30   Wisdom, goodness, justice, pleasure

“It is not possible to live a pleasant life without living a wise, good and just life; and it is not possible to live a wise, good and just life without living a pleasant life. Anyone not living in this way cannot be living a pleasant life.”

Principal Doctrines 5


29   Degrees of pain

“The feeling of pain does not last continuously in the body. The greatest pain is present for the shortest time. Pain which is just more than the bodily pleasure we feel does not go on for many days. If we are unwell for a very long time, the condition even allows bodily pleasure to rise above the pain.”

Principal Doctrines 4


28   Pleasure and pain

“As pleasures increase and reach a natural limit, pain subsides and completely disappears. Wherever the feeling of pleasure stays, and for as long as it stays, there is no feeling of (physical) pain or (mental) distress or a combination of pain and distress.”

Principal Doctrines 3


27   Death and nothingness

“ Being dead is nothing to us (human beings); for our bodies disintegrated have no sensations; and from our point of view being without sensations is nothing.”

Principal Doctrines 2


26   Happiness without entanglements

“ A being that is blissfully happy and unfailingly perfect has no troubles itself and gives no troubles to others, and so is not bound by feelings of anger or favour. For all such feelings imply weakness.”

Principal Doctrines 1


25   Living within natural limits

“If we understand the limits of life, we know that we can easily manage to remove the pain associated with lack and so make the whole of life complete, and therefore that we need none of the things that involve anxious struggle.”

Principal Doctrines 21


24   Justice and authority

“Natural justice is a practical agreement not to harm one another nor to be harmed.”

Principal Doctrines 31


23   Choice and responsibility

“Epicurus says that things happen by necessity, by choice or by chance.”

Aetius 1.29.5 (Diels, Doxographi Graeci, p. 326, from Stobaeus, Anthology)


22   Knowledge and pleasure

“If we do not understand the nature of the universe and instead think that there may be something in the explanations given by myths, we will be unable to put to rest our fears in relation to the big questions of life. So without investigating nature we will not be able to enjoy things fully.”

Principal Doctrines 12


21   Youth and Age

“Thus young and old ought to philosophize, so that the person who is ageing may be young again through the benefits of gratitude for what is past, and the person who is young may be grown-up in not being afraid of the future.”

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus 122


20   We must hypothesize

“There are also some things for which it is not sufficient to speak of a single cause, but many must be stated, one of which is nevertheless correct.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 6.703-704


19   Vast beyond our experience

“The fact is that any river is very large to a person who has never before seen any larger, and a tree or man (the largest yet seen) seems enormous, and anything of any kind that is the largest that someone has seen is thought of by that person as enormous, although all these things, including the heavens, the earth and the ocean, are nothing compared with the whole sum of the universe.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 6.674-679


18   Never underestimate the universe

“In these matters you must observe widely and deeply, and look afar in every direction, so that you may remember the vastness of the sum of things and see how very small, how minute, a part is one heaven of the whole totality – a part which in its entirety is not as large a part (of the universe) as one person is of the whole earth.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 6.647-652


17   The short way to happiness

“He (Epicurus) therefore purified our understanding with truthful sayings, and set a limit to desire and fear, and explained what is the highest good, for which we all aim, and showed the way in which we can press on to it by going directly along a short path.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 6.24-28


16   Recognition of the basis for happiness

“For when this man (i.e. Epicurus) saw that all essential requirements for sustaining life were already fully provided for mortals and that, as far as they were able, life proceeded on a secure basis…”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 6.9-11


15   A great thinker who spoke truly

“… and (Athens) was the first to give us sweet comfort in life, when she brought forth a man (i.e. Epicurus) who was discovered to have such a (remarkable) mind; all of the utterances that once came forth from his mouth in profusion were spoken truly.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 6.4-6


14   Useless striving

“Thus humankind continually labours in vain and to no purpose, and wastes life in empty cares – unsurprisingly, as they have not understood what (natural) limit there is to acquisition nor (have they understood) at all up to what point true pleasure increases.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1430-1433


13   Temporary contentment

“For what is advantageous to us at the present time, unless we have previously known something more to our liking, pleases us above all and seems to us the best.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1412-1413


12   Ingenuity and cruelty

“Thus unhappy Strife produced one thing after another as horrors for peoples under arms, and day after day there were new additions to the terrors of war.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1305-1307


11   Discovery and invention

“Now bronze lies disused, and gold has risen to the highest honour. Thus time in its turning changes the fortunes of things.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1275-1276


10   Belief in the midst of despair

“Finally, when the whole earth quakes under their feet and cities are shaken and collapse or totter uncertainly, is it any wonder if mortal races despise themselves and grant that in this world deities have high authority and awe-inspiring powers to control everything?”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1236-1240


9   True piety

“… rather, (piety is) to be able to consider the universe with a quiet mind.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1203


8   Better to live quietly and humbly

“… so that it is really much better for a person to live quietly in subjection than to wish to rule with supreme power and to possess kingdoms.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1129-1130


7   A journey of contradictions

“But people wanted to be famous and powerful, so that they would have enduring success on a firm foundation and could live peacefully in their wealth – in vain, since in their efforts to rise to the highest honours they made their pathway unsafe, and if they reach the heights yet from time to time envy, like a thunderbolt, strikes them and contemptuously casts them down from there into the horrors of Tartarus.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1120-1126


6   Needing little, having much

“But if anyone would direct his (or her) life by means of true reason, there are great riches for a person in living frugally with a tranquil mind; for there is never a lack of a little.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1117-1119


5   Harmony is necessary for survival

“… otherwise (i.e., if there had not been agreement not to harm nor to be harmed) the human race would have been entirely wiped out at that time (i.e. at an early stage), and offspring could not have continued the generations to the present day.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1026-1027


4   Widespread support for harmony

“It was nevertheless impossible to produce complete harmony; but a very large proportion (of the population) conscientiously observed the laws (of the social compact not to harm nor to be harmed).”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1024-1025


3   Friendship and co-operation

“Then too they began to enter into friendly alliance, desiring as neighbours neither to do harm nor to suffer harm among themselves.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1019-1020


2   Knowledge and morality

“Those people (at that time) often in ignorance poured poison for themselves; now with greater ingenuity people give it to others.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1009-1010


1   Famine and feast

“Moreover, at that time lack of food brought languishing limbs to death; now, on the contrary, people drown in an abundance of things.”

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 5.1007-1008


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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