Lucretius, De rerum natura I. 80-101 (contributed by Terry Walsh)

I have always admired Lucretius’ stern and rational epicureanism, so different from the orthodox classical belief. (And Emanuele’s Cicero passage needs a counterblast!)

Terry Walsh

 

 

Illud in his rebus vereor, ne forte rearis                                      80

impia te rationis inire elementa viamque

indugredi sceleris. quod contra saepius illa

religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta.

Aulide quo pacto Triviai virginis aram

Iphianassai turparunt sanguine foede                                         85

ductores Danaum delecti, prima virorum.

cui simul infula virgineos circum data comptus

ex utraque pari malarum parte profusast,

et maestum simul ante aras adstare parentem

sensit et hunc propter ferrum celare ministros                            90

aspectuque suo lacrimas effundere civis,

muta metu terram genibus summissa petebat.

nec miserae prodesse in tali tempore quibat,

quod patrio princeps donarat nomine regem;

nam sublata virum manibus tremibundaque ad aras                   95

deductast, non ut sollemni more sacrorum

perfecto posset claro comitari Hymenaeo,

sed casta inceste nubendi tempore in ipso

hostia concideret mactatu maesta parentis,

exitus ut classi felix faustusque daretur.                                   100

tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.

 

 

 

Iphigeneia carried to the sacrifice (centre) while the seer Calchas (on the right) watches on and Agamemnon (on the left) covers his head in sign of deploration. In the sky, Artemis appears with a hind which will be substituted to the young girl. Fresco on plaster, after 62 CE. From the portico of the peristyle of the House of the Tragic Poet (VI, 8, 3.5) in Pompeii. Stored in the Museo Nazionale Archaeologico of Naples.

 

 

Now this I fear in this respect, that you may think that

you are entering blasphemous areas and stepping on a road to ruin.

But that very religion has bred criminal, appalling acts:

how once at Aulis the altar of Diana, virgin queen, was splattered with

the blood of Iphigenia by the leaders of the Greeks, the chosen, the

exalted heroes. The bands that bound her innocent locks fluttered

down both her cheeks; distraught, she saw her own sad father stand

beside the altar, the servants hide the knife – from him – and all her

people weep to see her; she quietly bowed her knees to earth and it did

no good to call the king her father; no, lifted by the heroes’ hands, she was

led trembling to the altar, but not in the company of marriage songs;

the pure girl, on her wedding day, fell to the foul stroke of her father – so

that a fair, fortunate fleet might sail. So great a pall of evil could religion raise.

 

 

Chosen and translated by Terry Walsh.

The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library.

Read more of this text at the Perseus site.

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