Nunc tibi quo pacto ferri natura reperta
sit facilest ipsi per te cognoscere, Memmi.
arma antiqua manus ungues dentesque fuerunt
et lapides et item silvarum fragmina rami
et flamma atque ignes, post quam sunt cognita primum.
posterius ferri vis est aerisque reperta.
et prior aeris erat quam ferri cognitus usus,
quo facilis magis est natura et copia maior.
aere solum terrae tractabant, aereque belli
miscebant fluctus et vulnera vasta serebant
et pecus atque agros adimebant; nam facile ollis
omnia cedebant armatis nuda et inerma.
inde minutatim processit ferreus ensis
versaque in opprobrium species est falcis ahenae,
et ferro coepere solum proscindere terrae
exaequataque sunt creperi certamina belli.
(Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1281-1296)
Now, how the nature of iron was discovered,
you may learn easily, Memmius, for yourself.
In ancient times, weapons were teeth and nails
and stones and branches broken from the trees,
flame, too, and fire, once men had come to know them.
Later, men learned the power of iron and bronze.
And bronze they learned to use sooner than iron,
for bronze is simpler to work and more abundant.
With bronze they tilled the soil, with bronze they roiled
the waters of war, and harrowed a waste of wounds,
and seized both herds and lands: no task for them,
thus armed, to conquer the naked and unarmed.
Then little by little the iron sword came in,
and brazen tools became a mockery;
with iron alone men started to plow the soil
and balance the ever uncertain clash of battle.
(tr. Frank O. Copley)