On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura)
by Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99 - c. 55 BCE)

This abridged presentation of Lucretius' famous six-book poem on nature focuses mostly on those passages essential to Epicureanism based on translations by Sisson and Rouse. The contents of these files are not public domain, but appear by permission of the copyright holders mentioned in the notices at the bottom of each page -- all rights reserved.  About 50% to 60% of the text from each book is represented here; breaks in the text are demarcated by a numeric heading which corresponds to the line number of the Latin manuscript.

An unabridged public-domain translation is also available at MIT.

Book I



Mother of all the Romans: moreover, everyone’s pleasure,

comfortable Venus: everything under the stars

—the sea that carries ships as well as the earth that bears crops—

is full of you: every living thing is conceived

by your methods and so comes into the daylight.

The winds elude you and the sky is apt to be cloudless

when your month comes, and under your feet the earth

sends up her lovely flowers, and the sea’s surfaces

glitter placidly as the light gleams from the sky.


As soon as the face of spring puts in an appearance

and the fertilizing wind blows in from the west,

the birds of the air are the first to notice your coming

and your effluence strikes at their very hearts;

The wild cattle jump about in their pastures,

they plunge and swim over the rivers, delight has taken them.

Then throughout the seas, on the mountains, in hungry rivers,

in the bird’s leafy recesses, on the verdant plains,

deep inside every creature appetite stirs

as you provoke them to natural propagation.


Since you alone guide the working of nature,

without you nothing can come to these shores of light

and nothing is glad or amiable without you,

I seek your assistance as I write these verses

in which I shall try to explain nature to Memmius,

my friend whom you, Goddess, have always distinguished

with the best gifts which can be found for anyone:

The more, Goddess, endow my words with beauty.

Bring it about meanwhile that military ferocity

on land and sea everywhere falls fast asleep.

It is only you who can bring men peace and quiet

for Mars is the one who manages these affairs

and he often throws himself on your belly,

conquered in turn because desire has wounded him.

He lies there with his handsome neck thrown back,

gaping at you and feeding on your looks,

his breath hangs on your lips as he falls back.

As he lies there on top of your holy body

allow your lips to speak gently to him, Goddess.

Ask him, lady, to give the Romans peace

for when the country is going through bad times

I cannot give my mind to my work and Memmius

cannot resist the temptation to make himself useful.


So, Memmius, give me your undivided attention,

turn from business and take a look at the truth.

What I am saying I say because I’ve considered it;

At least don’t turn it down till you’ve understood,

though it is, indeed, rather a large pretension

to explain all origins, universes, divinities—

to say how nature creates, increases, nourishes,

and how she disposes of bodies when they are done.

I shall call these things material, genetic bodies

or seminal, if you like, because they are sources,

or basic matter, as the first matter of all.

Divine nature cannot be other than nature

subsisting for endless time in an unspoiled peace

far away from ourselves and the things that touch us;

For deprived of pain, and also deprived of danger,

able to do what it wants, it does not need us,

nor understands our deserts, and it cannot be angry.


In the time when people felt the weight of religion,

wallowing upon the ground and—a ghastly spectacle—

heaven scowled down upon them and showed no mercy,

a Greek man was the first to raise his eyes,

daring to make a stand against it.

He took no notice at all of the thunder and lightning,

religious recitations merely incited him;

He said he would expose the secrets of nature

and so, by force of intelligence, and no other,

he pierced beyond the flaming walls of the world,

paraded up and down the whole immensity

and returned victoriously with explanations for everything

—what could happen, what not, and what were the limits,

all fixed and measured, of every nature and thing.

And so he had religion under his feet.

He won, and as a result we have no superiors.



There is one simple point we have to start from:

The gods never made a single thing out of nothing.

Because, if one things frightens people, it is

that so much happens, on earth and out in space,

the reasons for which seem somehow to escape them,

and they fill in the gap by putting it down to the gods.

That is why, once we know that nothing can come from nothing,

we are on the right track already and likely to see

how everything starts and goes on in an ordered sequence

and nothing at all is merely the work of the gods.


