In the second interview in our mini-series on ancient religious scepticism, Tim Whitmarsh talks to Professor David Sedley from the University of Cambridge about his work on the philosophy of ancient atheism. They discuss the intellectual and political background against which atheism began to develop in the fifth century BC, and explain how our study of atheistic thought in this period is problematised by the ancient evidence and its later interpretations. During the interview we meet some of the key players in the history of atheism, from Socrates and Anaxagoras (who were both prosecuted for impiety) to Carneades and Cicero. One particularly fascinating source is the so-called ‘Sisyphus fragment’ – a passage from a play by an anonymous author in which some potent criticisms of the gods were put into the mouth of a disagreeable (and ultimately punished!) mythical character.

Click on the image below or follow this link to watch the interview!