Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99 BC55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His major work is De Rerum Natura, On the Nature of Things, which is considered by some to be the greatest masterpiece of Latin verse.



De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)Edit

  • Ergo vivida vis pervicet et extra
    processit longe flamentia moenia mundi
    atque omne immensum peragravit mente animoque.
    • The vivid force of his mind prevailed, and he fared forth far beyond the flaming ramparts of the heavens and traversed the boundless universe in thought and mind.
      • Book I, line 72.
  • Variant translation: … and traversed the interminate universe…
  • Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.
      • Book I, line 101
    • So much wrong could religion induce.
  • Nil posse creari
    de nilo.
    • Nothing can be created from nothing.
      • Book I, line 155-6
    • Variant translation: Nothing can be created out of nothing.
  • Nequeunt oculis rerum primordia cerni.
    • The first beginnings of things cannot be distinguished by the eye.
      • Book I, line 268.
  • Stilicidi casus lapidem cavat.
    • Continual dropping wears away a stone.
    • Book I, line 313; comparable to: "The soft droppes of rain perce the hard marble; many strokes overthrow the tallest oaks", John Lyly, Euphues, 1579 (Arber's reprint), p. 81.
  • Etsi difficiile esse videtur credere quicquam
    in rebus solido reperiri corpore posse.
    transit enim fulmen caeli per saepta domorum,
    clamor ut ad voces; flamen candescit in igni
    dissiliuntque ferre ferventi saxa vapore.
    tum labefactatus rigor auri solvitur aestu;
    tum glacies aeris flamma devicta liquescit;
    permanat calor argentum penetraleque frigus
    quando utrumque manu retinentes pocula rite
    sensimus infuso lympharum rore superne.
    • And yet it is hard to believe that anything
      in nature could stand revealed as solid matter.
      The lightning of heaven goes through the walls of houses,
      like shouts and speech; iron glows white in fire;
      red-hot rocks are shattered by savage steam;
      hard gold is softened and melted down by heat;
      chilly brass, defeated by heat, turns liquid;
      heat seeps through silver, so does piercing cold;
      by custom raising the cup, we feel them both
      as water is poured in, drop by drop, above.
      • Book I, lines 487-496.
  • Ita res accedent lumina rebus.
    • Truths kindle light for truths.
      • Book I, line 1117.
  • Suave magni maro turbantibus aequora ventis
    e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem;
    non quia vexari quemquamst jucunda voluptas,
    sed quibus ipse malis careas quia cernere suave est.
    • Pleasant it is, when over a great sea the winds trouble the waters, to gaze from shore upon another's tribulation: not because any man's troubles are a delectable joy, but because to perceive from what ills you are free yourself is pleasant.
      • Book II, line 1.
  • Sed nihil dulcius est, bene quam munita tenere
    edita doctrina sapientum templa serena,
    despicere unde queas alios passimque videre
    errare atque viam palantis quaerere vitae,
    certare ingenio, contendere nobilitate,
    noctes atque dies niti praestante labore
    ad summas emergere opes rerumque potiri.
    •                         But naught
      There is more goodly than to hold the high
      Serene plateaus, well fortressed by the wise,
      Whence thou may'st look below on other men
      And see them ev'rywhere wand'ring, all dispersed
      In their lone seeking for the road of life;
      Rivals in genius, or emulous in rank,
      Pressing through days and nights with hugest toil
      For summits of power and mastery of the world.
      • Book II, lines 6-13
  • Omnis cum in tenebris praesertim vita laboret.
    • Life is one long struggle in the dark.
      • Book II, line 54.
  • Nam veluti pueri trepidant atque omnia caecis
    in tenebris metuunt, sic nos in luce timemus
    interdum, nilo quae sunt metuenda magis quam
    quae pueri in tenebris pavitant finguntque futura.
    hunc igitur terrorem animi tenebrasque necessest
    non radii solis neque lucida tela diei
    discutiant sed naturae species ratioque.
    • For as children tremble and fear everything in the blind darkness, so we in the light sometimes fear what is no more to be feared than the things children in the dark hold in terror and imagine will come true. This terror therefore and darkness of mind must be dispelled not by the rays of the sun and glittering shafts of day, but by the aspect and law of nature.
      • Book II, line 56-62.
  • Sic rerum summa novatur
    semper, et inter se mortales mutua vivunt.
    augescunt aliae gentes, aliae
    inque brevi spatio mutantur saecla animantum
    et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradiunt.
    • Thus the sum of things is ever being renewed, and mortals live dependent one upon another. Some nations increase, others diminish, and in a short space the generations of living creatures are changed and like runners pass on the torch of life.
      • Book II, line 75.
  • Dum taxat, rerum magnarum parva potest res
    exemplare dare et vestigia notitiai.
    • So far as it goes, a small thing may give analogy of great things, and show the tracks of knowledge.
      • Book II, line 123.
  • Omnia qua propter debent per inane quietum
    aeque ponderibus non aequis concita ferri.
    • All things must needs be borne on through the calm void, moving at equal rate with unequal rates.
      • Book II, line 238.
  • Infidi maris insidis virisque dolumque
    ut vitare velint, neve ullo tempore credant
    subdola cum ridet placidi pellacia ponti.
    • Never trust her at any time, when the calm sea shows her false alluring smile.
      • Book II, line 558.
  • Cedit item retro, de terra quod fuit ante,
    in terras.
    • What once sprung from the earth sinks back into the earth.
      • Book II, line 999.
  • Quo magis in dubiis hominem spectare periclis
    convenit adversisque in rebus noscere qui sit;
    nam verae voces tum demum pectore ab imo
    eliciuntur et eripitur persona, manet res.
    • So it is more useful to watch a man in times of peril, and in adversity to discern what kind of man he is; for then at last words of truth are drawn from the depths of his heart, and the mask is torn off, reality remains.
