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A Reading of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura

Lee Fratantuono

Lucretius’ philosophical epic De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) is a lengthy didactic and narrative celebration of the universe and, in particular, the world of nature and creation in which humanity finds its abode. This earliest surviving full scale epic poem from ancient Rome was of immense influence and significance to the development of the Latin epic tradition, and continues to challenge and haunt its readers to the present day. A Reading of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura offers a comprehensive commentary on this great work of Roman poetry and philosophy. Lee Fratantuono reveals Lucretius to be a poet with deep and abiding interest in the nature of the Roman identity as the children of both Venus (through Aeneas) and Mars (through Romulus); the consequences (both positive and negative) of descent from the immortal powers of love and war are explored in vivid epic narrative, as the poet progresses from his invocation to the mother of the children of Aeneas through to the burning funeral pyres of the plague at Athens. Lucretius’ epic offers the possibility of serenity and peaceful reflection on the mysteries of the nature of the world, even as it shatters any hope of immortality through its bleak vision of post mortem oblivion. And in the process of defining what it means both to be human and Roman, Lucretius offers a horrifying vision of the perils of excessive devotion both to the gods and our fellow men, a commentary on the nature of pietas that would serve as a warning for Virgil in his later depiction of the Trojan Aeneas. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 518Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-1154-4 • Hardback • June 2015 • $140.00 • (£95.00)
978-1-4985-1156-8 • Paperback • March 2017 • $59.99 • (£39.95)
978-1-4985-1155-1 • eBook • June 2015 • $56.99 • (£39.95)
Lee Fratantuono is William Francis Whitlock Professor of Latin at Ohio Wesleyan University.
2: Sweet, on the Great Sea …
4: The Trackless Ways of the Muses …
6: First Athens …
The cause of Lucretian scholarship is brilliantly served by the addition of this meticulously crafted volume to the expanding corpus on one of the most challenging and difficult of the ancient Latin poets. Those familiar with Fratantuono’s earlier volumes . . . will discover that the present title reinforces Fratantuono's technique of verse-by-verse analysis and commentary, here with respect to Lucretius's formidable De rerum natura. A learned cicerone, Fratantuono expertly guides the reader through the most problematic passages of this notoriously complex work, offering original and insightful commentary copiously buttressed or complemented by trenchant references to the relevant primary and secondary sources. The volume opens with an explanatory introduction about methodology and purpose, and the six chapters that follow—each with valuable subject and topical headings—treat the six books of the poem. The notes and bibliography amply testify to the author’s command of the full spectrum of scholarship on the subject. This is a superb example of contemporary scholarly research and refined analytical technique. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above.

Fratantuono's Reading of Lucretius will repay those who read it from cover to cover.
Classical Journal

First...there is something appealing about an avowedly subjective reading of a poem that has provoked so much controversy and vacillation. Second, the reader is left in no doubt that Lucretius’ poem has been read with care and zeal. Third, and most importantly, in several places Fratantuono is able to offer ideas that are new, or revisit old ideas from fresh angles.... Amidst the survey there appear a number of fresh and exciting contributions.... A Reading provides a comprehensive summary of the poem’s contents, explores in detail a number of select themes, and makes a sustained case for Lucretius’ depth of poetic artistry.
Bryn Mawr Classical Review

There is much to like—no, really like—about this book. The Lucretius, who stands on a bluff and appears to enjoy the plight of a foundering sailor, can seem off-putting and overly doctrinaire. His de Rerum Natura is at times disturbing and, by his own admission, in need of the honey of poetry to counter its bitter dose of Epicurean medicine. Fratantuono clearly loves the poet of the atoms, and it’s contagious. Just as importantly, he understands the mind and muse of Lucretius better than any modern commentator. Like the round and smooth atoms which, in the world of Lucretius, bring pleasure, Fratantuono’s commentary brings clarity, comprehension and even enjoyment to a re-reading of the poem. Both learned and accessible, this book will be first off the shelf for years to come.
Blaise Nagy, College of the Holy Cross