Teaching cheerfully until his painful death in 270 BC, Epicurus contributed enormously to the school of philosophy during his lifetime, his legacy surviving for thousands of years.
Epicurus lived in Athens with his closest friends and spent his days trying to solve the perennial puzzle that troubles us all: happiness. While most philosophers contemplated at length what it means to be good, Epicurus instead aimed to uncover the key principles of contentment.
Naturally, his early works attracted severe criticism from other scholars. Surrendering more intellectual pursuits in favour of searching for happiness, peers ridiculed Epicurus in the beginning, labelling him as a pleasure-hungry, pseudo-philosophical hedonist.
Rumours even circulated claiming that Epicurus would engorge himself with lavish ten-course feasts every evening, others insisting that he frequently partook in orgies with several women at a time.
Meanwhile, poor Epicurus lived modestly out in the countryside. His diet consisted of little more than bread, olives and an occasional slice of cheese as a treat whilst he studied happiness from his humble home and garden in Athens.
Teaching passionately until the very end of his life, Epicurus spent his days hashing out a wealth of thought-provoking material which would be quoted for many years after his death.
One of his most famous sayings summarises the core principle behind his teachings:
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
This is but one of Epicurus’s maxims for joy. He proposed that we all make three mistakes when searching for happiness, and it is the corresponding solutions to these mistakes that I’ll be discussing in this article.
1. Cultivate True Friendships
In contrast to the false stories attached to his name, Epicurus wasn’t interested in sex or romance. He argued that our obsession with romantic…