The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

Lucretius, Euripides and the Philosophers: De Rerum Natura 5.13–21*

S. J. Harrisona1

a1 Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Here in the proem to his fifth book Lucretius is praising the philosophical achievements or discoveries (‘reperta’) of Epicurus through favourable comparison with other discoveries of traditional heroic or divine figures; first, in this passage, with the products of bread and wine associated with the gods Ceres and Liber (Bacchus), and later with the deeds of the god-hero Hercules. This technique clearly derives from the σxs22EFγκρισις of formal rhetoric, one of the basic exercises (προγυμνxs22EFσματα, exercitationes primae) through which composition was taught in ancient schools, and Lucretius begins with ‘confer’, an imperative which has something of a formulaic force in rhetorical comparisons. But it is not the purpose of this note to point out the rhetorical qualities of this passage; Lucretius' treatment of Ceres and Liber has other important literary and philosophical associations, links which have not been noted or explored by scholars.


* My thanks to Professors R. G. M. Nisbet and D. A. West and to the editors and referee of CQ, for helpful comments.