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(Titus Lucretius Carus) (lo͞okrē`shəs), c.99 B.C.–c.55 B.C., Roman poet and philosopher. Little is known about his life. A chronicle of St. Jerome speaks of the loss of his reason through taking a love potion. It states that in sane intervals he had written books that were later emended by Cicero. The poetry of Lucretius constitutes one great didactic work in six books, De rerum natura [on the nature of things]. In dignified and beautiful hexameter verse the poet sets forth arguments founded upon the philosophical ideas of Democritus and Epicurus. He seeks to persuade man that there need be no fear of the gods or of death, since "man is lord of himself." His proof is based upon the so-called atomic theory of the ancients, which held that everything, even the soul, is made up of atoms, and the laws of nature control all. The soul is itself material and so closely associated with the body that whatever affects one affects the other. Consciousness ends with death. There is no immortality of the soul. The universe came into being through the working of natural laws in the combining of atoms, instead of by the creative power of a deity. Although not the same as the modern atomic theory, many of the principles he gives in his scientific discussions have been upheld by later investigations.


See the translation by C. Bailey (3 vol., 1947); studies by L. A. Holland (1979) and D. Clay (1983); S. Greenblatt, The Swerve (2011).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(full name, Titus Lucretius Carus). Born in the first century B.C. Roman poet and materialist philosopher.

The earliest biographical information on Lucretius dates from the fourth century and cannot be considered reliable. His philosophical poem On the Nature of Things, written in the form of a didactic epic, expounds the teachings of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, chiefly his physics but briefly touching upon his theories of cognition and ethics. The poem, divided into six books, is the only fully preserved exposition of the materialist thought of antiquity. The first and second books expound an atomistic theory of the universe and deny the intervention of gods in men’s affairs. The third book describes the soul as a material and mortal entity and discusses the soul’s relation to the body. Book four presents a theory of man and sensory impressions as the basis of knowledge.

The fifth book contains a cosmogony, a history of the development of the human race, and an explanation of the origin of language. According to Lucretius, the use of fire and the formation of the family were the first steps leading from the primitive, “wild” state to the development of society and culture, hastened by the appearance of language. In the sixth book the origin of religion is explained by three natural causes: images of beautiful and powerful beings appearing in dreams that become objects of worship, natural phenomena surpassing human powers that are attributed to supernatural beings, and, finally, human fears. By choosing a verse form for his philosophical work, Lucretius enlivened and made more convincing the teachings of Epicurus. The materialists of the 17th and 18th centuries became acquainted with the atomistic ideas of antiquity primarily through Lucretius; a major exponent of his ideas was the French philosopher P. Gassendi.


De rerum natura. Oxford, 1947.
In Russian translation:
O prirode veshchei. vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.
O prirode veshchei. Introduction by F. A. Petrovskii. Moscow, 1958.


Lukretsii, K. T. O prirode veshchei, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
(See the articles and commentaries in the volume.)
Losev, A. F. “Lukretsii.” In Antichnaia literatura. Moscow, 1963. Gordon, C. A. A Bibliography of Lucretius. London, 1962.
Sallmann, K. G. Die Natur bei Lukrez. Cologne, 1962.
Boyancé, P. Lucrece: Sa vie, son oeuvre, avec un exposé de sa philosophic. Paris, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


full name Titus Lucretius Carus. ?96--55 bc, Roman poet and philosopher. In his didactic poem De rerum natura, he expounds Epicurus' atomist theory of the universe
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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Chapter four, "Growing Old Together: Lucretian Materialism in Shelley's The Triumph of Life," is probably the strongest chapter in the book, partly because it builds on a longer-standing and more familiar connection between Shelley and Lucretius, and partly because Goldstein is able to offer a compelling answer to a frequently asked question: how, if at all, is The Triumph of Life about the life sciences?
There is something of a pattern in the association of Lucretian materialism with major figures of the post-Medici Republic.
As Hammond and Hopkins note (532, notes to lines 237-38), materialism is emphasized at first (7: 237-38) by Dryden's translating Ovid with Lucretian echoes from his own translation of Lucretius's "Against the Fear of Death" (3: 163-74).
(16) Pullman, however, puts storytelling with its attendant interpretation of reality at the center of his epic: the story of the fall appears in three different versions, each of which insists with a Lucretian vehemence on different aspects of the same truth--that the fall is a source of genuine wisdom, and the gaining of knowledge "an act of virtue" (Pullman, Introduction 10).
According to Greenblatt, modern humanism is a Lucretian construction!
Modernity, at its apogee, is the resolute reversal, the attempt to reorder social life along Lucretian lines.
Johnson, Lord Byron, and such Lucretian disciples as Percy Bysshe Shelley, Walter Pater, Giacomo Leopardi, and Wallace Stevens"; examines how "Whitman emerged from Emerson's matrix, but with a strong sense of Epicurus and Lucretius working in him against Emersonian Idealism"; proposes that "tally" is one of Whitman's four "master tropes" and that "the triumph of Whitman's tally is the Lincoln elegy"; suggests Whitman's various influences on poets who follow him.]
Nonetheless, he neutralizes Vico's radical view by setting aside the importance of the Lucretian tradition and reducing Vico's bestioni to the "Ciceronian and rhetorical tradition which stressed the myths of Orpheus and Hercules who were supposed to have charmed civilized humanity into being through the power of a poetic, musical speech" (II, 32).
Ovid's irony is not only a mix or concentrate of tragic drama's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and aporia (3) with the dilutions of comedy's exaggeration, but also an avatar of Lucretian avocatio, a parody-enactment and permutation of the Roman Epicurean's teachings on the value of distance and the therapeutic perspective that the affective spectacle can engender.
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Recognising Campbell, in Jameson's formulation, as an "anti-modern modernist" (162), Meihuizen proposes that Campbell embraces "the paradox [of] the form of the endless" (159) as the principle of his work: Futurism, Lucretian Epicureanism, Mithraism, perhaps Fascism, all given expression in the strictest of traditional forms, thus seem to lead almost inevitably to the conversion to Catholicism.