, Little is known about his life. St. Jerome
claims he was born in 94 B.C.
and died in 55, though there is a long-standing tradition
, recorded in Donatus
, that he died in 51, on the same day that Vergil
assumed his manly toga
Other juicy rumours are recorded. Jerome says that he wrote only during brief periods of sanity, after going mad by drinking a love potion given to him by his wife]. Apparently he committed suicide, and after his dead none other than Marcus Tullius Cicero edited and published his work. However, as with most ancient biographies, most of this is probably false. Even his full name is only evidenced by the headings of later, medieval manuscripts.
His sole (surviving) work is a long hexameter poem in 6 books, the De Rerum Natura, or "on the nature of things". The work is a more or less coherent philosophy on the nature of the universe.
The work is best noded under it's own title. Suffice to say that he became known for a brief time as the master of the Latin hexameter, and greatly influenced Vergil's style and technique.
The beginning of the De Rerum Natura, really an ode to the generative forces of the cosmos, and a starting point for everything:
Aeneadum genetrix, hominum divomque voluptas
alma Venus, caeli subter labentia signa
quae mare navigerum, quae terras frugiferentis
concelebras - per te quoniam genus omne animantum
concipitur visitque exortum lumina solis -
te, dea, te fugiunt venti, te nubila caeli
adventumque tuum, tibi suavis daedala tellus
summittit flores, tibi rident aequora ponti
placatumque nitet diffuso lumine caelum.
Ancestress of the children of Aeneas, delight of men and gods,
kindly Venus, you who fill underneath the turning stars
the ship-bearing sea, the fruitful earth, through you
each and every living kind of thing is first conceived
and born first sees the light of the shining sun:
You, it is you the winds and clouds of the heavens flee,
and your approach, for you the varied, crafted earth does yield
sweet flowers, for you alone the waters of the sea do laugh
and the peaceful heaven shines on high with scattered light.