Reversing the Invention of Religio
Lucretius' First Eulogy of Epicurus (DRN 1.62-79) and the Sisyphus Fragment (D.-K. 88B25)
This article provides an intertextual analysis of DRN 1.62-79, showing that the Sisyphus fragment (D.-K. 88B25), which represents a summa of ancient atheism, is a crucial model for Lucretius’ first eulogy of Epicurus, both at a macro and at a micro scale. Respecting Epicurus’ caveat against atheism, Lucretius manipulates the Sisyphus fragment and uses it as a pars destruens against ancient religious beliefs and Roman public religion, in order to make space for a new Epicurean theology. Therefore, aim of the poet is to take advantage of the revolutionary aura and evocative power of the fragment for his own purposes. This interpretation also supports Gigante’s hypothesis of Lucretius’ direct dependence on the Sisyphus fragment in the section of the DRN devoted to the origin of religion (5.1161-1240). Lucretius’ subtle operation is understood by Cicero, who polemically alludes to it in his confutation of Epicurean theology in nat. deor. 1.117-118.
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