In This Article Lucretius

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Biography
  • Bibliographies
  • English Translations
  • On the Text
  • Language, Meter, and Style
  • Poetry and Poetics
  • Poetic Sources and Influences
  • Philosophical Sources and Influences
  • Reception

Classics Lucretius
by
Gordon Lindsay Campbell
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0034

Introduction

Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus, b. c. 94–d. c. 55 or 51 BCE) was one of the most important Latin poets of Antiquity. He was a predecessor of Virgil, who was profoundly influenced by him. His only known work is his poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of the Universe, or On the Nature of Things; frequently referred to as DRN), a didactic work of six books in epic hexameter verse in which he expounds the philosophical system of Epicurus. Lucretius has been an important source for Epicureanism and has been profoundly influential on progressive thinking from Antiquity to the modern world. Often accused of atheism, Lucretius was in fact a deeply religious poet who strove to combat the religious errors of his day, to convince his readers that they should not fear the gods or fear death. If they can free themselves from these fears, Lucretius tells them, there is nothing to prevent them from living a life equal to that of the gods.

General Overviews

Gillespie and Hardie 2007 is useful but has a strong bias toward reception. Gale 2007 offers a valuable collection of classic articles. Other useful collections are Algra, et al. 1997, which has papers on a wide range of themes; Gigon 1978, which contains some articles that have become classics; and Hardie 2009, a collection of Hardie’s own articles on the reception of Lucretius by the Augustan poets. Clay 1983 is an important study that argues for Lucretius’s originality as a philosopher. Kenney 1977 is still a good brief introduction to Lucretius and his poetry. Schrijvers 1970 is a classic study of Lucretius’s poetic tactics. Warren 2009 is a valuable collection of articles on diverse aspects of Epicureanism, including Roman Epicureanism.

  • Algra, K., M. Koenen, and P. H. Schrijvers, eds. 1997. Lucretius and his intellectual background. Colloquium on Lucretius and his Intellectual Background, Amsterdam, 26–28 June 1996. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

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    A useful collection of papers on a broad range of Lucretian themes.

  • Clay, Diskin. 1983. Lucretius and Epicurus. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    Argues for Lucretius’s originality, selecting among many sources rather than relying on a single Epicurean source, and constructing his own structure for his exposition of Epicurus’s philosophy. Well worth reading whether one agrees or disagrees with Clay’s main argument.

  • Gale, Monica, R., ed. 2007. Lucretius. Oxford Readings in Classical Studies. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    A useful collection of classic articles on Lucretius.

  • Gigon, Olof, ed. 1978. Lucrèce: huit exposés suivis de discussions. Entretiens sur L’Antiquité Classique 24. Geneva, Switzerland: Fondation Hardt.

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    A collection of eight essays followed by discussions. Some of these essays have become classics, including D. J. Furley’s “Lucretius the Epicurean on the History of Man,” and P. H. Schrijvers’s “Le regard sur l’invisible.”

  • Gillespie, Stuart, and Philip Hardie, eds. 2007. The Cambridge companion to Lucretius. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL9780521848015E-mail Citation »

    Divided into three sections: Antiquity, Themes, and Reception. Especially useful for the articles by Monica Gale, “Lucretius and Previous Poetic Traditions”; Joseph Farrell, “Lucretian Architecture: The Structure and Argument of the De Rerum Natura”; and E. J. Kenney, “Lucretian Texture: Style, Metre, and Rhetoric in the De Rerum Natura.”

  • Hardie, Philip. 2009. Lucretian receptions: History, the sublime, knowledge. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    A valuable collection of both previously published articles and new essays on Lucretius and his reception by the Augustan poets Virgil, Horace, and Ovid, and also in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Organized around three themes: history and time, the sublime, and knowledge.

  • Kenney, E. J. 1977. Lucretius. Greece & Rome 11. Oxford: Clarendon.

    E-mail Citation »

    A good brief introduction to Lucretius.

  • Schrijvers, P. H. 1970. Horror ac divina voluptas: Études sur la poétique et la poésie de Lucrèce. Amsterdam: Hakkert.

    E-mail Citation »

    A classic study of Lucretius’s poetics, dividing his poetry into three types: “explicit,” “implicit,” and “physical.”

  • Warren, James, ed. 2009. The Cambridge companion to Epicureanism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL9780521873475E-mail Citation »

    An important collection of articles on Epicureanism, including David Sedley’s “Epicureanism in the Roman Republic” and Michael Erler’s “Epicureanism in the Roman Empire.”

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