Nil Posse Creari De Nilo! / Nothing Can Be Created From Nothing!

Blogging On A World Where Nothing Comes From Nothing

Promoting the Study of the Philosophy of Epicurus

220px PierreGassendi E1387809410916

“These Shall Be To Thee Both Pythian and Delian”

One of the things that gives me most pleasure from collaborating with other fans of Epicurus is to uncover texts that are new to me and that go far beyond the standard superficial treatments of Epicurus.  One of these is the work that some of us (primarily I.V.) have been doing on the English translation of the work of Pierre Gassendi on the Life and Morals of Epicurus.

The phrase at the title of this post appears in that work, with the statement:

Amongst those [letters] to Idomeneus was that, out of which Michael Apostolius, cites a fragment, containing the originall of the Proverb, These shall be to thee both Pythian and Delian, apply’d to those that shall dye within a short time; though Erasmus affirms, the Proverb itself to be cited out of Menander.

That strikes me as a smooth and poetic phrase, even if used in a morbid context.  It will be interesting to find out what it means.  I see a number of links in a google search (such as this one) that may point the way to understanding it, although some of our Hellenic experts no doubt know right away!  Feel free to let me know if you do!

Although I can’t decode the phrase right now, the phrase is a good title for relating the entirety of Chapter 10, where Gassendi discusses his catalog of the books of Epicurus.  Rather than just the standard list we usually get, Gassendi goes through many of the titles and addresses the likely topic of each book.  Are his speculations reliable?  Hard to say, but they may be one of the best leads we have in considering what topics Epicurus deemed most important to write about.

Here’s a cut and paste of Chapter 10 from Gassendi’s work.  A transcription (warning: typos not yet all fixed!) is available here as part of the Elemental Epicureanism ebook available for free here.   The PDF of the original is here:


