, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 466-469

Epicurus’ death

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Abstract

The aim is to present how an eminent philosopher perceived, reported and faced his progressing and ultimately fatal uropathy, 23 centuries ago. All available ancient Greek sources about Epicurus’ life and death were used and urinary tract–related medical knowledge in this era was reviewed. Epicurus died at the age of 71 from urinary calculus after having bravely suffered for a long time. Although he is often cited for his teachings against the fear of pain and death, his own way to death has been overlooked. His exceptional description of his own symptoms provides an unusual insight, given that our knowledge on diseases in older times is mainly based on surviving texts written by the then medical practitioners. Epicurus reported on his terminal symptoms, being entirely aware of the fatal outcome of a disease incurable at that time. Very soon after, Ammonius the Lithotomus in Alexandria was to improve the surgical procedures for urinary calculi. In an era when urinary tract surgery was considered to be an extraordinary means of treatment, Epicurus peacefully passed away, firm to his own teachings about tolerance to disease and pain, and leaving to us both an unusual medical record and a courageous attitude towards suffering and death.