On the Nature of Things

On the Nature of Things

On the Nature of Things

On the Nature of Things


Martin Ferguson Smith's work on Lucretius is both well known and highly regarded. However, his 1969 translation of De Rerum Natura -- long out of print -- is virtually unknown. Readers will share our excitement in the discovery of this accurate and fluent prose rendering. For this edition, Professor Smith provides a revised translation, new Introduction, headnotes and bibliography. Martin Ferguson Smith is Professor of Classics Emeritus, Univ. of Durham, United Kingdom. Among his scholarly achievements are his revisions of the Rouse translation of De Rerum Natura for the Loeb Classical Library.


This translation, a product of my mid-twenties, was first published by Sphere in 1969, but has been out of print since 1972. I am grateful to Hackett for reissuing it in the autumn of my life.

The bulk of the translation has been left unchanged, but many minor alterations—improvements, I hope—have been made. The opportunity has been taken not only to remove misprints, mistakes, and infelicities, but also to take account of advances in Lucretian scholarship over the past thirty years or so; and whereas the original version was based on the Latin text in Cyril Bailey's three-volume edition of Lucretius (Oxford University Press, 1947), the present version follows, except in a few places indicated in the footnotes, my own text in the latest printing of the Loeb Classical Library edition (Harvard University Press, 1992). American English spellings have been substituted for British English ones.

The Introduction has been considerably extended and, where not rewritten, thoroughly revised. The same applies to the footnotes. The Suggestions for Further Reading and Index are new.

It is not only Lucretian scholarship that has moved on since the late 1960s. So has Western society, and I believe that mine is the first English translation of Lucretius to have consistently avoided the most obvious manifestations of sexist language: “man” and “he” are never used unless the reference is to a male.

I gratefully acknowledge my debts to the following: to D. S. Hutchinson of the University of Toronto for helpful comments on a draft of the Introduction; to Maggi Reyner, Foula's school teacher, for expert word processing; to Meera Dash for her careful management of the book's production; above all to Deborah Wilkes, whose constant enthusiasm and warm encouragement spurred me on as I battled, sometimes by the light of a gas lamp or candles, to accomplish my task in the depths of a dark Shetland winter.

M. F. S . Isle of Foula, Shetland Islands February 2001

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