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American Philological Association

De Rerum Natura: Greek Physis and Epicurean Physiologia (Lucretius 1. 1-148)


Author(s): Diskin Clay
Source: Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 100 (1969),
pp. 31-47
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2935899
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DE RERUM NATURA: GREEK PHYSIS


PHYSIOLOGIA
AND EPICUREAN
I.1-I48)
(LUCRETIUS
DISKIN

CLAY

ReedCollege

natura-OnNature,On theNatureof Things,On theNature


De rerum
Are:forthemodernreader,Lucretius'
oftheUniverse,
The WayThings
poem beginswithitstitle. For Lucretius'firstreader,however,it is
likelythatthepoembeganwithitsbeginning:
hominum
voluptas.
divumque
Aeneadum
genetrix,
Exceptforrasurasin 0 and Q, thereis no evidencethatantiquity
natura.' In a letterto his
recognized
Lucretius'poem as theDe rerum
brotherQuintus,Cicero speaksof Lucreti
but saysnothing
poemata,
further
to suggesta title.2 Curiously,in thissameletterhe writesof
the
poem of whichonlythetitlenow survives,
anotherphilosophical
unknown. Ovid and the
who is otherwise
Empedoclea
of a Sallustius
carmina,
where
Diomedesagreein speakingofLucreti
lategrammarian
Lucretius'
Vitruvius
andLactantius
argument
with
agreein associating
thephrasedererum
natura.3
I For the evidence of the MSS for the titleof Lucretius'poem, see Bailey, T. Lucreti
Cari De rerum
naturalibrisex (Oxford I947) 2.583. This is the textI have used throughout. Epicurus is cited from G. Arrighetti,EpicuroOpere (Turin I960) and referred
to as Epicuro,except for the threelettersincluded in Diogenes LaertiusI0, the Kyriai
Doxai (= KD), and the Gnomologium
Vaticanum
(= SV).
2 Ad Q.fr. 2.9.3.
F. H. Sandbachhas arguedthatby poemataCicero was not referring
to the entireDe rerumnatura,but to only a part of it-possibly the proem, CR 54
(I940)
75-76. U. Pizzani, however, has adduced evidence to suggest that Cicero's
puzzling poematacan referto the entirepoem, II problemadel testoe della composizione
del De RerumNaturadi Lucrezio(Rome I959) 38-40.
3 Ovid, AmoresI.I5.23;
Diomedes, Gramm.Lat. I.482.20 (Keil); Vitruvius,De arch.
9, praef.I7; cf. I.7: de rerumnatura,quae graecephysiologiadicitur,
philosophiaexplicat;
Lactantius,Div. inst.2.12.4.

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DISKIN

32

[I969

CLAY

of Lucretius'argument,
naturais the naturaldescription
De rerum
sinceit is the seal Lucretiusfixedupon the poem himself4.Thus,
naturain none of the
althoughthe poem is announcedas De rerum
as such(I.25), and by signalingits argument
MSS, it proclaimsitself
withEmpedocles,Epicurus,
naturait alignsitselfdirectly
as de rerum
Epicharmus,
andthewholeofearlyGreekphysiology.5UnlikeEnnius'
Cicero's Aratea,and Sallustius'Empedoclea,Lucretius'De rerumnatura

and nota Roman copy


of a tradition,
declaresitselfthecontinuation
philosophy. It is notan Epicurea.
of anyindividual
-rept
In Greek the titleand investigation

had by themid-first
bvcrEwo&o

butjustwlhatitsLatinequivatradition,
B.C. a longestablished
century
withGreek
to a Roman readerunfamiliar
lentmighthavesuggested
to determine.The phrasede rerum
physicalspeculationis difficult
or near
thewritingof threeshadowycontemporaries
naturadescribes
of Lucretius. Catius,Egnatius,and Varroof Reate
contemporaries
and notbaldlyde naturade reruni
are all saidto havewritten
natura,
theobviouscalquefor7rEptEbV'Eus-and possiblyit is theauthority
naturaas thecanonical
gainedby Lucretius'phrasethatfixedde rerum
descriptionforany Latin treatise7Tepf vUX6

could hardly
by rerumn,
Even so, naturaalone,or naturadetermined
in Greek,
reader
what
suggests
Roman
to
a
physis
have conveyed
to
whichcorresponded
thena rangeofsignificance
becauseitpossessed
oftheword
meanings
andnon-philosophical
onlythemostelementary
in Greek.7 What compelsnotice is thatLucretiusintroducesthe
4 I.25, 4.969-70, 5.335.
5 Galen, De elementis
I.9,

p. 487 (Kuhn), statesthat all the "ancients" gave their


This opinion itselfis an anachronismfor
works thistitle(quoted by Munro at I.25).
Philosophers
most of the writerslisted by Galen (cf. Kirk and Raven, The Presocratic
[Cambridge I957] ioi note i), althoughit was currentin Lucretius'time.
6

RE
forEgnatius,
ofF. Skutsch
Thisis theconclusion

5.2 (1905)

I993-94,

although

it is not absolutely compelling. For Varro of Reate and Catius, see K. Sallmann,
7 (i962) 239-40.
ArchivfarBegriffsgeschichte
7 I. Fisher,"Le sens du titreDe Rerum Natura," Me'langeslinguistiques (Bucharest
argues that the term naturawas not the equivalent of physisas it figured
I957) I7-2I,
in the titleperiphyseos,and notes (wrongly)thatLucretiusfirstuses the phrasede rerum
naturaas it would have been familiarto his readers-" sur la naissance des choses"
thescholastictitleforLucretius'
In describingit as dephysicarerumorigineveleffectu
(I9).
poem conveys some of the sense of rerumnaturain I.2i and 25. Comparable to this
rare sense of naturaas birthor origin is the recensnaturainundiof 5.330-3i, especially
of 5.324-25. What is by far the
taken in connectionwith the genitalisorigoterrarurm