Chap 10. What Writings of His Are, Particularly, Mentioned By Authors 
Here it is fit, we give a kind of Catalogue of his Books, not of all he wrote, but of those whose Titles are extant in other Authors. I say their Titles, for the books themselves have so miscarried by the injury of time, that besides some few compendiums preserv’d by Laertius, and some fragments scatter’d up and down amongst severall Writers, there is not any thing of them remaining, at least, as yet known to us.
To begin with those, which Laertius accounts the best, they are ranked thus.
Of Nature, XXXVII. They are sometimes cited simply, Of Nature, sometimes with the number of the Books, as when Laertius hereafter in his Life, cites the I. the XI. XII. XIIII. XV. Galen also mentions the Title and number of the Books.
Of Atoms, and Vacuum, so usually cited, Cleomenes seemeth to mean the same under another name, Of the Principles of all things.
Of Love.
An Epitome of things appertaining to Naturall Philosophers. This Epitome was twofold, great and little; both are cited by Laertius; the lesser, that which is written to Herodotus.
Against the Megarick (or Dialectick) Philosophers, Doubts. These Doubts, seem chiefly to have concerned certain Moral Arguments, as concerning Justice, Marriage, and Dower: for this seems to be the same which, and Plutarch, cite under the name of Doubts, without adding, To the Megaricks.
Κυριαι δοχαι, Maxims, or, as Cicero interprets, Maxime rata Sententiae, because, saith he, they are sentences briefly expressed, which conduce exceedingly to living happily. He elsewhere calls them select, and short Sentences. Sextus seems to call them Memorable Sayings. Laertius hath put them at the end, and Lucian some where commends them, as Cicero the Book of Crantor, which is, saith he, not great indeed, but golden, and, as Panaetius advised Tubero, to be gotten by heart. He was in opinion different from Suidas, who calls them Wicked notions.
Πεςι αιζεσεων, Of Elections, so I conceive it ought rather to be rendered, then Of Sects; because in this book Epicurus, seems not to design a History of Sects, but Morall Institutution, which is conversant about the choice of things, as Laertius declares at the end of Epicurus’s Epistle to Menaeceus. Not to mention, that the teacheth the Ethick kind to consist onely of election and avoidance. For which reason, the Book, which is ordinarily and next to this cited,
Περι φυτων, Of Plants, ought rather be entituled, Περι φευητων, Of things to be avoided; as well for coherence of the title, as for that Epicurus, almost wholly taken up with Morall Philosophy, scarce treated of any particular subject in Physick, unless they were such as conduced to take away vain terrours from the minds of men; of which kind, this of Plants could not be. Moreover, because in Manuscripts, this title is connected to the former by the conjunction υαι, we may conjecture, that the Inscription was, Περι αιρησεων, ιη φυγων; Of Election and Avoidance. Yet might the Inscription have been in the plurall number, forasmuch as it is afterwards said, Elections and avoidance are dijudicated from pleasure and grief.
Of the End; So this Book is generally cited, as, amongst others, by Plutarch. Neither doth Cicero seem to mean any other, though he cite a Book Of the Ends of Good and Evill.
Of the Criterie, or the Canon; or, as Cicero translates it, Of the Rule, and of Judgement. But if instead of Judgment we render it Judicatory, the force of the word will be more fully express’d.
Chaeredemus; or Of the Gods. This is one of those Books, which Epicurus entituled by the names of his brethren and friends, that, being dead, their names might not be forgotten, as Plutarch observes.
Of Sanctity, or Hegesianax. This perhaps is he, whom Plutarch terms Hegetoanax, concerning whose death, Epicurus wrote to his Parents; unless perhaps it were he who wrote Histories, and Troica, cited by Athenaeus; for he was of Alexandria, and Epicurus had friends out of AEgypt.
Of Lives IV, which is all one as if the Inscription had been, Of Life and Manners. Neither doth Epicurus seem in these Books to relate the story of some eminent persons, as Plutarch and Laertius have done in their Books of Lives; but to give rules, whereby to lead a quiet life, as may plainly enough be collected from the catalogue of the Morall Treatises, and the places cited out of this by Laertius. The word Lives seems here to be taken in the same sense, as with Plutarch, when he speaketh of The Difference of Lives and Politicks, which the Interpreter well renders, Of Manners and Publick Institutes. Of these Books, are hereafter cited by Laertius, the first and second.
Of Just Action.
Neocles to Themista. This seems to have been that Neocles who was brother to Epicurus, not his father; for in like manner he called other of his books after the names of his brothers.
The Banquet, cited by Plutarch, Athenaeus, and others. Plutarch mentions Questions handled in it, concerning the heat of Wine, the time of Coition. Laertius, concerning troubles about Marriage, &c.
Eurylochus to Metrodorus. I guess, that this Eurylochus was the same with that Eurydicus, to whom, as we said formerly, Epicurus writ; but the thing is uncertain.
Of Seeing.
Of the Angle which is in the Atome.
Of Touching; or perhaps, Of the tangibility of Atoms: for Epicurus called Vacuum το ανοαφες, that which cannot be touched.
Of Fate.
Of Passions. Sentences to Timocrates.
Πεογνωςιμον, Praecognitorium; so I render it, because he seemeth in this to have discoursed of the Praecognitive faculty.
Protreptick, (exhortatory) that is, Discourse; for so Isocrates and Clemens, expresly.
Of Images, ειδωλα, simulacra, imagines, species, formae, spectra; so several persons variously interpret them, which are now commonly tearmed Intentionall species.
Of Phantasie, or the impression thereof, which appeareth in the knowing faculty; for neither did Epicurus, nor most of the ancient Philosophers, understand by this word, as we now for the most part do, the faculty is felt.
Aristobulus; this book bears the name of Epicurus’s third brother.
Of Musick; viz. as it conduceth to Manners; for this may be collected from Plutarch and Empiricus.
Of Gifts and Gratitude, mentioned by Empiricus, who cites something Grammaticall out of it.
Polynaedes; he seems to have been some friend or disciple of Epicurus.
Timocrates, III. Whether meaning the brother of Metrodorus, or the Executor of his Will, or some other. Hence I should believe, that by Laertius was cited the third book of Timocrates, or written by Timocrates; but that instead of Τιμοψρατες, I suspect it should be written Τιμοψρατει, relating to the third book, which, by Epicurus, was so entituled. This text seems to confirm.
Metrodorus V. That this was the same Metrodorus, of whom we have spoken formerly, cannot be doubted. From the first book, cited by Laertius, may be collected, that Epicurus related the story of Metrodorus’s life.
