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Marietta Horster Christiane Reitz (Hg.)

in dichterischer Gestalt

Franz Steiner Verlag Stuttgart 2005

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Marietta Horster, Christiane Reitz

Dichtung und Lehre
Peter Toohey
Periodization and Didactic Poetry

Bernd Effe
Typologie und literarhistorischer Kontext: Zur Gattungsgeschichte
des griechischen Lehrgedichts

Wilhelm Bliimer
Hesiods Gedichte. Schriftlichkeit und Mundlichkeit in der archaischen
griechischen Lehrdichtung

Oliver Primavesi
Theologische Allegorie: Zur philosophischen Funktion einer poetischen
Form bei Parmenides und Empedokles
Christian Kafer
The Poet and the ,Polis. The Aetia as Didactic Poem
Peter Kruschwitz
Lehre oder Dichtung? Die archaische didaktische Poesie der Romer

Wolfgang Hubner
Die Rezeption der

P/Jainomena Arats

in der lateinischen Literatur

Katharina Volk
Lehrgedicht oder ,,Naturgedicht? Naturwissenschaft und Naturphilosophic in der Lehrdichtung von Hesiod bis zur Aetna

Monica Gale
Ania Pierdum /om: Tradition and Innovation in Lucretius
Claudia Schindler

Vorn Kochrezept zu den Sternen: Aspekte der Gattungsgenese und

Gattungsentwicklung im romischen Lehrgedicht
Christiane Reitz
Horaz Literaturbriefe und die Lehrdichtung


Abstractzz Dieser Beitrag untersucht das Wechselspiel zwischen didaktischen Traditionen und poetischen Neuerungen in Lukrez De Rm/222 Naiura. Obwohl Lukrez auf
der Hesiodeischen Tradition und insbesondere auf der von Empedokles entwickelten didaktischen Formensprache beruht, entwickelt der romische Dichter einige
technische und stilistische Neuerungen, durch die dieses Lehrgedicht sich von den
Vorlaufern dieses Genres deutlich unterscheidet.

Writing at the turn of the 1950s and

Donald Wormell said of Lucretius: clearly

had come to him as a kind of religious experience, as a conversion, and in his high seriousness, his sense of mission, his eagerness to convert
others, he is a preacher and a prophet. Though we might nowadays prefer to characterize the poems tone in terms of the rhetoric of Lucretian didactic or of the
his study


of Epicurus

poets construction of his didactic speaker rather than appeal to the writers hypothetical personal experience, Wormells characterization of the De Rmmz Natura
has nevertheless been echoed by a number of more recent critics. There is a widespread perception that Lucretius speaks, not with the cool detachment characteristic

of Hellenistic didactic, but with the impassioned fervour of the evangelist. My aim
in what follows is to interrogate the assumption that, in adopting such a tone,
Lucretius is reverting to the style of pre-Hellenistic epic; I want to try to pin down a
little more precisely just how the poet creates the note of eagerness and urgency
which seems so characteristic of the DRN, and also to consider how the poem itself
seems to conceptualize its relationship with the tradition stretching back to Hesiod.
just what is traditional and what is new in the DRN? And does the poet simply turn

I am grateful to Christiane Reitz and Marietta Horster for their invitation to participate in
the Colloquium, and to all who took part in the discussion, especially Oliver Primavesi, who
rightly took me to task for underestimating the importance of Empedocles as a model for
Lucretius in the original version of this paper. The research for this paper was greatly facilitated by the tenure of an Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences
Senior Research Fellowship during the academic year 2003-4.

Wonnell 1960: 64.



the clock back as is sometimes suggested to the age of Empedocles,2 or should

we rather see him as revitalizing, almost reinventing, the didactic mode to suit his
own age and his own purposes?3
The most obvious factor contributing to the urgent, impassioned feel of Lucretius poem is as suggested above the characterization of the didactic speaker
and his relationship with the addressee. Under the latter heading, I include not only
the relatively small number of passages in which Memmius is addressed by name,

but also the far more numerous instances of second-person verbs and pronouns, as
well as the many occasions when the rst person plural seems to group addressee
and speaker together as joint participants in the learning process. If Aratus and Nicander may be regarded as representative of Hellenistic didactic poetry in general,
the addressee seems to have played a relatively restricted role here. Aratus adas Peter Bing has argued to represent a
dressee is not even named, but seems
broad, general audience (albeit apparently a more naive and simple-minded one than
the g_cg1_al implied audience to whom the poet speaks, as it were, over his internal
addressees heads). Neither this pupil nor the Hermesianax and Protagoras addressed by Nicander has much more to do than simply listen, observe, and acknowledge the value of the p0ets teaching. Both Hesiod and Empedocles seem, by
contrast, more urgently interested in their pupils welfare. In both cases, the addressee is named, and particularly in Hesiods case more fully personalized than
their Aratean and Nicandrean equivalents. In Parmenides poem, the roles of poet
and pupil are exceptionally conflated, Parmenides himself being the recipient of

the goddess teaching; this redistribution of roles in one sense dispenses with the
pupil-figure altogether, but in another gives him an even more prominent part to
play than is usual elsewhere.
The characterization of Memmius seems at first glance to confirm the hy-

