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The Living in Lucretius’ De rerum natura. Animals’ ataraxia and Humans’ Distress

Alma Massaro


In trying to comprehend the human role among other living beings from an antispeciesist point of view it is possible to look back to those thinkers who, far before our times, had already considered other living beings from a non-anthropocentric perspective. In this sense, a dialogue with the Ancients could be a useful way to identify a more solid ground on which to build a new relationship with the world of nature. For this reason in the following pages I suggest reading Lucretius’ De rerum natura giving emphasis to the role of animals in order to understand the poet’s pluralistic view. In the first part of my paper I will briefly focus on the poet’s own Epicureanism while, in the second part, I will address two notable passages of Lucretius’ poem – those of Iphigenia’s sacrifice and of the bereaved cow – where it emerges both the guilt of human beings, who are compromised by an impious religion (religio), and the correct devotion (the true pietas) of animals to the laws of nature. Eventually, as I will try to outline, Lucretius presents animals as models for human serenity and, as I will point out, he suggests that our opportunity to find happiness also depends upon them.


Lucretius, De rerum natura, ethics, animal ethics, cruel sacrifice, contractualism, Epicureanism, ataraxia, nature, civilization

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2014-002-mass

Copyright (©) 2018 Alma Massaro – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo

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