Antidorus II. This Antidorus is mentioned by Plutarch, and perhaps by Laertius also, in the life of Heraclides, if we there read Antidorus for Autodorus.
Περι νοτων δοξαι πρας Μιθρμν, Of the South-winds, Sentences, to Mithres. But perhaps the Title ought rather to be read, περι νοσων, Of Diseases, as well for the reasons alledged about the Title, περι φυτων, as for that these Sentences seem not to have been severall opinions, concerning some particular Winds, as Morall Sentences to moderate the pain of diseases. This seems to be the same Mithres a Syrian, whom Metrodorus relieved, as Plutarch hath severall times delivered; and the same whom Laertius relates to have been the Steward of Lysimachus’s house; adding, that Mithres saying to Theodorus, Thou seemest not onely not to acknowledge gods, but Kings also. Theodorus repli’d, How can I but acknowledge gods, who think thee an enemy to the gods?
Callistolas; who, it may be presumed, was some friend of Epicurus’s.
Of a Kingdom, mentioned by Plutarch.
Anaximenes; perhaps the same Lampsacene who is mentioned by Strabo, and whom both Plutarch, and seem to mean; for though he were one of Alexander’s Masters, yet did he survive him, (for he wrote his actions) and was, according to Suidas, disciple to Diogenes the Cynick, and consequently younger than he; whereas Diogenes died in the eighteeth year of Epicurus’s age, viz. in the beginning of the 114th Olympiad.
Epistles. Of these, four are extant in Laertius; one, to Herodotus, which was, as we said, the lesser Epitome, and under that name cited by Achilles Tatius; Of Naturall Things. The second, to Pythocles, Of Meteors, or superiour things, as well Celestiall, as all others above the earth. The third, to Menaeceus, Of Manners. The last is very short, which he writ dying, to Idomeneus. That, besides these, he writ innumerable others, may be collected from Plutarch, Laertius, and others. For Plutarch, for example, cites an Epistle of his, To Anaxarchus; Laertius his Epistle, To Aristobulus; also an Epistle, To his friends at Mytilene. This seems to be the same with that, which Sextus Empiricus cites thus, To the Philosophers at Mitylene. But Laertius implyeth, there were more which bore that inscription, εν ταις πρδς τους Μιτυλμνμ φιλοσυφος; so as there might be one of them suppositious. In the same ranck may be reckoned his Epistles, concerning severall institutions of life, hinted by Laertius, cited by Athenaeus and Eusebius. I omit, that the same Athenaeus mentions his Epistles to Hermarchus; and, not to enquire after any more, the highest in repute were those written to Idomeneus, as we may understand from Seneca, who also citeth something excellent out of his Epistles to Polyaenus. Amongst those to Idomeneus was that, out of which Michael Apostolius, cites a fragment, containing the originall of the Proverb, These shall be to thee both Pythian and Delian, apply’d to those that shall dye within a short time; though Erasmus affirms, the Proverb it self to be cited out of Menander.
As to the Epistles, we shall by the way observe, that Epicurus used to write, by way of salutation in the beginning of his Epistles, sometimes χαιρειν, joy; sometimes , well to do; sometimes , sometimes , well to life; sometimes , Health. For that which we read in Laertius, , is defective, there seems some word wanting to the sentence; neither doth the word X seem to belong to the form of salutation. And besides these words, X, exclude X from the Epicurean form of Salutation; whereas his word is not onely put before his Epistles, extant in Laertius, but it is rendred by Cicero also, when he alledgeth that which he wrote at his death. For this reason, when heretofore I would, in the room of these two words, have put X, (as a lesse alteration, than if I should have substituted X X, or the like) the learned Puteanus approved it; but withall conceive X ought to be retained; but the excellent Menagius was of opinion, that since a word is wanting, for X should be read X, used on the like occasion by Laertius; but that X X ought to be retainded, forasmuch as Epicurus seemeth not to have used the word X, it being mentioned as proper to Cleon, both by Lucian and Laertius himself. Or whether instead of X might we not put X, or, with the least alteration, X, signifying, that for salutation, he was best pleased with those words, X X, and X X; or might not X X be retained, implying, that he did not quite cast aside the word X, but instead of it sometimes used the other two, as if X were either wanting or imply’d. Indeed, Lucian seems not-obscurely to hint as much, when relating, that Epicurus was exreanly delighted with the word X, he addes, that sometimes he used other words, and that sometimes in his more accurate and profound Epistles, (which yet he saith were not many) or when he writ to his most intimate friends, he chiefly used X. Laertius therefore attributing the word X to him, may as well be thought to have intended X, as used by him; since, attributing X X to him also, he makes X X as peculiar to Plato, as X to Cleon.
This Catalogue of his Books is compiled by Laertius; but besides these, there are others, cited both by Laertius himself, and other Writers. Laertius formerly cited his Book, Of Rhetorick, mentioned also by the Scholiast of Hermogenes. But that which is cited, Of Perspicuity requisite to Discourse, belongs to Canonick, which he substituted in the room of Dialectick.
He likewise seems to cite his X, Antecedentia, or Praecipua; things precedent or preferred, in the sense of the Stoicks. I should think it meant of some of the Books before cited, if amongst them there were any, wherein that which is alledged were written by Epicurus.
There are cited also Staecheioses, Institutions or Elements, XII.
There seems also to be cited, Of Worlds, XII. For, describing severall Worlds, he is said to have done it in the XIIth. X, or, as the Manuscripts, X X, upon this very subject; the rather, because it seems not meant of those XXXVII which are constantly cited, Of Nature.
I should add his Physicall Problemes, and Ethicall Doctrines; but that under these names may be comprised, all that Epicurus wrote concerning Nature and Morality.
Moreover, Cicero cites his Book, Of the Chief Good; unlesse it be the same with that, Of the End, already mentioned.
By the same also is cited his Book, Of Pleasure; this perhaps Laertius meant, when he said, It was objected by some against Epicurus, that he usurped the Treatise of Aristippus concerning Pleasure, as if it had been his own.
Besides these, Cicero cites his Book, Of Piety towards the Gods, distinct, as it seems, from that, Of Sanctity, reckoned by Laertius. Of Sanctity, saith he, Of piety towards the gods, he wrote Books.
Again, Plutarch declares, that he wrote Books against Theophrastus: for, the second of them, he saith, contained a discourse concerning Colours. Hitherto of his Books.