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Loeb Classical Library : Lucretius : On the nature of things : Books 1-6

by Titus Lucretius Carus

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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369457,297 (4.26)14
Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus) lived ca. 99-ca. 55 BCE, but the details of his career are unknown. He is the author of the great didactic poem in hexameters, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). In six books compounded of solid reasoning, brilliant imagination, and noble poetry, he expounds the scientific theories of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, with the aim of dispelling fear of the gods and fear of death and so enabling man to attain peace of mind and happiness. In Book 1 he establishes the general principles of the atomic system, refutes the views of rival physicists, and proves the infinity of the universe and of its two ultimate constituents, matter and void. In Book 2 he explains atomic movement, the variety of atomic shapes, and argues that the atoms lack colour, sensation, and other secondary qualities. In Book 3 he expounds the nature and composition of mind and spirit, proves their mortality, and argues that there is nothing to fear in death. Book 4 explains the nature of sensation and thought, and ends with an impressive account of sexual love. Book 5 describes the nature and formation of our world, astronomical phenomena, the beginnings of life on earth, and the development of civilization. In Book 6 the poet explains various atmospheric and terrestrial phenomena, including thunder, lightning, earthquakes, volcanoes, the magnet, and plagues. The work is distinguished by the fervour and poetry of the author.… (more)
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It is long poem written in Latin as De rerum natura by Lucretius that sets forth the physical theory of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. The title of Lucretius’s work translates that of the chief work of Epicurus, Peri physeōs (On Nature).

Lucretius divided his argument into six books, beginning each with a highly polished introduction. Books I and II establish the main principles of the atomic universe, refute the rival theories of the pre-Socratic cosmic philosophers Heracleitus, Empedocles, and Anaxagoras, and covertly attack the Stoics, a school of moralists rivaling that of Epicurus. Book III demonstrates the atomic structure and mortality of the soul and ends with a triumphant sermon on the theme “Death is nothing to us.” Book IV describes the mechanics of sense perception, thought, and certain bodily functions and condemns sexual passion. Book V describes the creation and working of the world and the celestial bodies and the evolution of life and human society. Book VI explains remarkable phenomena of the earth and sky—in particular, thunder and lightning. The poem ends with a description of the plague at Athens, a sombre picture of death that contrasts with the depiction of spring and birth in the invocation to Venus with which the poem opens.

The linguistic style of the poem is notable. Its author’s aim was to render the bald and abstract Greek prose of Epicurus into Latin hexameters at a time when Latin had no philosophic vocabulary. He succeeded by turning common words to a technical use. When necessary, he invented words. In poetic diction and style he was in debt to the older Latin poets, especially to Quintus Ennius, the father of Roman poetry. He freely used alliteration and assonance, solemn and often metrically convenient archaic forms, and old constructions. He imitated or echoed Homer, the dramatists Aeschylus and Euripides, the poet and critic Callimachus, the historian Thucydides, and the physician Hippocrates. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Dec 16, 2021 |
My wonderful Latin magister recommended this one...it blew my mind. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
So ancient and so true... it would seem as if modern science had little to do but correct minor details in Lucretius' understanding of the Universe while forgetting the whole point about engaging in these pursuits: to bring inner peace to humankind.

Lucretius' text is a strange flower, a kind of secular divine apparition. A poem (which I would love to understand in Latin, but I do not), a surprisingly accurate scientific treatise, an ethical argument, and a compassionate evangelium. Awe inspiring. ( )
2 vote jorgearanda | Jul 22, 2012 |
I'm taking up Lucretius after reading through much of Horace in the Loeb--surprised at how short his epodes are, which seemed long when I read them in Latin in school. Loved Horace's Epistle 8 on his embassy with Vergil and Maecenas down the Appian Way (some of it by boat!) to Brundisium to negotiate for Augustus with the head of the Roman navy, Antony.
I'm surprised at how easy Lucretius reads, in Book IV now. Maybe more dense early on. I read a couple hundred lines in Latin (80% comprehension) during my morning walk yesterday, a couple miles. These were lines about the illusions of the senses, essentially about psychology--both in the ancient version, and ours. How eyes can be deceived, as by the rudder below water in a harbor. The scansion, too, is pretty simple. I'd say Caesar should be replaced in Latin II by Seneca and some of this.
I don't buy Greenblatt's thesis that Lucretius is behind modern science. Very doubtful. Clinamen.
But he does write well about Poggio, not done often. ( )
  AlanWPowers | Jun 12, 2012 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Titus Lucretius Carusprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rouse, W. H. D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Martin FergusonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus) lived ca. 99-ca. 55 BCE, but the details of his career are unknown. He is the author of the great didactic poem in hexameters, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). In six books compounded of solid reasoning, brilliant imagination, and noble poetry, he expounds the scientific theories of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, with the aim of dispelling fear of the gods and fear of death and so enabling man to attain peace of mind and happiness. In Book 1 he establishes the general principles of the atomic system, refutes the views of rival physicists, and proves the infinity of the universe and of its two ultimate constituents, matter and void. In Book 2 he explains atomic movement, the variety of atomic shapes, and argues that the atoms lack colour, sensation, and other secondary qualities. In Book 3 he expounds the nature and composition of mind and spirit, proves their mortality, and argues that there is nothing to fear in death. Book 4 explains the nature of sensation and thought, and ends with an impressive account of sexual love. Book 5 describes the nature and formation of our world, astronomical phenomena, the beginnings of life on earth, and the development of civilization. In Book 6 the poet explains various atmospheric and terrestrial phenomena, including thunder, lightning, earthquakes, volcanoes, the magnet, and plagues. The work is distinguished by the fervour and poetry of the author.

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