Lucretius, Pietas, and the Foedera Naturae
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The presentation of pietas in Lucretius has often been overlooked since he dismisses all religious practice, but when we consider the poem’s overall theme of growth and decay, a definition for pietas emerges. For humans, pietas is the commitment to maintaining the foedera naturae, “nature’s treaties.” Humans display pietas by procreating and thereby promoting their own atomic movements into the future. In the “Hymn to Venus,” Lucretius uses animals as role models for this aspect of human behavior because they automatically reproduce come spring. In the “Attack on Love,” Lucretius criticizes romantic love because it fails to promote the foedera naturae of the family. Lucretius departs from Epicurus by expressing a concern for the family’s endurance into the future, or for however long natura will allow. It becomes clear that Lucretius sees humans as bound to their communities since they must live together to perpetuate the foedera naturae of the family.