c. 99 - c. 55 BCE

Titus Lucretius Carus, c 99 – 55 BCE, like many of his contemporaries, was a believer in the philosophical teachings of Epicurus, who taught in Athens in the 4th century BCE. For Epicureans, the highest good was the absence of pain, both physical and mental.

The physics and natural science that he described in hexameter verse in his De Rerum Natura, “On the Nature of Things”, were intended to demonstrate that fears that often distress us are in fact erroneous. For example, Lucretius teaches that the soul, no less than the physical body, is mortal, so that there is no need to fear torments after death; and that the Gods, though real, live on so distant and rarefied a plane that they never intervene in human life, so that we should not fear their enmity or anger. This system’s emphasis on comfort might logically have led to hedonism, but in fact Lucretius and the Epicureans commend moderation and the avoidance of disproportionate luxury.
Hardly anything is known of Lucretius’s life and circumstances, and his poetry contains none of the apparently autobiographical clues that occur in the work of poets like Catullus (his rough contemporary) or Ovid.