Philosopher, Comic Poet, Mathematician, Physician (c.540 BC – c.443 BC)
Epicharmus of Kos was a polymath recognized as the founder of comic poetry. He was the son of a physician, desendant of the Aesclipiads. Epicharmus immigrated to Sicily when he was very young and remained there until his death, teaching mathematics, medicine, physiology, philosophy and astronomy. Plato considered him equal to Homer.
Because of the dual meaning of the word μῦθος (mythos) in Greek, Epicharmus is credited with introducing either the regular plot in the comedies or comedies with mythological subject. Either way, he set the foundations of comedy, which years later the Attic poets would perfect. He taught 52 or 35 plays, mostly on mythologic subjects. Sadly, only fragments of his works survive.
His philosophic views seem to have greatly influenced Plato, primarily on the Theory of Forms while Epicharmus himself was influenced by the Pythagoreans. For this reason his comedies contain many high philosophical concepts on metaphysics, the soul, theogony and the creation of the world. It is not unlikely that his philosophical views on the latter motivated Plato to write his magnum opus Timaeus on the creation of the universe. His plays also tackled themes of ethics and politics. He believed that the mind sees and hears (νοῦς ὁρᾶ καὶ νοῦς ἀκούει), a quote that has become quite popular.
Perhaps the reason why he is included in the sages of antiquity is because he preserved and continued the ancient wisdom of the Greeks, which dates back to a very ancient civilization of undetermined time. This knowledge was perpetuated in his comedies and contributed to many of the wonders of the Archaic Period of Greece.
- Epicharmus. Perseus Digital Library. Tufts.edu. Web.
- Sarandos, Pan. ζ. Ἐπίχαρμος. Δαυλός. Issue 188-189. August-September 1997. pages 11617-11618. Print.