Friday, June 7, 2013

Biography of Lucretius

We don't know much about Lucretius.  He was a Roman poet who lived in the first half of the 1st century BC.  All that we know comes from a few references from other writers.  The most direct is from St Jerome, written some 400 years later: 
"Titus Lucretius the poet is born. Later he was driven mad by a love potion, and when, during the intervals of his insanity, he had written a number of books, which were later emended by Cicero, he killed himself by his own hand in the 44th year of his life."
Most modern scholars doubt the 'love potion' and 'insanity' portions of this very brief biography as St Jerome opposed the philosophy of Lucretius.  Lucretius was an Epicurean, a philosophy that early Christians portrayed as a love of pleasure. 
Lucretius is known for one work, De rerum natura, known in English as 'On the Nature of Things'.  It was popular in its day and it introduced Epicureanism to a large Roman audience.  The piece disappeared for at least a thousand years until it was rediscovered in a German monastery in the early 1400's.  It was circulated by the Humanist movement and became one of the building blocks of the budding study of the Humanities.  

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