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On the Nature of the Universe (Oxford World's Classics)

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,531 Ratings  ·  330 Reviews
`Therefore this terror and darkness of the mind

Not by the sun's rays, nor the bright shafts of day,

Must be dispersed, as is most necessary,

But by the face of nature and her laws.'

Lucretius' poem On the Nature of the Universe combines a scientific and philosophical treatise with some of the greatest poetry ever written. With intense moral fervour Lucretius demonstrates
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Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published November 27th 1997 by Oxford University Press (first published -57)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Manny
First, an apology for only giving it three stars. I am well aware that this is a brilliant piece of poetry, but my Latin is very poor, and I rapidly abandoned my initial plan of reading it in the original with the English translation alongside. In a way, though, I'm following Lucretius's advice: he explicitly says at one point that it's wrong to allow yourself to be swayed by beautiful words, and you should judge an idea on its merits. Reading him in my barbarian's tongue is certainly one way to ...more
David Sarkies
Jan 09, 2016 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scientists
Recommended to David by: Nobody, I saw it in a book shop
Shelves: science
Epicurian Physics
31 July 2013

Well, here I am, once again sitting in the passenger seat of my Dad's car on our final trek to Melbourne, and since I have been reading, sleeping, or driving for most of the day, I might as well fix up a couple of my reviews while I am sitting here (and since I have a smartphone, and my Dad has this adapter that allows me to plug my laptop into the cigarette lighter, I might as well make use of it – such are the benefits of having an electronic engineer as a father)
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Clif Hostetler
The antiquity of this book calls for respect and appreciation. However, for a modern reader it is very boring to read. It's a long (300 pages) poem written in the first century BC in which the author pontificates about the physical sciences for the purpose of defending Epicureanism philosophy. It is of some interest for the modern reader to see where the author is correct and not so correct when judged from the perspective of modern science. However, Lucretius was a poet in his day, not a mathem ...more
Jesse
Aug 06, 2010 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"True piety lies in the power to contemplate the universe with a quiet mind." This is a truth even C.S. Lewis, a sincere Christian, assented to, remarking that only the atheist can believe. So it is with Lucretius, whose poetry here anticipates many scientific discoveries, including several of Galileo's and Newton's, along with the general structure of atomic theory, although widely missing the mark in the theory of "films" (supposedly an explanation of what Locke would later call secondary sub ...more
Bruce
Apr 12, 2012 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lucretius wrote this explication and celebration of Epicureanism in the first century BCE. The text was lost for many years but apparently rediscovered during the Renaissance, and it has been influential ever since. There is probably no translation from the Latin that perfectly combines the poetic beauty and the philosophical insights of the original, although there have been many attempts to do so. I was particularly interested during this reading in having as clear a delineation of Lucretius’ ...more
Jeremy
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this was a real surprise. Lucretius was just so shockingly ahead of his time. It's probably more important than Newton in terms of the sheer range of thought he originates. His conception of atomic theory is surprisingly accurate, down to recognizing that atoms are composed of about three different parts. He also figured out the law of conservation of matter, realized that the majority of matter is made up of empty space, recognized the basic principles of gravitation, heat, light, relativi ...more
Darwin8u
Mar 31, 2012 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2012
There are a handful of books that seem to float above the rabble. They are certainly not scripture, but belong on a shelf above philosophy. Reading Lucretius is like reading the dreams of Darwin or Newton interpreted by the hand of Shakespeare. On the Nature of Things belongs on the shelf next to Bacon, Dante, Montaigne, Marcus Aurelius and the rest of my demi-Gods.
Andrew
When was the last time you read an ancient Roman text that predicts quantum theory and genetics, promotes sustainable agriculture, and is written in the form of an epic poem? Anyone? Anyone?

Jesus Christ this was weird. And good. And nothing like it will ever be written again. I dig all wildly interdisciplinary, utterly anti-parochial writers (see also: Sebald, Vico, Browne), and Lucretius joins their ranks in my mind. A poetically beautiful, prescient, coruscant puzzle-box of a book.
G.R. Reader
Apr 22, 2014 G.R. Reader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why doesn't anyone write pop science books like this any more? You know, full of cutting-edge particle physics and cosmology (who cares if it's all wrong? it's magnificently wrong) but with bits about earthquakes and evolution, mixed up with hot sex tips and complaints about why women are all such fucking bitches. And the whole thing done as exquisite poetry. Brian Greene, eat your heart out. No one's going to be reading you a couple of thousand years from now.
Nemo
Jul 18, 2015 Nemo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Philosophy is Supposed to be Fun!

