The Invention and Gendering of Epicurus

Pamela Gordon

How a study of anti-Epicurian discourse can lead us to a better understanding of the cultural history of Epicurianism


The school of Greek philosopher Epicurus, which became known as the Garden, famously put great stock in happiness and pleasure. As a philosophical community, and a way of seeing the world, Epicureanism had a centuries-long life in Athens and Rome, as well as across the Mediterranean.

The Invention and Gendering of Epicurus studies how the Garden's outlook on pleasure captured Greek and Roman imaginations—particularly among non-Epicureans—for generations after its legendary founding. Unsympathetic sources from disparate eras generally focus not on historic personages but on the symbolic Epicurean. And yet the traditions of this imagined Garden, with its disreputable women and unmanly men, give us intermittent glimpses of historical Epicureans and their conceptions of the Epicurean life.

Pamela Gordon suggests how a close hearing and contextualization of anti-Epicurean discourse leads us to a better understanding of the cultural history of Epicureanism. Her primary focus is on sources hostile to the Garden, but her Epicurean-friendly perspective is apparent throughout. Her engagement with ancient anti-Epicurean texts makes more palpable their impact on modern responses to the Garden.

Intended both for students and for scholars of Epicureanism and its response, the volume is organized primarily according to the themes common among Epicurus' detractors. It considers the place of women in Epicurean circles, as well as the role of Epicurean philosophy in Homer and other writers.

Pamela Gordon is Chair of the Department of Classics at the University of Kansas and the author of Epicurus in Lycia: The Second-Century World of Diogenes of Oenoanda.

Praise / Awards

  • "...a carefully argued, well researched, and intelligent look at gender and rhetoric in the Epicuraen tradition. The argument is well organized and accessible to general readers and scholars alike. Primary texts are presented in Greek and Latin along with clear translations."
    —Scott Rubarth, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  • "Gordon's unique approach is to examine the critics, mostly Roman, of Epicurus and his followers with a view toward finding a balanced description of this ancient school, known as the Garden, remnants of which lasted almost half a millenium.Excellent bibliography. Highly recommended."
    —P.A. Streveler, Choice
  • "...a useful companion to more philosophically oriented surveys of the Epicurean tradition, and a must-read for scholars of Hellenistic philosophy, Roman philosophy, and Lucretius."

  • "Gordon’s book greatly helps us understand how the prototypical Epicurean was fashioned in the ancient world"

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 232pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2012
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11808-3

Add to Cart
  • $79.95 U.S.

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