Philodemus Analysis


Little is known of Philodemus’s (fihl-eh-DEE-muhs) life and education. He was educated in Athens by Zeno the Epicurean and eventually came to Rome circa 75 b.c.e. under the patronage of the Piso family, in whose Italian villa at Herculaneum he probably remained until his death. He was famous as an erotic poet but known also as an Epicurean philosopher and teacher. He wrote on numerous subjects, including a history of philosophers, a book about anger, and a rare treatise on Epicurean theology, but he was especially devoted to the theory of art, going against popular sentiment by arguing that art was to be judged by its aesthetic value alone and not for its morals or logic.


As a poet and teacher, Philodemus had a direct impact on many Romans of his day, especially Vergil, Horace, Ovid, and Sextus Propertius, and though none of his prose was preserved by later scribes, he also played a crucial role in the late Republic, popularizing Greek philosophy for a Roman audience. The modern excavation of what may be his private library at Herculaneum has resulted in the recovery of numerous works of philosophy, both his own and those of Epicurus, which had been lost.

Additional Resources

Gigante, M. Philodemus in Italy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.

Glad, C. Paul and Philodemus. Boston: Brill, 1995.

Obbink, D. Philodemus and Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.