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GREEK PHYSIS

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PHYSIOLOGIA

33

notas it was mostfamiliar


conceptofphysis/natura
in Latin,butas
Latinwascapableofmaking
ofphysis
mostreadily
theconcept
intelligible. To statethematter
in his
in termsprovided
by Epicurus
Letter
toHerodotus,
thewordnatura
intoLucretius'
emerges
argument
notasitwasmostcommon
inLatin(KaT-d 1-r)vITAEor-qV bopav),8but
as itisreturned
toitsoriginal
conception
(i-riJp65'rovEvvo'?ya)ofbirth
and genesis.9
In the matrixof the first20 linesof Lucretius'invocation,rerum
natura
can haveno othermeaning. In itscontextit is thesummation
of all thathasbeensaidofVenusgenetrix,
quaererum
naturam
solagubernas(1.21).
Withoutthecompassof Greek,Lucretius'Roman readeris brought
fromthevividlyapparentconceptionof naturaas union,birth,and
increase,
whichis therootsenseof Greekphysis,'0
to a largerconceptionwhichseemsto deriveas muchfromPresocratic
thought
as itdoes
fromtheatomismof Epicurus. By thetimeLucretius
has launched
fullestaccount of the word naturain Latin neglectsboth passagesin rejectingthe possibilitythatrerumnaturamightreflectthe primarysenseof the word as birthor genesis;
Andre Pellicer, Natura: Atudese'mantique
et historique
du mot latin(Publications de la
Faculte des lettreset scienceshumainesde l'Universitede Montpellier27 [Paris I966])
377-78, cf. 42-45. What Pellicerfailsto envisageis thepossibilitythatLucretiusmight
have deliberatelyintroducednaturaas genesisas the firststage of his way to physis.
8 Ad Hdt. 70.3-5, duplicated in Lucretius' haec solitisumus,ut par est,eventavocare,
I.458. On the same principle,compare Ad Hdt. 46.6 and Lucretius 4.30; Colotes'
In Lysin,Cr6nert,KolotesundMenedemos
(Munich i906) i65, col. I (II 267.5-8); and Ad
Hdt. 67.2, 76.7.
9 Ad Hdt. 3 8. I. Taking Epicurus' language in such a senseis abusive of his meaning,
but verypossiblyillustrativeof Lucretius'interpretation
of his Greek.
I0 This meaningofphysis(from bvlw/+vbEaEaO,
cf. o 77-E'bVKEV) is not so rareas Burnet,
Ross, and Lovejoy would have it,althoughit does not survivea lexicographer'sapproach
to the historyof ideas, e.g. Lovejoy and Boas, "Some Meanings of Nature," in Primitivismand Related Ideas in Antiquity(Baltimore I935) 447, AI. For Lucretius,who

translates
gignetai
by nasci(Ad Hdt.38.8-39.I

= I.I45-50,

I59-60)

and apololeibyperire

(Ad Hdt. 39.I-2 = I.2I 5-i8; cf.Plutarch,Adv. Col. ii I6c [282 Us.] and Lucretius,2.ioioI2), physis,especiallyas he knew it from the poetry of Empedocles, came alive in its
root meaning of birth,genesis,increase. Cf. Empedocles B8 and Plutarch'smasterful
commentaryon physisas genesisin the whole of Empedocles' poetry,Adv. Col. IIII
I3F, which preservesfor us fragmentsB9, IO, and II of Diels. For this conception
of physisit is significantthat in the Katharmoi,Physois opposed to Phthimene,
BI23 .I.
Some of the evidence for a conception of physisas genesiscomes from Xenophanes,
VS B29, Plato, Laws 892c, Aristotle,Metaphysics
a IOI4BI6, and Physics2.I.I93BI2,
forwhich cf. Zeno, SVF i fr. I7I (= DL 7.I56).

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34

DISKIN

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[I969

intothephysicalargumentof his poem proper,his readerhas been


givena good notionofwhatphysisandphysiologia
represent
in Greek
andwhattheywillcometo meanin Latin. The rerum
naturaof I.2I,
vividlyrevealedin itsrootsenseof genesis,is theroad to thelarger
and more completeconceptionof physisreachedby the outsetof
Lucretius'philosophicalarguments
proper. The languageof Aristotle'sPhysicsdescribesthe movementof Lucretius'proem better
thananyother:7 Xvots ACyoUEvVjus )EVEULSs o'Os Eratv Ets ?vatv
(2.I.I93BI2).

When, in linc 25, Lucretiusrepeatsthe phrasererumnattlra to


ofhispoem,hiscommentators
describetheargument
layoutcompendiouslywhat theytakehim to mean by thisphrasegenerally.By
as Lucretius'
first
readercouldnot,therangeofmeanings
anticipating,
givenres,natura,
and rerum
naturain thepoem,Munro,Bailey,and
a themealiento
otherslosesightof Lucretius'mannerof introducing
II
Latinpoetry.
Naturafirstemergesinto the De rerum
naturain itsprimitiveand
largelydormantsenseof birthand genesisin an evocationof the
invisiblepower of Venus genetrix
whose empireis rerumnaturaimmediatelythe "birth of things." And Lucretius'invocationis
in itsprimitivesenseof
pregnantwithtermsrevealingphysis/natura
comingintobeing. The metaphorof Greekphysishas becomealive
in Lucretius'natura,
and it permeates
itscontext. Exortum
(I.5) and
in
for
fact
common
Latin
exoritur
(I.22)
represent
equivalents genesis
as in moreof Greekthought
andgignetai.I2 In Lucretius'invocation,
II Sallmann'sdescriptionof Lucretius'situationis admirable: "In thisregardit should
be kept in mind thatEpicurus' conception of physisbelongs to the last stage of a long
philosophical tradition,where it was Lucretius' task to form his terminologyout of
Unaccountably,
the very beginningsof Roman literature"(above, note 6, p. 250).
he begins his study of this concept with a chapteron Die Naturals Atomitat(I44-66).
It is well to rememberthatwhereEpicurusfoundit necessaryto prove the impossibility
of a visible atom, Lucretiusfeltthe need to demonstratethe very existenceof invisible
bodies.
12 This equivalence is well documentedforCicero by Pellicer(above, note 7) 370 note
ordiaprima,exordia)might
Oras takenin close connectionwith exoriri(cf.primordia,
2.
be added to P. Friedlander'slistof examples of Lucretius'"atomology," AJP 62 (I94I)
The bond between oras and exoririis especially apt because, by Lucretius'
I6-34.
conception of genesis,things(res) emerge by accretionfrom the darknessof the prioras. The phraseis Ennian (perhapsderivingfromEmpedocaeca-dias il luininiis
tnordia
is Lucretian.Cf. I.170, I79-80, 227-in liinirtavitae.
cles),butthethought

