The Alleged Impossibility of
Among the opinions of the Stoic or Stoicizing thinker called "Aristo"1 which Philodemus professes to find astonishing is his approval of "good thought found in poems which present good thoughts and actions, or which aim at education"; the Epicurean writer adds, apparently as his own comment, "although no poet has written or is ever likely to write poems containing such thoughts"2--a remark which prompted Jensen to wonder "whether Lucretius' poem was not yet known to him when he wrote that."3 The recent discovery of a text of Lucretius in Philodemus' library4 does not resolve this chronological question, since it could have been added to the collection after his death; and even if Philodemus saw the poem, we do not know whether his command of Latin was sufficient for him to appreciate its merits. More interesting than such biographical speculations is the question whether he would have felt obliged to condemn Lucretius' poem if he did know it, that is, how broadly his criticism of Aristo is to be interpreted.
It is often claimed that the Epicurean school, apart from Lucretius, was united in condemning the use of poetry as a vehicle for philosophical ideas; 5 but even if that is what Philodemus meant, it cannot simply be taken for granted that his views represent established school orthodoxy. To be sure, he says (On Rhetoric 1 col. vii24-28 p. 21 Longo) that Epicureans who disagreed with views expressed by Epicurus and Metrodorus were guilty of a crime equivalent to parricide; but he makes this often-____________________