Controversial elements in Lucretius - PDF by G. P. Eckman

Controversial elements in Lucretius 

Controversial elements in Lucretius
Controversial elements in Lucretius

Contemporary Interest in Epicureanism. It cannot be denied that the poem of Lucretius failed to awaken any marked interest until long after its publication. 

The almost unbroken silence of his contemporaries regarding him is significant of the comparative indifference with which his production was received. 

The reasons for this neglect are various and not far to seek. In the first place, the moment was inopportune for the appearance of such a work. "It was composed in that hapless time when the rule of the oligarchy had been overthrown and that of Caesar had not yet been established, in the sultry years during which the outbreak of the civil war was awaited with long and painful suspense." 

It can readily be appreciated that a period of such fermentation and alarm would afford an opportunity for the philosophic study to those alone who was able to retire from political excitements to private leisure and quiet. 

Moreover, the very characteristics of the Epicurean philosophy would recommend it chiefly to persons of this description. Participation in public life was distinctly discouraged by the school of Epicurus, who regarded the realm of politics as a world of tumult and trouble, wherein happiness — the chief end of life — was almost, if not quite, impossible. 

They counselled entering the arena of public affairs only as an occasional and disagreeable necessity, or as a possible means of allaying the discontent of those to whom the quiet of private life was not wholly satisfactory.'' Such instruction, though phrased in the noble hexameters of a Lucretius, was scarcely calculated to enjoy immediate popularity in the stirring epoch of a fast hurrying revolution.

A somewhat ingenious, but unsuccessful, attempt has been made to account for the indifference with which Lucretius was treated on the ground of his assault Upon the doctrine of the future life. It has been suggested that as the enmity of the Christian writers was early called down upon his head for this cause, he was likewise whelmed ' ' under a conspiracy of silence on the part of his Roman contemporaries and successors " for the same reason. 

But so general was the scepticism of his age on this question, that it is scarcely credible that the publication of his views could have seriously scandalized the cultured classes who read his lines. The same judgment will hold true with reference to the entire attitude of Lucretius toward the traditional religion.

It is a sufficient answer to the theory that his infidelity created antipathy toward him to record the fact that Julius Caesar, than whom no more pronounced free-thinker lived in his day, was, despite his scepticism Maximus of the Roman commonwealth, and did not hesitate to declare in the presence of the Senate that the immortality of the soul was a vain delusion.
That he represented in these heretical opinions the position of many of the foremost persons of the period is the testimony of contemporary literature.

the book details :
  • Author:  G. P.  Eckman
  • Publication date 1899
  • Company: New York [Printed by C.B. Jackson]

  • DownloadControversial elements in Lucretius  5 MB

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