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LUCRETIUS CARUS
Form: Titus.
A Roman poet, born at Rome about 98 B.C. and died by his own hand, in 55. He composed for his friend Memmius, the orator and poet, a didactic poem in hexameter verse concerning the nature of things (De Rerum Natura) in six books. The teaching of Epicurus forms the main subject, the example of Empedocles prescribed the poetic form, and the mode of treatment was modelled on Ennius. The ostensible object of the work is to prove by a profound investigation of the world of nature that all comes to be, exists, and perishes by eternal law, without any interference of supernatural powers, and hence to set men free from their fearful torture, terror, and superstition. The first elements of all existence are the imperishable atoms which move in infinite space (book i). By union of these come into existence not only the material world (ii), but also soul and spirit, which consequently perish as soon as a dissolution of the atoms takes place (iii); perception, sensation, and thought are mental processes, occasioned by images which are ceaselessly being emitted by the surfaces of things (iv). Book v treats of the formation of the world, vi of single natural phenomena. This, work is the only considerable composition in epic verse which has come down to us from the time of the Republic. It is also the first attempt at a systematic treatment of Greek philosophy in the Latin tongue. The greatest admiration is due to the art with which Lucretius gives poetic form to his unpoetical subject, and adapts to his purpose a language which had hitherto been little exercised on such topics. The matter causes the exposition to be often dry, but frequently it rises to a magnificent beauty, as in the famous description of the Athenian plague at the end of the poem. The scientific zeal with which the whole is imbued, and which stands aloof from all frivolity, must inspire respect. He expresses himself with simplicity and power, and his language has an antique colouring. He was prevented by death from putting the finishing touches to his work (or even from completing it. Thus there is nothing on the subject of ethics, which could not properly be omitted in an exposition of the teaching of Epicurus]. It is true that; Cicero revised it before publication, yet the condition in which we have it is in great measure defective.

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LUCRETIUS. (From a black agate, formerly in Dr. Nott's collection.)
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