Today I came across this interesting video which features a 3-D reconstruction of the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, including the library where Philodemus’ works on Epicurus were recovered. The narration is in Italian, but the music track is excellent and it’s well worth watching. What an incredible building this must have been!
And interestingly, at 12:02 in the video, the image below appears. I presume the experts must not think this to be Epicurus, as I have not seen it attributed to him before. However the beard and facial appearance look (to me!) very much the busts of Epicurus recovered from the same location, so I wonder if this is not a depiction of Epicurus(?) Unfortunately I can’t understand a word of Italian, so if anyone knows what the narrator says about this, or has any identification for this statue, please let me know!
This little trip through the Villa of the Papyri reminds me of the following section from the Letter to Menoeceus, where Epicurus tells us that we should not be enemies of luxury, but rather independent of the need for luxury. Certainly the Epicureans who studied at the Villa of the Papyri must have been “able to enjoy luxury when it [was] available.”
“As we pursue happiness we also hold that self-reliance is a great good, not in order that we will always be satisfied with little, but in order that if circumstances do not allow that we have much, we may wisely make use of the little that we have. This is because we are genuinely persuaded that men who are able to do without luxury are the best able to enjoy luxury when it is available.
We also believe that Nature provides that everything which is necessary to life is easily obtained, and that those things which are idle or vain are difficult to possess. Simple flavors give as much pleasure as costly fare when everything that causes pain, and every feeling of want, is removed. Bread and water give the most extreme pleasure when someone in great need eats of them. To accustom oneself, therefore, to simple and inexpensive habits is a great ingredient towards perfecting one’s health, and makes one free from hesitation in facing the necessary affairs of life. And when on certain occasions we fall in with more sumptuous fare, this attitude renders us better disposed towards luxuries, as we are then fearless with regard to the possibility that we may thereafter lose them.”