For this view of Lucretiuss style, as reverting to that of pre-Hellenistic didactic, see e.g.
Effe 1977: 66-79; cf. also Conte 1994, esp. 4-16.
given the
3 Discussion of any ancient writers originality is, naturally, a hazardous business
it goes

inevitably lacunose state of
without saying that any conclusions reached on such a question must be regarded as provisional. In particular, I have not attempted to take account of the tradition of Latin didactic
poetry preceding the DRN (for which see the discussion by Peter Kruschwitz in this volume): the remains of these poems seem to me too fragmentary for any realistic estimate of
their importance for Lucretius to be attempted. My tacit assumption that the fragments of
Parmenides and Empedocles are representative of those poets work as a whole is, perhaps,
rather less risky, given that a relatively large portion of each text appears in these instances
to have survived; moreover, Empedocles self-consciously repetitive style makes it likely
that the lost portions of his work would not have differed greatly in form from the existing


Bing 1993.



pothesis that Lucretius looks back to the style of archaic didactic for his models.
Like Hesiods Perses and (especially) Empedocles Pausanias, he is quite clearly depicted as a beginner taking his rst steps on the path to wisdom, or setting out on
the rudiments of philosophy (rationzk inire elememfa), as the poet puts it in 1.81; he is
repeatedly assured of the value of the teaching he is to receive, and also like both
Perses and Pausanias warned sternly of the consequences of rejecting it. This is

particularly evident in the proems to books 2 and 3 where the joys of philosophical contemplation are contrasted with darkness and anguish of the unenlightened
life and the diatribes against the fear of death and the follies of romantic love in
the finales to books 3 and 4. Yet I would argue that, despite supercial similarities
with Hesiod and Empedocles, Lucretius approach to the relationship between
praereptor and addressee is actually much more innovative than critics have tended to

Lucretius use of rst- and second-person verbs and pronouns repays thorough scrutiny. Careful consideration of the poets deployment of these reveals I
think two quite subtle rhetorical strategies, neither of which, so far as I can see,
occurs in the work of any of his predecessors. The first is the construction of the
poem, not as a monologue like Hesiods harangue or Empedocles somewhat less
vehement lecture, but as a dialogue. This is of course a very one-sided dialogue,
since (with two exceptions, discussed below) direct speech is not directly attributed

to Memmius; nevertheless, the pupils role as potential interlocutor is one on which

the poet constantly plays throughout the poem. Lucretius frequently imagines his
addressee as formulating objections to his argument, for example. This is, of course,
a well-known rhetorical ploy, discussed by the rhetorical theorists under the headings of xermorinatio and amz'cz]>atz'0,6 and especially common in diatribe-literature. It is
striking, though, that the role of the anonymous objector is frequently attributed
by Lucretius to his addressee, and that this happens especially in the early books of
the poem. In book 1 we actually find two passages of quoted direct speech (1.803808 and 897-900), each introduced by the verb inquiy, in which possible counterarguments are raised only to be quashed by the praeceptor. This never happens again
after book 1; instead, the phrasing of similar objections appears to become increasingly hypothetical as the poem proceeds: phrases such as si paras or 52' medis (1.770,
916, 1057; 2.80, 739; 3.533, 698; 4.366; 5.338) gradually give way to the more hypothetical nefarte pales (2.410-421, 718, 731-736, 842; 4.129, 435; 5.114, 305, 890f.) or

B1106-10; cf.
See esp. Op. 213-218, 298-302, 397-404, 473-482, and Emp. fr. 16.6-10
also Emp. fr. 3 = B4. (The fragments of Empedocles are cited throughout according to the
numeration of Inwood 2001, whose second edition conveniently incorporates the new
fragments derived from the recently-published Strasbourg papyrus (Martin and Primavesi
1999); the traditional Diels-Kranz numeration follows.)

E.g. R/yet. Her. 4.55 and 65, Quint. Inst. 9.2.16-18 and 29-37.



prom! est uz mzdere pomk (4.856; cf. 3.370, 4.823f., 5.146, 6.411f.), while objections are
occasionally attributed to a genuinely anonymous third party, a/iquzlr (e.g. 2.225,
2.931, 5.908, 6.673).

Furthermore, the pupil is occasionally said in the rst two books to distrust
his teacher, or characterized as a raw recruit, in danger of deserting the Epicurean
cause (1.267-270, 331-333, 2.1040f.; 1.103, 370f.). The only comparable passages I
have found in the later books are the paired warnings at the beginning of book 5
and book 67 against backsliding into superstition; and in both cases, the point is
precisely that this can happen even to an advanced student of Epicurean philosophy. Of particular interest is the challenge issued to the pupil at the beginning of the
discussion of the innite universe in 2.1023-1047: here, the praeceptor invites active
participation in the learning process, as an altemative to passive rejection (am /

dede manus, aut, sifa/sum est, aca'ngere contra, weigh

er, si tibi z/era uzdentur,
up [my argument] with keen judgment, and, if it seems truthful, give me your hand,
or, if it is false, take up arms against me, 2.1041-1043). This model of active
engagement is (as Diskin Clay observess) conrmed several times towards the end
of the poem, when the reader is assured that he or she can work certain things out
for him-/ herself without needing to have them explained in detail (4.572f., 5.1282,

iudido perpende

6.532-534, 10811083; cf. 3.10241052, 4.11881191).

My contention is, then, that the poet both seeks to engage his reader actively
in the learning process and represents the addressee as actually making philosophical progress over the course of the poem, learning not to be fearful and superstitious but to think rationally for him- or herself. In this respect, Lucretius rhetorical
strategy seems distinctively different from that of Empedocles, while building in
obvious ways on the Empedoclean model: the Presocratic philosopher, like his
Roman successor, both threatens and cajoles his addressee (and, by implication, his
wider readership), but maintains throughout a studied air of superior authority.9
Pausanias is, it seems, offered the opportunity to accede to the godlike status of his
mentor, but remains for the duration of the poem on a par with the wretched and
unhappy race of mortals (fr. 118.1 = B124.1) from whom the didactic speaker disB112.4; if he absorbs the poets teaching, he may theretances himself in fr. 1.4
after become a wonder-worker like his teacher (fr. 15 = B111), but so far as we

can tell

from the surviving fragments

goal during the course

5.82-90 = 6.58-66.

