Physiologizing (in) Fertility in the Roman World: Lucretius on Sacrifice, Nature, and Generation

Fabio Tutrone


The present paper reassesses the intellectual background of Lucretius treatment of infertility in 4.1233-1241, pointing out the authors ability to combine genuine Epicurean doctrine and Roman cultural patterns.

Lucretius denigration of religious mentality and his efforts to offer an entirely rational explanation of (in)fertility are interpreted in light of both internal evidence in the De Rerum Natura  (e.g. 1.1-20; 248-264; 2.581- 660) and differents kinds of external evidence - including the so-called Laudatio Turiae , Romes fertility cults, and underused Epicurean sources such as PHerc 908/1390. Indeed, while systematically delegitimizing the traditional connection between supernatural powers and generation, the poet endeavors to convert his readers to a comprehensive Epicurean worldview in which death and birth, fecundity and sterility, reflect the existence of a material great chain of being* .


Key words: Lucretius - Infertility - Sacrifice - Epicureanism - Roman society

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