Poetic genetics : family, sexual reproduction, and community in Lucretius' De rerum natura
My dissertation examines family, sexual reproduction, and community in Lucretius’ poem De Rerum Natura and reconsiders the importance of these topics in Lucretius’ formulation of Epicureanism for a Roman audience. I argue that Lucretius modifies Epicurus’ teachings about family and sex to render Epicureanism more palatable to a Roman audience. I explore the cultural resonance of the social metaphors Lucretius uses to explain atomic movement, particularly in Books 1-3, and I argue that Lucretius presents the atomic world as built on cooperative relationships. In light of my findings regarding Lucretian atomic movement, I propose a new reading of Lucretius’ views on love and sexual reproduction in Book 4. I argue that Book 4 presents love as a bivalent phenomenon and that Lucretius finds conjugal love as most natural and in line with the atomic universe. Building on my analysis of Lucretian theories of love and sexuality, I propose a new reading of Lucretius’ presentation of marriage in Book 5. I argue that family, rather than friendship, is presented in Lucretius’ anthropology as the foundational social relationship in society, and, in this respect, that Lucretius departs from Epicurus. Next, I propose that Lucretius considers religio to be the greatest harm to the family, and I offer a contextualization of Lucretian pietas in Roman culture. I conclude my project with an analysis of the “Sacrifice of Iphigenia,” which I propose portrays Agamemnon as committing a crime against nature since he interferes with the cycle of generational renewal by killing his daughter. I contend that in this episode Lucretius formulates an Epicurean virtue of pietas, which aims, above all, at maintaining the integrity of the Roman family.