Consider: if things could be made from nothing,

there would be no such thing as the cycle of generation,

you could breed men from the sea, and the land would produce

all kinds of fishes and birds, and out of the sky

herds of cattle would come tumbling; wild animals would

turn up in deserts or farmyards without any reason;

You could not count on an apple-tree giving you apples,

but any sort of tree would produce any fruit.

If everything did not have its seminal elements

how would we ever know what anything comes from?

But, as it is, the origins are from fixed seeds

and everything comes to the shores of light

the moment its matter has reached the right point of development.

No question of undiscriminating creation

when everything has its seeds within itself.


Besides, have you thought why roses come in spring,

corn ripens in the heat, and the grapes in autumn?

It is because their seeds are so determined

and all creation happens when it must.

It needs only the season, and the vivid earth

as it were finds it safe to produce what it does.

If things came out of nothing, they would come from nothing,

turning up at odd times in a random way;

They would have no natures to hold them to their course

nor elements answering only to certain seasons.

There would be no question of interval after coition

before the child appeared, if we came from nothing.

Young men would disconcertingly spring up from cribs

And full-grown trees would appear in a flash from the ground.

As such things do not happen, but on the contrary

everything grows and changes little by little

and all growth follows the laws of particular species,

it proves that everything is made from its own material.



Besides, if all the things time removes from our sight

were really destroyed and all their matter consumed,

how would the animal world be saved from destruction,

as generation does save it? Or how would the earth

have ingenuity to continue to feed it?

How would the sea get fed by the springs and rivers?

Or how would the sky find food for its flocks of stars?

None of these things would happen, if mortal bodies

had been consumed by time in the infinite past.

But if, in the space of past and the time gone by,

there have always been elements ready for re-confection,

they are by nature immortal, that is certain

and that is why they cannot return to nothing.


All objects would be destroyed by a single cause

if there were not eternal matter to hold them together

more or less tightly, in various patterns or systems.

A touch would be enough to produce destruction.

If things were not composed of permanent elements,

any force would at once unravel the pattern.

As it is, patterns hold together in various ways

but substance is always identical and eternal

and so things hold until a force is encountered

which is just enough to rip their particular texture.

So you see once more that nothing returns to nothing:

What happens is that things revert to their common elements.


The rains are gone, when the upper air has thrown them

into the lap of our darling mother the Earth,

but the shining harvests come, the branches turn green,

the trees grow upwards, then are borne down by the fruit

and so our race is fed, and the animals too;

The happy cities flower with their crops of children,

the leafy woods sing out with the new year’s birds;

The well-fleshed herds sink down in the happy grass

and the udders swell to bursting with each day’s milk;

The lambs are driven to dance on their tottering legs

and play as if mothers’ milk had turned their brains.

Nothing indeed is lost of perceptible things.

One thing is made of another, and nature allows

no new creation except at the price of death.


You know I have said creation out of nothing

is nonsense and so is destruction of things to nothingness.

But since you may doubt the validity of a doctrine

requiring the existence of invisible elements [atoms],

I should like to draw your attention to certain bodies

which must be allowed to exist, although we can’t see them.


Think of the winds, which beat up the sea with their blows,

wrecking the largest vessels, scattering the clouds,

and sometimes driving a hurricane over the plains,

strewing great trees on the ground, and with shattering blasts

lashing the mountaintops: a roaring fury,

there is rage to come in their smallest menacing murmur.

No doubt at all, the winds are invisible bodies

which sweep across the sea, the earth and the sky

and toss the clouds and carry them off in a storm.

You may compare them and the damage they do

to what is done by water, whose nature is gentle—

yet when the rivers are swollen by terrible downpours

collected on mountain slopes and sent hurtling down,

they carry before them branches and even whole trees;

No bridges are strong enough for the sudden onrush: they crumple.

The river, carrying the rains in its arms,

crashes against the piers and pushes them forward;

They fall with a roar, and they are under the water,

immense blocks: nothing could stand against the river.

