Dusty Phrases

Hi! Welcome to “Dusty Phrases.” You will find a phrase below, in one ancient language or another, along with its English translation. You may also find the power to inspire your friends or provoke dread among your enemies.

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λάθε βιώσας
Láthe biṓsas


Live hidden

“Live hidden” is an Epicurean phrase. Epicurus suggested that everybody should live “hidden” – alone, in small groups, or on farms, but away from cities. He considered participating in politics an attack on one’s ability to live in peace. 

What is Epicureanism?

Epicureanism is a system of philosophy founded around 307 BC based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. Epicureanism was originally a challenge to Platonism. Later its main opponent became Stoicism.

Few writings by Epicurus have survived. However, there are independent attestations of his ideas from his later disciples. Some scholars consider the epic poem De rerum natura (Latin for On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius to present in one unified work the core arguments and theories of Epicureanism. Many of the scrolls unearthed at the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum are Epicurean texts. At least some are thought to have belonged to the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus. Epicurus also had a wealthy 2nd c. AD disciple, Diogenes of Oenoanda, who had a portico wall inscribed with tenets of the philosophy erected in Oenoanda, Lycia (present day Turkey).

Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following the Cyrenaic philosopher Aristippus, Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to seek modest, sustainable pleasure in the form of a state of ataraxia (tranquility and freedom from fear) and aponia (the absence of bodily pain) through knowledge of the workings of the world and limiting desires. Correspondingly, Epicurus and his followers generally withdrew from politics because it could lead to frustrations and ambitions which can directly conflict with the Epicurean pursuit for peace of mind and virtues.[1]

Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism insofar as it declares pleasure to be its sole intrinsic goal, the concept that the absence of pain and fear constitutes the greatest pleasure, and its advocacy of a simple life, make it very different from “hedonism” as colloquially understood.

Epicureanism flourished in the Late Hellenistic era and during the Roman era, and many Epicurean communities were established, such as those in Antiochia, Alexandria, Rhodes, and Herculaneum. By the late 3rd century AD Epicureanism all but died out, being opposed by other philosophies (mainly Neoplatonism) that were now in the ascendant. Interest in Epicureanism was resurrected in the Age of Enlightenment and continues in the modern era.

I have always viewed this as a convenient “philosophy” for the wealthy in that it provides intellectual justification for living a lavish and selfish lifestyle. That said, as an introvert, I do like the notion of “living hidden.”

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