We don't know too much about Lucretius (c.90BCE-54BCE) the man himself and so we are forced to build up a more detailed picture from other sources in order to flesh out the background context to this masterpiece of Latin poetry in the epic style. What was it's reception and significance in its own time, let alone in later eras?
I have therefore been looking into the times in which Lucretius lived as well as some of the other philosophies on offer during his era. One of the main contenders for Epicurean thought must surely be Stoicism. I am reading the relevant chapter in the Blackwell Guide to Ancient Philosophy and will be posting regarding that soon. I wanted to look at how the two differ and what they had to offer a potential convert.
In terms of milieu and background events, there are references at the start of the poem to difficult and troubled times. It might be interesting to look at some of the candidates he is referring to, the rise of the Dictators, Sulla and Marius..the Social War and its aftermath and various constitutional crises, culminating in Sulla marching on Rome itself. In short the writing was on the wall for the Roman republic and there was to be more chaos and instability until the arrival on the scene of Octavian/Augustus, the first Emperor.