So with the winds; it must be, their action is similar

for like a river they lash wherever they choose,

overturning whatever impedes them in one or several assaults;

Sometimes they lift and carry things upwards in an eddying swirl.

It proves, it must prove, that winds are invisible bodies,

for by their action and habit they rival the rivers

which no one denies are made of a substance which is visible.


Or again, take smell. We perceive all manner of odors

but never observe one on its way to our noses.

Nor does sight communicate blazing heat or cold wither

or enable us to detect or distinguish a sound;

Yet the nature of all these things must of course be physical

since otherwise they could not impress our senses

—for impression means touch, and touch means the touch of bodies.


Then observe, if you hang clothes out where the waves are breaking,

they get wet, just as they dry if they’re spread in the sun.

Yet nobody ever saw how the damp gets into them

or how it gets out when the weather is hot.

It follows that moisture must be composed of particles

so small it is not possible they should be seen.

In the same way, if you wear a ring on your finger,

after many years it will wear perceptibly thin;

A drip will hollow a stone; the blade of a plow

in time will secretly wear away in the fields;

And paving-stones grow smooth and thin with crowds

who tread on them year by year; by a city gate you may see

a statue of bronze with the right hand worn

where travelers have kissed it as they went on their way.

These things diminish, we see, little bylittle,

but what is lost at any particular time

is something that nature does not allow us to see

any more than she allows us to see what is added

to bodies in the course of their natural growth.

The same is true of what is taken away

from bodies when they are wasted by time and age;

and there are half-eaten cliffs overhanging the sea,

but who ever saw the salt removing a mouthful?

Nature does all these things with invisible substances.


Not everywhere, however, is crowded with matter,

for nature is such that everything has its emptiness.

This is a necessary part of the lesson,

without which nature would continue to mystify you

and my theories would in fact be incomplete.

There is the void—the emptiness of unoccupied space,

without which, clearly, nothing could ever move.

The function of matter is to get in the way;

If there were no space, nothing could ever move,

but everything would get in the way of everything else.

Nothing would ever give, and nothing would budge.

But in fact we see the seas move, the earth, the clouds,

the stars sweep by, and everything has its movement.

If there were no such thing as emptiness, none of this could happen,

nothing indeed could ever change or begin;

There would be closed-packed matter and that would be all.


The fact is, things which appear to us to be solid

are really made of somewhat rarefied stuff.

That is why water drips through the roof of a cave

and it looks as if thick slabs of rock had burst into tears;

That is how food distributes itself through a body;

Trees grow, and manage in time to produce fruit

because what they feed on is carried from roots to the trunk

and so in the end to the very tip of the branches.

Noises don’t stop at a wall but are carried right through—

it makes no difference that the house is shut up.

The cold gets into our bones: and none of these things

could happen, unless there were spaces matter could go through.


And why is it some things weigh a lot more than others

although the volume is exactly the same?

A lump of bread and a lump of wool, for example?

The difference must be in the proportion of matter.

The nature of matter is to press everything down

while the nature of void is to be without weight.

It follows that, with objects of equal volume,

the lighter must be the one which contains more emptiness

and the heavier must be the one which contains more matter

while the void it contains must be accordingly smaller.

This demonstrates that the composition of things

includes, as well as matter, some empty space.


Here I must warn you against a plausible theory

which some people have advanced, and which might mislead you.

Its proponents say that water gives way to the fish

as it swims, and opens a passage for it to pass,

because there is a space left behind the fish

into which the liquid can flow: and this, they say, demonstrates

how other things can change place, although space is full.

This explanation rests on erroneous reasoning,

for how, after all, can the fish find a way to move forward

if the water does not give way to it? And how can the water

give way to the fish, unless the fish can move forward?

For either one has to deny that bodies can move

or else admit they contain an empty element

which makes it possible for movement to begin.


