Scholars have long recognized Lucretius's De Rerum Natura as an important allusive source for the Aeneid, but significant disagreement persists regarding the scope and purpose of Virgil's engagement with Epicurean philosophy. In Atomism in the Aeneid, Matthew M. Gorey investigates that engagement and argues that atomic imagery functions as a metaphor for cosmic and political disorder in Virgil's epic, associating the enemies of Aeneas and of Rome's imperial destiny with the haphazard, purposeless chaos of Epicurean atoms in the void. While nearly all of Virgil's allusions to atomism are constructed from Lucretian intertextual material, Gorey shows how the poet's negative reception of atomism draws upon a long and popular tradition of anti-atomist discourse in Greek philosophy that metaphorically likened the non-teleological cosmology of atomism to civic disorder and mob rule. By situating Virgil's atomic allusions within the tradition of philosophical opposition to Epicurean physics, Atomism in the Aeneidillustrates the deeply ideological nature of his engagement with Lucretius.
About the Author
Matthew M. Gorey is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Wabash College.