered; rather it is for the sake of this nature that the virtues do everything and exist.

Each (virtue?) therefore ............... means of (?) ... just as if a mother for whatever reasons sees that the possessing nature has been summoned there, it then being necessary to allow the court to asked what each (virtue?) is doing and for whom .................................... We must show both which of the desires are natural and which are not; and in general all things that are included in the former category are easily attained .....


... such virtues ... pleasure ... and of virtues ... feels much pain ... the evil is ... from all virtues ... apart from tension ... pleasure, but these quibblers admit ... often found not ..., and Zeno himself proposes the opinion ..........., just as if he means virtue when he has said "pleasure," and that men run to them.  And again elsewhere having forgotten this hunger (for they did not say that ........) ... of this ... so that ... it ... in no way .... Since these people lay it down like a trap for all men, it is able to ensnare us(?), just like birds themselves, and to drag us far off even though we have proved fit for the names of the virtues, sometimes ...., at other times ........................................................ submitting to .......

I want now to get rid of the error, prevalent among you along with others, concerning the same emotion, and especially to speak against one doctrine of yours, Stoics.  My argument is as follows: not all causes in things precede their effects, even if the majority do, but some of them precede their effects, others coincide with them, and others follow them.

Examples of causes that precede are cautery and surgery saving life: in these cases extreme pain must be borne, and it is after this that pleasure quickly follows.

Examples of coincident causes are solid and liquid nourishment and, in addition to these, sexual acts: we do not eat food and experience pleasure afterwards, nor do we drink wine and experience pleasure afterwards, nor do we emit semen and experience pleasure afterwards; rather the action brings about these pleasures for us immediately, without awaiting the future.

As for causes that follow, an example is expecting to win praise after death: although men experience pleasure now because there will be a favourable memory of them after they have gone, nevertheless the cause of the pleasure occurs later.

Now you, being unable to mark off these distinctions, and being unaware that the virtues have a place among the causes that coincide with their effects (for they are borne along with pleasure), go completely astray.

Fr. 34

... reasoning ... of happiness ................... is ... hope, after selection of these, and cure of erring emotions. So where, I say, the danger is great, so also is the fruit. Here we must turn aside these fallacious arguments on the grounds that they are insidious and insulting and contrived, by means of terminological ambiguity, to lead wretched human beings astray ....................... let us not avoid every pain that is present, and let us not choose every pleasure, as the many always do. Each person must employ reasoning, since he will not always achieve immediate success: just as exertion (?) often involves one gain at the beginning and certain others as time passes by, so it is also with experiencing pleasure; for sowings of seeds do not bring the same benefit to the sower but we see some seeds very quickly germinating and bearing fruit and others taking longer ............... of pleasures and   pains ........ pleasure

And so the .......... are ....... If .................. prudence.

Let us now investigate how life is to be made pleasant for us both in states and in actions.

Let us first discuss states, keeping an eye on the point that, when the emotions which disturb the soul are removed, those which produce pleasure enter into it to take their place.

Well, what are the disturbing emotions?  They are fears -- of the gods, of death, and of pains -- and, besides these, desires that outrun the limits fixed by nature.  These are the roots of all evils, and, unless we cut them off, a multitude of evils will grow upon us.

Well, let us examine our fear of the gods ...

Fr. 35

As a matter of fact this fear is sometimes clear, sometimes not clear -- clear when we avoid something manifestly harmful like fire through fear that we shall meet death by it, not clear when, while the mind is occupied with something else, it (fear) has insinuated itself into our nature and lurks ...

Fr. 37

The soul furnishes nature with the ultimate cause both of life and of death.  It is true that the number of its constituent atoms, both its rational and irrational parts being taken into account, does not equal that of the body; yet it girdles the whole man and, while being itself confined, binds him in its turn, just as the minutest quantity of acid juice binds a huge quantity of milk.