      • Book III, line 55-8.
  • Praeterea gigni pariter cum corpore et una
    crescere sentimus pariterque senescere mentem.
    nam vel ut infirmo pueri teneroque vagantur
    corpore, sic animi sequitur sententia tenvis.
    inde ubi robustis adolevit viribus aetas,
    consilium quoque maius et auctior est animi vis.
    post ubi iam validis quassatum est viribus aevi
    corpus et obtusis ceciderunt viribus artus,
    claudicat ingenium, delirat lingua labat mens,
    omnia deficiunt atque uno tempore desunt.
    ergo dissolui quoque convenit omnem animai
    naturam, ceu fumus, in altas aëris auras;
    quando quidem gigni pariter pariterque videmus
    crescere et, ut docui, simul aevo fessa fatisci.
    • Besides we feel that mind to being comes
      Along with body, with body grows and ages.
      For just as children totter round about
      With frames infirm and tender, so there follows
      A weakling wisdom in their minds; and then,
      Where years have ripened into robust powers,
      Counsel is also greater, more increased
      The power of mind; thereafter, where already
      The body's shattered by master-powers of eld,
      And fallen the frame with its enfeebled powers,
      Thought hobbles, tongue wanders, and the mind gives way;
      All fails, all's lacking at the selfsame time.
      Therefore it suits that even the soul's dissolved,
      Like smoke, into the lofty winds of air;
      Since we behold the same to being come
      Along with body and grow, and, as I've taught,
      Crumble and crack, therewith outworn by eld.
      • Book III, lines 445-458; English translation by William Ellery Leonard, 1916
  • Nil igitur mors est ad nos neque pertinet hilum,
    quandoquidem natura animi mortalis habetur.
    • Therefore death is nothing to us, it matters not one jot, since the nature of the mind is understood to be mortal.
    • Variant translation: Death therefore is nothing to us nor does it concern us a scrap, seeing that the nature of the spirit we possess is something mortal.
      • Book III, line 830-31.
  • Cur non ut plenus vitae conviva recedis
    aequo animoque capis securam, stulte, quietem?
    • Why dost thou not retire like a guest sated with the banquet of life, and with calm mind embrace, thou fool, a rest that knows no care?
      • Book III, line 938-9.
  • Vitaque mancipio, nulli datur, omnibus usu.
    • To none is life given in freehold; to all on lease.
      • Book III, line 971 (translated by R. E. Latham).
  • Nam petere imperium quod inanus nec datur umquam,
    atque in eo semper durum sufferre laborem,
    hoc est adverso nixantem trudere monte
    saxa quod tamen e summo iam vertice rursum
    volvitur et plani raptim petit aequora campi.
    • Yes, to seek power that's vain and never granted
      and for it to suffer hardship and endless pain:
      this is to heave and strain to push uphill
      a boulder, that still from the very top rolls back
      and bounds and bounces down to the bare, broad field.
      • Book III, lines 998-1002.
  • Nec prorsum vitam ducendo demimus hilum
    tempore de mortis nec delibare valemus.
    • By protracting life, we do not deduct one jot from the duration of death.
      • Book III, line 1087.
  • Ut quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum.
    • What is food to one, is to others bitter poison.
      • Book IV, line 637; comparable to: "What's one man's poison, signor, / Is another's meat or drink", Beaumont and Fletcher, Love's Cure (c. 1612–13; revised c. 1625; printed 1647), Act iii, Scene 2.
  • Nequiquam, quoniam medio de fonte leporum
    surgit amari aliquid quod in ipsis floribus angat.
    • In the midst of the fountain of wit there arises something bitter, which stings in the very flowers.
      • Book IV, line 1133; comparable to: "Still from the fount of joy’s delicious springs / Some bitter o’er the flowers its bubbling venom flings", Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto i, Stanza 82.
    • Variant translation: From the midst of the fountain of delights rises something bitter that chokes them all amongst the flowers.
  • Quod siquis vera vitam ratione gubernet,
    divitiae grandes homini sunt vivere parvo
    aequo animo; neque enim est umquam penuria parvi.
    • But if one should guide his life by true principles, man's greatest wealth is to live on a little with contented mind; for a little is never lacking.
      • Book V, line 1117.
  • Nam cupide conculcatur nimis ante metutum.
    • Men are eager to tread underfoot what they have once too much feared.
      • Book V, line 1140.
  • Circumretit enim vis atque iniuria quemque,
    atque, unde exortast, at eum plerumque revertit.
    • Violence and injury enclose in their net all that do such things, and generally return upon him who began.
      • Book V, line 1152.
  • Moreover, within the hollows of the earth,
    When from one quarter the wind builds up, lunges,
    Muscles the deep caves with its headstrong power,
    The earth leans hard where the force of wind has pressed it;
    Then above ground, the higher the house is built,
    The nearer it rises to the sky, the worse
    Will it lean that way and jut out perilously,
    The beams wrenched loose and hanging ready to fall.
    And to think, men can't believe that for this world
    Some time of death and ruin lies in wait,
    Yet they see so great a mass of earth collapse!
    And the winds pause for breath—that's lucky, for else
    No force could rein things galloping to destruction.
    But since they pause for breath, to rally their force,
    Come building up and then fall driven back,
    More often the earth will threaten ruin than
    Perform it. The earth will lean and then sway back,
    Its wavering mass restored to the right poise
    That explains why all houses reel, top floor
    Most then the middle, and ground floor hardly at all.
  • Scilicet et fluvius qui non est maximus, ei'st
    Qui non ante aliquem majorem vidit; et ingens
    Arbor, homoque videtur, et omnia de genere omni
    Maxima quae vidit quisque, haec ingentia fingit.
    • A little river seems to him, who has never seen a larger river, a mighty stream; and so with other things--a tree, a man--anything appears greatest to him that never knew a greater.
      • Book VI, line 674


