Treading the Aether: Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1.62–79

Classical Quarterly 40 (02):465- (1990)
Abstract
As befits the proem to so original and immense an undertaking, this passage echoes, in order to retort them upon their inventors, the mythopoeic commonplaces of other ancient schools. One such commonplace was the assertion that some man was the first to effect a revolution in life or thought: those who held with Empedocles that Pythagoras was the first to see beyond his generation, or with Aristotle that Thales was the earliest cosmogonist and Plato the first discoverer of happiness, must learn that neither scientific truth nor human felicity was known before Epicurus. A figure dear to Plato and his admirers was that of the Gigantomachy: if he himself professed to fear that contemporary atomists would drag the heavens to earth, and Aristotle showed similar apprehensions with regard to some of Plato's own interpreters, they were right to foresee the destruction of their own systems, wrong to suppose that this portended anything but deliverance to mankind
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DOI 10.1017/S0009838800043032
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