THE MASTER OF PLEASURE
A native of Samos but an Athenian citizen, he was familiar with Ionian philosophy with its emphasis on physics as well as with the moral philosophy of the Athenian schools. His thinking embraced both.
He rejected Platonic idealism in favour of a materialistic view of the universe based on the atomism of Democritus.
Epicurus inspired passionate devotion and equally passionate denunciation. He established a school in a garden in Athens which seems to have been based on a sort of brotherhood of disciples all living a life modelled on that of the master. Particularly vehement in their opposition were the Stoics, but Epicurus seems to have dismissed both the criticisms and the critics by becoming the master of insult himself. He responded to one critic by calling him "a jellyfish, an illiterate, a fraud and a trollop." He may not have had to defend himself so often had people considered what he really said rather than what they thought he said.
(Diogenes Laertius X.8)
The first to preach the Epicurean doctrine within Rome, were expelled as dangerously subversive. Equally zealous, but living a century later when Greek culture had made greater inroads, the poet, Lucretius, wrote a poem outlining the major doctrine of Epicurus. Addressed directly to his patron, Gaius Memmius, it was aimed at a wider audience. It introduced Epicurean ideals to the educated Roman, and to later generations down to modern times. Although presented in poetic format, the work deals with the doctrine in its entirety including the atomic theory. His passionate devotion to the master matches that of the early disciples.
"Who has such power within his breast that he could build up a song worthy of this high theme and these discoveries? Who has such mastery of words that he could praise as he deserves the man who produced such treasures from his breast and bequeathed them to us? ... He was a god, a god indeed, my noble Memmius - who first discovered that rule of life from such a stormy sea, so black a night, and steered it into such a calm and sunlit haven."
("The Nature of the Universe" V.1; VI.26)