By Jacob Bell, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
There is probably no other ancient Greek philosopher who has been so misunderstood in our modern era. Nowadays his philosophy is associated with excess and drinking and food apps… but the reality is, he preached the exact opposite. Indeed, his name should connote moderation, science, atheism, death…and happiness?
Who are we talking about? None other than Epicurus.
A radical thinker of his time, Epicurus was a philosopher of the Hellenistic period, living from 341-271 BCE. Living in accordance with his philosophy, which came to be known as Epicureanism, he lived a rather simple, peaceful, and relaxing life. He utilized his garden as a classroom, and relied heavily on donations to survive. Aside from the occasional college party, Epicurus and his students lived mostly on bread and water.
By Jocelyn Hitchcock, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Considered one of the greatest sculptors of all time and producing pieces that are considered masterpieces even today, Phidias’ (or Pheidias) work remains to tantalize our imaginations. Due to the fact that we can only reconstruct some of his works, such as the colossal statues Athena Parthenos or Zeus at Olympia, from copies and descriptions, we truly can only imagine the immense impression that his art must have created for the ancient audience. Outlining the life of Phidias proves to be quite entertaining, peppered with a rise to fame, favoritism, scandal, bribery, and even exile. This all paints a vibrant portrait of the sculptor… however we should be wary of these stories since the majority are anecdotal as opposed to biographical.
Pheidias’ Early Life
As with most historical figures in antiquity, exact dates are unknown. However, Phidias is expected to have been born around 490 BCE in Athens. He was the son of Charmides and was trained by other Athenian sculptors. Probable teachers in his early life were Hegias of Athens and Ageladas of Argos. Ageldas, or Hageladas, is suspected to be the reason behind the Dorian style exhibited in some of Pheidias’ work.
Today’s Classics Challenge delves into the importance of Xenia… and how resurfacing this concept can make for both better individuals and society as a whole.
But first… What is Xenia? Watch the video below to learn of this critical part of Ancient Greek (and indeed modern Greek) culture:
While this was an essential part of Ancient Greece, perhaps tragically it has become less pervasive today, a loss to our communities and cultures. Indeed, the reverse “Xenophobia” is something encountered more and more instead.
Enjoy the little Things: Epicureanism
Epicurus was a philosopher that began flexing his intellectual muscles only a few decades after the death of Aristotle. Born on the island of Samos, Epicurus would spend his life traveling across much of Greece before winding up in the philosophy headquarters of the world, Athens.
He is often accused of being a hedonist because his philosophy would appear to define good, ethical behavior as anything that is pleasurable… but this is not necessarily correct.
In ancient Greece, prior to being written down, stories were recounted orally. Due to that, memory played an important part in the life of an ancient Greek storyteller. The Odyssey for instance, had 12,110 lines – and each one of those had to be recited by memory – a seemingly impossible task today.
Did the Greeks simply have better memory than we do now? Probably not… but what they did have was methods to improve their memory. These were helpful to recall the epic poems or narration… today the techniques are useful for tests, orations, and just as importantly, exercising your brain to avoid age related memory loss.
One of the methods invented by the ancient Greeks to improve their memories was the Method of Loci. This technique is known alternatively as the Memory Journey, the Memory Palace, or the Mind Palace Technique.
Heraclitus (535 – 475 BC) was a Greek Pre Socratic Philosopher who believed that the universe was governed by a divine logos or reason. This fundamental law of the universe held all things in perfect balance.
“Everything changes and nothing stands still.”
As quoted by Plato in Cratylus, 402a