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Aspects of the Language of Latin Prose$
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Tobias Reinhardt, Michael Lapidge, and J. N. Adams

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780197263327

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197263327.001.0001

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The Language of Epicureanism in Cicero: The Case of Atomism

The Language of Epicureanism in Cicero: The Case of Atomism

(p.151) The Language of Epicureanism in Cicero: The Case of Atomism
Aspects of the Language of Latin Prose

Tobias Reinhardt

British Academy

This chapter provides a discussion on Cicero’s treatment of Epicureanism. Cicero’s and Lucretius’ renderings of Epicurean terms and notions are radically different: whereas Lucretius’ seem colourful, suggestive, and rich, Cicero’s seem flat and matter-of-fact to the point of tedium. The purpose of atomism is to make all kinds of potentially frightening events in the world of experience less frightening by providing a rational explanation for them. The survey of terms for ‘atom’, namely atomus, corpora indiuidua, indiuidua, and corpusculum, is presented. The interpretation of the evidence from Cicero is also shown. Moreover, the chapter illustrates that Cicero read Epicurus’ texts with close attention to stylistic detail, and it is hence plausible to assume that imitating this particular aspect of Epicurus’ terminology was a relevant consideration for him. It then discusses the uses of terms for ‘atom’ and turns to the issue of what atoms ‘do’ in Cicero.

Keywords:   Cicero, Epicureanism, language, atomism, atomus, corpora indiuidua, indiuidua, corpusculum

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