And then, if two flat objects are brought together

and at once rebound, the space that is made between them

is filled up with air, but, however quickly the air moves,

it cannot fill up the whole space instantaneously:

The process of filling, though rapid, happens by stages.


If anyone should maintain, when the two bodies separate,

that condensation of air is what makes it possible,

he is wrong: for that would mean a vacuum created

where there wasn’t one before, while the vacuum which did exist

had somehow been filled up. Air cannot condense

in such a manner, I think, or if it were possible,

it would not be without the existence of space

in the air itself, into which its parts could withdraw

—so though you might hesitate at these objections,

you would have to admit that void does exist.


I could go on adding to the arguments I have adduced

if I felt I had to scrape together a proof,

but the indications I have given are enough

for so intelligent a reader as yourself.

Just as the dogs, merely by using their nose,

succeed in finding their quarry under a fern

once they have got the scent and can follow it up,

so you can find one consequence after another

in an inquiry like this, like following a thread

through every obscurity until you light on the truth.


Of course if you choose to dawdle or stray from the scent,

my dear Memmius, you can’t expect very much.

But here I am, gulping the stuff from the fountain

and willing to let it trickle out of my mouth;

My only fear is that age will come up behind us

and, with its scissors, snip our nervous connections,

before I can bring my metrical explanation

to any completeness at all on any one point

let alone give you the full weight of the argument.


But now I must get back to what I was saying.

The whole of nature consists of two elements:

There are material bodies, and there is the void

in which they are situated and through which they move.

The existence of material bodies is plain to the senses;

If we were not sure of that self-evident starting-point,

we would have no basis for more abstruse constructions.

For all proof rests in the end on a basis of sense.

As for void, or space, or if you will call it emptiness:

We know that this it exists because if it did not, bodies

could not be anywhere, nor would they be able to move

—a point I demonstrated a few lines back.


There is indeed nothing whatever of which you can say

that exists apart from matter and emptiness,

as if there were some third element in the universe.

For if there were, it would not exist without size

—how large or small, is a matter of indifference—

and if it were sensible, even to the lightest touch

it would be classified with material objects;

If it could not be touched it would be incapable

of offering the slightest resistance to any body,

which amounts to saying that it would be void.


Besides, if a thing exists it must either act

or else be acted upon by other agents,

or provide a space in which other things can exist.

But only material objects can act and be acted on,

and only void can provide a space.

Apart from emptiness and material objects

there can be no third element in nature

—no third which could have an effect on our senses

or be the subject of any reasoning.

You will find that everything which can be named

is either inherent in the two basic elements

or is the effect of something that happens to them.

The inherent qualities are those which cannot be separated

without destroying the nature of the object:

As weight in rocks, heat in fire, and wetness in water,

or tangibility in material objects

and in space—or void—intangibility.

On the other hand, servitude, poverty and riches,

liberty, war, and settlements, and so on,

which leave material bodes unchanged in their nature

are things which happen to bodies—we might say, events.


Time has no existence by itself

and it is only from the perception of things

past, present, and future that the mind is aware of it.

There never was anyone who had even a glimpse of time

apart from the movement of things and the contrast of rest.


So it is absurd to suggest that the Trojan War

or the rape of Helen, has some sort of real existence

when the ages in which these notable things occurred

—like the people they happened to—have been swept away.

Whatever happened is no more than just a happening

—other places or times, perhaps it makes no difference.

For if there had been no matter to form the bodies

and no empty space in which they could perform,

Paris would not have been there to get excited

nor Helen in such a shape as to set him on

and the famous wars would not have happened at all.

No wooden horse could have turned out a load of Greeks

into the darkness, to set the town alight.

You can see from that, all that has gone on in the past

has no existence, as matter and void have,

but rather should be regarded as so many happenings

which have occurred to material bodies in space.


The bodies themselves are of two kinds:

Primary particles and complex bodies composed of primaries.

These first particles are of such an invincible hardness

that no force can alter them or extinguish them.

It is not easy to imagine such a body

so full of itself as the be entirely solid:

For lightning travels with ease through the walls of houses

and so do all kinds of sound; iron glows in the fire

and even stones break up in a violent heat.

