On the Nature of Things

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Cosimo, Inc., Jan 1, 2010 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 308 pages
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Titled De rerum natura in Latin, On the Nature of Things, written by Titus Lucretius Carus and translated by John Selby Watson, is an epic poem and philosophical essay in one. Written with the intent of explaining Epicurean philosophy to the Romans, the original poem was divided into six books and written in dactylic hexameter. The overarching principle in the book explains the human role in a universe ruled by chance. Notable is the absence of the gods the Romans depended upon; though LUCRETIUS invokes the goddess Venus in the poem's opening lines, he uses her merely as an allegory for sexual and reproductive power. Other themes throughout the poem include the nature of the soul and mind, why we sense and feel and think, principles of the void and atomism, the creation and evolution of the world, and celestial and terrestrial phenomena (and their differences). It tries to explain human life and purpose in a nutshell, or the nature of the Universe--a way for people to cope and understand in a confused and terrifying world. TITUS LUCRETIUS CARUS (c. 99 BC - 55 Be was a Roman philosopher and poet. Very little is known about his life, and his only known work is the epic poem on Epicurean philosophy, On the Nature of Things. He dedicated the work to the famous Roman orator and poet Gaius Memmius, who may have been a friend, and it is thought that he may have died before he finished editing the poem, as it ends rather abruptly. The book's translator, JOHN SELBY WATSON (1804-1884), was a British translator and writer, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his wife in 1872.

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About the author (2010)

Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99 BC - c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the epic philosophical poem De rerum natura about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which is usually translated into English as On the Nature of Things. Very little is known about Lucretius's life; the only certain fact is that he was either a friend or client of Gaius Memmius, to whom the poem was addressed and dedicated. The De rerum natura was a considerable influence on the Augustan poets, particularly Virgil (in his Aeneid and Georgics, and to a lesser extent on the Satires and Eclogues) of Horace. The work virtually disappeared during the Middle Ages, but was rediscovered in a monastery in Germany during 1417, by Poggio Bracciolini, and it played an important role both in the development of atomism (Lucretius was an important influence on Pierre Gassendi) and the efforts of various figures of the Enlightenment era to construct a new Christian humanism. The book The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (2011) by Stephen Greenblatt is a narrative of the discovery of the old Lucretius manuscript by Poggio.

Gaius Sallustius Crispus, usually anglicised as Sallust (86 BC - c. 35 BC) was a Roman historian, politician, and novus homo from a well-known plebeian family. Sallust was born at Amiternum in the country of the Sabines, and was a popularis, opposer of the old Roman aristocracy throughout his career, and later a partisan of Julius Caesar. Sallust is the earliest known Roman historian with surviving works to his name, of which we have Catiline's War (about the conspiracy in 63 BCE of L. Sergius Catilina), The Jugurthine War (about Rome's war against the Numidians from 111 to 105 BCE), and the Histories (of which only fragments survive). Sallust was primarily influenced by the Greek historian Thucydides, and amassed great (and ill-gotten) wealth from his governorship of Africa.

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