In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section 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
Gordon Lindsay Campbell
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0034


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 what he saw as 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 very useful as a starting point. 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. The most recent collection is Lehoux, et al. 2013, which contains a good range of stimulating papers that seek to span literature, philosophy, and the history of science.

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

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

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

    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.

    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.

    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/CCOL9780521848015

    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.

    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, Edward J. 1977. Lucretius. Greece & Rome 11. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    A good brief introduction to Lucretius.

  • Lehoux, Daryn, Andrew D. Morrison, and Alison Sharrock, eds. 2013. Lucretius: Poetry, Philosophy, Science. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    The most recent collection. As the title suggests the range of topics is broad, from Monica Gale on Lucretius, Hesiod, piety, labor, and justice; Duncan Kennedy on politics and infinity; and Brooke Holmes on women and children in human cultural evolution, to Myrto Garani on Empedoclean cows and sheep.

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

    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/CCOL9780521873475

    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.”

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.