Seneca on the Nature of Things: Moral Concerns and Theories of Matter in Natural Questions 6

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It is generally recognized that Lucretius' treatment of earthquakes and pestilences (6.535-607; 1090-1286) exerted great influence on Book 6 of Seneca's Natural Questions. But while a large consensus exists that both authors tend to emphasize the moral value of scientific knowledge, further research is needed with respect to Seneca's “technical” re-use of Epicurean physics and meteorology. In the present paper, I shall address this issue in three stages. First, I will analyze the structure and intellectual goals of Seneca's “doxographic” review of seismological theories (6.5-20). Far from being a doxographic account sensu proprio, such a careful review constructs the inspiring image of an intergenerational community of inquirers engaged in a virtually neverending effort. Second, I will focus on the skilful assimilation of Lucretius' atomism in Seneca's account of post-earthquake plagues (6.27-28). The special interest of this aetiological sub-section lies in its creative manipulation of Lucretius' theories, for Seneca succeeds in readapting the Epicurean explanation of the origin of diseases and its typically atomistic consideration of matter to the Stoic view of physical elements. Third and last, I will suggest that the chapter immediately following the aetiology of plagues (6.29) entails a subtle allusion to the climate of the late Republic – if not to the fate of Lucretius himself.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)765-789
Numero di pagine25
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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