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GREEK PHYSIS

AND

EPICUREAN

PHYSIOLOGIA

35

thanis generally
granted,
physis
or natura
is conceived
of as genesis.
inAeneadum
ingenus
Itsrootsenseisfirst
suggested
genetrix
(i.i), then
inquaererumn
andfinally
aurafavoni(i.ii), generatim,
(I.4), genitabilis
solagubernas
naturam
(1.21).
hasevokedthespringof thecycleof union,birth,
and
Lucretius
growth,
andinvokedVenusas theunseenpowerbehindthebeginof
reminiscent
of Parmenides,
ningof the cycle. In a metaphor
Empedocles,and evenof Cleanthesin hisHymnto Zeus, Venusis said
to governthe eventsof genesis.I3 The metaphoris whollyalien to
Epicurus,forwhomphysisbearsonlythefaintest
tracesofPhysis.I4
It is in thephilosophical
poetryof EmpedoclesthatLucretiusdiscoveredan awarenessof physisas genesis,and it is the languageof
Empedoclesthatpullsintotheirproperfocusmanyof the termsof
Lucretius'invocationto Venus. Lucretiusbeginswhere for Empedocles men both begin and end: with physisas genesis;forphysisis

thenametheywronglyattachto birthor concretion,


and deathis the
nametheygive dissolution.I5 Physisis thepropernameforbirthif
birthis properly
conceivedas a mixis.I6 The nameEmpedoclesgives

13 Parmenides VS 28 B8.3-6; for Empedocles, see the discussion of W.


Kranz,
Hermes96 (I943) 87-88; in Cleanthes'HymntoZeus the verb occurstwice,SVF I.121.35
and 123.i. Elsewhere in Lucretius the governmentof nature is evoked only as it
replacesthatattributedto the gods, 5.77 and cf. 5.1236-40.
14 In what survivesof Epicurus thereare only very fainttracesof the personification
of Physis;in Lucretius,Naturahas takenthereinsfromthehandsof thegods, and governs
her domain by strictlaw. Compare the expressionsof 5.73-90 with 2.1090-1104.
Heidel's account of the Presocraticsand theirtransferof the rule or governmentof the
world fromthegods tophysisserveswell forLucretius,Proceedings
oftheAmerican
Academy
ofArtsand Sciences45 (1910) 94. The only tracesof Physisin Epicurus are visible as
physisrefersto human nature; Ad Men. 129.9, 133.3; KD xv, xxv; SV 2i, 25, 37.
Epicurus does, however, speak of the commands of the visible world (Ad Pyth.86.9),
and the voice of the flesh(SV 33, cf. Lucretius2.17). In all theseexpressionshe avoids
the word physis. By contrast,compare Lucretius,3.93I-62.
'5 VS B8.
Comparable, as Plutarchsaw, are B9.4, I i.2, and i5. Thus both physis
and thanatosare properlyeponomatafor the mixisand diallaxisof Empodocles' roots.
Cf. Anaxagoras, VS 59 B17, which seems a version of the thought of Empedocles.
Against Colotes, who seems to have interpretedphysisrightlyas birth(for which see
Westmann, PlutarchgegenKolotes,Acta PhilosophicaFennica7 [HelsingforsI955] 57),
Plutarch attemptsto vindicateEmpedocles' meaning by interpreting
physisas genesis,
Adv. Col. 1112A; cf. [Aristotle]MXG, 975B7 (= VS I.262.6).
16 Even so, Empedocles speaks of compounds growingtogetherand growingapart,
as well as mixing and separating. BI7.I-13 (&tabv'Eurat) and 26.9; cf. A72; B26.7
and B95 (avgubv'EoOat).
2*

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36

DISKIN

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[I969

he seesbehind
is mixture
andtheempire
andnotphysis,
thisprocess
tojoin, andto
whoseworkit is to bringtogether,
it is Aphrodite
oftheworldas
fashion
partsintowholes.I7Theshapesandsurfaces
(VS 3I
ithascomeintobeingaboutusarealltheworkofAphrodite
B7I.4):
oaa vvv yeyaacor avvap,Loa&EVT' 'A0po8Lr'Tt.

In both Lucretiusand Empedocles,a senseof etymologyand an


awarenessof the metaphors
(or models)revealedin etymologyis a
mode of understanding.A thingis as it has come into being. In
who encounters
tllespecialcharacter
of Empedocles'lanLucretius,
of a manforwhomGreekis a foreign
guagewiththekeenawareness
languageand forwhomhisown languagehasimplicitin it themodel
of atomicprocesses,
(or " atomology"as Paul Friedlander
etymology
has calledit) is a mode of thought. It is Lucretius'exquisitesenseof
ofEmpedocles'poetrythatsharpens
thefocusof some
themetaphors
of thetermsof theinvocationto Venus.
and it is followed
encountered,
Of theseconcelebras
(1.4) is thefirst
is
directlyby concipitur
(i.5). What it thatVenusdoes? Does she
" (Bailey),or is it by herinvisible
filllandand sea "withherpresence
en moissonsse peuplentde creatures"
empirethat"les terresfertiles
are vaguelypleasing,yettheyare
(Ernout)? All of theserenderings
all out of focus. Taken in theirrootsense(TrO-rpJrov &vv0rqa),the
i8 made
denotea gatheringtogether
and concipitur
verbsconcelebras
ofVenuswho settlesthewinterseas
possibleby thecalminginfluence
she
oflifeon earth. By herinfluence
and fosters
(i. ii) thereopening
acrossthebarriers
which
compelstheanimalworldto gathertogether
have separatedkind fromkind; she has filledkind with desireor
forkind(I.20):
longing
saeclapropagent.
efficis
ut cupidegeneratim
17 For themanycraftmetaphors
which characterizeAphrodite'swork,see F. Solmsen,
JournaloftheHistoryofIdeas 24 (i963) 476-78.
18 For concelebras
cf. 2.342-46. "You who make the land and seas abound" is a
somewhat betterversionsince it does not have implicitin it a doctrineof resex nihilo.
Venus attractskind to kind, calms the winterseas, makes commercepossible; cf. 5.848,
962. This stage of thingsmust necessarilyprecede conception,for which follow the
of2.544-46, and 1.555, 4.I269, 5.548.
progress

