Translating the Epicurean Tetrapharmakos

In a seminar recently, conversation turned to the tetrapharmakos “four-part remedy”, a summary of the first four of the Kuriai Doxai, (the Epicurean principal doctrines) given by Diogenes Laertius in his Vita of Epicurus. It is also found in P.Herc 1500 col. 5, contained in Philodemus’ Adversus Sophistas, offered here with the usual apologies for the strange Greek display.

ἄφοβον ὁ θεός,
ἀνύποπτον ὁ θάνατος,
καὶ τἀγαθὸν μὲν εὔκτητον
τὸ δὲ δεινὸν εὐεκκαρτέρητον.

In particular it was suggested that translations in use lack a certain pithiness, given that this was a teaching and memory aid.

This caused me to pen the following, which sacrifices accuracy (and indeed four lines) in the interest of being memorable.

An Epicurean said “See,
Fear not God and face mortalitee.
To obtain what is good,
With evil withstood,
Is as easy as A B C D.”

No copyright is claimed! And lest anyone ask what the connection to church orders is, recollect the possibility that Epicurean communities might influence the organizational and liturgical arrangements of some early Christian communities, including the Didachistic community.

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