Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Inscription

The inscription forms an important source of Epicurean philosophy. The inscription sets out Epicurus' teachings on physics, epistemology, and ethics.

Diogenes utilised a stoa (either of his own construction or already in place) as the means to display his various treatises and opinions on Epicurean thought and some of the personal details of his life and travails. This inscription was 2.37 meters high, and extended about 80 meters. It was originally about 25,000 words long and filled about 260 square meters of wall space. 

It was discovered in 1884, and the first 64 fragments were published in 1892. Since then, more fragments have been discovered, notably in a series of excavations led by Martin Ferguson Smith. Perhaps a quarter of the inscription has been recovered. New parts are being discovered in the excavations of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut; among the parts discovered in 2008 was a statement on Plato's theory of cosmogony.

The inscription contains three treatises written by Diogenes as well as various letters and maxims:
  • A Treatise on Ethics, which describes how pleasure is the end of life; how virtue is a means to achieve it; and explains how to achieve the happy life.
  • A Treatise on Physics, which has many parallels with Lucretius, and includes discussions on dreams, the gods, and contains an account of the origin of humans and the invention of clothing, speech and writing.
  • A Treatise on Old Age, which appears to have defended old age against the jibes of the young, although little of this treatise survives.
  • Letters from Diogenes to his friends, which includes a letter addressed to a certain Antipater concerning the Epicurean doctrine of innumerable worlds.
  • Epicurean maxims, a collection of the sayings of Epicurus and other eminent Epicureans, which was appended to the end of the treatise on ethics.
  • Letters of Epicurus, which includes a letter to Epicurus' mother on the subject of dreams.

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