CC 302: Introduction to Ancient Rome (Unique # 28450)
CC 347: The Cultural History of Rome (Unique # 28560)
Lucretius, Book 3: Study Guide
- Remember that Lucretius is a philosopher with a specific aim
in mind: he wants to prove that there is no life after death, and
therefore we do not need to fear death. At each step of the way,
keep track of where his argument is going. How is he building his
case against beliefs in immortality?
- At the same time, Lucretius is a poet. Pay attention to how he
strives to make his text not only persuasive, but at the same time
impressive and beautiful. What kinds of images does he use? What
kind of language? What other poetic techniques do you notice?
- Pay particular attention to the words in your text in
italics. They keep track of the basic arguments.
Notes and questions to consider
- p. 96: The "glory of the Grecian race" is Epicurus, the
founder of Epicureanism, Lucretius' philosophical school.
- pp. 97-98: Lucretius argues that many of the world's evils
result from humans' fear of death. What arguments does he make for
this assertion? What do you think?
- pp. 99-108: Lucretius' most important premises here are:
- humans have a vital spirit in them
- mind and spirit are interconnected
- mind and spirit are both composed of matter
- this matter is atoms, scattered sparsely throughout the whole
Why are these arguments important for Lucretius' general argument
that we should not be afraid of death? What do you think of them?
- pp. 108-121: Lucretius argues here that minds are neither
birthless nor deathless. How does he reach that conclusion? Choose
several from the many arguments Lucretius makes here and consider
whether or not you agree with him.
- pp. 121-125: The grand conclusion: "death is nothing to us."
Consider the following:
- Why is death nothing to us, according to Lucretius? Do you
- On pp. 122-124 Lucretius evaluates various ways humans respond
to the prospect of death. What does he think of these responses?
Do you agree with him?
- What arguments does Nature make to humans in her speech (pp.
124-126)? Do you agree with them?
- pp. 126-127: Here are the figures of mythological hell to whom
- Tantalus, according to Lucretius, has a boulder hung over his
- Tityos spends eternity having his liver eaten by birds
- Sisyphus spends eternity pushing a huge stone up a slope.
Every time he gets near the top, the stone rolls back down.
- The maidens to whom Lucretius refers are the daughters of
Danaus, who spend eternity carrying water in sieves.
Lucretius argues that these figures are allegories for what humans
actually experience in life. What do you think of this argument?
- p. 127-129: What do you think about the way Lucretius ends
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