Birth 341 BC
Death 270 BC

Ancient Greek philosopher, who remains a hero for atheists and a villain for Christian and Muslim sympathisers, more than two thousand years on. He thought that all matter, including the human body, was made up of indivisible atoms. He refused to believe in the immortality of the soul or in eternal life; the scattered atoms of a decomposed body offered nothing of any great use.

Epicurean philosophy is a textbook about the way to find happiness, covering pleasure and desire, death and suffering, love and friendship, reason and knowledge, human nature and justice as a social contract. Knowing and interceding with God doesn’t come into it; gods are eternal, but unchanging and indifferent to everything. They have nothing to do with people’s lives and no influence over anything (it’s highly likely Epicurus didn’t believe in gods at all, whether good or evil, but he whatever the case may be, he certainly didn’t allow for the possibility of theodicy).

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