Jerry's Reviews > The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
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's review
Jan 02, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: history
Read in November, 2011

A very interesting book about the roots of modern secularism.
The story of Poggio Bracciolini's discovery in 1417 of Lucretius's poem On the Nature of Things. Titus Lucretius Carus was born around 94 BCE and died around 50 BCE. Lucretius was an Epicurean. Epicurus had developed the idea of the atom. There is a hidden natural explanation for everything that alarms or eludes us. Heavenly bodies are not divine beings that shape our destiny but are made of atoms just like us. And if the natural order is unimaginably vast and complex, it is possible to understand something of its universal laws.

Lucretius's On the Nature of Things influenced Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas More (Utopia 1516), Giordano Bruno, Edmund Spencer, Francis Bacon, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, and Isaac Newton among others. Thomas Jefferson was an Epicurean. He owned at least five Latin editions of On the Nature of Things along with English, Italian, and French translations. “The pursuit of Happiness” could be seen as an Epicurean ideal.
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