Gold, which seems hard enough, can grow liquid too,

and so can bronze, which falls like a block of ice.

Warmth goes through sliver, and so indeed does the cold

so that when we hold a sliver cup in our hands

we feel the iced wine rise as it is poured.

Enough to convince us that nothing is really solid.


Yet, if one thinks about it and looks at the evidence,

it does turn out, as I’ll explain in a very few verses,

that there are particles made of solid and changeless matter

which are the basic constituents of the universe

from which all things are made.


First of all, since it is clear that nature is twofold,

consisting of elements of quite different kinds:

Body, and space in which all events take place;

These two must be quite separate from each other.

For where there is space with nothing in it but void,

there can be no body there;

And where there is body,

there clearly cannot be void by any means.

So the particles are quite solid and have no space within them.


Since there is emptiness in created things,

it must be surrounded by something solid:

For how could things hide such emptiness in their interior

if there were no material around to hide it?

And what could this be except a collection of particles

arranged to form a sort of screen for the void?

Matter, consisting entirely of solid particles,

can be eternal, though everything made of it dies.


Then, if there were no such thing as empty space,

everything would be solid; on the other hand,

if there were not bodies which filled up all the space

they occupied so that nothing else could intrude,

the universe would be nothing but emptiness.

But matter and space, are in fact, alternatives:

They cannot be both in one place.

The world is neither made up entirely of the one nor of the other,

and this mixed nature of things would only be possible

if there were bodies which did not give way to the void.


These bodies—the particles—cannot break up at a blow,

nor can anything get past their outer defenses,

nor can they yield or give way to whatever may come

—all these are points that I have already made.

It is evident, therefore, that without an admixture of void,

nothing could crash or break or be split in two,

nor even get soaked, or penetrated by cold,

nor even eaten by fire, the general destroyer.

The more unoccupied space each object contains,

the more it will give way to the things which destroy it.


Besides, it is clear, if matter had not been eternal,

before now everything would have returned to nothing

and everything we now see would have come from nothing.

But I have already proved that nothing can be created

from nothing, nor can creation disintegrate into nothing.

There must be, therefore, immortal elements

into which all things in time can be dissolved

and from which all things can be renewed once again.

These elements must be of a solid simplicity

for how, otherwise, could they last through so many ages

and take part endlessly in the renewal of things?


And how, if nature had not provided some end

to the destruction of things, could matter have held

against the breaking up through so many ages,

or how could things be conceived and brought to maturity

in any measure of years, and last out their time?

For everything that we see is more easily broken

than put together again: the procession of days

and endless duration of all the time gone by

would surely have broken up everything, crushed and dissolved it,

so that nothing could be re-made in the time that remains.

But some end to destruction indeed has been fixed,

for do we not see that everything is renewed?

And definite times fixed for the life of everything,

and everything in due time arrives at its flower?

And this too: although you have the most solid material

in the basic particles, these can easily give you

the soft and fluid: as air, earth, water and mist.

How they are formed and behave is easy to see

once the existence of void is admitted,

but if you imagined the basic ingredients were soft,

how could you ever arrive at iron or flint?

You could not explain them: there would not be in all nature

the qualities out of which such stuff could be made.

So then: it is the strength of solid simplicity

lies a the root of creation; the more or less density

of basic particles makes up the strength of each object.


Since the limits of growth and living for every species

are fixed as if by an immutable law,

which also defines what they can and cannot do

and nothing is ever changed: but so fixed indeed

that all the different birds in a perfect order

show their unchangeable markings according to species;

Could these things happen without immutable matter?

For if the original particles were not stable

but liable to give way to modifications,

how could it be so determined what things are born?

Or how could there be the certain limits there are

to what each species can do and the turn of its nature?

And how could the generations bring back as they do

the character, movements and habits of those before them?


