Not only was Lucretius my all-time favorite Roman philosopher, he was also the greatest of philosophical poets who lived through one of the most anarchic periods in Roman history: a time of dictatorship, civil war, and conspiracies. No one was safe from this world.
On the Nature of Things (De rerum natura) was Titus Lucretius Carus’ response to the lawless world. It painted a comprehensive scientific picture of the universe, based on the works of the ancient Greeks Epicurus and Democritus.
The purpose of his poem was to prove that everything in the entire universe operated on a principle called “swerve,” an inexplicable force that explained the totally random collision of atoms that form reality. Chance, not some other supernatural power, is the source of all things, and the idea that emancipates people from the evils of religion and the fear of death.
The poem leaves the impression that the entire cosmos was irrevocably on its way towards annihilation in Lucretius’ time. The only reason to be alive was to contemplate the sheer absurdity of things.
Unfortunately, Lucretius never experienced the peace of mind his philosophy offered because he committed suicide before finishing the final draft of his poem. Some say he killed himself in a fit of insanity induced by a love potion his wife had given him.
Chapter 1: In the Beginning… There was Nothing.