Great Books of the Western World - Volume 12 Lucretius Epictetus Marcus Aurelius

Author : Great Books of the Western World - Hutchins Robert Maynard
Title : Volume 12 Lucretius Epictetus Marcus Aurelius. Lucretius : on the nature of things. The discourses of Epitetus. The meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
Year : 1952

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LUCRETIUS, C.98-C.55 B. C. TITUS LUCRETIUS CARUS was born somewhere between 99 and 95 B.C., probably at Rome. The Lucretian gens to which he belonged was one of the oldest of the great Roman houses, and it is likely that he was a member of either a senatorial or an equestrian family. In his poem he speaks to the aristocratic Gaius Memmius, to whom he dedicated his work, as to an equal. Nothing is known of the poet's education except what might be inferred from the presence in Rome during his youth of eminent Greek teachers of the Epicurean sect who lived on terms of intimacy with members of the governing class. Lucretius' reading is evident from his poem. In addition to the works of his master, Epicurus, he shows knowledge of the philosophical poem of Empedocles and at least an acquaintance with the works of Democritus, Anaxagoras, Heraclitus, Plato, and the Stoics. Of the other Greek prose writers he knew Thucydides and Hippocrates. Among the poets he expresses highest admiration for Homer, frequently reproduces Euripides, and shows a close study of Ennius. The only account of Lucretius' life is a short note by St. Jerome written more than four centuries after the poet's death. St. Jerome in his Chronicle under the year 94 B.C. has the entry: "Titus Lucretius the poet is born. He was rendered insane by a love-philtre and, after writing during intervals of lucidity, some books, which Cicero emended, he died by his own hand in the forty-third year of his life." The account of St. Jerome, though perhaps based on a lost work of Suetonius, has not been traced to any earlier source and has been found incapable of either proof or disproof. Historians have pointed out that love potions, which occasionally caused madness, were sufficiently common at the time of Lucretius to necessitate a legal penalty against their use. Some critics have argued that the supposed mental ailment is compatible with the impression the poem makes and have pointed to the evidence of its not having received a final revision. Other critics have inferred that the whole story is a fiction invented by the enemies of Epicureanism to discredit the work of its greatest expositor. Cicero's relation to the poem as emender or editor rests on no other authority than that of St. Jerome. A letter of Cicero's to his brother does reveal that the poem, probably published posthumously, was being read in 54 B.C. Donatus, in his Life of Virgil, states that Lucretius died on the same day in 55 B.C. that Virgil assumed the toga virilis. ...

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