The original particles, although themselves invisible,

must have limits, which means: a series of points;

And these must be the smallest bodies in nature without parts;

Points moreover which never existed in isolation,

or never could so exist, since they are only parts of another body

—units which, joined together with others like them,

make up the bodies of the original particles.

And since these points have no existence apart,

they must remain eternally glued together.

So the particles are of solid and simple nature,

made up of crowded irreducible points

and not the product of any act of assembly,

but such that they have always existed in that conjunction:

No kind of separation or any subtraction

from the particles which are the seeds of everything.


For if there were no such thing as a minimal entity,

the smallest bodies would have infinite parts;

There would be no end to the foolish arithmetic

of dividing by half, by half, and by half again.

And in that case there would be no difference of size

between the smallest thing and the infinite universe,

Because however large you supposed the latter,

the former, just like it, would be made up of infinite parts.

This is something that reason simply cannot accept,

and the mind has no alternative but to admit

the existence of parts which cannot be further divided

—the minimal natural entities, finite points.

And since they exist, they must be solid and changeless.


Once may add, that if it had been the habit of nature

to reduce things to their irreducible parts,

nothing could ever again have been made form them;

For things which have not the benefit of any parts

would not have the qualities of productive matter

—the power of interaction and the movement which are

the normal ways in which things ever happen.



Now let us have a look at Anaxagoras,

whose theory goes by the name of homoeomeria,

for which there is no suitable expression in our language

though the thing itself is easy enough to explain.

For what he means by his homoeomeria

is that bones are made up of tiny pieces of bone,

flesh is made up of tiny pieces of flesh,

blood by the confluence of millions of drops of blood.

He thinks that lots of grains of gold will indeed make gold

and that earth is composed of lots of bits of earth,

that fire is made out of fires, and water from water,

and everything else is made in a similar manner.



Again, since the body grows with the food we eat,

it can be concluded that veins, and blood and bones

and nerves are made of matter which is unlike them.

Or if the contention is that all food is composite,

containing tiny packets of nerves and bones

—to say nothing of bits of veins and dollops of blood—

then you have to say that all food and drink is composed

of matter which bears no resemblance to food and drink,

in fact of bones, nerves and serum, all mixed up with blood.


And if everything which shoots up out of the earth

is in the earth to begin with, the earth must be

made up of the heterogeneous things which come out of it.

Apply this argument to whatever you like:

If flames and smoke and ash are hidden in wood,

the wood must consist of things unlike itself.

This leaves one way of getting out of the difficulty,

and Anaxagoras takes it; he contends

that every kind of thing is concealed in everything,

while the thing we see is simply the one which predominates

or has somehow come to the surface of the mixture;

but that opinion seems to me far from sensible.

For if it were true you might expect that corn,

as it was ground in the mill, would sometimes show traces of blood

or other components of the body it is to feed.

Likewise when we pound up herbs, blood would ooze out;

And you might expect the water drunk by the sheep

to taste a bit like the milk which comes from their udders;

Indeed you might expect, when soil is turned up,

to find in it traces of corn and all kinds of plants

which are supposed to be concealed there in miniature;

So ash and smoke, you might think, would be found in wood

when you break it up, and tiny pieces of fire.

As none of these things appears, it is fair to conclude

that things are not mixed up with each other like that,

but instead that the particles, mixed in various ways,

are all the same and common to many things.


You may say that in the forests which cover the mountains

it often happens that, under the stress of great winds,

the branches of neighboring trees will rub together

and suddenly fire break out like a monstrous flower:

Yes, quite so: but that doesn’t mean there is fire in timber;

It simply means there are inflammable elements

which rubbing together will bring into closer contact,

and this is enough to set the forest on fire.

If the wood in fact contained a ready-made flame,

it would never be possible to conceal the fire;

the forests would all burn up the trees disappear.


Now perhaps you will see—as I have already explained it—

why it matters so much how the particles lie,

in what position, or how they push one another?

With very small changes, the identical particles

make wood or fire, just as you may say the same letters

—or almost the same—will produce the words fir or fire,

with different sounds and certainly different meanings.