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Cupidoin Latin,like roOoso


in Greek,is desire,butoftenit is desire
forsomething
absentor distant.19The worldis fullof desires,but
the passioninspiredby Aphroditeis pothos,
the longingof kindfor
kind,ofsaeclaforsaecla-usqueadeocupidein Veneris
compagibus
haerent
(4-1113):
Ev 8E Ko-rcot8Ma,opba KaiL
av8tXa diAv-ra
7TEAovTat,
avv 8' g73'Ev C1tAorp--rt
Kact acAA))Aotat
IToOElTra.2O

Like concelebras
and concipitur,
propagent
carriesa metaphorwhichis
broughtintofocusby itsetymology,
whichis apparentin theGreek
to "peg7TT7yvvvat,
Empedocles'Aphroditeis the joiner and
harmonizer;
shefashions
withtherivetsoflove (B87), justas Lucretius
fashions
wordstogether
intorhythmic
verse(I.25).
In a likemanner,
theVenusof Lucretius'proembringstogether
andjoins or causesto
propagate
animalkind. This is the historyof physisor genesisas it
canbe written
fromLucretius'
invocation
to Venus:gathering,
union,
concretion,
and by increase,
birth.
concipitur
visitque
exortum
luminasolis

(I.5).

The eventsoftheevocationof spring(I.I-25) are,in theircarefully


definedstages,exactlyparalleledin Lucretius'firstelaboration
of his
argument
dererum
natura:
rerum
primordia
pandam
undeomnisnatura
creetres,auctet,
alitque.22
'9 Plato, Cratylus
420A, and in general,V. Ehrenberg," Pothos," in Polis undImperium
(Zurich I965) 458-65. In thisregard,it is significant
thatin Lucretiuscupidocan describe
at once animalinstinct(I.I6 and 20), humanlust(thediracupidoof 4.IO90), and thenatural
impulseor tendencyof matter(2.I99 and the cuppedomediiof I.IO82).
The connection
between Empedocles' pothosand Lucretius' cupidoseems to be guaranteedby the passages brought togetherin the body of the text, as well as in the doctrineof human
desire as it is fed by the simulacraof the object of desire. Cf. 4.io6I-62, the umorem
of 4. iO65, the collectacupidoof 4. 1 I I 5, and thepothosof Empedocles B64.
collectum
20
B21.8, and compare BIIO.9, 22.5.
2I In thepoem ofEmpedocles,
is a verbwhichfrequently
describesthework
7r-qyvlJvca
of Venus,B75, 86 (cf.87), and of compoundinggenerally,BI5.4, 56, IO7.I; hermechanical means to such unions are rivets,bindings,and glue, B33, 34, 86, and 87. The root
sense of Lucretius'propagent(1.20) emerges most clearly in 5.849-50, and is possibly
visiblein the common Lucretianexpressionquopacto.
22 For the Greek conceptionbehind Lucretius'auctetalitque,see F. Solmsen, AJP 74
I953) 46, and note 47.

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Here for the firsttime the springof genesisand Venus is seen as only
a partialview of thingsand only a stage in the cycle of nature. Empedocles' version of physisis a double tale; in Lucretius' version of
Natura,Venus is supplantedby Naturaas thecycle (cf. 5.73I-50) moves
fromgenesisto dissolution:
naturaresolvat (1.57).
rursumperemipta
quove eademn
There is perhapsno betterway of making the special characterof
Lucretius' language plain than to contrastit with that of one of his
unacknowledgedpredecessorsin Latinphilosophicalpoetry. The lines
come from Pacuvius' Chryses,ultimatelyfromEuripides' Chrysippus
(and the thoughtof Anaxagoras).23
aethera:
Graiperhibent
id quod nostricaelummemorant,
alitaugetcreat
quidquidesthoc, omniaanin11atformlat
recepitin seseomnia,oinniumqueidemestpater
sepelit
de integroatqueoccidunt.
indidemqueeademacque oritintur
In the progressof the events of Lucretius' invocation, his reader
contenplatestheeventsof atomic concretionwritlarge. The mechanism of Empedocles' nmixis,so clearlyconveyed in the metaphorsof
carpentryand joining, is in no wise alien to Epicurus. Lucretiushas
reproduced the mechanismof these events in the root sense of the
verbs which carryon the movementof the invocationto Venus. In
both Empedocles and Epicurus, physisor genesisis conceived of as
or concretion. Lucretius'verbs serve his philosophyin as
UVyKptUtSmuch as theyreveal in theiretymologythe models of how things(res)
come into being. But in starkcontrastto Empedocles and Lucretius,
Epicurussaw no Physis,no Venus,
behindtheeventsofphysisorgentesis,
and no Aphrodite-only perhapsthe exiguurnclitnamle,,.As Simplicius
knew, forthe atomiststhereis Ino genesis withoutmotion (306 Us.).
As he progressesinto his argument,Lucretiusrestateshis themc in
somewhat larger terms,and speaks for the firsttime of the vera ratio
(I.si) to which he means to introducehis reader. New in the philosophical programannounced in lines 54-6I is thc argumentde summa
Graccorum?l
23 The passage from Pacuvius is reproduced by Nauck, Tragicortitim
(Leipzig I889), with Euripides,fr. 839 and the testimonyof Vitruvius(De
Fraginetita2
arc/i.8 praeJ; i) which takesthe doctrineback to Anaxagoras. These and othersinilar
96 (I968) II8-2I.
textsare discussedby L. Alfonsiin Hermnes

