In some ways the early third century B.C. in Greece was not unlike early 21st century A.D. in the United States. The founding ideals of the nation (then city-state) of liberty, democracy, and national self sufficiency had lost their appeal in a world dominated by despotism, economic crisis, and social unrest. (The United States' original zeal for liberty and freedom has similarly been replaced by entry fees, inspection points and prohibitions enforced by long enprisonments intended to protect individuals from
terrorism and other dangers. The government
of the people, by the people, and for the people has largely been replaced by a government of the wealthy making laws for the benefit of international corporations.) It was in such a similar time that Epicuros (born 341 B.C. in Samos) preached his gospel of salvation by common sense. A century later (175 B.C.) the Epicurean gospel was considered dangerously subversive when preached within the walls of Rome which then ruled the Mediteranean world. But another century later the Roman empire had many Epicureans. In 55 B.C. the Roman citizen Titus Lucretius Carus wrote a long poem on The Nature of the Universe nominally to a Roman statesman, Gaius Memmius, but assuming a wider readership for the ideas of Epicurus. Yet only a single battered copy of the poem survived to be rediscovered during the Renaissance. Much of what we know of the Greek view of atoms comes from that book length poem.
Lucretius also wrote about the physical phenomena such as earthquakes, floods, magnets, and epidemics as well as discussed the various sensations and sex.
Lucretius' and Epicurus' claimed that observation was essential for knowldge, but it wasn't until modern times that compelling amounts of observations and measurements were found to make many of their ideas more scientific than philosophical.
Lucretius, The Nature of the Universe, R. E. Latham, translator, Penguin/Whitefriars Press, 1951
|to site menu||Discovery and Naming of
|page created 6 April 2002
latest revision 4 November 2006
|by D Trapp|