  • All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher.
    • As quoted in What Great Men Think of Religion (1972 [1945]) by Ira D. Cardiff, p. 245. Actually said by Edward Gibbonː "The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful." — Edward Gibbon (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776, Vol. I, Ch. II).

Quotes about LucretiusEdit

  • The poem of Lucretius in six books, entitled "De Rerum Natura," was the first accurate statement of the Epicurean philosophy in the Latin language... no writer has in stronger terms controverted all the popular notions of heathenism, and even those fundamental points in all religions, the existence of a creative power, a providence, and the immortality of the soul. His language and versification partake of the rudeness of an early period of literature; and, in the argumentative parts of his works the poet is frequently scarce discernible. But where the subject admits of elevated sentiment or descriptive beauty, no poet, at least nо Roman poet, has taken a loftier flight, or exhibited more spirit and sublimity. Nor is it only in detached passages that he has displayed the genius of a true poet: the same animated strain is supported almost throughout entire books, when he gets free from the trammels of his system.
    • John Aikin, William Enfield, General biography; or, Lives, critical and historical, of the most eminent persons of all ages, countries, conditions, and professions, Vol. 6 (1807), p. 378
  • Lucretius, who follows [Epicurus] in denouncing love, sees no harm in sexual intercourse provided it is divorced from passion.
  • Lucretius was passionate, and much more in need of exhortations to prudence than Epicurus was. He committed suicide, and appears to have suffered from periodic insanity – brought on, so some averred, by the pains of love or the unintended effects of a love philtre.
  • [The Roman philosopher Lucretius] thought it a mistake to find the prospect of my death upsetting. Yes, as the deprivation account points out, after death we can't enjoy life's pleasures. But wait a minute, says Lucretius. The time after I die isn't the only period during which I won't exist. What about the period before my birth? If nonexistence is so bad, shouldn't I be upset by the eternity of nonexistence before I was born? But that's silly, right? Nobody is upset about that. So, he concludes, it doesn't make any sense to be upset about the eternity of nonexistence after you die, either.
  • Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas.
    • Blessed is he who has been able to win knowledge of the causes of things.
    • Virgil, in Georgics, Book II, line 490 (translated by H. Rushton Fairclough).

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