Cicero, because of his personal aversion to the Epicurean philosophy, didn't quite do it justice in his book The Nature of the Gods, which introduced the Greek philosophical schools to the Romans (He all but made the Epicurean the laughing-stock of all the other philosophers). However, he also prepared and edited the transcript of this book by Lucretius, arguably the best exposition of Epicureanism, as a counterpoint.

Lucretius made a strong case for Epicureanism
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Evan Leach
The De Rerum Natura is the sole surviving work of Lucretius, a Roman poet writing in the 1st century BC. The book summarizes and explains the principles of Epicureanism, a philosophy founded by the Greek philosopher Epicurus around 300 BC. Epicureanism emphasized that while gods existed, they did not interfere in human affairs, and free will instead of fate governed people’s lives. Epicurus also rejected the existence of an afterlife, believed in a rudimentary kind of atomism, and argued that th ...more
Caroline
Wonderful translation by AE Stallings, one of my favorite poets. Lots of playful language. The lines flow nicely, and the sentence structure to get the rhymes is not obtrusive. Quite startling prescience at times about atomic structure, while other explanations of natural occurrences are pretty amusing. The section on death and its aftermath--or not--is very good.
Laurent
Jun 11, 2015 Laurent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first, The Nature of Things seemed to me quite an extensive attempt at explaining the world without the use of mythology. Although undoubtedly interesting, Lucretius’ poetry read like a manual, a compilation of rational thought processes which ultimately jumped to barely founded conclusions — to be expected from a two thousand year-old epic philosophical poem. And it seemed to me as though the poem lacked just that: philosophy. However, as I dragged myself through the endless explanations of ...more
Kristen
Feb 05, 2010 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's easy to read this book and snicker at all the things he got wrong, all the while being impressed and amazed at the bit he got right. He figured out that ball of wool and a ball of metal would fall at the same rate in a vacuum and yet he couldn't quite wrap his head around how a mirror works.

But what makes this book great is the insight it offers into the thinking of someone trying to understand the universe without the aid of superstition and religion well over two millennia ago.
Truly a h
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Genni
Feb 20, 2016 Genni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 stars. Lucretius thoroughly convinced me that Roman mythology is bosh. :-) But his materialistic apologetics failed to convert me.

Lucretius's poem follows the general outline of epicureanism as presented in Epicurus's Letter to Herodotus. His ontology begins and ends with atoms. While he is not the first in the ancient world to propose the existence of atoms, he is the first (that I could find) who posited their existence while insisting on a sensory epistemology. The way he "proves" their
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Thomas
The only way to read Lucretius is slowly, preferably in Latin. Most of us can't manage the latter, so we lose the poetry -- but all is not lost for the Latin-less. Reading it slowly, analyzing the shape of Lucretius's thought, and finally putting the pieces together with an eye to the purpose of the poem can make an otherwise arduous experience rewarding.

Lucretius wanted to make Epicurean materialism palatable to a society bolstered by state-sanctioned religion. This took some daring in the lat
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Beluosus
Jun 15, 2012 Beluosus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latine
Cum Lucretii librum De Rerum Natura perlegissem, pagina evoluta ultima multa de doctrina, scientia et disciplina epicurea in mente animadverti. Carmen legere diu volueram, quod libri in quo physica et philosophia per poemata explicantur me maxime delectaret. Insolitum videtur, saltem temporibus hodiernis ; nemo nisi doctrinae infantum carmina de physicis nunc componit.

Scientia antiqua me semper adlicet. De philosophiis religionibus scientiis antiquis legere soleo, Aegypticis praecipue et magis m
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James
The philosophy of Epicurus is seldom presented any better than in the classic poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius. We know little about Lucretius life other than he lived during the turbulent era of the Roman Empire that saw the rise of Sulla and Pompey and, ultimately, Julius Caesar. On the Nature of Things was his poetic plea to the Roman elite that they change course. The poem by Lucretius has the goal of explaining Epicurean philosophy to a Roman audience. It was wri ...more
Erik Graff
Mar 16, 2015 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: atomists
Recommended to Erik by: Ludwig von Dorsch
Shelves: sciences
Whatever happened to didactive poetry?

The instance of De Rerum Natura shows one of many ways the Romans were different from us. Lucretius was known to his contemporaries as much for his poetic style as for the Epicurean atomism he preached. While I tried with my little Latin to appreciate this style by reading much of the reconstructed original's text aloud, I was unable to confirm Cicero's positive judgment and had to satisfy myself with appreciating the scope of the author's "science" and, let
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Borum
Feb 13, 2016 Borum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-be-reread
review to be resumed later

