Titus Lucretius Carus Biography

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(Epics for Students)

Titus Lucretius Carus, known as Lucretius, was born in Rome circa 94 B.C. Little is known about his life apart from the beliefs and values he describes in his epic scientific poem, De rerum natura, or On the Nature of Things. Unfortunately, nothing is known about Lucretius' schooling, family, or literary development. There is confusion regarding his social standing, as the name "Carus" suggests servitude, while "Lucretius" indicates aristocracy. Scholars believe that his six-book masterpiece, De rerum natura, is unfinished. In this epic, he repeatedly discourages the reader from fearing death, advice Lucretius apparently embraced when he committed suicide in about 55 B.C. According to a longstanding (although questionable) rumor reported by the historian Jerome, Lucretius was driven insane by a love potion given to him by his wife.

Throughout his life, Lucretius was surrounded by political upheaval and war. He saw firsthand the cruelty and domination of dictators, along with the instability of such rule. He saw the decline of Rome's republican government and died before stability was restored. He was a man who felt deep compassion for the human race, which he perceived as living in fear and ignorance. He criticized religious leaders who instilled terror in order to bring about moral living. Lucretius was a follower of Epicurus and his scientific, rational way of understanding the world. In turn, Lucretius became a strong influence on later writers such as Virgil and Ovid.