Lucretius Today Podcast Episode 085 – Thunder and Lightning Part 3 – Why Do The Gods Send Thunderbolts Onto Their Own Temples?

Listen to “Episode 085 – Thunder and Lightning Part 3 – Why Do The Gods Send Thunderbolts Onto Their Own Temples?”

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 visit where you will find our goals and our ground rules. If you have any questions about those, please be sure to contact us at the forum for more information. In this Episode 85 we will read approximately Latin lines 340 through 417 as we continue further into Book Six. Now let’s join Martin reading today’s text.

Browne 1743

[340] And lastly, the greater the distance is from whence a body descends, its swiftness in proportion increases. It still gathers strength as it moves, grows more violent, and the blow is the heavier when it falls, for all its seeds are driven down by that length of violence to one point, and unite all their powers in the same motion; or perhaps they carry with them other seeds in their passage through the air which beat them on and keep them steady in their descent.

[348] The lightning makes its way and passes through bodies that are rare, and leaves them safe and unhurt; but other bodies it rends asunder, because its fiery seeds strike through their solid corpuscles which hold them together: And therefore it easily dissolves brass and gold, because it consists of exceeding small and smooth particles, which work themselves without difficulty into the very principles, and in an instant melt the whole contexture, and loosen the ties and bonds by which they were secured.

[357] And in autumn, and when the flowery season of the spring displays its beauty, then the high palaces of heaven with all its shining stars, and the whole earth, are shaken most with thunder; for in the winter there wants fire, and in summer there is no supply of wind, nor will the clouds grow thin in too much heat. But in the middle quarters of the year, all things occur to make the thunder roar. Those seasons are made up of heat and cold blended together; of both these is formed the thunder; that so these jarring elements may raise the greater combustions, and the tormented air toss with more confusion by the strokes of wind and fire; for the end of winter and the beginning of summer make the spring. And then the heat and cold, two enemies so opposite, must needs engage, and when they meet and mix, raise strange confusions in the air. And then the end of summer and the beginning of winter bring on the autumn; now the retiring heat and coming cold engage again. These are the times, we say, when the elements go forth to war. Where is the wonder if loud thunders roar in seasons such as these, and dreadful tempests rattle in the sky, since the elements rage in every way with doubtful war, on one side fire, on the other furious winds mingled with rain?

[379] From hence you must collect the true principles of thunder, and discover how it works and sends abroad its fires, for tis in vain to look back into old Tuscan legends and from thence inquire into the secret purposes of the gods, from what quarters of the heavens the lightning flies, and to what part it points its forked beams, and how it pierces through the walls of houses, and having spent its rage it finds a passage out, and what evil it portends by flashing from the sky.

[387] For if great Jupiter, and the rest of the gods, delight to shake the shining battlements of heaven with horrid noise, and throw about these fires as please themselves, why are not those shot through who love to act flagitious crimes, and why their hearts not struck with fiery bolts, as dreadful monuments to future times? Why rather are the good and innocent scorched with these blasts, and tortured in the flames, and caught up in these whirlwinds of the air, and in the fire consumed?

[396] And why do they spend their shafts on solitary places, and fatigue themselves in vain? Is it to exercise their arms, to try their strength? Or why do they permit their father’s bolts to be blunted against the bare earth? Why does he suffer this himself, and not rather reserve his stores to blast his enemies? Why does not Jove vouchsafe to roar with thunder, and smite the earth with his bolts in a clear sky? When the clouds spread over the heavens, does he descend within them, in order to be nearer, and to throw his darts with a surer aim? Why does he send his fires upon the sea? Why does he chastise the waves, the wide ocean, or the plains covered with water?

[406] Besides, if he would have us avoid the stroke of his thunderbolts, why does he not contrive that we may see them as they fly? If he resolves to blast us with his fire before we are aware, why does he first flash out his lightning from that quarter whence his bolts are to be discharged that we may avoid them? Why does he give us notice by raising darkness, noises, and murmurs in the air?

[411] And then how think you that he is able to cast so many darts in many various places at once? Will you offer to say this is never done, and insist there are never more darts flying about at the same time? It is certain that numbers of them are thrown together, and it cannot be otherwise, for as the rain and showers fall upon many countries at once, so many strokes of thunder are discharged at the same time.

[417] In the last place: Why does he with his deadly thunder beat down the sacred temples of the other gods, and the stately fabrics devoted to himself? Why does he dash to pieces the curious statues of the other deities, and destroy with furious strokes the honors offered to his own images? Why does he level his shafts at lofty places, for we discover many traces of this fire upon the tops of highest mountains?

Previous Article
Next Article