a mighty shame it was not fully recovered, though. guess we're lucky to have it at all. stole the thunder from darwin, einstein, kinsey and countless many.
Alex
Review forthcoming...I'll probably wuss out on all the quote-heavy analysis I plan to do and end up half-assing it anyway.
Zelda
Jul 15, 2014 Zelda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
What a strange and wonderful thing this book is. You probably could not have sold it to me on the description alone. A 200+ page epic poem translated into rhyming fourteeners on the subject of science. You see what I mean? And yet it is absolutely fascinating how close the ancients were to understanding science the way we understand it now (I'm allowing for the possibility that we still don't have it quite right). Well, fascinating if you weren't aware of it which I wasn't. I mean, I did underst ...more
Jon
Sep 22, 2011 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes boring, sometimes astonishing in its perception, sometimes silly because it is a very early attempt at seeing the entire universe (including our minds and spirits) as made up entirely of tiny seeds. Nothing exists except the seeds and the void. Various combinations of these atoms (Lucretius doesn't use that word) make the world we perceive seem to be made up of different things. Everything eventually perishes; there is no immortality. The only proper attitude towards this truth is the ...more
D
Jun 18, 2012 D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
…The kind of things we look at in our dreams
When altars seem to lift a swirl of incense
(We are all, of course, the hosts of images.)

The big deal here isn’t quite so much the content as the quality of the delivery. You can get all the nice ideas about atoms and guesses as to this and that, storms, volcanoes, fertility, contraception, etc. elsewhere and bits of it might be curious and interesting but most of it would be quite forgettable. The reason this book is still around is that it is fantasti
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Nicholas Whyte
Feb 11, 2010 Nicholas Whyte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1391691.html

This is one of the best-argued cases for atheism I have read (speaking as a non-atheist). Millennia before Dawkins, Hitchens, or even Bertrand Russell, Lucretius argued the nature of the universe from first principles, concluding vigorously that there is no God and no afterlife, just matter made of atoms. There is no tedious sniping at current beliefs (apart from a rather funny bit towards the end about why Jupiter does not hurl thunderbolts; and he has
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Chris
Feb 25, 2016 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Perhaps I should say 3.5 stars. 3 because it could be difficult to read at times, taking away from the enjoyment; and it could be rather repetitive and contradictory at times. 4 stars for the amazing content of Lucretius' arguments about the phenomena of the natural world written in 50BCE!!!! Quite an eye-opener. Had no idea that the notion of nature being made up of particles or atoms was even a thought in ancient times. This work is where the famous "swerve theory" is derived.

Lucretius was a d
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William Herbst
This spring I read Greenblatt's book "The Swerve" which argues (unconvincingly) that the discovery of a manuscript of Lucretius'' De Rerum Natura led to the Renaissance. It made me recall a course I took on Lucretius many years ago at the CUNY graduate center. This summer, for a sight reading session with some other local Latin teachers I chose Lucretius' lines on the swerve to read and discuss. Wow - tough job working through the Latin and then trying to piece together the threads of what seeme ...more
John Doe
Feb 02, 2013 John Doe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book, though it wasn't always a pleasure to read. The explanations of natural phenomenon are incredibly rigorous!

While I don't blame him for not knowing about things like electromagnetism, I still would be interested in reading the views of modern physicists and meteorologists on some of the issues he discusses (I suspect that Lucretius would do pretty well, considering). However, his views on thoughts, ghosts, and celestial phenomenon are less persuasive. But, it is as the astute o
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Edward
Introduction
Further Reading
A Note on the Text and Translation
Acknowledgements


The Nature of Things

--Book I: Matter and Void
--Book II: The Dance of Atoms
--Book III: Mortality and the Soul
--Book IV: The Senses
--Book V: Cosmos and Civilization
--Book VI: Weather and the Earth

Notes
Glossary of Proper Names
Jason
Mar 25, 2015 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whoever he might have been, Lucretius knew. I'm always both encouraged and disheartened when I encounter this type of writer. Even during such a long-ago time when humans were overwhelmed by credulity and superstition, here is another faithful(!) reminder that there is hope - but we must get a move on. How the world isn't nowadays amuck with humans of Lucretius' character and doubt astounds me.

Though the book is concerned primarily with mind and matter and nature and their mutual relationship,
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  • The Poems
  • Catullus: The Complete Poems
  • The "Eclogues" And "Georgics" (Oxford World's Classics)
  • The Nature of the Gods
  • Ptolemy's Almagest
  • Pharsalia: The Civil War
  • The Enneads
  • The Sixteen Satires
  • The Complete Odes and Epodes
  • Natural History: A Selection
  • Parmenides (Philosophical Library)
  • Plutarch's Lives, Vol 2
  • Fasti
  • The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists
  • Mencius
  • Idylls
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Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99 BC – c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the epic philosophical poem De rerum natura about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which is usually translated into English as On the Nature of Things.

Very little is known about Lucretius's life; the only certain fact is that he was either a friend or client of Gaius Memmius, to whom
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“All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher.” 99 likes
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