Lucretius, De Natura Rerum: Liber Secundus; L177–181 contains this sentence:

nam quamvis rerum ignorem primordia quae sint, hoc tamen ex ipsis caeli rationibus ausim confirmare aliisque ex rebus reddere multis, nequaquam nobis divinitus esse creatam naturam mundi:

Given that Lucretius is writing in the first person (eg "ignorem"; "ausim") why deploy acc-inf construction, esse creatam, which represents indirect speech? Why not "creata est" giving the required--has-been-created; with "nequaquam" giving: has by no means been created?

  • I don't understand your question. Perhaps you can explain why you think first person verbs and indirect speech are incompatible. – cnread Sep 11 '17 at 17:14

You are correct that the a.c.i. (and some other constructions) is called indirect speech. So Lucretius could have written, in a new sentence, nequaquam divinitus est creata natura, which would not have been indirect speech. But I think the main point here is that indirect speech is not necessarily speech from someone other than the speaker: it can be the same person.

The function of indirect speech can be to express the attitude of the speaker towards a certain statement or phrase. In this case, one could say that Lucretius expresses epistemic modality towards his theory and tells us how he come to it: he demonstrates or asserts (confirmare) and recounts (reddo) the content of his theory, the indirect speech. He takes position with regard to the theory.

Had he phrased it in direct speech, it would have been presented as a fact by default, which was not his intention. He could have qualified indirect speech in other ways to get around that; but indirect speech is a natural approach.

Compare this with how one would write the same thing in English:

I assert that the gods were not involved in the creation of nature.

This is indirect speech as well, marked by the introductory word that. It's the natural way if you want to use a word like assert.

On a side note, the term 'direct speech' means speech exactly as it is phrased by the speaker (or m. m. the writer). In a way, the entire De Rerum Natura, like any text, is direct speech, as one can quote from it; it contains words written exactly so by Lucretius. Then indirect speech is embedded in the direct speech.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.