Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Death Is Nothing to Us

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 3.830-842 (tr. W.H.D. Rouse, rev. Martin F. Smith, with their notes):
Therefore death is nothing to us,a it matters not one jot, since the nature of the mind is understood to be mortal;

and as in time past we felt no distress, while from all quarters the Carthaginians were coming to the conflict, when the whole world, shaken by the terrifying tumult of war, shivered and quaked under the lofty and breezy heaven, and was in doubt under which domination all men were destined to fall by land and seab;

so, when we shall no longer be, when the parting shall have come about between body and spirit from which we are compacted into one whole, then sure enough nothing at all will be able to happen to us, who will then no longer be, or to make us feel, not if earth be commingled with sea and sea with sky.

anil ... mors est ad nos (cf. 845, 850, 852, 926, 972) = ὁ θάνaτoς oὐδὲν πpὸς ἡμᾶς (Epicurus, Sent. 2).

bThe reference is chiefly to the Second Punic War (218–201 B.C.).

nil igitur mors est ad nos neque pertinet hilum,        830
quandoquidem natura animi mortalis habetur;
et, velut anteacto nil tempore sensimus aegri,
ad confligendum venientibus undique Poenis,
omnia cum belli trepido concussa tumultu
horrida contremuere sub altis aetheris auris,        835
in dubioque fuere utrorum ad regna cadendum
omnibus humanis esset terraque marique,
sic, ubi non erimus, cum corporis atque animai
discidium fuerit, quibus e sumus uniter apti,
scilicet haud nobis quicquam, qui non erimus tum,        840
accidere omnino poterit sensumque movere,
non si terra mari miscebitur et mare caelo.
J.D. Duff ad loc.:

See James Warren, Facing Death: Epicurus and His Critics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004), pp. 57 ff.

Thanks to Joel Eidsath for his translation of Epicurus' Greek in Duff's note on line 830:
Death is nothing to us. For we are insensible of being disincorporated, and what is insensible to us is nothing to us.

The most terrifying of evils, death, is nothing to us, since at any time when we exist, death is not present. Whenever death is present, we no longer exist.
Related post: Is It True?

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