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Living the Good Life: Herodotus V. Epicurus

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What is considered a good life? Herodotus and Epicurus presents readers there depiction of a good life in their works, Persian Wars and “Letter to a Friend,” respectively. The ideas of a good life presented by Herodotus in Persian Wars and by Epicurus in “Letter to a Friend” both share identical aspects of a good life, but at the same time both works are distinct from one another.

One similarity between the two writers’ idea of a good life is that one must have respect for the divine whether it be a single god or many gods. In Persian Wars, Solon, an Athenian, tells Croesus of Sardis the story of brothers Cleobis and Bito. According to the story, there was “a great festival in honor of the goddess Hera at Argos” in which the brothers, along with their mother, had to travel a good distance by chariot. When the oxen have yet came in from the fields, the brothers decided to pull the chariot themselves in fear of being late to the festival. By doing this act, the brothers showed utmost respect to Hera which shows that to live a good life you must respect the divine no matter the circumstances (1627). In Epicurus’ “Letter to a Friend,” to tell readers that in order to live a good life, the author states that one should “. . . offer. . . hope of placating the gods by worship” (1635). Worshipping the gods shows that the worshipper is respecting the gods in order to live a good life because the gods can determine their fate.

To have enough material possessions to feel comfortable is another similarity Herodotus and Epicurus share about how to live a good life. According to Herodotus, those with many riches are not living a better life than those who just have enough wealth to meet the requirements to provide for the needs of everyday life. Also it is stated that one who is living the good life while having many riches just so happens “that luck attend upon him, and so he continue in the enjoyment of all his good things to the end of life” (1627). Epicurus states that “if our possessions are few, we may be content with what we have, sincerely believing that those enjoy luxury most who depend on it least” (1634). Epicurus shows that if a person only has enough money to survive without being in debt and has few possessions to be happy, that person will enjoy luxury the most if they depend on possessions to make them happy the least.

Another reason why Herodotus and Epicurus are similar in the way they think of a good life is that a person must be healthy. Although they share this belief, they differ in the meaning of being healthy. Herodotus’ view of being healthy is to have much bodily strength whereas Epicurus says that “the habit of a simple and modest diet . . . is the way to health” (1634). The way each writer thinks about being healthy is not the only differences between the two.

One way in which Herodotus and Epicurus thinks of the good life is the way one dies. According to Herodotus,



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