And this too is a sign, among many others, of the primacy of this cause: often, although the body has been beset by a long illness and has come to be so attenuated and emaciated that the withered skin is all but adhering to the bones and the constitution of the internal parts appears to be empty and bloodless, nevertheless, provided that the soul remains, it does not allow the creature to die. And this is not the only sign of its supremacy, but it is also the case that amputations of hands and often of whole arms or legs by fire and iron cannot unfasten life. So powerful is the dominion which the soul-part of us exercises over it. Contrariwise there are occasions when, although the body is intact and has suffered no diminution of its bulk the faculty of sensation abandons it; for it is of no avail if the soul no longer remains and its union with the body is dissolved.  But, as long as we see the same part still remaining as guardian, the man lives.  Thus, as I said, the ultimate cause of life is the soul being united with or separated from the body.

Fr. 38

The soul cannot survive separation from the body, since it is necessary to understand that it too is a part.  By itself the soul cannot ever either exist (even though Plato and the Stoics talk a great deal of nonsense on the subject) or experience movement, just as the body does not possess sensation when the soul is released from it.

Fr. 39

... in perpetual motion ... If ...., why then ............ we say ..... even to be .... this .... from (?) the ........ after the body, .... it ............... is joined with the body, if ... powerful .... when ..........................  How then, Plato, will imperishability come about for you?  Or how can this in common language be called (?) imperishable ....................?

The Stoics (wanting to say more singular things than others on this subject) deny that the souls are absolutely imperishable, but then say that those of fools are destroyed immediately after the parting of the body, while those of virtuous men survive, though they too are destroyed sometime.  Well, observe the glaring implausibility of their view: they make their assertion as though the wise and the unwise, even if they do differ in intellectual ability, do not have the same mortality.  Actually, I marvel more at their restraint -- how it is that, once the soul is to have the power to exist separate from the body, even if we say for the briefest moment of time, and ... 

Fr. 42

Empedocles in regard to these matters borrowed his philosophy from Pythagoras. .................. going astray (?) he says that the souls transmigrate from body to body after the first has been destroyed, and that this happens ad infinitum, as if someone is not going to say to him: "Empedocles, if the souls are able to survive independently and you have no need (?) to drag them into the nature of a living creature and to transfer them for this reason, how is the transmigration of use to you?  For in the intervening time, during which their transmigration is effected, interrupting the nature of a living creature, they will be thrown into complete confusion (?).  If on the other hand they are in no way able to survive without a body, why exactly do you give yourself -- or rather them -- this trouble, dragging them about and making them transmigrate from one creature to another?  And these ....................................................................................................... It would be preferable to make the souls independent and absolutely indestructible and not to cause them to embark on a long, circuitous voyage, so that eventually your theory, though still fallacious, would command more respect.  Otherwise we shall disbelieve you, Empedocles, with regard to these transmigrations."

Fr. 43

Visions are not empty illusions of the mind, as the Stoics imagine, going completely astray. In fact they also have the nature of corporeal images and impressions similar in form to all these visible objects which their flux allows us to apprehend, as I demonstrated also in the writing before this one, when I was elucidating the theories about dreams

Now these images do not in any way have any sensation, as Democritus [supposes, seeing that they are constructed of fine atoms and are perceptible only by the mind. If they have the form of such things as are congenial to our nature, they make the soul exceedingly glad; but if of such things as are repugnant to our nature, they fill the whole man with a great perturbation and fear and set his heart pounding.

Fr. 44

The soul experiences feelings far greater than the cause which generated them, just as a fire vast enough to burn down ports and cities is kindled by an exceedingly small spark.  But the pre-eminence of these feelings of the soul is difficult for ordinary people to gauge: it is impossible to make a direct comparison by experiencing simultaneously the extremes of both (I mean of the feelings of the soul and of the body), since this seldom ever happens and, when it does happen, life is destroyed; and consequently the criterion for determining the pre-eminence of one of the two is not found.  Instead, when someone encounters bodily pains, he says that these are greater than those of the soul; and when he encounters those of the soul, he says that they are greater than the others.  For what is present is invariably more convincing than what is absent, and each person is likely either through necessity or through pleasure, to confer pre-eminence on the feeling which has hold of him.  However, this matter ,which is difficult for ordinary people to gauge, a wise man calculates on the basis of many factors including ...  (continued in fr. 45?)

