Venus as Epicurean Nature

Lucretius’ Empedocles at De rerum natura 1.1–9


  • Chris Eckerman University of Oregon



Venus, Empedocles, Epicureanism, Allusion, Metaphor


Scholars have long recognized that Lucretius alludes to Empedocles’ four-root theory at DRN 1.1–5 and 1.6–9. And they have suggested that he, in doing so, shows respect for Empedocles, either as a philosophical predecessor, as a literary predecessor, or as both. I argue that Lucretius, in alluding to Empedocles’ four-root theory, deprecates Empedocles’ four-root theory. I suggest that Lucretius, employing polemical allusion, makes the argument that Epicurean physical theory gets the constituents of nature correct and that four-root theory does not (1–5) and that Epicurean atomic theory worsts four-root theory as a philosophical competitor (6–9). Thus, Lucretius opens his poem with a fervent endorsement of Epicurean physiologia. Lucretius’ attack against four-root theory may be read not only as an attack against Empedocles but also as an attack against several prominent philosophical schools that promoted four-root theory.