Lucretius, Titus Carus

Lucretius, Titus Carus a noted Roman poet, deserves a place here as the exponent of Epicurianism. He flourished some time towards the opening of the 1st century, but of his life we know almost nothing with certainty, as he is mentioned merely in a cursory manner in contemporary literature. St. Jerome, in his translation of the Chronicle of Eusebius, gives the date of his birth as B.C. 95 (according to others, 99), but he does not specify the source from which his statement is derived. It is alleged, further, that he died by his own hand, in the 44th year of his age, having been driven frantic by a love-potion which had been administered to him; that he composed his works in the intervals of his madness, and that these works were revised by Cicero; but all these statements rest on very insufficient authority, and must be received with extreme caution. His peculiar opinions rendered him specially obnoxious to the early Christians, and it is possible that the latter may have been too easily led to attribute to him a fate which, in its mysterious nature and melancholy termination, was deemed but a due reward for the bold and impious character of his teachings. The great work on which his fame rests is De Rerum Natura, a philosophical didactic poem in six books (editio princeps, Brescia, about 1473; best editions by Wakefield [London, 1796, 3 volumes, 4to, and Glasgow, 1813s 4 volumes, 8vol, by Forbiger [Leips. 1828, 12mo], and by Lachmann [Berlin, 1850, 2 volumes]. English translations in verse by Creech [Lond. 1714, 2 volumes, 8vo], Good [Lond. 1805-7, 2 volumes, 4to]; in prose by the Reverend J.S. Watson. M.A. [London, Bohn's Classical Library, 1851, post 8vo]) — in large measure an exposition of the physical, moral, and religious tenets of Epicurus. SEE EPICURIAN PHILOSOPHY. "Regarded merely as a literary composition, the work of Lucretius stands unrivaled among didactic poems. The clearness and fullness with which the most minute facts of physical science, and the most subtle philosophical speculations are unfolded and explained; the life and interest which are thrown into discussions, in themselves repulsive to the bulk of mankind; the beauty, richness, and variety of the episodes which are interwoven with the subject-matter of the poem, combined with the majestic verse in which the whole is clothed, render the De Rerum Natura, as a work of art, one of the most perfect which antiquity has bequeathed to us" (Chambers, Cyclop. s.v.). See Smith, Dict. Class. Biog. s.v.

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