The Language of Epicureanism in Cicero: The Case of Atomism

Tobias Reinhardt

in Aspects of the Language of Latin Prose

Published by British Academy

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780197263327
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734168 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Language of Epicureanism in Cicero: The Case of Atomism

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This chapter provides a discussion on Cicero’s treatment of Epicureanism. Cicero’s and Lucretius’ renderings of Epicurean terms and notions are radically different: whereas Lucretius’ seem colourful, suggestive, and rich, Cicero’s seem flat and matter-of-fact to the point of tedium. The purpose of atomism is to make all kinds of potentially frightening events in the world of experience less frightening by providing a rational explanation for them. The survey of terms for ‘atom’, namely atomus, corpora indiuidua, indiuidua, and corpusculum, is presented. The interpretation of the evidence from Cicero is also shown. Moreover, the chapter illustrates that Cicero read Epicurus’ texts with close attention to stylistic detail, and it is hence plausible to assume that imitating this particular aspect of Epicurus’ terminology was a relevant consideration for him. It then discusses the uses of terms for ‘atom’ and turns to the issue of what atoms ‘do’ in Cicero.

Keywords: Cicero; Epicureanism; language; atomism; atomus; corpora indiuidua; indiuidua; corpusculum

Chapter.  13613 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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