Fr. 45

(continuation of fr. 44?)

... including consideration of the future, in respect to which they are worse off, who, when they have been aroused by feelings of the soul ..... struck ....... never ................. they foist their bodily pains upon their souls ...

Fr. 47

Nor do we consider terrible the misfortunes which provoke such great pains.  For (if it is necessary for anyone to take illustrations of pain) when someone has been struck by a thunderbolt, or when a stone four feet across has crushed him with the speed of thought or when he has been decapitated with a sword with the swiftness of a dream, how, in the name of Heracles, is the suffering terrible in such cases, when death occurs immediately and time does not even allow a cry of agony but with great vehemence snatches the soul away from pain?

So, I say, critical occurrences and also those not very far below them, neither of which come to a creature introducing long-term pains in the flesh, are in no way to be feared by us. For if the pain takes a turn for the worse, it no longer continues severely, but the crisis comes and passes away in the shortest time; while if it is relieved, it ushers the creature to health. What then, in the name of the twelve gods, is terrible about that? Or how can we justly bring a complaint against nature, if someone who has lived for so many years and so many months and so many days comes to his last day?

So neither the one eventuality nor the other is evil, since the crisis does not last for many days, after which either death will possess someone and absolute unconsciousness will at once occur, or he will be quickly restored to health and life is preserved.  And as for the crises of diseases, which indeed are themselves bearable in these circumstances, why is it also necessary to experience mental pain about them?

Fr. 48

.................. not (?) ......................... Therefore three kinds of pains -- one coming to us from want, another from sprains and the bones (whether through blows or imperceptibly), another from diseases -- it is in the power of all to escape, in so far as a man's nature is able to avoid them.  Now want has been discussed above; as for wounds and suchlike, this much is sufficient.  For some ................, while others ....

Fr. 49

For even if I did nothing to reveal and point out the nature of pleasures, still they themselves reveal their own nature to us.  In this way ....... well ...... no longer.  Through bodily pleasures the soul readily receives also those that are productive of this.  For our nature wants what is better for our soul.

Moreover, the soul is manifestly more powerful than the body; for it has control of the extreme and supremacy over the other feelings, as indeed we revealed it above.

So if, through paying attention to the arguments of Aristippus, we take care of the body, choosing all the pleasure derived from drink, food and sexual acts and indeed absolutely all the things which no longer give enjoyment after the happening, but neglect the soul, we shall deprive ourselves of the greatest pleasures.

Fr. 51

Neither political fame nor royal office nor wealth is productive of pleasure. The philosopher therefore does not want the authority and dominion of Alexander or still more than even he possessed, since human beings are constituted having no need of what is vain.

Fr. 53

Why then is the fulfilment of certain predictions stronger evidence of the soundness of divination than their non-fulfilment is evidence of its unsoundness?  It is illogical, in my view.  .... I lay down ...

Fr. 54

.... contradictions (?) .................... is so, as these people say, and that it is impossible to escape necessity, ..... the error; while if ....... undecided (?) ............... and .......... for what other argument will he adopt .......?  Evidently he will not have one.

So, if divination is eliminated, what other evidence for fate is there?

If anyone adopts Democritus’ theory and asserts that because of their collisions with one another the atoms have no free movement, and that consequently it appears that all motions are determined by necessity, we shall say to him: "Do you not know, whoever you are, that there is actually a free movement in the atoms, which Democritus failed to discover, but Epicurus brought to light, — a swerving movement, as he proves from phenomena?"  The most important consideration is this: if fate is believed in, all admonition and censure are nullified, and not even the wicked can be justly punished, since they are not responsible for their sins. 

