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In Praise of Epicurus: A Free Speech Philosopher For Our Times


My initial impetus for writing Oh Great, Another Vampire Book, was to explore history I’m fascinated by. I figured vampires are the perfect vehicle for this given their long lives, and Epicurus, in particular, is especially relevant given his emphasis on freedom of speech.

In my book, I created a group of three Elders— an ancient council composed of wise vampires from disparate cultures around the globe. One of them is named Lysimachos, but goes by Larry Kipos to better assimilate into modern times. He’s an ancient Greek who hails from Upper Class Athenian society. A foundational life experience for Larry was the friendship he had with the famed philosopher, Epicurus.

When it comes to Greek philosophy, Epicureanism is often not at the forefront; Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle get the limelight. I believe it’s misunderstood as a school of thought related to the pleasures of food and drink. Magazines and websites dedicated to these were developed in Epicurus’ name. Although Larry explains this misunderstanding during an interview with another vampire, he fails to address the irony of his own obsession indulging in culinary pleasures. That’s right— I created a flabby vampire with an eating disorder; Bram Stoker himself could not have foreseen this.

Larry describes the Garden of Epicurus, the name of the philosopher’s school, and where the vampire derived his name. (Kipos is “garden” in Greek.) At the entrance of the Garden, located just outside Athens, an inscription read: “Here, Guest, will you be entertained: Here pleasure is the highest good.” Perhaps this quote explains the confusion surrounding Epicurus’ legacy. In any case, the central idea of the Garden was that it be a joyous atmosphere. Friends gathered, and everyone was welcomed for discussion and debate. Women were welcome by default, which was controversial at the time. There was a code of conduct at the Garden: honesty, prudence, and social justice. Epicurus believed these were not only intrinsically good, but good for the individual.

The emphasis on prudence harkens Ben Franklin’s philosophy of being wise and frugal. This is just one example of an American Founding Father being influenced by the ancient Greeks. In Epicurus’ Garden, the pursuit of happiness in the form of questioning and engaging looms large in Thomas Jefferson’s writing. This notion is at the core of our First Amendment.

Threatening the First Amendment are hot button topics like cancel culture and censorship. These ideas factor into my plot. I explore the media’s reaction to a unique situation where a young woman named Sara is sired by her vampire boyfriend. But instead of becoming a vampire, she’s granted supernatural powers allowing her to make certain changes to society— some that preclude the silencing of voices. When Larry rejects the wisdom of her plan, his actions (albeit dramatic) are understandable considering the culture from which he originated; debates and freedom of speech were an Athenian citizen’s most valued privilege. Socrates and Plato, other Greek philosophers who inspired the formation of our nation, believed the acts of questioning and engaging in conversation are a means for attaining wisdom. Anyone would agree a more wise and educated populace benefits us all.

Like many, I view the First Amendment as sacred in the spirit of abolishing tyranny. Given Epicurus’ dedication to these values, I hail the philosopher as a hero of our age. It is wonderful to imagine his Garden as a metaphor for the Internet. Okay, that’s a far stretch, but we should all be so lucky to have a “garden” of free exchange propelling society forward to greater understanding. Otherwise, how must we learn what is most just?

Diane Hunter is the author of Oh Great, Another Vampire Book. Visit her at


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