Clay 1983: 225.

he is not represented as approaching that

of the recitation itself.


B4, 1, 3, 111, 110,

Admonitions and exhortations: frs. 3, 13-16, 25.14 and 21-26, 74
17.14 and 21-26, 71); on Empedocles consistently superior air vis-a-vis the pupil, cf. Trpanier 2004: 88-100.



For these reasons, too, I disagree with the view put forward by Philip Mitsis
and Katharina Volk, that Memmius acts rather like the Hesiodic Perses as a kind of

Aunt Sally or foil for the implied reader, showing us how @ to receive the teaching
we are offered) Rather, I see Lucretius addressee as a positive model for the ideal
reader, one who is actively and critically engaged with the poets teaching, who
stands to benet hugely from it, but will eventually be able to make his or her own
way independently as an Epicurean once the poem is over. Thus, the sense of urgency which we gain in reading the DRN comes not just from the characterization
of the speaker, but also of his pupil and the relationship between the two. We are,
so to speak, written into the text of the poem, and shown how greatly our participation in it matters. This is particularly clear in a series of passages in books 1 and 2,
briey discussed by Katharina Volk in her book T/9e Poetic: 0fLatz'n Dz'dactz'c, which
employ the gure designated by Godo Lieberg as poeta creator that is, the gure
whereby the poet is imagined as actually
what he describes as being done.
The characteristics of the elementary particles are described in terms which suggest
that they are being brought into being and put together to form compounds before
our very eyes, though it might be more accurate to speak in this instance of a /ector
creator, since it is the addressee rather than the poet who is imagined here as actually
constructing the universe. Repeatedly, we are warned against the disasters which will
inevitably follow from fundamental errors at the atomic level: attributing colour to
the atoms, for example, will result in the destruction of the entire universe:


proinde :0/are cave corztingas Jemzha rmmz,



res redeanz

ad nz'/umrnditzls omnes.

of staining the

seeds of things with colour, lest you should nd the

whole universe reduced to nothingness.
(2.755f.; cf. 1.797, 918,1111-1113; 2.56O566, 864)

So beware

As Volk suggests,

in the second line, following as it does on the second-person

c0n1z'ngas, should be taken in a strong sense, virtually as a dative of agent: Lucretius
suggests that the consequences of any designfault imported by the reader will be
nothing short of earth-shattering.
A second way in which Lucretius can be seen to manipulate his reader
through the use of rst- and second-person verbs and pronouns also tends to
counteract the view that Memmius functions in an analogous way to Hesiods
Perses. Once again, the poet can be seen to operate in a very subtle and, I think,

Mitsis 1993; Volk 2002: 79-82. Cf. also Keen 1985.


Volk 2002: 78f.; Lieberg 1982.



innovative way here, by effectively introducing a third element into the traditional
pupil-teacher constellation. I noted above that Parmenides exceptionally conflates
the roles of pupil and didactic speaker, by allocating the role of teacher to a third
person, the goddess who is the source of his teaching. In a similar way, Epicurus
has an important part to play in the DRN, as the authority who validates Lucretius
teaching. But the relationship between Epicurus, Lucretius and Memmius (or the
pupil in a more general sense) is considerably more complicated than that which
exists between their Parmenidean equivalents. Different groupings between the
three characters, and the broader communities of the Epicureans and the unenlightened, continually fluctuate and re-form throughout the poem. The speaker
sometimes groups himself with the pupil as a member of the Epicurean community
in contrast with the unenlightened, sometimes with the pupil as one of the unenlightened in contrast with the transcendent greatness of Epicurus himself; at
other times, the speaker distances himself from the pupil, as one who has already
found the path to true reason, and is therefore qualified to induct the pupil in turn.
To give just one illustration of the subtle shifts which Lucretius constantly introduces into these varied groupings, let us look briefly at the proem to book 2.
This begins with the famous priamel, mam mad magno etc., which gives powerful
expression to the mixture of moral superiority and pity which the enlightened Epicurean experiences in contemplating his fellow human beings engaged in the futile
struggle for power and position. In the opening lines, the passage is focalized
through the pupil, who as it were looks down along with the speaker from the
citadel of the wise: deipzrere unde queai" a/1'05 passimque uidere / errare (2.910). At line
20, the poet shifts to the first person plural: we see (uidemm) that few things are
needed for true happiness. At line 40, however, there is a further dramatic shift to
the second person: if ;o;1r legions (mar /qgiones) and the splendour of gold and purple cannot frighten away the fear of death, how can ycg doubt (quid dubitas) that the
power to do so belongs to reason alone? (2.4053, paraphrase). The pupil has now,
as it were, been banished from the philosophers citadel and deposited back
amongst the unenlightened, to see how he fends for himself down in the world of
power-politics. Finally, in the closing lines of the proem, the speaker seems to take

12 Once again, Lucretius seems distinctively different from Empedocles in this respect,
though the latter also appears to have addressed parts of his poem to the unenlightened in
B2. But Empedocles
general, from whom Pausanias is emphatically differentiated in fr. 8
conception is much more static and hierarchical: while the first person plural may occasionB109.1), the speaker
ally be used with reference to human beings in general (e.g. fr. 17.1
is generally careful to mark his separation from the wretched race of mortals (fr. 118
B124) through the use of the second person; his own superior status as one at or near the
end of the cycle of reincarnations is most clearly indicated in fr. 1 = B112. On singular
and plural addressees, see further Obbink 1993 and Trpanier 2004: 46-69.




