Real Epicureanism

Lucretius is our authority on Epicureanism. That Roman author of the first century BC, who referred to the Hellenistic philosopher as the master, composed the poem, De Rerum Natura, which would become authoritative for all subsequent humanity’s understanding of Epicurus’ teachings.

As for Epicurus, we have a few fragmentary inscriptions of his own words. That’s it.

iam iam non domus accipiet te laeta neque uxor
optima, nec dulces occurrent oscula nati
praeripere et tacita pectus dulcedine tangent.
non poteris factis florentibus esse tuisque
praesidium. “misero misere,” aiunt, “omnia ademit
una dies infesta tibi tot praemia vitae.”

illud in his rebus non addunt “nec tibi earum

iam desiderium rerum super insidet una.”
quod bene si videant animo dictisque sequantur,
dissolvent animi magno se angore metuque.

No longer happy house or finest wife

Will welcome you, nor children sweet will dash

To snatch your kiss and feel your calm sweet arms.

In your prime no more, no more your family’s

Support. “Poor wretch,” they say, “one evil day

Has stolen back all your life’s many treasures,”

but do not add to this the following:

“No longing of these things sits on your heart.”

Which if they saw and followed heart and soul,

They’d free themselves from anguish great and fear.


What nonsense! What, and have we learned nothing of the lessons of tragedy, that we would not trade all the angor metusque animi life has to offer, if only it be part of the dulcedo of that embrace as the door swings shut, and the little ones race for the first hug, their mother smiling behind them in her apron?

I feel a pang of guilt at letting this translation out into the world, since it sacrifices so much to achieve what little it might. But why not? It’s not as if one can translate poetry after all, any more than one can translate a Bernini into styrofoam.

Thanks, dear reader, for being a good reason for someone else to go on living.



About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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