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PHYSIOLOGIA

39

caeliratione
deumque
(I.54), and theshift
in emphasisfromthebroad
visionofthespringofthecycleofnatureto thematerialoutofwhich
Natura(and no longerVenus)createsand sustains
all thingsand into
whichsheresolvesthem. It veretVenus(5.737). Natura,likeVenus,
is represented
as an agent,and thestuff
out ofwhichshebringsthings
intobeingLucretiusnamesmateries
corpora
(I.58), genitalia
(I.58), and
seminarerum(I.59).
All thesetermskeep close to the primitive
meaningof physisas birthand increaseand are immediately
intelligiblein theircontext. Primordia
and
are
corpora
prima
(i.6i)
(i.55)
freerfromtheassociations
of genesisand are Lucretius'moreneutral
equivalents
fortheapXai of Greekphysics. Lucretiustakespainsto
stampthesetermsas bearinga specialsense(quae nosappellare
suimus,
1.58-60), buthe goesfurther
to suggestthatthetwo termsnotimmediatelycomprehensible
fromthecontextof theproemareappropriate
to whattheydescribe(I.60-6I):
suemus
ethaeceademusurpare
corpora
prima,quodex illissuntomniaprimis.
Aftersettingout thephilosophical
programof theDe rerum
natura,
Lucretiusleaves his argumentfirstto stressthe achievement
of its
founder(I.62-79), and thento urgeitsnecessity
(i.8o-ioi, I02-I26,
I27).
As LudwigEdelsteinarguedwitha daringwhichcarriedhim
beyondthelambentwallsof tradition
and back to thecontextof the
proemand thehistory
ofGreekthought,
theGraiushomoof I.66 need
not be Epicurus. In the historyof Greekthought"knowledgeof
naturewas achievedthrougha long line of inspiredthinkers,
the
Presocratics
and Epicurus,theEpicureansystembeing,so to say,the
ofPresocratic
entelechy
ideas."24 The physiologist
oftheproem,like
hisobjectin physis,
is simplyGreek. One will laterrecognizehimas
Epicurus,but one does not and cannotknow thisfromLucretius'
proem. The realdificulty
withthisidentification
is thatit is prematureand neglectsLucretius'mannerof introducing
hisargument
and
its necessity.Thus, in thefinalcharacterization
of his philosophical
matter,Lucretiusspeaksof the "dark discoveriesof the Greeks"
(Graiorum
obscura
reperta,
I. I36).
But whereLucretius'introduction
of physisis an introduction
to
24

"Primum Graiushomo," TAPA

7I (I940)

85.

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40

DISKIN

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[I969

Epicurean.
to physiologiais distinctively
Greekphysis,hisintroduction
emergesdramatically
intothepoem
The ethicalimpulseto physiology
as the threatof religionis exposedfirstin its primitiveand Greek
intotheRoman context
and thenas it is translated
setting
(I.62-IOI),
of Ennius'poetry(I.I02-26).
Thus, lines62-79 of theproemgive
while theirsequelin
of Greekphysiology,
the historical
beginnings
an understanding
formastering
lines8o-I26 givestheethicalnecessity
of nature.
in LatinphiloforLucretiusboth a forerunner
Enniusrepresents
It is thethreat
truth.2S
sophicalpoetryand a dangerousrivalto the
withitsbasisin dreamvisionsthat
ofEnnius'doctrineof theafterlife
of the argumentof his
Lucretiusmeetshead-onby a reformulation
naturam(I.I26)
In directcontradiction
to thererumn
poem (I.I27-35).
whichthespectreofHomerexpoundedto Enniusin hisdreamvision,
Lucretiusstateshisargumentfora secondtime. In thisrestatement
of
by thepressure
and sharpened
programis refined
hisphilosophical
theethicaldemandsmadeuponit; it has takenon a fullerscopewith
account
of itsnecessity.Wherea comprehensive
thedemonstration
of theheavensand thegods had beenannouncedbefore(I.54; cf.Ad
Hdt. 79.5), both gods and celestialphenomenaare includedin the
rubricsuperisde rebus(I.I27; cf. I.62-65), whichis Latinfor7TEptrJv
apparentin this"second
/LETEWpcoV (cf KD xi). What is especially
syllabus"is a shiftin emphasisfroma concernforthe materialfor
to a concernforthelaws of heavenand thehumansoul.
generation
ofcauses(I.I27-35):
is placedon thediscovery
thestress
Accordingly,
de rebushabenda
benecumsuperis
quapropter

nobisestratio,solislunaequemeatus
ratione,et qua vi quaequegerantur
qua fiant

25Lucretius' view of his predecessor'sachievementin physiology can be gathered


of the firstfew fragmentsof the Annaleswith Lucretius'presentafroma confrontation
Ennius' vision is a dream vision (frs.v-vII Vahlen,
tion of Ennius' vision (I.II2-26).
to explain in partLucretius'attackon the
which is sufficieint
and fr.I of theEpicharmus),
vertere
possint(I. I04-5).
possuntsomniaquae vitaerationes
vanityof dreams: tibiiamfingere
Furthercompare fr.iv of theAnnateswith LucretiusI. I I9; fr.xII with the altematives
The adverb divinitusin i.iI6 reproducesthe divinitus
Lucretius sets out in I.II2-I6.
of the Annales,p. 5.io. The antagonismbetween the teaching of the two poets is
apparent in the very fact of Lucretius' placeinent of his "second syllabus" in direct
contradictionto the rertumnaturaof Ennius.

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tunccum primisratione
in terris,
sagaci
natura
videndum
undeanimaatqueanimiconstet
obvia mentis
et quae resnobisvigilantibus
terrificet
morboadfectis
somnoquesepultis,
cernereutivideamureos audirequecoram,
ossa.
morteobitaquorumtellusamplectitur
New is the argumenton the origin or nature of the soul26 and the
explanationof the simulacrawhich seem to guaranteea belief in an

afterlife
and divineempireoverthesoul in death. The godsand the
phenomenaof theheavens,the soul and the dreamvisionswhich seem
to guarantee it an afterlife:these are the most urgent problems of

becausetheyare the mosturgentterrorsof


Epicureanphysiology,
mankind. As far as Epicurus was concerned,if the violence of the
heavens and the thoughtof death inspiredno terror,therewould be
no need of physiology(KD xi).