pity again and descends to join his pupil: in the famous lines comparing the fears of
the non-Epicurean to the night-terrors of children, Lucretius strikingly employs the
rst person plural, this time to designate the unenlightened: in the same way Le
sometimes fear (nos
tmzemuy) things no more terrible then those at which children
tremble in the dark (2.5658). The proem as a whole, then, moves subtly from
what we might call an idealistic identication of the pupil with the teacher, through
a separation of pupil and teacher, to a renewed, sympathetic identification
teacher with pupil. Fluctuations of this kind occur throughout the poem, and can be
seen to constitute a highly effective rhetorical strategy: by identifying himself as an
already-enlightened Epicurean in contrast to his pupil, Lucretius establishes his credentials as teacher, while the alternating addresses to the pupil as one of the enlight-

of the genlightened amount to promises and threats, or a kind of

carrot and stick approach to the educational process. Conversely, the alternation
between distancing from the pupil and identication with the pupil on the speakers
part contributes greatly to the urgent tone to which I called attention at the beginning of this paper: the speaker represents himself at once as fully aware of and conversant with the blessings conferred by Epicurean understanding, and as able to
identify sympathetically with his pupil as one who has not yet been through the
process of conversion.
ened and as one

Having, I hope, demonstrated that Lucretius reworks the traditional constellation of

pupil, teacher and the authority-figure who is the ultimate source of the poets
teaching in a very subtle way which in my view represents a striking and effective
modification of the tradition, I now want to look more briefly at some other ways
in which he can be seen both to exploit and to move away from didactic convention.
Since Lucretius relationship to the traditions of heroic epic as well as didactic
poetry will be an issue of particular concern in what follows, my views on the stillcontroversial question of the relationship between these two genres (or sub-genres)
should perhaps be made explicit. It has been argued that on the one hand there
is n_0 essential distinction between didactic and narrative or heroic epic, and on
the other that they should be regarded as completely separate genres. I take a
position somewhere between these two extremes. It has, I believe, been clearly
demonstrated that most ancient critics made no distinction between them, while at
the same time the poets themselves unmistakably demarcated a tradition of technical or scientific hexameter poetry descending from Hesiod from the parallel tradition of poetry concerned with kings and battles descending from Homer. I suggest
that the best way to negotiate this seeming contradiction is to regard the two


See e.g.

Toohey 1996: 5-7 (no essential distinction), Volk 2002: 35 (separate genres).




which we can I think legitimately label narrative or heroic epic

as distinctive traditions which are nevertheless closely and proand didactic epic
ductively related to each other from the outset. The didactic poets may have had
their own ways of exploiting (for example) epic language or the epic simile; but I
would argue that they are always aware of the epic-ness of their style. Homeric
poetry seems to have been regarded from an early date as a privileged vehicle for
the preservation and transmission of cultural truth and meaning; didactic feeds off
this perception, appropriating epic authority as a means of validating its own rival
My suggestion is, then, that Lucretius self-consciously sets out to revitalize the
didactic tradition with a new infusion of epic-ness. This is most obviously manifested in the scale of the poem. It is easy to forget given that the multi-book didactic poem became fairly standard after Lucretius that almost all pre-Lucretian
didactic poems consisted of one book only. Empedocles seems to have been an
exception; but the Peri P/gyreos was probably still a much shorter work than the
DRN, in two or perhaps three books only. Lucretius poem is verynearly epic in
scale; and it is also, I think, self-consciously epic in scope. Here I am thinking specically of what Philip Hardiels refers to as the totalizing impulse of heroic epic: its
aspiration to comprehensiveness and completeness, to tell the whole story of an
event, a society, a people. Virgil, classically, manages to encapsulate the whole
history of the Roman people within the story of Aeneas journey from Troy to
Latium: by means of prophecy and retrospective narrative, aetiology and typology,
the poet looks both back and forward in time and so vastly expands the surface
narrative of his poem. Lucretius goes one better: the DRN tells the whole story of
the entire world, from creation to destruction; it encompasses the history of animal
and human life as a whole, and also the typical narrative of any one individual, from
birth to death. As has often been observed, Lucretius also accentuates the rich
variety of the world accessible to our senses, even while insisting that the only ultimate realities are imperceptible atoms and void: the emphasis laid on the sheer
multiplicity of things in our world, from tiny insects to elephants, from purely internal sensations to worldconvulsing earthquakes and eruptions, adds to the impression of comprehensiveness which the poem presents. (Empedocles, it is true,


14 Different figures for the number of books and total number of lines are recorded by Diogenes Laertius and the Suda; for discussion, see Osborne 1987: 28f., Inwood 2001: 8-15,
Trpanier 2004: 1-30. The hypothesis advanced by Osborne and subsequently refined by
Inwood and Trpanier, that Peri P/gyxeos and Katbamzoi were not separate works but alternative titles for the same poem, is in my view persuasive.

