Lucretius

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Titus Lucretius Carus (ca. 99 BC – ca. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the epic philosophical poem on Epicureanism De rerum natura, translated into English as On the Nature of Things or "On the Nature of the Universe".

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Life of Lucretius

Very little is known about Lucretius's life; the only certain fact is that he was either a friend or a client of Gaius Memmius, to whom he dedicated De Rerum Natura.

Another piece of information is found in a letter Cicero wrote to his brother Quintus in February 54 BC. Cicero writes: "The poems of Lucretius are as you write: they exhibit many flashes of genius, and yet show great mastership."[1] Apparently, by February 54 BC both Cicero and his brother had read De Rerum Natura. However, internal evidence from the poem suggests that it was published without a final revision, possibly due to its author's untimely death. If this is true, Lucretius must have been dead by February 54 BC.

Virgil writes in the second book of his Georgics, clearly referencing Lucretius,[2] "Happy is he who has discovered the causes of things and has cast beneath his feet [subiecit pedibus; cf. Lucretius 1.78, religio pedibus subiecta, "religion lies cast beneath our feet"] all fears, unavoidable fate, and the din of the devouring Underworld." [3]

A brief biographical notice is found in Aelius Donatus's Life of Virgil, which seems to be derived from an earlier work by Suetonius.[4] The statement runs as follows: "The first years of his life Virgil spent in Cremona, right until the assumption of his toga virilis, which he accepted 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." The information in this testimony is internally inconsistent. Virgil was born in 70 BC, and his 17th birthday therefore took place in 53 BC. However, the two consuls of 70 BC, Pompey and Crassus, stood together as consuls again in 55, not 53. So which year should we take as the year of Lucretius's death?

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