It is clearthatby the "nature" of the soul,hereconceivedof as


both anima and animus,Lucretiusunderstandsnaturain its primitive
senseofbirthor origin,and seestheproblemas posedin two alternatives:eitherthesoulis bornand is thusmortal,or it entersthebody
at birthand is thuspreexistent
(cf.Cicero,Tusc. I.I8).
In the terms
of thesealternatives,
thesoul'snaturecan be qualifiedas nata,which
in thecourseofthepoemwillcometoequal+bapr4; 27 thisisthealternativeurgedwithsuchpassionateardorin Book 3 of theDe rerum
natura. It challengesthe disquietingdoctrineof the soul which is that
ofEnnius: in thelanguageofBook 3 it teachesthatthesoul is something
immortaland thatit entersthebodyat birth(3.670-7I):
immortalis
naturaanimai
constatet in corpusnascentibus
insinuatur.
In the De rerumnaturathe adjective immortalis
properlydescribesonly
the atoms, the void, the universewhich is theirsum, the gods, and,
as faras thesoulis concerned,
death(3.869).
26 Animaiin I.I I2, but in anticipationof the laterdevelopmentof the concept of the
in I.I3I; cf. 3.35-36, 4I7-24.
soul, anima/animus
27 In 5.242-43
mortaliaand nativaare equated. Comparable are expressionssuch as
corporenativo(5.24I) and nativosanimantibtls
et mortalis... animos(3.4I7).
5.6o defmes
any compound as mortal.

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DISKIN

42

CLAY

[I969

Consciousof thepovertyof hisnativespeech,Lucretiushas introof theGreek


ducedhisthemeso as to enrichLatinwithan exposition
ofphysiologia. Natura
ofphysisandtheEpicureanconception
tradition
whichis thehighroad to
in termsof generation,
is firstintroduced
the largerconceptionof Natura whichbringsthingsor compounds
them,and reducesthemto theirfirstbegin(res) intobeing,sustains
nings. Natura is also introducedas the visibleand circumscribed
the frameof thisworld (I.7I; cf. I.32I).
world of our experience,
the
thegods(I.44) and thehumansoul,natura suggests
As it describes
is
mortal.
which
is
and
that
which
immortal
that
of
constitution
of those
doesnotincludethegodsin hisdefinition
AlthoughLucretius
regardedas eternal(3.8o6-i8), the
threethingswhichcan be properly
soul is obviouslythe kind of thingwhichcan be dissolvedby the
per
blowsofmatter. Itsnaturaisthatitisnata,andthusmortal. Omnnis
Epicurus'To uaKa'ptoV Kat a'qYaproV28
sedivumnatura(I .44) translates
and more nearlyapproachesEpicurus'usage thanany of the other
termsof theproem.
of the physicalworld and its invariable
But the understanding
anddetached. Nature
abstract
oftheoria,
isnottheenterprise
processes
of I.68) inspiresterrors
in myth(thefama deumn
as it is represented
whichonlya cleargraspof itsdeepfixedlawscan dispel. Thisis the
and to convey
ofEpicureanphysiology,
properand theonlyfunction
opposesEnnius'account
thisto his Roman reader,Lucretiusdirectly
withhis own accountof thenatureof things. It is
of the afterlife
the threatof religionto man'speace of mindwhichimpelshim to
and provokesthosequestionstheEpicureanis compelled
physiology
oftheproemfroma presentation
to askofnature. It is themovement
of Epicurean
of theethicalnecessity
of Greekplhysisto a presentation
whichexplainsLucretius'"double syllabus."
physiology
whichis announcedin the
It is thissystemof reasonand reasoning
vera ratio(I.5I) Lucretiuspromisesto put beforehis reader. It is a
(elementa,I.8I; cf.
ratiowhichmightseemimpiousin itsbeginnings
of religion
the
terrors
mind
the
steel
will
against
I50), butone which
itself(i.iio, I28). Ratio as it firstappearsin the proemmightbe
Epicurus' more common designationof the divine is either
(Ad
kai makaria
physis
II, SV 24) or aphthartos
Hdt. 78.7, Epictiro65.35).
28

KD I (= SV I).

tl,eiaphysis(Ad Pytl. -13 . I I and I I 5.

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asthe" comprehensive
asthe" trueaccount"
translated
(I.50), andthen
account"of thegods and heaven(I.54, theKvpuT rata actdac ofAd
before
Hdt.79.5). Heretheplacement
caeliratiodeumque
of summa
is
stressed
rerum
what
primordia
reflects
precisely
by Epicurus.The
is nottheoria,
andindifferent,
impulse
to physiology
abstract
butthe
moralnecessity
of mastering
and all otherformsof
fear,anxiety,
whatphysiology-Epicurean
Accordingly,
physiology-rapaX71.
is notan abstract
thenatural
affords
accountofphysis,
worldandits
restandi
buta ratio
processes,
andfacultas
(i.iio; cf.3.45).29
Thus,whiletheconcept
ofnature
whichLucretius
develops
in his

proemis not distinctively


Epicurean,his statement
of theimpulseto

physiologyis explained by premiseswhich are exclusivelyEpicurean


(I.I46-48):