Hardie 1993:


1 On the narrative aspect of the poem, see Fowler 2000 and Gale forthcoming; for Lucretius aspiration to comprehensiveness, see also Kennedy 2000.



seems also to have drawn on minute details of plant and animal physiology in illustrating his theory that different mixtures of the four elements suffice to account
for, and are visibly present in, the world we see around us; but his emphasis is
rather on the essential sameness of for example fur, leaves, feathers and scales
[fr. 86 B82] than on the range of variation within or between species) Also relevant from this point of view are the characteristically Lucretian inventories of the
animal kinds or products of the earth: at 2.342-346, for example, the poet lists the
human race and the mute swimming herds of scaly sh, fruitful flocks and wild
animals and the variegated birds which throng the fruitful wetlands around riverbanks, springs and pools and ll the pathless groves in ight; another comprehensive catalogue at 2.594-597 includes shining crops and fruitful trees for human
rivers, leaves and fruitful meadows for the mountain-roaming race of
beasts." Here again, the impetus comes from Empedocles whose phrasing is, in
some instances, closely echoed. Once more, however, Lucretius tends to
particularize what for Empedocles are broad general categories (analogous to the
traditional triad earth/sea/sky): the addition of epithets and sub-categories (the
river-banks, springs and pools in the passage cited above, for example), as well as
Lucretius tendency to vary rather than repeat the list of items in each separate inventory, have the effect yet again of stressing the abundance of individual things
which make up the phenomenal world, as well as the comprehensive explanatory
power of a theory which can account for them all.
In this respect, too, our poet seems to me to be distinctly different from his
didactic predecessors, who can be seen in general to offer their relatively restricted
subject-matter as a kind of microcosm or synecdoche of the wider world: where

17 See especially Emp. frr. 77-87

B72, 74-83, and contrast (e.g.) DRN 2.333-380; while
incorporating an Empedoclean echo (342-344 ~ Emp. fr. 25.39-40
fr. 26.10-11
B21.10-11: Martin and Primavesi 1999: 186), Lucretius strikingly alters the emphasis of the
source-text by locating the lines in the context of a lengthy paragraph dilating on the variety
of atomic shapes and the resultant variation on the macroscopic level between individual
members of a single species, in addition to differentiation between species.

18 Cf. also 1.252-261; 2.994-998, 1081-1083; 5.821-825; and

the inventories
cal phenomena at 5.1189-1193 and 6.529-531.

of meteorologi-

Inventories appear at Emp. fr. 22

B9; fr. 25.39-40
fr. 26.10-11
B21.10-11; fr.
Strasbourg ensemble a (ii) 2628; fr. 27.6-9
B23.69; fr. 38.6-7
compare also the lists (with variations) of the four elements at fr. 12
B6, fr. 25.18
B17.18, fr. 37.2
B222, fr. 39.3-4 B38.3-4. All but one of the inventories are variations
on or selections from the list men and women, animals, plants, birds, fish, gods; epithets
such as i:8a"ro9pu|io1/es or TrTepoBduo0t serve to distribute the species amongst the elemental bodies of earth, water and sky rather than to particularize. On the more elaborate
inventory at lines a (ii) 26-28 of the Strasbourg papyrus echoed by Lucretius at 2.10811083 see Martin and Primavesi 1999: 230, Sedley 2003: 6-9.




Lucretius, as it were, holds a mirror up to the entire universe, earlier didactic poets
tend on the whole to focus on one little piece of it. Here again, Parmenides and
Empedocles, with their grand theories of the nature of reality,2 offer a partial
exception and a partial precedent; but it is, I think, only partial, in the sense that
neither, so far as we can tell from the fragments, aspires to the detailed and comprehensive representation of the surface of the world, as opposed to its underlying
reality, which we find in Lucretius. Hesiod and Aratus might be said to offer the
reader natume ipedey, Parmenides and Empedocles naturae ratio; only Lucretius aims

for both.
There are a number of other ways in which I think Lucretius can be seen as
epicizing (or perhaps re-epicizing) the didactic tradition; most have been explored
elsewhere, by myself and others, and I can do no more here than briefly mention
one or two. The striking and often-observed preponderance of military and civic
imagery in the DRN is perhaps the most obvious of these epic elements: both Epicurus and Nature itself are implicitly represented as epic warriors, in the one case
battling superstition and the inadequate theories of rival philosophers, in the other
directing the wars and alliances of the atoms. Also notable is Lucretius use of
the extended epic simile, which he exploits much more frequently and more fully
than his predecessors. Homer, of course, often compares the actions of his warriors to natural phenomena: fires, floods, storms and the behaviour of wild animals.
Lucretius brilliantly inverts this procedure, comparing natural phenomena implicitly or explicitly to warfare. In some cases, Homeric similes can be shown to have
been specifically inverted in this way (a technique better known from Virgil, who
took it over from Lucretius and used a number of times in the Georgia): a metaphor
at the beginning of book 6 (96-98), for example, where winds are described as
clashing in battle, recalls a simile applied in Iliad 16 (765-769) to the confrontation
of Greek and Trojan armies. Such allusions contain in several instances an element
of implicit polemic: the first simile in the poem the famous comparison of the
wind to a flooding river is an excellent example. The Lucretian simile is derived

For the notion that Empedocles offers a single theory

of everything, see Trpanier 2004:


Hardie 1986: 193-219; Mayer 1990; Conte 1994: 1-3; Gale 1994: 117-127. Empedocles
surviving similes, by contrast, are drawn almost exclusively from the sphere of the visual
arts and crafts (painting, fr. 27 = B23; cheese-making, fr. 75 = B33; the construction of a
lantern, fr. 103 B 84).
22 Bibliography on the Lucretian simile is extensive: see esp. West 1969, Hardie 1986: 220233, Schiesaro 1990, Clay 1996, Schindler 2000: 72-149.
23 Cf. also DRN 2.325-327 (~ I/. 19.362-364), 5.1074f. (~ I/. 6.506511), 5.1078-1082 (~ I/.
2.459-463); 6.191-193 (~ I/. 5.522-526).



from I/iad 5.87-92, where Diomedes attacks the Trojans like a river in spate; but
where Homer attributes the flood to Zeus rain, Lucretius pointedly substitutes
mo!/ii" aquae
the soft substance of water (1.281) as the agent of destruction. In this marked context, the periphrasis can be seen as more than just an
equivalent to the simple noun aqua; Lucretius implicitly corrects Homers idea that
rain and floods are sent by Zeus, representing them instead as natural processes.


