Henri Bergson (essay date 1884)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bergson, Henri. “The Originality of Lucretius as a Philosopher.” In The Philosophy of Poetry: The Genius of Lucretius, edited and translated by Wade Baskin, pp. 65-83. Nedw York: Philosophical Library, 1959.

[In the following excerpt, originally written in 1884, Bergson contends that Lucretius's study and love of nature and its laws helped to make his writings more poetic than those of either Democritus or Epicurus.]

Epicurus borrowed most of his doctrine from the atomists and from the Cyrenaic school.

Atomism, one of the most profound philosophical systems developed in antiquity, was first expounded by Leucippus and his disciple,...

(The entire section is 3867 words.)

Robert Allison (essay date 1925)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Allison, Robert. “Introduction.” In Lucretius: On the Nature of Things, pp. vii-xxxii. London: Hatchards, 1925.

[In the following excerpt, Allison describes the early circumstances of Lucretius, the factors that led him to become a devoted follower of Epicurus, and Lucretius's views on nature and the human race.]

Of Titus Lucretius Carus, one of the world's great poets, we know hardly anything. One of the maxims which his beloved Master, Epicurus, impressed upon his followers was, ‘Hide thyself, and pass through life unknown’; and so successfully has his pupil followed his advice, that no details of his life and works have come down to us. Although the...

(The entire section is 6632 words.)

Richard Minadeo (essay date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Minadeo, Richard. “The Great Design.” In The Lyre of Science: Form and Meaning in Lucretius's “De Rerum Natura,” pp. 31-54. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1969.

[In the following excerpt, Minadeo attempts to explain the meaning of De rerum natura largely through study of its design and structure.]

The biographical tradition on Titus Lucretius Carus is meager indeed, and those notices that are at all striking are both late in source and so compromising as to seem the work of a master ironist. As the result of a love potion, the tradition runs, the poet went insane, composed De Rerum Natura during intervals of lucidity and ultimately...

(The entire section is 13250 words.)

James H. Nichols, Jr. (essay date 1976)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Nichols, Jr., James H. “Conclusion: Lucretius and Modernity.” In Epicurean Political Philosophy: The “De rerum natura” of Lucretius, pp. 179-210. Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1976.

[In the following excerpt, Nichols examines elements of Lucretius's thought present in the works of Thomas Hobbes, Charles-Louis Montesquieu, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.]

Of the Stoics, those famous rivals of the Epicureans, Nietzsche has written:

“According to nature” you want to live? O you noble Stoics, what deceptive words these are! Imagine a being like nature, wasteful beyond measure, indifferent beyond measure,...

(The entire section is 8629 words.)

John D. Minyard (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Minyard, John D. “Lucretius and the Late Republic.” In Lucretius and the Late Republic, pp. 1-70. Amsterdam: E. J. Brill, 1985.

[In the following excerpt, Minyard analyzes the De rerum natura and discusses the tactics Lucretius employed in the work to demonstrate to readers the failure of old world views and the superiority of Epicureanism.]


The history of human values is the history of changing notions about truth and reality, however analytically inarticulate those notions may have been. So, the history of values at Rome is a function of the changes in Roman ideas about reality and truth, is,...

(The entire section is 20737 words.)

Jesús M. Montserrat and Luis Navarro (essay date 1991)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Montserrat, Jesús M. and Luis Navarro. “The Water Cycle in Lucretius.”Centaurus 34, no. 4 (1991): 289-308.

[In the following essay, Montserrat and Navarro examine Lucretius's explanation of the water cycle and praise his use of plain language.]


The lack of research work on ancient meteorology in the history of science has already become traditional.1 It is our purpose to contribute to changing this tradition, since we find it inappropriate from the historical point of view. First of all, meteorology constitutes an important part of the ancient works devoted to the study of the natural world, at least in...

(The entire section is 7757 words.)

S. Georgia Nugent (essay date 1994)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Nugent, S. Georgia. “Mater Matters: The Female in Lucretius's De Rerum Natura.Colby Quarterly, 30, no. 3 (September 1994): 179-205.

[In the following essay, Nugent surveys various representations of women in the De rerum natura.]

Epic poetry celebrates the creation of a certain kind of self.1 That creation will often—but not always—be directed toward, tested through, and damaged or destroyed by war. Always, it will be male. This is not to say that females do not appear on the epic stage; they may even appear in the guise of heroic warrior—there is Camilla, there is Atalanta.2 But each such figure is anomalous; the...

(The entire section is 13155 words.)

Anthony M. Esolen (essay date 1995)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Esolen, Anthony M. “Introduction.” In Lucretius: “On the Nature of Things: De rerum natura,” edited and translated by Anthony M. Esolen. pp. 1-21. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

[In the following excerpt, Esolen explains that Lucretius wrote the De rerum natura to fight superstition. He also examines Lucretius's influence on Vergil, Cicero, Horace, and other writers.]


We know little about Titus Lucretius Carus. He was probably born in the early first century b.c., with 99 and 95 the limits of possibility. The year 55 is usually given for his death. Saint Jerome, following a...

(The entire section is 8520 words.)

Frederik Kaufman (essay date 1996)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Kaufman, Frederik. “Death and Deprivation; Or, Why Lucretius's Symmetry Argument Fails.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74, no. 2 (June 1996): 305-12.

[In the following essay, Kaufman rejects Lucretius's argument of symmetry between the times of pre-life and post-death because the former does not fulfill deprivation requirements.]

Assuming that death is the permanent extinction of conscious personal existence, the natural reaction to one's impending death is dismay. Under normal conditions, our death is seen as a dreadful thing, a great evil to be avoided. But a number of philosophers, including, perhaps most famously, Epicurus, have challenged the...

(The entire section is 5036 words.)