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Titus Lucretius Carus (99 BC - c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the epic philosophical poem De rerum natura about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which is usually translated into English as On the Nature of Things.
Very little is known about Lucretius's life; the only certain fact is that he was either a friend or client of Gaius Memmius, to whom the poem was addressed and dedicated.
De rerum natura was a considerable influence on the Augustan poets, particularly Virgil (in his Aeneid and Georgics, and to a lesser extent on the Satires and Eclogues) and Horace. The work virtually disappeared during the Middle Ages but was rediscovered in 1417 in a monastery in Germany by Poggio Bracciolini, and it played an important role both in the development of atomism (Lucretius was an important influence on Pierre Gassendi and the efforts of various figures of the Enlightenment era to construct a new Christian humanism.
Virtually nothing is known about the life of Lucretius. He was probably a member of the aristocratic gens Lucretia, and his work shows an intimate knowledge of the luxurious lifestyle in Rome. Lucretius's love of the countryside invites speculation that he inhabited family-owned rural estates, as did many wealthy Roman families, and he certainly was expensively educated with a mastery of Latin, Greek, literature, and philosophy. Jerome tells how he was driven mad by a love potion and wrote his poetry between fits of insanity, eventually committing suicide in middle age; but modern scholarship suggests this account was probably an invention. In a letter by Cicero to his brother Quintus in February 54 BC, Cicero said : "The poems of Lucretius are as you write: they exhibit many flashes of genius, and yet show great mastership." By this time, both Cicero and his brother had read De rerum natura, and so might have many other Romans. A literary evaluation of Lucretius's work, however, reveals some repetition and a sudden end to Book 6 during a description of the plague at Athens. The poem appears to have been published without a final revision, possibly due to its author's death. If this is true, Lucretius must have been dead by 54 BC.
In the work of another author in late Republican Rome, Virgil writes in the second book of his Georgics, apparently referring to Lucretius, "Happy is he who has discovered the causes of things and has cast beneath his feet all fears, unavoidable fate, and the din of the devouring Underworld."
A brief biographical note is found in Aelius Donatus's Life of Virgil, which seems to be derived from an earlier work by Suetonius. The note reads: "The first years of his life Virgil spent in Cremona until the assumption of his toga virilis on his 17th birthday (when the same two men held the consulate as when he was born), and it so happened that on the very same day Lucretius the poet passed away." However, although Lucretius certainly lived and died around the time that Virgil and Cicero flourished, the information in this particular testimony is internally inconsistent: If Virgil was born in 70 BC, his 17th birthday would be in 53. The two consuls of 70 BC, Pompey and Crassus, stood together as consuls again in 55, not 53.
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