animi
huncigitur
terrorem
necessest
tenebrasque
teladiei
nonradiisolisnequelucida
sednaturae
discutiant,
species
ratioque.
These lines are repeated thriceagain in the poem (2.59-6I, 3.9I-93,
and on each occasion they provide, as they do here, the
6.39-4I),
bridge from the ethical premisesof physiologyto physiologyitself
In Lucretius'formulationwhich introducesthe logical foundationsof
his enterprise,naturaand ratiocome togetherto expresswhat Epicurus
meantby physiologia. Lucretiusdoes not translatethe Greekword by
Cicero's calque naturaeratio;ratherhe rendersthe concept by naturae
speciesratioque.30
Yet naturaas it is revealed by ratiolies furthestfrom the sensuous
world of theproem and itsevocationof springin thepoet's invocation
of Venus. Sunk deep below the speciesverna diei and the suavis
daedalatellusof the proem is a world barrenof the sensuousqualities
For the ethical premisesof the entirepoem and forphysiologiaitself,cf. Ad Hdt.
for the doctrine of divinity(I.44-49), cf. 76.iI-77.II,
78.6-8, and KD I
(= SV i); forthe fearproduced by the simulacraof the dead and absent,cf. SV 24 and
Epicurus' letterto his mother (Epicuro65). Finally, for the functionof physiology
itself,cf.Ad Hdt. 78, KD XI, XII (= SV 49).
30 Naturaeratiois Cicero's calque forphysiologia,
Div. I.90, 2.37, and ND 1.20.
But
this is not Lucretius'formula,although Reiley (Studiesin thePhilosophicalTerminology
ofLucretius
anidCicero[New York I909] 23), Traglia (De lucretiano
sermone
adphilosophiam
pertinente
[Rome I947] 56 note 332), and Ernout(LucreceDe RerumNaturaCommentaire
[Paris I962] ad. Ioc.) interpretit as such.
29

76.8-82.9;

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44

DISKIN

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[I969

of all sound,smell,taste,and color.The


of this;a worlddeprived
in theapocalypse
ratioarerevealed
of theEpicurean
truths
ultimate
nil. . . desertum
contemplates
whichclosesBook i. HereLucretius
Andagain,intheopening
caeca
etprimordia
(i.iIO9-IO).
praeterspatium
to Book 3 (I3-I6):

nam simulac ratiotua coepitvociferari


naturamrerum,divinamentecoorta,
animiterrores,
moeniamundi
diffugiunt
totumvideo perinanegerires.
discedunt,
of the ultimanaturai(i.iiI6) do not
(3.29)
The starknessand horror
primordia
come into sightin the proem. The remotenessof the rerum
of Lucretius'" firstsyllabus" is suggestedonly in thefinalcharacteriza(I.I36-45):
tionofhisthemeand itsdifficulties

nec nie animifallitGraiorumobscurareperta


Latinisversibusesse,
inlustrare
difficile
cum sitagendum
multanovisverbispraesertim
linguaeet rerumnovitatem;
propteregestatem
sed tua me virtustamenet speratavoluptas
laborem
suavisamicitiaequemvisefferre
suadetet inducitnoctesvigilareserenas
dictisquibuset quo carminedemum
quaerentem
luminamenti,
claratuaepossimpracpandere
resquibusoccultaspenitusconviserepossis.
inherentin it are finallycharacLucretius' theme and the difficulties
obscura
reperta
(I . I 36)-a phrasevariously
terizedby thephraseGraioruni
it involves.3I
translated,but with little sensitivityto the difficulties
Ernout's "ces obscures decouvertes des Grecs" is quite literal,but
if taken literally. If Lucretiusregardedhis argumentand its
difficult
Greek inventorsas obscure,theywould sharein the vice of the oracularly crypticHeraclitus,who earns Lucretius' contempt as clarusob
of the poem, is one
3I Biichner, anxious to reconstruct
the Entstehungsgeschichte
In it he detectsa slightly
of the few criticsto questionthe meaningof obscurain I.I36.
derogatorytone, and pointsto 3.I-2 to show thata change in attitudehas come about,
i, I936)
bei Lukrez (HermesEinzelschriften
uberVers und Gedankengangen
Beobachtungen
both occultaeresand obscura
Barwick, Hermes58 (I923)
I52 note 2, interprets
III-I3.
Stoff."
repertaas "dunklerschwerverstandlicher

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The difficulty
is compoundedifone insists
in readingthe poem backwardsand takingthe Graius homoof the
proemas Epicurus. The Graius homomightwell be Epicurus,but
one cannotknowthisfromtheproem.32 In anycase,it is extremely
doubtfulthatLucretiuswould regardthe writingsof Epicurusin
particular
as obscura,
sinceitisprecisely
thequalityofclarity
(OawfrvEta)
thathismasterinsisted
upon(3.I-2):
obscuram
linguam(I.639).

E tenebris
tantistamclarumextollerelumen
qui primuspotuistiinlustrans
commodavitae....

The non-committal
"dark discoveries"of Munro (adoptedby
Bailey)is a bettertranslation
ofobscurain thatitmakespossibleanother
interpretation
by itsdeliberate
ambiguity.This interpretation
is that
Lucretius'Graiorumobscurarepertarefers
to thatclassof thingswhich
Epicurusand Greekphysiology
generally
notedas ra'48&7Aa.There
aretwo piecesofevidencewhichshowthatunderLucretius'Graiorum
obscurareperta
liesT-a a'8rqAaof Greekphysicalspeculation.The first
is thelanguageofLucretius,
thesecondthatof Cicero.
In itscontexttheantithesis
of obscuraand inlustrare
is followedand
paralleled
byanotherantithesis-resoccultasandpenitusconvisere
(I . I45).
Convisereis a rareverbin Latin;it occurstwiceagainin theDe rerunt
natura.33 Takenwithresoccultasit reproduces
theGreekof theLetter
toHerodotus
(avvopaiv -7q8-ITEpL-rcovd&rAwv),whichLucretius'
proem
hasherecometo parallel.34The secondpieceofevidenceforsharpening thefocusof obscuraby bringing
it intolinewiththespecialforce
32 The consequencesof the simpleand surfacefact
thatLucretius'proem is an introductionto Epicureanismare subtlydrawn out by Leo Straussin his A Note on Lucretius,
in Natur und Geschichte:
Kark Ldwithzum 70. Geburtstag
(StuttgartI968) 322-3 I (now
reprintedin Liberalism
Ancientand Modern[New York I968] 76-85).
33 Cf. 2.357 and Lucretius'similelikeningthe quest of physiologywith the tracking
of hounds, I.402-9.
By this conception the semeiaof Epicurean physiologybecome
the vestigiaof Lucretius'investigationEsI tXvosrog aci&Aov,forwhich like expressions
can be foundin the Greek of Ad Pyth.96.2, and Philodemus,On MethodsofIniterference
(ed. P. H. and E. A. De Lacy [PhiladelphiaI94I]) XXI 20, XXIX 2.
34 Both Lucretius' proem and the Letterto Herodotusagree in moving from the
difficulties
of the task of physiology to the firstof Epicurus' major propositionsor
stoicheiomata
(Ad Hdt. 38.8-39.-I
.I45-50,
I59-60).

