Lucretius' "On the Nature of the Universe"
In this seminar, we will read together and discuss one brilliant and fascinating poem, Lucretius’ "On the
Nature of the Universe." Written in Latin more than two thousand years ago, within the context of the
late Republic of ancient Rome, the poem seeks to remove your fear of the gods and of death so that you
can live a happy life. For Lucretius, the key to losing your fear is to understand the physical laws of the
universe. In this philosophical treatise, written in beautiful poetry, Lucretius describes a theory of the
universe according to which nothing exists but atoms and void, argues that the soul is made of these and
dissolves upon the death of the body, explains the operation of the senses, considers the origin of the
world and the beginning of civilization, and surveys a wide range of natural phenomena (especially
weather, seismic events, bodies of water, magnetism, and disease). This is a poem likely to be interesting
to people interested in poetry and literature, in science, in philosophy, or in ancient Rome. Please note:
we will read "On the Nature of the Universe" in English translation, and no knowledge of Latin is
Dylan Sailor is from Washington state and received his PhD from Berkeley in 2002. His research focuses
on Latin literature written in ancient Rome and he teaches a variety of courses in the languages,
literatures, and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome.