With today’s release of the Letter to Pythocles, I have now completed these “ Elemental Editions” of each of Epicurus’ three letters from Diogenes Laertius, plus a. The Letter to Pythocles. CLEON brought me a letter from you in which you continue to express a kindly feeling towards me, which is a just return for my interest in. The Letter to Pythocles is a treatment of phenomena of the sky. It is possibly one of the few fully extant writings of Epicurus — the second of three.
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The fact that the weather is sometimes foretold from the behavior of certain animals is a mere coincidence in time. The clouds may be formed either by the air condensed under the pressure of the winds, or by the agency of atoms set apart for the end, or by emanations from the earth and waters, or by other causes. These are the Epicurean doctrines.
The circular shape which it assumes pythovles due to the fact that the distance of every point is perceived by our sight to be equal; or it may be because, the atoms in the air or in the pythoclfs and deriving from the sun having been thus united, the aggregate of them presents a sort of roundness.
A Friendly Letter of Complaint. And the rising and setting of the sun, moon, and stars may be due to kindling and quenching, a provided that the circumstances are such as to produce this result in each of the two regions, east and west: He will show a regard for a fair reputation to such an extent as to avoid being despised; and he will find more pleasure than other men in speculations.
Courage is a quality which does not exist by nature, but which is engendered by a consideration of what is suitable. Or again, by congelation in clouds which have uniform density a fall of snow might occur through the clouds which contain moisture being densely packed in close proximity to each other; and these clouds produce a sort of compression and cause hail, and this happens mostly in spring.
Ice is formed by the expulsion from the water of the circular, and the compression of the scalene and acute-angled atoms contained in it; further by the accretion of such atoms from without, which being driven together cause the water to solidify after the expulsion of a certain number of round atoms.
For the animals offer no necessary reason why a storm should be produced and no divine being sits observing when these animals go out and afterwards fulfilling the signs which they have given. First of all, believe that a god is an incorruptible and happy being, as the common opinion of the world dictates; and attach to your theology nothing which is inconsistent with incorruptibility or with happiness; and think that a deity is invested with everything which is able to preserve this happiness, in conjunction with incorruptibility.
For we sow the earth; and friendship arises from a community of, and participation in, pleasures. Nor will he marry a wife whom the laws forbid, as Diogenes says, in his epitome of the Ethical Maxims of Epicurus.
The waning of the moon and again her waxing might be due to the rotation of the moon’s body, and equally well to configurations which the air assumes; further, it may be due to the interposition of certain bodies. Why is the Bishops’ Letter on the U. That certain stars are seen to be left behind by others may be because they travel more slowly, though they go the same round as the others; or it may be that they are drawn back by the same whirling motion and move in the opposite direction; or again it may be that some travel over a larger and others over a smaller space in making the same revolution.
But above all give yourself up to the study of first principles and of infinity and of kindred subjects, and further of the standards and of the feelings and of the end for which we choose between them.
So you will do well to take and learn them and get them up quickly along with the short epitome in my letter to Herodotus. So that both young and old should study philosophy, the one in order that, when he is old, he many be young in good things through the pleasing recollection of the past, and the other in order that he may be at the same time both young and old, in consequence of his absence of fear for the future. This production of a world may be explained thus: Nor will he become a tyrant.
On which account, the correct knowledge of the fact that death is no concern of ours, makes the mortality of life pleasant to us, inasmuch as it sets forth no illimitable time, but relieves us for the longing for immortality.
Health is good for some people, but a matter of indifference to others. But when we pick and choose among them, rejecting one equally consistent with the phenomena, we clearly fall away from the study of nature altogether and tumble into myth. Moreover there are several other ways in which this might be brought about, as may be seen by anyone capable of reasoning in accordance with the facts.
And every objection brought against this part of the theory will easily be met by anyone who attends to plain facts, as I show in my work On Nature.
Letter to Pythocles
And there are other ways in which this can be brought about without recourse to myths. It arises when certain suitable seeds rush in from a single world or intermundium, or from several, and undergo gradual additions or articulations or changes of place, it may be, and waterings from appropriate sources, until they are matured and firmly settled in so far as the foundations laid can receive them.
In short, it may happen in letrer of the ways in which the facts within our experience suggest such an appearance to be explicable. But if you allow equal authority to the ideas, which being only an opinion, require to be verified, and to those which bear about them an immediate certainty, you will not escape error; for you will be confounding doubtful opinions with those which are not doubtful, and true judgments with those of a different character.
He will leave books and memorials of himself behind him, but he will not be fond of frequenting assemblies. For it was easily in his power to do so, if it really was his belief.
Letter to Pythocles – Epicurus Wiki
In other passages he says that the gods are speculated on by reason, some existing according to number, and others according to some similarity of form, arising from the continual flowing on of similar images, perfected for this very purpose in human form. The opposite reasons explain their disappearance.
Falling stars, as they are called, may in some cases be due to the mutual friction of the stars themselves, in other cases to the expulsion of certain parts when that mixture of fire and air takes place which was mentioned when we were discussing lightning; or it may be due to the meeting of atoms capable of generating fire, which accord so well as to produce this result, and their subsequent motion wherever the impulse which brought them together at first leads them; or it may be that wind collects in certain dense mist-like masses and, since it is imprisoned, ignites and then bursts forth upon whatever is round about it, and is carried to that place to which its motion impels it.
Nor will he groan and howl when he is put to the torture. They do not think that the wise man will ever be in love, nor that he will be anxious about his burial, nor that love is a passion inspired by the gods, as Diogenes says in his twelfth book. Hail is caused by the firmer congelation and complete transformation, and subsequent distribution into drops, of certain particles resembling wind: To accustom one’s self, therefore, to simple and inexpensive habits is a great ingredient in the perfecting of health, and makes a man free from hesitation with respect to the necessary uses of life.
Snow may be produced by a light vapour full of moisture which the clouds allow to escape by passage intended for that end, when they are pressed, in a corresponding manner, by other clouds, and set in motion by the wind.
The sun, the moon, and the other stars, were originally formed separately, and were afterwards comprehended in the entire total of the world. Do you then study these precepts, and those which are akin to them, by all means day and night, pondering on them by yourself, and discussing them with any one like yourself, and then you will never be disturbed by either sleeping or waking fancies, but you will live like a god among men; for a man living amid immortal gods, is in no respect like a mortal being.
And none of the celestial phenomena stand in the way, if only we always keep in mind the method of plural explanation and the several consistent assumptions and causes, instead of dwelling on what is inconsistent and giving it a false importance so as always to fall back in one way or another upon the single explanation.
The appearance of the face in the moon may equally well arise from interchange of parts, or from interposition of something, or in any other of the ways which might be seen to accord with the facts. Clouds may form and gather either because the air is condensed under the pressure of winds, or because atoms which hold together and are suitable to produce this result become mutually entangled, or because currents collect from tile earth and the waters ; and there are several other ways in which it is not impossible for the aggregations of such bodies into clouds to be brought about.
Above all, apply yourself to the study of general principles, of the infinite, and of questions of this kind, and to the investigation of the different criteria and of the passions, and to the study of the chief good, with a view to which we prosecute all our researches.
On-line English translation of Epicurus’ summary of his explanations for celestial and meteorological phenomena.