last moon

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Titus Lucretius Carus - II


Since ever manhood,  on their reflections on life,  has been wondering the reasons why we were born and the reasons why we must suffer.

Lucretius in his fith book of  " de rerum natura" praises Epicurus for his endeavors  to cut out religion from human life.

When I was younger I thought that religion was just a way to dominate the men: a toil in the hands of the priests to control men's life; exactly what Epicurus said in the third millennium B.C. and Lucretius quotes in his masterpiece "de rerum natura".
According to Epicurus men must search for happyness; to do with this they must not fear death; as matter of fact, says the great greek philosopher , when a man is alive,  is not conscious of death; and when is dead, he cannot realize death.
The fear of Death is the key for superstions, passions and all the other conditioning of life.
Epicurus says that Gods do not exist and  men must search for happyness regardless of gods.

Then I found out my faith in God: in the truly, unique, God; and I have found Him out through the life, the words, the example of His Son, Jesus, who descended in the earth wearing clothes of man.

I know that my faith is not a rational answer to thoughts like those of Epicurus (and even those of Lucretius), but faith is not a result of reasoning; faith is a search of reasons: reasons of life, of suffering, of happiness...

On the other hand Epicurus, like most of ancient greek philosophers may consider to be illuministic thinkers (in an ante litteram sense) and to them can be told what theologists  have answered to Illuminism since 18th century A.D.(this is not the right place to undertake such an ardous task).

I don't want to diminish the value of their concepts against mines: I instead take much respect on their ideas though I can't share them in the light of God.


It must be said that probably western thinking must never approached even the religious thruths it now accepts, without such great contributes from greek and roman Writers.

Angelo Ruggeri, a bright scholar on classic studies, in his critique and analysis of Lucretius masterpiece, declares the powerlessness of Epicurus's thought against harmness and sufference in human life.
In his own words, he asks : "does the universe of Epicurus  really remove fears from human mind, enabling a happy life?" (I'll to try to give an answer, with the help of Angelo Ruggeri in a next post).
I present in the end of my post an English translation of some verses from Lucretius'  masterpiece's  Book VI, wich is one of the praises that the roman poet dedicates to his greek mentor through out all the six books.
About these verses Angelo Ruggeri himself explains:
"As in a system of tyranny who is defending its own just rights, defends the rights of all, so in this  society of dissatisfied individuals, who manages to be happy and teaches others the way to be such , shall cooperate to the happiness of all. The Roman poet Lucrezio placed the Greek philosopher Epicurus among the Gods  for having proposed this order."



Praise to Epicurus - from Book V - VV 1-51
English Version by Angelo Ruggeri


Who ever could have so much strength in the heart


to raise a song worthy of the  grandiosity


of the things treated and of the wonderful discoveries?


Or have so much value to be able with words



to compose a praise worthy of the merits



of the one who left us gifts so wanted ,



drawing  them from his own mind?



None I think, who is made of mortal body.


In fact, if we want to use words worthy


of the acknowledged grandiosity of the work


he was a God, noble  Memmius, a God certanly


he who first found the rule of life that today is called wisdom


and by means of this art, pulled the life from the darkness


of a stormy sea, and raised it in a quiet and enlightened place.


Compare this exploit with those of ancient Gods.


Cerere is said to have given harvest to mortals,


Bacco  the strong  and sweet juice  of the vine:


indeed we could live without those goods,


as it is fame that  live  some people,


but we cannot live happy without a  quiet heart ;


therefore with a just reason we think he is a God


who has taught us the comfort of sweet life


that even today, disseminated among men,


cheer up minds.


If you then thought that the undertakings of Ercole


are of greater value, you’re ages ago from the truth.


What evil could make us today the  Nemeus lion


with its big mouth or the terrible wild boar Arcadius?


What harm could make us the bull  of Creta


or  the pestiferous Hydra  of Lerna fitted with poisonous snakes?


Or the  trebled strength of Gerione  provided of three bodies?


What evil would do us  today the Harpies


who live in the Stinfali woods or  Diomede’s horses


which in Bistonia and in Ismaro blows flames from their nostrils?


What  harm could  do us the snake



wrapped around the tree with the enormous



body and the fierce look which guards



the splendid  golden apples  in the garden of Esperidi,



at the beaches of Atlas and the  stormy sea where nobody,


Roman and barbarian do ever  approach?


These and similar monsters, now disappeared, 


had them not been won and still lived


what evil could make us today? None I think:


even today the earth abounds up to satiety


of fierce beasts and  it is full of appalling


terrors within the great mountains,


the canyons and the deep forests,


but we are not forced to go there if we do not want.


But if the heart is not pure,  how many  dangers 


creep  in and how many inside battles


there are preparing  against our will!


How many  pungent anxieties tear man


 invaded by passions, and then how many fears!


And the pride, the dishonesty, the presumption,


 what they  do? How many massacres do!


What does shamelessness ,  what  apathy?


The man thus, who  has beaten all these evil


and thrown them out of the soul with the words,


not with the weapons, do not deserve  to be put among Gods?

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