On the Nature of Things
Translated by Ian Johnston
Vancouver Island University
Nanaimo, British Columbia
For copyright information please check the section headed Copyright below. For suggestion, corrections, comments, please contact Ian Johnston.
For an introduction to Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, use the following link: Lecture.
For a more detailed description of the contents of each book, please consult the relevant opening page.
[Invocation, Basic Principles, Elementary Particles, Rival Theories, Infinite Nature of the Universe]
[Importance of Philosophy, Motions of Elementary Particles, Shapes and Forms of Elementary Particles, Properties of Elementary Particles, Infinite Number of Worlds]
[Praise of Epicurus, Nature of the Soul, Mortality of the Soul, Men’s Fear of Death]
[Images of Objects, Sense Perception, Body Functions, Human Sexuality]
[Praise of Epicurus, Nature of the World, Movements of Celestial Bodies, History of Earth, Early History of Human Civilization]
[Praise of Athens and Epicurus, the Atmosphere, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, the Nile, Avernian Regions, Magnets, Diseases, Plague in Athens]
The translator of Lucretius faces a number of editorial choices because the poem was evidently never finally revised and prepared, so that there are a number of repetitions of passages, awkward transitions, and alternative readings for particular words. In many places the best order for the lines is a matter of debate. In addition, the gaps in the manuscript call for the missing material to be supplied as best one can. Hence, there is considerable variety from one possibility to another.
This translation is based primarily upon the Latin text of H. A. J. Munro, Fourth Revised Edition (London 1900). However, I have not followed all of Munro’s editorial decisions, especially where the removal and rearrangement of lines are concerned, and often I have made use of the suggestions of other editors about particular words, the arrangement of lines, and missing lines. Hence, I have frequently departed from Munro’s text, especially in response to alternatives offered by Bailey, Leonard, and Watson.
For the convenience of the reader who wishes to consult the Latin text, I have included the line numbers of the Latin text of William Ellery Leonard, because that is the most readily accessible version on the internet (at Perseus), even though there are some discrepancies between the line numbers in his text and in Munro’s. In the text of this translation, the numbers in square brackets refer to the line numbers in Leonard’s Latin text; the numbers without brackets refer to this English text. In the reckoning, successive partial lines count as one line.
I have supplied endnotes for two reasons: first, to inform the reader of a few details of my editorial decisions about the Latin text and, second, to provide a general commentary of some help to the reader encountering Lucretius for the first time. The commentary is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis but merely an occasionally useful supplement.
A list of references mentioned in the endnotes is provided at the end, in section headed Acknowledgments.
This translation may be downloaded for personal use in print or electronic form without permission and without charge. Teachers who wish to distribute this translation or parts of it to their students in print or electronic or recorded form may do so without permission and without charge. They may also edit the translation freely to suit their purposes. However, any use of this translation for commercial purposes is not permitted without the permission of the translator.