Fr. 56 

So we shall not achieve wisdom universally, since not all are capable of it.  But if we assume it to be possible, then truly the life of the gods will pass to men.  For everything will be full of justice and mutual love, and there will come to be no need of fortifications or laws and all the things which we contrive on account of one another.  As for the necessities derived from agriculture, since we shall have no slaves at that time (for indeed we ourselves shall plough and dig and tend the plants and divert rivers and watch over the crops), we shall ... such things as ... not ... time ..., and such activities, in accordance with what is needful, will interrupt the continuity of the shared study of philosophy; for the farming operations will provide what our nature wants. 


Letter to Antipater

Fr. 62

From Diogenes.

My Dear Antipater,

Of goodwill you have often given me indications already, Antipater, both in the letter which you sent us recently and earlier when I was ardently trying to persuade you in person to turn to philosophy, in which you, if anyone, live the most pleasant life through employing excellent principles.

Accordingly, I assure you, I am most eager to go and meet again both you yourself and the other friends in Athens and in Chalcis and Thebes, and I assume that all of you have the same feeling.

These words of this letter I am now writing to you from Rhodes, where I have recently moved from my own country at the beginning of winter...

Fr. 63

... our own land being hit by snow.

So, as I was saying, having had my appetite most keenly whetted by all the advantage of the voyage, I shall try to meet you as soon as winter had ended, sailing first either to Athens or to Chalcis and Boeotia.

But, since this is uncertain, both on account of the changeability and inconstancy of our fortunes and on account of my old age besides, I am sending you, in accordance with your request, the arguments concerning an infinite number of worlds.  And you have enjoyed good fortune in the matter; for, before your letter arrived, Theodoridas of Lindus, a member of our school not unknown to you, who is still a novice in philosophy, was dealing with the same doctrine.  And this doctrine came to be better articulated as a result of being turned over between the two of us face to face; for our agreements and disagreements with one another, and also our questionings, rendered the inquiry into the object of our search more precise.

I am therefore sending you that dialogue, Antipater, so that you may be in the same position as if you yourself were present, like Theodoridas, agreeing about some matters and making further inquires in cases where you had doubts.

The dialogue began something like this: "Diogenes," said Theodoridas, "that the doctrine laid down by Epicurus on an infinite number of worlds is true I am confident, ................ ................., as if ............. Epicurus .......

Fr. 64

.... the ... of the matter under investigation .... having assumed all that ...

Fr. 65

I laugh at ... and dismissed the arguments, passed on to us by you, of those who say that ....... the world is ...... of some ..... ....... concerning this ...... and into ............... argument ..... We therefore, so that you may not make the earth gape open and fill it and .......

Fr. 66

Let us now ask those who mislead us for the explanation of their theory.  So let us say to the gentlemen: "What do you mean, gentlemen, when you think fit to explain the earth in this way as boundless?  Do you limit the earth throughout its length from above, circumscribing it with a vault of sky, and from that starting-point do you extend it indefinitely into the region below, dismissing the unanimous opinion of all men, both laymen and philosophers, that the heavenly bodies pursue their courses round the earth both above and below, and withdrawing the sun sideways outside the cosmos and reintroducing it sideways?  Or are you not saying this, but that a single earth ............. ? ....................... If ....

Fr. 67

................................... so that ....... them ..... Therefore if the indivisible entities are assumed by us to be finite in number and for the reasons we have stated are incapable of coming together (for there are no longer other entities behind them to surround their number and support them from below and bring them together from the sides), how are they to engender things, when they are isolated from one another?  The consequence is that not even this world would exist.  For if the number of atoms were finite, they would not be able to come together.


Letter to Dionysius (and Carus?)

Fr. 68

... including ..., Dionysius and Carus (?), in a review .... phenomena ..... summary .........

Fr. 69

The current is gradually dissolved by the air.  As a result of the buffeting, it is depleted; for on account of the great extent of space it cannot preserve the order and position of the atoms.  Now, the easily dispersed currents of the atoms, although being carried away in filmy form, nevertheless themselves both have reality and are constructed of matter by nature, just as these atoms are composed by nature.

Since he is awaiting square impressions, a man falsely accuses the eyes when they convey in non-square form impressions which in reality are borne to us through the air in a roundish form.  For in that case he does not know, presumably, that the images emanating from the tower are abraded by the air, but afterwards he sees well that it is not the eyes which are at fault, but the mind...

Fr. 70

In these matters pay attention to us; otherwise it is unhappily necessary to have a prolonged discussion about them.

So, if you had forgotten the doctrine, which we have expounded to Avitianus(?), that the standard of our actions are the feelings of both pleasure and pain, by reference to which we must determine both the avoidance of them and the pursuit of something else, do call it to mind.

But if you remember it, what got into you, my good friends, that you embarked on an action such as this, which has given rise to feelings painful to Niceratus and painful to us on account of his misfortunes?  For if you claim that you have a firm grasp of the doctrine, but that with regard to the decision of sending the man to us or not sending him -- whether you had to do it in those circumstances or you were mistaken --, ................... we ................... you were mistaken ............. the utmost .... Niceratus.

The difficulty to do with this matter has been thoroughly examined so that afterwards all of us may be able to know what we must do ...

Fr. 71

Chance can befall us and do harm, but rarely; for it does not have fuel, like fire, which it may lay hold of.  So Epicurus, having regard to these matters, refused to remove chance from things entirely (for it would have been rash and incompatible with philosophical respectability to give a false account of a matter so clear and patently obvious to all), but not a few occurrences he called only small.  As then the disposition of the wise man can represent the accidental happening in this way, so, it seems, it seldom operates dominantly, as the son of Neocles says: "It is seldom that chance impedes the wise man: it is reason which controls and controlled the greatest and most important matters." .......... most of all .........

Fr. 72   {The survivor is presumed to be Epicurus, on his way to Lampsacus from Mytilene}

... bore ... those on rocks ... the others ...... cold ...................................................... At last he found a place of refuge on the rocks, from which the sea was no longer able to suck him down and shatter him again.  So he was crushed, as one would expect, and swallowed down <sea-water>; he was lacerated through having fallen upon sea-gnawed rocks.  Still, he began to revive and little by little ..........  During the time when, after a long while, the attacks of the waves were intermittent, he barely came safely to dry land, flayed literally all over.  So he lay on the extremity of the lookout-point, where he spent the day in this state and the following night and again the day until evening, spent by hunger and his wounds.

We know now that the accidental is doing well what is reckoned appropriate for you.  For your herald who brought you complete salvation is not dead; for next ..... chance ....

Fr. 73

I follow you when you make these statements about death, and you have persuaded me to laugh at it.  For I have no fear on account of the Tityuses and Tantaluses whom some describe in Hades, nor do I shudder when I reflect upon the decomposition of the body, being convinced that we have no feeling, once the soul is without sensation, or anything else.

Therefore in this matter I must say now: "I shall be deprived of life and I shall leave behind the pleasures that belong to it. -- pleasures for which however after death no one yearns."  For in this case neither a strong hope nor longing possesses him, because he left behind all objects which too will manifestly decompose.  For indeed to the dead, death is nothing...

Fr. 74

... causes distress (?), in the name of Athena?  And surely it is characteristic of the good man to converse with himself and to say this: "I am a human being and it is possible that I was affected in some way (?), since indeed of the flesh is such and such and such a thing and many other things, of which none cannot occur."  So on every occasion he is able to keep in mind those of the affections that are natural , because they are easily defined and marked out as with compasses.