Lucretius

Titus Lucretius Carus
Lucretius1.png
Bust of Lucretius
Bornc. 15 October 99 BC
Diedc. 55 BC (aged around 44)
EraHellenistic philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolEpicureanism
Main interests
Ethics, metaphysics

Titus Lucretius Carus (s/; c. 15 October 99 BC – c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the philosophical poem De rerum natura, a didactic work about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which is usually translated into English as On the Nature of Things. Lucretius has been credited with originating the concept of the three-age system which was formalised from 1834 by C. J. Thomsen.

Very little is known about Lucretius's life; the only certain fact is that he was either a friend or client of Gaius Memmius, to whom the poem was addressed and dedicated.[1]

De rerum natura was a considerable influence on the Augustan poets, particularly Virgil (in his Aeneid and Georgics, and to a lesser extent on the Eclogues) and Horace.[2] The work virtually disappeared during the Middle Ages, but was rediscovered in 1417 in a monastery in Germany[3] by Poggio Bracciolini and it played an important role both in the development of atomism (Lucretius was an important influence on Pierre Gassendi)[4] and the efforts of various figures of the Enlightenment era to construct a new Christian humanism.

Life

And now, good Memmius, receptive ears
And keen intelligence detached from cares
I pray you bring to true philosophy

De rerum natura (tr. Melville) 1.50

If I must speak, my noble Memmius,
As nature's majesty now known demands

De rerum natura (tr. Melville) 5.6

Virtually nothing is known about the life of Lucretius, and there is insufficient basis for a confident assertion of the date of Lucretius's birth or death in other sources. Another yet briefer note is found in the Chronicon of Donatus's pupil, Jerome. Writing four centuries after Lucretius's death, he enters under the 171st Olympiad: "Titus Lucretius the poet is born."[5] If Jerome is accurate about Lucretius's age (43) when Lucretius died (discussed below), it can then be concluded he was born in 99 or 98 BC.[6][7] Less specific estimates place the birth of Lucretius in the 90s BC and death in the 50s BC,[8][9] in agreement with the poem's many allusions to the tumultuous state of political affairs in Rome and its civil strife.

Lucretius was probably a member of the aristocratic gens Lucretia, and his work shows an intimate knowledge of the luxurious lifestyle in Rome.[10] Lucretius' love of the countryside invites speculation that he inhabited family-owned rural estates, as did many wealthy Roman families, and he certainly was expensively educated with a mastery of Latin, Greek, literature, and philosophy.[10]

A brief biographical note is found in Aelius Donatus's Life of Virgil, which seems to be derived from an earlier work by Suetonius.[11] The note reads: "The first years of his life Virgil spent in Cremona until the assumption of his toga virilis on his 17th birthday (when the same two men held the consulate as when he was born), and it so happened that on the very same day Lucretius the poet passed away." However, although Lucretius certainly lived and died around the time that Virgil and Cicero flourished, the information in this particular testimony is internally inconsistent: If Virgil was born in 70 BC, his 17th birthday would be in 53. The two consuls of 70 BC, Pompey and Crassus, stood together as consuls again in 55, not 53. Another yet briefer note is found in the Chronicon of Donatus's pupil, Jerome. Writing four centuries after Lucretius's death, Jerome contends in the aforementioned Chronicon that Lucretius "was driven mad by a love potion, and when, during the intervals of his insanity, he had written a number of books, which were later emended by Cicero, he killed himself by his own hand in the 44th year of his life."[5] The claim that he was driven mad by a love potion, although defended by such scholars as Reale and Catan,[12] is often dismissed as the result of historical confusion,[1] or anti-Epicurean bias.[13] In some accounts the administration of the toxic aphrodisiac is attributed to his wife Lucilia. Regardless, Jerome's image of Lucretius as a lovesick, mad poet continued to have significant influence on modern scholarship until quite recently, although it now is accepted that such a report is inaccurate.[14]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Lucretius
العربية: لوكريتيوس
aragonés: Lucrecio
azərbaycanca: Lukretius
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български: Тит Лукреций Кар
català: Lucreci
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Deutsch: Lukrez
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Ελληνικά: Λουκρήτιος
español: Lucrecio
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فارسی: لوکرتیوس
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Latina: Lucretius
latviešu: Lukrēcijs
македонски: Тит Лукрециј Кар
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occitan: Lucrèci
polski: Lukrecjusz
português: Lucrécio
sardu: Lucrezio
Scots: Lucretius
shqip: Lukreci
Simple English: Lucretius
slovenčina: Lucretius Carus
slovenščina: Lukrecij
српски / srpski: Лукреције
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Tit Lukrecije Kar
suomi: Lucretius
svenska: Lucretius
Tagalog: Lucretius
татарча/tatarça: Лукреций Кар
українська: Лукрецій
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Zazaki: Lucretius
中文: 卢克莱修