Epicurus in Lycia is the first full-length study of this eccentric second-century c.e. philosopher from Oenoanda, a small city in the mountains of modern Turkey. Toward the end of his life, Diogenes presented his town with a large limestone inscription that proclaimed the wisdom of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who had lived five centuries earlier. This unique text, rediscovered in the late nineteenth century, has attracted many modern readers. Previous work on Diogenes, however, has concentrated on the reconstruction of Diogenes' fragmentary Greek text and on the information he offers on the lost teachings of Epicurus.
Gordon's study offers a new approach to Diogenes and to the history of ancient Epicureanism in general. Rather than considering Diogenes simply as an orthodox Epicurean, Gordon draws attention to his engagement with the bustling world of second-century Roman Asia Minor, and she demonstrates that his historical setting shaped the way he understood and promoted Epicurean philosophy. She shows that Diogenes participated in the fashionable revival of traditional Greek learning, but that he parted company with his contemporaries regarding popular religion and the general notoriety of Epicureanism.
In the first chapter Gordon establishes the connection between Diogenes' inscription and the revival of ancient Greek culture in the Greek East during the high Roman empire. She demonstrates that despite Diogenes' efforts to align himself with philosophers (rather than with sophists or orators), his inscription betrays sophistic influence. She goes on to argue that his inscription portrays Epicureanism as it was understood and practiced in second-century Asia Minor, not as it was set forth by Epicurus. Here Gordon departs from the traditional approach to Hellenistic philosophy, which portrays Epicureanism as an extremely conservative system that tolerated no innovation. Gordon examines the text of the inscription itself and makes clear Diogenes' decision to work against superstition by promoting Epicureanism.
This accessible volume will be of interest to students and scholars of philosophy ancient and modern, of Greek culture in the Roman Empire, and of classical literature.