De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). This is a poem composed of six books which reflects the philosophy of Epicurus. The author tells us it was written to free men from the fear of death and to banish superstition. The first two pair of books deals with the atom. The universe is made up of matter and void. Atoms are made up of minute matter which are constantly in action and combine to make the world we see. The second two pair of books deal with the soul. The soul is made up of the spirit (the mind) and the body. Both are mortal. When man dies, there is no immortality but only dreamless sleep. So there is no need to fear death. The senses are dependable although the mind can perceive images that do not exist. The last two books deal with the cosmos. It explains the creation of the world, how life emerges and how humans develop, as well as meteorological phenomena. The development of the world and the development of man is a natural process, not the process of divine intervention. The gods do not inhabit the world of man nor do they create or influence it. The natural phenomenon (earthquakes, lightning, thunder, storms, etc,) are not works of the gods. Man can be free from the fear of the gods.
Franz van Mieris (1689-1763). Dutch painter from Leiden.
Claude Augustin Pierre Duflos (1700-1786). French engraver.