The polemical element present in Lucretius exploitation of the heroic epic tradition
brings me to my nal point: the DRl\T can be seen to stand like so many works of
Greek and Roman literature in a kind of productive tension with its models. Both
Homer and Ennius, the main representatives of the narrative branch of the
tradition, and Hesiod, Empedocles and Aratus are, explicitly or implicitly, treated
with a heavily qualied respect in Lucretius poem. This is most obvious in the
proem to book 1 where Ennius and Homer are cited by name and in the almost
hymnic lines in praise of Empedocles later in the same book (1.712-741). In all
three cases, the earlier poets are praised for the greatness of their carmina, but
faulted on their misguided view of the ream natura. Empedocles comes closest to
truth: like Lucretius himself, he is said to have pronounced oracles much truer and
more pious than those of the Pythia, but is nevertheless subject to stern criticism
for his theory that the four elements are the ultimate constituents of matter. Ennius and Homer are much more severely criticized for their nonsensical and pernicious representation of the afterlife: it is this tradition, Lucretius says, that makes it
so essential for him to explain the true nature of the gods and the fate of the soul
after death (1.112-135).
In these three instances, Lucretius critique of the world view presented by his
epic and didactic predecessors is quite explicit; as I have already suggested, though,
there are many other places in the poem where implicit polemic is conveyed
through intertextual echoes or 0pp0iz'zz'0 in Zmitando. The most obvious place to look
for such echoes is the proem, the usual location for reflexion on poetics and the
writers relationship with his predecessors, as well as announcement of the poets
subject-matter. In addition to the explicit references to Homer and Ennius, allusions to several poets in the didactic tradition can be detected in Lucretius proem.
As will become clear, I want to dispute, or at least heavily qualify, the theory advanced by David Sedley, that the proem of the DRN is directly and extensively
modelled on that of Empedocles;2" while Sedley is clearly right to suggest that Lucretius repeatedly evokes Empedocles in the embrace of Mars and Venus, which


I 5.111f.

Sedley 1998: 15-34;




of Sedleys reconstruction,


now Trpanier 2004: 38-



calls to mind Empedoclean Love and Strife; in the praise

of Epicurus, which


Empedocles encomium of Pythagoras (fr. 6 = B129); and in the sacrice of

Iphigenia, which contains echoes of the Empedoclean fragment (fr. 128 = B137) in
which a father unwittingly sacrices his reincarnated son I will suggest that these
allusions are skilfully interwoven with echoes of Empedocles predecessors and sucand offer his own poem as
cessors. In this way, Lucretius proem seeks to evoke
at once the culmination of and substitute for the epic and didactic tradition as a


It can be argued, in fact, that this procedure itself is part of the tradition. Virtually every didactic poet in the sequence which has come down to us seems to look
back to his predecessors and seek to take on their mantle, creating a kind of apostolic succession. In particular, Hesiods opening hymn to Zeus and the Muses and
his myth of the Five Ages are taken up and developed with more or less subtle
variations by each of his successors. It is, I think, no accident that the latter passage
is itself a myth of origins and succession; it thus lends itself with particular neatness
and elegance to exploitation as a vehicle for metaliterary reflection.
Constraints of space make it impracticable to elaborate this point fully; I limit
myself here to brief discussion of one or two examples. Aratus proem, like Hesiods, takes the form of a hymn to Zeus; there are clear Hesiodic allusions, particularly the promise that mortals will never leave Zeus H77/781071 (1-2), which inverts
Hesiods assertion that mortals become rbetoi or arr/Jetoi through Zeus (with the additional complication that Aratus seems to pun here on his own name; could we
perhaps see the adverb urreoa in line 13 as a similar play on the name of Empedocles, in this programmatic context?).2 The patterned word-repetition (Aiog
)\'Yt 8) is also remiueot, >\'YL 8
Aiog A105, uecrrai
These echoes
niscent of the four-fold repetition
are, arguably, combined with less obvious reminiscences of Empedocles, whose
insistent request that the Muse guide him to speak piously of the gods is picked up
d|<o13eLv, Emp. fr. 9.4 = B3.4). In both cases,
in Aratus closingf] Guig (cf. 9uL
there is an element of polemical correction: Aratus allpervasive, Stoicized Zeus
replaces the Empedoclean Love and Strife as the supreme force in control of the
universe; more specifically, Aratus insistence that Zeus is everywhere, and that he is
father of all, could be seen to contradict or at least qualify the Hesiodic praise of
as father of the Muses (2), who dwells on high (6; i)Trp'ra"ra 8t(>|ia'r<1 vaiei, 8),
far separated from the mortals over whom he exerts apparently arbitrary control


Cf Obbink

1993: 88 n. 93; for the pun on Aratus/arr/Jetox, see Bing 1993: 104-108.
On Aratus and Hesiod, see further Porter 1946, Effe 1970, james 1972, Kidd 1997: 8-9,
Fakas 2001 ; on Aratus and Empedocles, Traglia 1963; on Empedocles and Hesiod,
Hershbell 1970 and Primavesis paper in this volume.



unlike his providential Aratean successor.

