nl en

Seminar Latin: Lucretius, De Rerum Natura


Admission requirements

This class can be taken in fulfilment of the requirements of both the MA and the Research MA program in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (track Classics), with differential requirements.
Admission requirements for other students: a BA degree in Classics obtained from a university in the Netherlands, or a comparable qualification obtained from a university outside the Netherlands. Moreover, students with an international degree have to contact the coordinator of studies to check admissibility.


In this seminar, we will read all of Lucretius’ only known poetic work, the De Rerum Natura, a beautiful exposition of Epicurean philosophy in verse (with a heavy focus on Epicurean physics). Lucretius is often overlooked by Classicists, who are put off by the technical detail of Epicurean natural philosophy, and he is also frequently ignored by philosophers, who may mine his poetry for supporting evidence of Epicurean doctrine but not much else. But to ignore Lucretius is to ignore a crucial figure in Roman poetry and the intellectual life of the Late Republic, as well as a highly influential thinker on central figures in intellectual history, such as Galileo, Thomas Jefferson, Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Einstein.

In this course, we will attempt to understand Lucretius as both a poet and philosopher and come to grips with why he chose to present Epicurean philosophy in verse and how the poetic form interacts with and shapes the philosophical content. We will also attempt to place Lucretius in his cultural milieu and discuss his possible engagement with important poetic predecessors like Homer, Empedocles, Callimachus, and Ennius.

The seminar will focus on one book of Lucretius each week, covering all six books by the end of the block. Substantial parts of the text will be read in Latin.
In short oral and written presentations you will e.g. describe a relevant context, such as the philosophical subject of a passage or critically assess the scholarly response to a passage.

Please note: You are required to have read the book of the De Rerum Natura covered each week in advance in English translation: M. F. Smith: Lucretius. On the Nature of Things. Cambridge/ Mass. 1975.= Loeb edition, online via the University Library.

Course objectives

  • Survey Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura;

  • Working with poetic form of philosophy; translating Lucretius’ Latin;

  • Advanced research skills: independent formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials (both primary texts and results of earlier research). Analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions;

  • Critical assessment of secondary literature;

  • Oral presentation: presenting clearly and making effective use of hand-outs, illustrations and/or multi-media techniques; responding to the argumentation of one of the papers and chairing the discussion;

  • Written presentation: setting out research results effectively, clearly and in a well-structured manner.

The requirements for MA and Research MA students are differentiated: Research MA students are expected to come up with their own original research topic, find literature, and write a scholarly report; MA students may expect more help in choosing their topic and their papers may consist of an assessment of the status quaestionis on a given question.


The timetable is available on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 5 ec x 28 hours = 140 hours:

  • Attending classes: 6 weeks, 2x2 hours per week = 24 hours;

  • Preparing classes (reading Latin and secondary literature): 12 x 5 hrs = 60 hrs;

  • Preparing short oral presentations: 20 hrs;

  • Preparing and writing paper (1500 words): 36 hrs.

In consideration with the instructor the course can also be taken for 10 ec. In this case, students have to submit a longer paper (6500 words), deadline 1 dec. 2018.

Assessment method

The final mark will consist of:

  • short oral presentations (25%);

  • a written exam with translation (40%);

  • a research paper of max. 1500 words (35%).


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average. The translation and the paper have to be passed with at least a 5.5; an unsatisfactory mark for the presentation, however, can be compensated with other satisfactory parts (if the average of all marks is satisfactory).


In case of a failure, both translation and paper can be redone once.

Exam review

Students will be invited to discuss their paper and their results for this seminar (participation, oral presentation, oral examination, paper) individually with the teacher, as soon as the results have been published.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Uploading secondary literature, much of which can also be found in the University Library.

Reading list

Students are expected to have their own copy of: Lucretius: On The Nature of Things. Loeb Classical Library. Latin Text and English. Translation Rouse and M. F. Smith.

Other relevant literature:


  • Lucretius: De Rerum Natura Ed. Cyril Bailey. Oxford Classical Texts.


  • Lucretius: De Rerum Natura, Edited with Prolegomena, Critical Apparatus, Translation, and Commentary by Cyril Bailey. 3 Volumes. Oxford University Press (1947);

  • Latin text and English translations with commentary on Books 1 (Brown), 3 (Brown), 4 (Godwin), 5 (Gale), and 6 (Godwin) published by Aris & Phillips;

  • Text and Commentary of Book 3 in Cambridge Greek and Roman Classics series (Kenney).

General Introduction to Lucretius

  • Gale, M. 2001, Lucretius and the Didactic Epic, London: Bristol Classical Press;

  • Godwin, J., 2004, Lucretius, London: Bristol Classical Press.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about registration in uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Study Abroad/Exchange website for information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. J.S. (Jason) Nethercut


Students are required to attend classes regularly, to be fully prepared, and to participate in class discussion.