Masterpieces of Latin Literature: Terence: Lucretius: Catullus: Virgil: Horace: Tibullus: Propertius: Ovid: Petronius: Martial: Juvenal: Cicero: Caesar: Livy: Tacitus: Pliny the Younger: Apuleius; with Biographical Sketches and Notes

By Gordon Jennings Laing | Go to book overview
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LUCRETIUS

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

ST. JEROME in his Chronicle places the birth of Lucretius in the year 94, adding that after having become insane by drinking a love philtre he wrote some books in the lucid intervals of his madness; that he committed suicide in his forty-fourth year, and that Cicero revised his work. From other sources it seems probable that 97 and not 94 was the year of the poet's birth. The remaining statements of St. Jerome's notice are likewise open to grave question. The story of the love philtre may be dismissed without discussion; and there is no confirmation of the assertions concerning his madness and suicide. The Cicero mentioned is probably the famous orator, but even this is uncertain.

His poem. On the Nature of Things consists of six books, and is an exposition of the doctrines of the Epicurean philosophy. The first two books are devoted to the atomic theory in its more general aspects. Starting from the two fundamental principles that nothing is produced from nothing and that nothing returns to nothing, he explains the existence of the universe, of all forms of life, of all natural phenomena, as due to the chance combination of an infinite number of atoms moving in an infinite void. The atoms have existed from all eternity, and are indestructible. They are of extreme minuteness, indivisible, and imperceptible by any of the senses. Having an inherent power of deflection they swerve from the straight line as they fall, and, colliding, combine in forms of manifold variety. The third book deals with the constitution of the

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Masterpieces of Latin Literature: Terence: Lucretius: Catullus: Virgil: Horace: Tibullus: Propertius: Ovid: Petronius: Martial: Juvenal: Cicero: Caesar: Livy: Tacitus: Pliny the Younger: Apuleius; with Biographical Sketches and Notes
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