Empedocles and Aratus reworking of the Myth of Ages is well known, and
can again be seen in terms of oppositio in imzitando. Briefly, the Empedoclean fragment
which describes life in the Golden Age (fr. 122 = B128) recalls Hesiod in its emphasis on the absence of strife, but corrects the Hesiodic story that the god who ruled
over the Golden Race was Kronos, asserting that the only deity worshiped at that
time was Kypris. There may also be a touch of polemic in Empedocles references
to meat-free sacrices, given that Hesiods Golden Race is described as rich in
ocks an epithet suggestive of animal sacrifice and feasting. Aratus complicates
the Hesiodic picture in a different way, by making agricultural work a positive aspect
of Golden Age life, not a punishment inicted by the gods on the degenerate Iron
Race. Hesiods ambivalent attitude to agricultural labour, which seems to be regarded at once as a virtue and a regrettable necessity, is self-consciously modied by
the later poet. At the same time, Aratus can be seen to nod in the direction of
Empedocles, who states more explicitly than does Hesiod that there was no s_'tr1;fe1 in
the Golden Age: Aratus phrase 008% Kv8oiuof) (P/men. 109) closely echoes Empedocles, who places the same words in the same prominent position at the line-end
(o1:8 Kv8oi|i6, fr. 122.1 = B1281), and the immediately preceding reference to
painful strife (kevyakov
veilceog, P/yaen. 108) also seems pointedly Empedoclean
in this context.
Lucretius can be fitted into this succession on both counts. just as Aratus
hymn to Zeus echoes and corrects both Hesiod and Empedocles, so Lucretius
hymn to Venus can be seen to echo and correct Empedocles and Aratus. The idea
that Venus fills sea and land recalls Aratus Zeus, as do the reference to the signs
of heaven (2 ~ P/vaen. 10) and to the new growth of plants and animals in spring (716 ~ Plaaen. 79); but the stern, if providential, power of the Stoic Zeus is replaced,
as Liz Asmis has pointed out, by the seductive force of Epicurean pleasure,
uolzg>za.r." Again, Lucretius request towards the end of the hymn that Venus support
him as an ally, soda, seems reminiscent of Empedocles, who asks Calliope to stand
by him, TT(1piO'T(1O'O (fr. 10.3 = B131.3); this echo, too, underlines a correction,
since for Lucretius the forces of creation and destruction Venus and Mars are
wound in a perpetual embrace. As I have argued elsewhere, this can be taken as

28 Gn the controversial issue of Aratus relations to early Stoicism,

Hunter 1995: 4-9, Gee 2000: 70-91; contra, Fakas 2001: 18-39.


Effe 1977: 45-53,

29 On Aratus Golden Age and its relation to the Hesiodic version, see esp. Solmsen 1966
and Schiesaro 1996; for the Empedoclean allusion, cf. Kidd 1997 ad 108.

Asmis 1982.

Cf. also Simonides,

eleg. 11.20-22 West, which may act
Empedocles and Lucretius: OHara 1998.

as an

intertext for both



symbolic of the interdependence of creation and destruction in the Epicurean

system, and as ruling out Empedoclean alternation.
I can only touch still more briey on Lucretius version of the Golden Age
myth, which forms part of his history of civilization at the end of book 5. There are
in fact two sections of the culture-history where Hesiodic allusion can be detected:
rst, and more obviously, the account of primitive life at 5.925-1010, and, secondly,
the discussion of the development of metalworking at 1241-1296. In both cases, the
Hesiodic account is severely and, I think, self-consciously rationalized. Perhaps the
clearest instance of this is the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age at 1289f.,
aereque is strongly reminiscent of the similar anaphora at
where the anaphora aere
Wor/es and Days 150f., )((i)\K(l uv Teuxea, )(Ci)\K6OL 8 "re oikot / Xa>\|<u 8
eipydovto. Lucretius, like Hesiod, shows how life grew worse (or at least more
violent and cruel) once bronze was replaced by iron; but for Lucretius this is not the
mark of moral degeneration from a superior to an inferior race, rather it is simply
what happens when technological progress runs on unchecked by reason. Iron was
used to make better farm tools as well as weapons the former, in Lucretius eyes,
apparently an unambiguous good (cf. 5.1361-1378); all such inventions have the
potential to be used for either positive or negative ends, but only Epicurean ratio
can equip us to distinguish between the good and the bad. Moreover, the whole
process is emphatically free of any supernatural element: no divine benefactors (like
Hesiods Prometheus), no divine avengers (like Hesiods Zeus). The choice between
good and evil, happiness and misery lies, for the Epicurean poet, in human hands.
A nal metapoetic comment on Lucretius relationship with his predecessors
can be detected at the very end of book 5, where the poet mentions the invention
of writing and of poetry itself: he adds that is why our age cannot look back to

what happened before, except where reason shows us traces (propterea quid yitpiim
aotum reipioere aetax / noytra nequit, nixi qua ratio oextigia momtral). This, of course, is what
Lucretius himself has just done: the last part of book 5 has, precisely, built on such
traces to reconstruct the history of an age before poetry. Poetic tradition is valuable because it preserves (a version of) the past; but the ratio which Lucretius follows must in the end be a better guide.

I have argued in this paper that Lucretius is very much aware of the dual poetic tradition, the heritage of both heroic and didactic poetry, from which his own work


Gale 1994: 71f.

Cf. Gale 1994: 164-174; to the bibliography cited there, add Schrijvers 1994 (who argues
that the Hesiodic echoes are mediated through Dicaearchus) and (for a rather different view
of the relationship) Campbell 2003: 10-15, 179-184.