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46

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[I969

of Ta ai'SAa in Greekcomes fromCicero, who describesGreekphysics


as naturaeobscuritas.35
(physike')
The ultimanaturaiof Epicurus' ratioare remote from the sensuous
world of the proemn,
yet forLucretiusand Epicurus the ultimatetruth
does not hide in thedeep,36nor is it theway ofphysisto conceal herself
(cf. Heraclitus,VS 22 BI23). Binding the sensuousworld with that
reached by reason is what Epicurus called the analogyand sympathy
between phenomena, tlhesenses and the unseen (dopara).37 Thus,
can be takento refergenerally
obscurareperta
whereLucretius'Graiorum
to the repertaobscurorurn
of the physiologists,his formula naturae
speciesratioquecan best be taken to describe physiology as it was
conceived of by Epicurus.
Cuius (I.I49) demonstratesthatfor Lucretiusnaturaespeciesratioque
cohere in one close-knitconcept which cannot be broken down into
(species)and physiologia(ratio).38 Epicurus does in fact speak
theo6ria
'
of 1TEpI Ovborws &Ewpla,39 but by thishe means speculationguided
by the logical premises of his physics. In Lucretius, as in Latin
generally,specieshas the force of outward appearance (except as it
translatesidea). Bailey, who understandsthe phrase somewhat as I
would, translates"the outerview and innerlaw of nature." A more
accurate translationmight be "the look and law of nature." The
35To my knowledgeit has not been noted in connectionwiththispassagein Lucretius
bears a technicalsense which connectsit with the physicsof
that the noun obscuritas
Greek philosophy,that is, with the inquiry into the invisiblestructureof the visible
world. In Cicero's De oratore(I.68) Greek physicsis introducedwithin the tripartite
cf. Fin. 5.5I, Acad. I.I9 (with Reid's comdivision of philosophyas naturaeobsctiritas;
ments), and Augustine's characterizationof the Presocratics,Civ. Dei 2.7. Kleve,
SO 38 (I963) 29-31, is rightin connectingthe occultaeres of 1.145 with the force of
also comes into focuswhen aligned
ta adela in Greek; the special senseof obscurareperta
with thisterm.
36 In contrastto the notorious dictum of Democritus, VS 68 BII7
(=DL 9.72).
irnAltertum(Berlin
ztir Geschichtedes Erkenntnisproblemns
Cf. P. Natorp, Forschungen
I884) 209-34.
37Epicuro127.10-15; cf.Adv. Col. 1124B, and below, note 40.
38This separationis made in most of the commentaries(most recentlyby U. Pizzani,
LucretiDe RerumNattira[Rome I960] I55), but it has no more authoritythan an
educatedguess.I entirelyagreewithBailey (ad. Ioc.)thathere" theidea is one in Lucretius'
mind."
39Ad Hdt. 35.7 (in roughly the same context as Lucretius). In 59.7 theoriaand
logosare joined, but not as they are in Lucretius,where speciescannot be interpreted
primarilyas speculation. By contrast,Cicero's versionof theoriais naturaecontemnplatio,
Acad. 2.127; cf. ND i.so.

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PHYSIOLOGIA

as forEpicurus,
sucha formulapointat issuehereis thatforLucretius,
tionis possible,giventhesourceofall knowledgein theexperience
of
the senses. Nature is full of voices, commands,and instruction.
theobts-of Anaxagoraso'lts
VerypossiblyLucretius'speciesreflects
Td baLtVo'LEva,
TWDVa'J Acov
buttheprinciple
itself
wasa fundamental
tenetof the more pragmaticof the physicists.40

Fromthelogicalanldpoeticaldevelopment
of thisprinciplein the
De rerunm
natura,it is clearthatLucretiushas arrivedat the perfect
expressionof Epicureanphysiology,whose unshakablefoundation
and stepcourseis theclearevidenceof oursenses:-craLvTLOV
Kal
Kp7)rS
in establishing
the theoretical
OELEAlOSg-rEvapyEca (247 Us.). Tlhus,
truthsconcerning
thatclassof thingswhichEpicurusmarkedoffas
faadela,itispossibleforLucretius
to speakofthecompulsion
ofnature
and truereasoningas if theywere one and thesame: sedveratamen
rationaturaquererumn
cogit(I.498-99).
Here, as in I.I49, the world
of thesensesand theworldwhichis accessibleonlythroughreason
coincide. Elsewherein theDe rerum
natura
reasonand thevisibleare
seen as standingwidelyapart,4'but in Lucretius'expositionof his
argument,
theytelescopeintoa singleconceptto expresstheEpicurean
view of physiology.
40

For the Epicurean versionsof Anaxagoras' dictum,see 263 Us., DL

Philodemusvii 8, XV

25,

and compareXXVII

30

10.32.7,

and

and passim. A thoroughstudyof

the principleinvolved in Anaxagoras' dictum has been made by H. Diller, Hermes67


(I933)

14-42.
2.1023-47,

1050-51,
3.273, 4.385, 796 (cf.Ad Hdt. 47); but contrast5.335.
This paper is an expanded versionof a chapterof my dissertationonLucretius'Translationof GreekPhilosophy,Seattle I967 (MicrofilmOrder No. 67-14, I62), and its end
is the proper place to thank Leo Straussfor turningme to Lucretiusin a memorable
summer seminar,ProfessorJohn B. McDiarmid for his help with the Presocratics,
and ProfessorWilliam Grummelwho directedthe dissertation.
4I

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