Indeed, if you take the view that the visible universe

cannot be created without recourse to elements

which have the nature of sensible things themselves,

you might as well give up all idea of elements.

You will find yourself next with particles shaking with laughter

or others standing by with tears in their eyes.


Better listen instead to what I have to say.

I am not under any illusion that it is easy

but I have the support of my passion for reputation,

I can even claim a certain addiction to poetry

and—what does not always go with it—some mental energy.

Thus equipped, I am not afraid of unpromising country;

I reckon to find enough springs and pick enough flowers,

and if I achieve anything it will be on a subject

which has not been a favorite with poets before:

and any subject which matters is rather unusual.

Mine is to extricate the mind from the knots of religion.

Moreover, in writing on this difficult subject,

I aim at lucid and even agreeable verse,

and that should not be considered an extravagance.

It is rather as doctors, when they want to give children

some nasty medicine, give it a flavor of honey

which is held to be a legitimate trick upon innocence

and persuade the children—perhaps—to swallow the stuff

and by such means be restored to gain health.


So, since what I have to say is unpleasant

to people who haven’t given the subject a thought,

and can produce a revulsion in ordinary men,

I attempt to give it a touch of aesthetic coating

and hope you may recognize sweetness when you taste it:

If I can hold your attention by such devices

so that you read to the end, you will find you have swallowed.

My whole account, so to speak, of the nature of nature.


My theory is that bodies of solid matter

—the particles—move through the ages and are indestructible.

The question now is: are they of limited number?

And is place, void, space, in which everything must happen,

finite itself, or does it stretch out without limit

in all directions without any end at all?


The universe is in fact without limit of any kind,

for if it had it would have to have an outside.

Nothing can have an outside unless there is something beyond it;

So the point can be seen at which it ceases to be

and beyond which the senses could not follow it.

There can be no such point for the whole creation;

If one thinks of the whole there can be nothing outside it,

it can have no limit or measure, you could not conceive it.

It does not matter what position you occupy,

space must stretch an infinite distance in every direction.


Let us suppose for a moment that space is finite;

Then let someone proceed to the furthest boundaries

and throw a spear beyond the point where he is.

You then have to choose whether you think it will travel

in the direction he sends it, as far as you like,

or whether you think that something will get in the way.

With neither answer can you avoid the conclusion

that the universe stretches out on all sides forever,

for whether the spear finds something in the way

and cannot proceed, or whether the way is open,

the point it started from is not the end of the universe.

In this manner one can go on, and wherever you put the limit

I shall ask: Now, where is the spear?

There is no point at which you can set a boundary;

The more space you give the spear, the further it goes.

If indeed the sum of total existing space

were bounded in fact by limits on every side,

matter would then fall down and lie on the floor of the universe

and this indeed would have happened long ago

and there would have been no events at all after that.

There would not even be sky, or the light of the sun

for all the matter there is would stay piled up

in a heap produced by endless ages of sinking.

However, as things are, the particles have no rest

and we may be sure there is no bottom of things

on which they could settle down and take their rest.

Always and everywhere, there is ceaseless motion,

as hurtling particles of eternal matter

supply what is need out of infinite space.



It was certainly not by design that the particles fell into order,

they did not work out what they were going to do,

but because many of them by many chances

struck one another in the course of infinite time

and encountered every possible form and movement,

that they found at last the disposition they have,

and that is how the universe was created:

Particles, kept together for so many years,

when by a chance they had found harmonious movements,

brought it about that rivers flow into the sea

to keep it going, while earth by the heat of the sun

renews its products, and living creatures breed on

and the gliding lights in the sky are never put out.

Certainly none of these things could do as they do

if there were not an infinite store of matter

from which they could make up their losses whenever they need.

For just as an animal cannot live without food

since his flesh will waste away; so it is with all things

which must replenish their matter or disappear.



If you learn these things, which requires no great labor

since one thing follows quite simply from another,

then you will not stumble—nor the secrets of nature

shall be dark to you. One thing lights up another.