1 89

descends. But he does not, in my view, simply turn the clock back to an earlier,

more serious phase of that tradition in creating his Epicurean epic; rather, as I
hope I have shown, he exploits a variety of conventions derived from both
branches of the tradition in very subtle and innovative ways. It was above all this
manipulation of the didactic tradition which enabled him to adapt it so successfully
as a vehicle for that most apparently unpoetic of subjects, the rationalist philosophy
of Epicurus.

Asmis, E. (1982), Lucretius Venus and Stoic Zeus, Hermes 110, 458-470

Bing, P. (1993), Aratus and his Audiences, in: Schiesaro et al., Mega Nq;>z'0i", 99-109
Campbell, G. L. (2003), Lucretius on Creation and Evolution: A Commentary on
De Remm Natzzra, Book Five, Lines 772-1104, Oxford


Clay, D. (1983), Lucretius and Epicurus, Ithaca and London

(1996) An Anatomy of Lucretian Metaphor, in: G. Giannantoni and M.
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Conte, G. B. (1994) Instructions for a Sublime Reader: Form of the Text and Form
of the Addressee in Lucretiuss De Remm Natum, in: Genres and Readers, Bal-

timore/London, 1-34

Effe, B. (1970) lIpoTpr| yeve

eine stoische Hesiod-Interpretation in Arats
Phainomena, RhM 113, 167-182

-- (1977) Dichtung und Lehre. Untersuchungen zur Typologie

des antiken

Lehrgedichts, Munchen

Der hellenistische Hesiod: Arats Phainomena und die Tradition der

antiken Lehrepik, Wiesbaden

Fakas, C. (2001)

Fowler, D. P. (2000) The Didactic Plot, in: M. Depew and D. Obbink (edd.) Matrices of Genre: Authors, Canons and Society, Cambridge (MA), 205-219
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- (forthcoming), The Story of Us: A Narratological Analysis of Lucretius
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Gee, E. (2000), Ovid, Aratus and Augustus: Astronomy in Ovids Faslz, Cambridge

Hardie, P. R. (1986), Virgils Aenezd: Cosmos and Imperium, Oxford

- (1993), The Epic Successors of Virgil, Cambridge




P. (1970), Hesiod and Empedocles, C] 65, 145-161

Hunter, R. L. (1995), Written in the Stars: Poetry and Philosophy in the Pbainomena
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Inwood, B. (2001), The Poem of Empedoclesz, Toronto

]ames, A.W. (1972), The Zeus Hymns

of Cleanthes

and Aratus, Antichthon 6, 28-38

Keen, R. (1985), Lucretius and his Reader, Apeiron 19, 1-10

Kennedy, D. F. (2000), Making a Text of the Universe: Perspectives on Discursive

Order in the De Reram Natara of Lucretius, in: A. Sharrock and H. Morales
(edd.) Intratextuality: Greek and Roman Textual Relations, Oxford, 205-225

Kidd, D. A. (1993, Aratus:


Lieberg, G. (1982), Poeta




Studien zu einer Figur der antiken Dichtung,

Martin, A. and Primavesi, O. (1999), LEmpdocle de Strasbourg, Berlin / New York

Mayer, R. (1990), The Epic

of Lucretius, PLLS

6, 35-43.

Mitsis, P. (1993), Committing Philosophy on the Reader: Didactic Coercion and

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Obbink, D. (1993), The Addressees of Empedocles, in: Schiesaro et al., Mega

OHara, J. (1998), Venus or the Muse
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Ally (Lucr.


1.24, Simon. Frag. Eleg. 11.

Osborne, C. (1987), Empedocles Recycled, CQ 37, 2450

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Schiesaro, A. (1990), fima/aeram et imago. Gli argomenti analogici nel De reram natara,


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(2003), Lucretius and the New Empedocles, Leeds International Classical

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54-65 (=
C.]. Classen (ed.) Probleme der Lukrezforschung Hildesheim, 1986, 17-28)







Dionys. Per.


Eur, [Austin]
ft 50,743


6. 31


fr_ 31

B 17,1_;>

ft 31 B 4,1
ft 31 B 6
ft 31 B 3
ft 31 B 15



31 B 17,7-8

fr. 31 B 17,18
1. 31 B 21
fr. 31 B 21,12
1. 31 B 21,9-12
ft 31 B 36,1
1. 31 B 26,12
1. 31 B 26,5
ff, 31 B 27,4
1. 31 B 27-29
1. 31 B 28,2
B. 31 B 29
1. 31 B 30-31
1. 31 B 35
1. 31 B 35,3-5
1. 31 B 39,25.
1. 31 B 963
1. 31 B 98,2
B. 31 B 115
1. 31 B 115,13
fr. 31 B 129
fr. 31 B 132,1
1. 31 B 134
1. 31 B 142
Emp. [Inwood (D.-K.)]
fr. 1 B 112
fr. 3 B 4
fr. 13-16 B 3.110.111

75, 76

74, 83
83, 84, 86
83, 84, 85

85, 86, 87
88, 89
89, 167
86, 87, 89,90

178, 180


6 B 129
8 B 2
9 B 3,4
10 B 131,3
12 B 6
15 B 111
16 B 110,6-10
17 B 109,1

22 B 9
25 B 17
26,10-11 B 21
27 B 23
37 B 22,2
38 B 20,6-7
39 B 38 3-4
74 B 71
75 B 33
77-87 B 72. 74-83
86 B 82
103 B 84
118 B 124
122 B 128

178, 183
183, 184



fr- 128 B 137

E1111 var [V-J




Frg- 45



Eratosth. Cat.


Euseb. Pragb.


E1. Luv.


E2 Mr.






III B 36
B 566
111 F 35b
Firm. Math.