30   First things first

“ Anyone once having rightly perceived the cause (for lack of well-being) would abandon other matters and first study to understand the nature of things.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.1071-1072


29   Trying to run from ourselves

“… (if people understood the burden they feel) they would not spend their lives as we generally see them do now, not knowing what they each want for themselves and always seeking to change location as if in that way they could lay down the burden.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.1057-1059


28   The great and good are not spared the common limit

“Epicurus himself died, when the light of life had come to an end, who excelled the rest of humankind in his abilities, who like the sun rising into the sky extinguished all the stars.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.1042-1044


27   Hell on earth

“And undoubtedly whatever (dreadful) things have been reported to exist in the depths of Acheron are all present for us in this life.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.978-979


26   Obsolescence and renewal

“For in the scheme of things age is forever in retreat, pushed away by newness, and one thing must be renewed out of other things.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.964-965


25   As if we had never existed

“… you may be sure that there is nothing for us to fear in death, and that a person who does not exist cannot become unhappy, and that it does not make the least difference (i.e. for the individual concerned) whether a person had never been born, when immortal death has taken away mortal life.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.866-869


24   We have no awareness after death

“… nothing at all can possibly happen (to us after our death) to rouse the senses, not if the earth be mixed with the sea and the sea with the sky.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.841-842


23   The mind shows mortal failings

“Add to these things (other afflictions of the soul) the mind’s capacity for madness and forgetting, and its immersion in the black waters of lethargy.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.828-829


22   The mind is subject to mortal stresses

“For besides the fact that it (the soul) suffers in conjunction with the ailments of the body, there often comes something that distresses it about things in the future and makes it feel ill at ease with fear and wearies it with cares, and the errors of past mistakes gnaw away.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.824-827


21   The mind belongs with the body

“Thus the nature of the mind cannot arise alone without the body, nor exist remote from sinews and blood.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.788-789


20   Everything in its place

“Finally, there can be no tree in the sky, nor clouds in the deep sea, nor can fish live in fields, nor can there be blood in wood or sap in stones. Where each thing may grow and exist is definite and arranged.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.784-787


19   The birth and death of the soul

“And so it is evident that the nature of the soul is neither bereft of a birthday nor exempt from a funeral.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.711-712


18   An attitude of mind

“If our mind were in fact immortal, it would not at the time of death bemoan its dissolution so much as its going forth and casting off its covering, like a snake.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.612-614


17   The mind is mortal

“Thus, as I have explained, the mind, whether in becoming unwell or in responding to medicine, shows signs of mortality.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.521-522


16   The maturing of body and mind

“Then, when youth comes to the strength and vigour of maturity, judgment also is better and the power of the mind is greatly increased.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.449-450


15   Body and mind in childhood

“For just as children have weak and delicate bodies and move irregularly, so the thinking of their minds is likewise weak.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.447-448


14   Body and mind develop in unison

“Moreover, we perceive that the mind comes into being together with the body and grows along with it and grows old together with it.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.445-446


13   Mind and soul go together

“Take both (mind and soul) to be included under one of their names, and when I proceed to speak of the soul, for example, explaining that it is mortal, you should understand that I am also speaking of the mind, inasmuch as there is a unity between them and they are a connected entity.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.421-424


12   Interdependent and interrelated

“So you may see that, since the cause of their well-being (i.e. of body and soul) is a joint one, their nature must also be a joint nature.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.348-349


11   Twin aspects of being alive

“From the beginning of their existence the mutual contacts of body and soul develop these vital movements, even while in the mother’s body and womb, so that a separation (of body and soul) cannot occur without harm and destruction.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.344-347


10   Body, mind and sensation

“… and it is evident that body and mind separately, without the strength of the other, do not have any independent power of being able to experience sensation; rather, sensation is kindled within us and bursts into flame in both through shared movements as body and mind interact.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.333-336


9   Mind over matter

“In these matters I consider that I am able to declare this: the residual traces of our natures which reason is unable to dislodge from us are so slight that nothing prevents us from leading a life worthy of the gods.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.319-322


8   The mind is a part of the organism

“First I say that the mind, which we often call the intelligence, where the deliberative and directive functions of life are located, is no less a part of a person than hand and foot and eyes are parts of the whole organism.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.94-97


7   Not wanting to die, not wanting to live

“And often through fear of death a hatred of daylight and living takes such a hold of human beings that with a grieving heart they do themselves to death, forgetting that this fear is the source of their cares.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.79-84


6   Anything to be famous

“Some people die for the sake of statues and a name.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.78


5   Envy and complaint

“Often, by similar reasoning inspired by the same fear (i.e. terror of death), they are tormented with envy that before their very eyes a person who has attained outstanding distinction is powerful and highly regarded, while they themselves are complaining of suffering in darkness and squalor.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.74-77


4   Ambition and the fear of death

“Finally, greed and a blind desire for honours – motivations which drive unhappy people to go beyond the boundaries of what is just and at times to strive with exceptional effort night and day to rise to the heights of power and wealth by participating in and aiding and abetting deeds of wickedness – these wounds in life are to no small extent fostered by terror of death.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.59-64


3   We reveal ourselves in adversity

“So it is more appropriate to look at a person in the midst of uncertainties and dangers and find out what a person is like when circumstances are adverse; for then and only then are true words brought from the depths of a person’s heart and the superficial mask is torn away.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.55-58


2   Zealous in affliction

“… and in distressing circumstances people turn their minds much more zealously to superstition.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.53-54


1   People are really afraid of death

“For as to the fact that people often say that sickness and living a dishonourable life are more to be feared than being dead in Tartarus, … you may observe (on the following grounds) that all these claims are expressed more for the sake of applause than because the idea is thought to be credible.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.41-42, 46-47


Headings are linked (or are to be linked) to related blog posts, where comments can be submitted. The translations are open to revision on textual or other grounds. At some points the interpretation is provisional.

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