28   Exaggerating our own importance

“It is apparent that, when they imagine that the gods have constituted everything for the sake of human beings, they have strayed completely from right reasoning and made a great mistake.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.174-176


27   The favour of nature

“But some people, lacking in knowledge of matter, hold a contrasting view that without the influence of the gods nature cannot, in such effective correspondence with human concerns, alter the seasons of the year and produce crops and other things as well which divine pleasure, the guide of life, persuades mortals to embrace, leading them herself, and coaxing them by the ways of Love to continue the generations, so that humankind may not die out.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.167-174


26   Giving life to the next generation

“Some families are increasing while others are decreasing, and in a short space of time the generations of living things change over and like runners hand on the torch of life.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.77-79


25   Perpetual change and renewal

“Thus the sum of things is always being refreshed, and mortals live by exchange among themselves.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.75-76


24   A constant interchange of atoms

“And yet the sum of things remains entire (despite decay), because bodies (i.e. atoms) that fall away, while diminishing the objects from which they go, grant increase to the things to which they come. Thus they cause some things to grow old and other things to flourish, but without staying there permanently.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.71-75


23   Spoiling our lives with baseless fears

“For just as children in gloomy darkness are alarmed and afraid of everything, so we at times in daylight fear things which are no more to be dreaded than the things that children in darkness tremble at and imagine will happen.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.55-58


22   The role of the mind

“Can you doubt that this power (to deal with fears and cares) lies entirely with reason?”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.53


21   War does not solve our main problems

“… and the fact of the matter is that the fears and cares that pursue human beings are not frightened off by the sounds of war or its cruel weapons.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.48-49


20   We do not need to be grand and glorious

“Therefore, seeing that riches and greatness and royal glory do not add to our bodily well-being, what is more they must also be considered of no use to our minds.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.37-39


19   Our two main requirements

“Surely you are able to see that nature is crying out to have nothing but an absence of bodily pain and a mind enjoying feelings of pleasure, with cares and fears removed?”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.16-19


18   Safe and secure

“But nothing is more delightful than to possess a safe and quiet place, strongly secured by teachings proclaimed by the wise, from which you can look down on others and see them going astray and wandering in search of the path of life, competing to be cleverer than each other, fighting for superiority, striving night and day with the greatest effort to rise to the summit of power and reign supreme.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.7-13


17   Freedom from difficulties gives pleasure

“When winds are whipping up waves on the open sea, one feels grateful looking out from land and seeing another in difficulties, not because it is very pleasant that anyone is in trouble, but because it is gratifying to realise that one is free from the problems oneself.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.1-4


16   The way of illumination

“With a little trouble you will become thoroughly acquainted with these matters; for one thing will become clear on the basis of another, and unseeing night will not deprive you of progress, until you look upon the very depths of nature; in this way one thing will kindle illumination for other things.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.1114-1117


15   The interplay of atoms

“So do you now see that (as I said a little earlier) it often makes a great difference in what combinations and positions the same primal elements are held together, and what movement they give and receive among themselves, and that the same primal elements may, with slight changes among themselves, produce fire and fir?”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.907-912


14   From the elementary to the complex

“The elements (of the alphabet, i.e. the letters) can do so much merely by changes in their order; but the primal elements of things can employ more resources, from which the whole diversity of things is created.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.827-829


13   Explaining the variety in nature

“For the same things make up sky, sea, lands, rivers and the sun, the same things make up fruits, trees and animals, but in the various instances they are mixed together and move in different ways.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.820-822


12   Matter, space and events

“So you can see that deep down no events have independent existence or being in the same way as body has, nor can they be said to be of the same kind as void, but you could more justly describe them as accidents of body and of the space in which everything happens.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1. 478-482


11   Matter and time

“Moreover, time does not exist of itself but from things themselves there follows a perception of what has been completed in a period of time, then what is presently the case, and what may follow afterwards.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.459-461


10   Matter and space: nothing else

“But nothing can act or experience action without body, nor provide room for movement unless void and empty. Therefore, apart from emptiness and body, in the number of things there can be no additional, independent third form of nature which is subject at any time to our senses or attainable by anyone through intellectual reasoning.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1. 443-448


9   The fundamental role of sense-perceptions

“For we have in common the evidence of our senses that body has an intrinsic existence. If the foundation of this initial assurance is not sound, we have nothing to use for reference in order to establish by intellectual reasoning anything about hidden matters.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.422-425


8   Searching for the truth

“For as dogs very often sniff out the lair, concealed in foliage, of a wild animal that wanders the mountains, when once they have got upon definite traces along the way, so in such matters (i.e. regarding the nature of things) you yourself will be able on your own to perceive surely one thing on the basis of another, to penetrate all obscure hiding places, and from there to draw forth the truth.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1. 404-409


7   Nature consists of matter and space

“The whole of nature, then, is of itself composed of two things: for there are bodies and there is the empty space in which they are located and where they undergo movement in different directions.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.419-421


6   Visible yet invisible

“Thus nature manages things by means of invisible particles.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.328


5   Nature’s way

“So whatever we see does not perish utterly, since nature builds up one thing out of another, and allows nothing to come into being except with the help of another’s death.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.262-264


4   Atoms to atoms

“Therefore nothing returns to nothing, but everything disintegrates and returns to individual particles of matter.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.248-249


3   The evidence of nature

“This inner darkness and dread cannot be dispelled by the rays of the sun or the day’s bright shafts, but by observing the way nature looks and behaves.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.146-148


2   Seeing and believing

“For fear holds mortals in check so completely because they watch many things happen on earth and in the heavens and cannot understand by any reasoning why these things happen as they do, and they suppose that it must be through divine influence.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.151-154


1   Love and peace

“For you alone (the power of love) can give mortals the joys of peace and tranquillity.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.31-32


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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