Lucretius Today Podcast Episode 071 – Back to the Beginning – The Beginning of Our Corner of the Universe

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Welcome to Episode Seventy-One of Lucretius Today. I am your host Cassius, and together with my panelists from the forum, we’ll walk you through the six books of Lucretius’ poem, and discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book, “Epicurus and His Philosophy” by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt. For anyone who is not familiar with our podcast, please check back to Episode One for a discussion of our goals and our ground rules. If you have any question about that, please be sure to contact us at for more information.

In this Episode 71 we will read approximately Latin line 416 -508 of Book V, and we will talk about the formation of our world from the fundamental elements. Now let’s join Martin reading today’s text.

Browne 1743

But now I shall explicate in order by what chance the violent agitation of matter produced the heavens, and the earth, and the deeps of the sea, and the courses of the sun and moon. For surely the principles of things could never fall into so regular a disposition by counsel or design, nor could they by agreement resolve what motions they should take among themselves. But the seeds of things, being from eternity beaten upon by outward blows, or used to be driven by the force of their own weight, met every way, tried all motions that might at last, by their uniting, end in the production of things; and then having attempted for an infinite time all sorts of union, and moved every way about, those seeds at length met and united, and became the principles of the great productions that followed, of the Earth, the Sea, the Heavens, and the whole animal creation.

But as yet there was no chariot of the sun to be seen, driving with his large stock of light through the sky; no sea, no heavens, no air, nothing like any beings of this world of ours to be seen; but a strange confusion, a mass of rude and undigested seeds. From this heap the various parts retired to their proper place, and seeds of like nature joined together and formed this world. Then were its mighty parts divided, and disposed in order, though produced from this confused mass, and from seeds of every kind; for the disagreeing powers of those seeds so disturbed their several courses, intervals, connections, weights, strokes, unions, and motions, and kept them so continually at war, that they could never all unite, nor agree upon any regular motions among themselves. Thus the heavens separated, and raised their bodies on high above the earth, and the sea, with its vast extent of collected waters, retired apart, and the pure and bright fires of the sky fled upwards and divided from the rest.

And first, the particles of earth, being heavy and entangled, met and sunk downwards towards the middle place of the mass, and the more closely twined the parts of it were, the more they squeezed out those seeds that composed the sea, the stars, the sun, and that formed the moon, and the heavens (the walls of this great world). For these consist of seeds much more smooth and round, and of much less principles than the Earth, and therefore the heavens (the abode of the stars) first got free through the subtle pores of the Earth, and ascended upwards; and being light, drew many seeds of fire along with them, much in the same manner with what we frequently observe when the golden rays of the bright morning sun first shine upon the grass decked with pearly dew, and the standing lakes and running rivers exhale a mist into the air, and the Earth sometimes seem to smoke. These vapors, when they are raised upwards and united, become clouds, and with their condensed bodies darken the whole sky, and so the light and spreading ether, being condensed, stretches widely over every place, and being diffused on all sides abroad, embraces every thing with its large circumference, and encloses it about.

The beginnings of the sun and moon follow next, whose orbs are rolled in the air between the ether and the Earth, and whose principles would unite neither with those of the Earth nor the Sky; they had not weight enough to sink so low as the one, nor were they sufficiently light to rise so high as the other; yet they are so placed between both that they constantly turn about their bodies, and so become parts of the whole world. As in these bodies of ours, some members are continually at rest when others are always in motion. These things being separated, a great part of the earth sunk suddenly, and made a channel where the tides of the sea now flow, and formed a cavern for the salt waters. And the more the heat of the sky and the beams of the sun pressed every way with frequent strokes upon the Earth, full of pores on the outside (that so its particles, being driven towards the middle, might be more firm and condensed) the more the salt water like sweat was squeezed out, and by flowing enlarged the surface of the sea, and spread wider abroad; and the more the many corpuscles of fire and air disentangled themselves and flew off from the Earth, and formed themselves above, at a great distance, into the shining frame of the heavens. The valleys subsided, the mountains raised their lofty heads, nor could the rocks sink down, nor all parts of the Earth fall equally low. And thus the weight of the Earth, with its heavy body, stood firm, and its whole mass, like thick mud, fell to the bottom, and sunk the lowest, as the dregs of all.