A fictionalized portrait of Lucian taken from a seventeenth century engraving by William Faithorne
|Born||About 125 CE
Samosata, Roman Empire (modern-day Turkey)
|Died||After 180 CE
|Notable works||True History,
Dialogues of the Dead, Dialogues of the Gods,
Dialogues of the Courtesans,
Alexander the False Prophet,
Sale of Creeds,
Lucian of Samosata (/, /; Ancient Greek: Λουκιανὸς ὁ Σαμοσατεύς, Latin: Lucianus Samosatensis; about 125 CE – after 180 CE) was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language during the Second Sophistic. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.
He wrote solely in Greek, mainly Attic Greek, although he also occasionally wrote in faux-Ionian dialect.
Few details of Lucian's life can be verified with any degree of accuracy, though clues can be found in writings attributed to him. In several works he claims to have been born in Samosata, in the former kingdom of Commagene, which had been absorbed by the Roman Empire and made part of the province of Syria.
In On the Syrian Goddess, which may or may not have been written by Lucian, the author narrates a trip to the city of Heirpolis in Syria and into the Temple of the Syrian goddess Atargatis, describing in detail the history, rituals, and institutions of the Atargatis/Hera cult. His depictions of the cultural processes involved in the diverse and dynamic cult have many significant parallels to Syria's material culture. However, in a possible mimicry of The Histories of Herodotus, complete with faux-Ionic dialect, the narrator makes doubtful claims to have personally witnessed most of the things he narrates or otherwise learned it from a priest. On the Syrian Goddess parodies the Greek view of foreigners as barbarous, while the narrator concludes that the (As)Syrians and Greeks are actually quite similar. Throughout the account, the narrator often conflates the terms "Assyrian" and "Syrian." In The Syrian Goddess, the author claims to be an Assyrian himself. In the final paragraph of the work, the narrator describes a ritual in which initiates would dedicate a lock of their hair to Hippolytus as part of a pre-marital coming-of-age ritual. The narrator comments, as rendered in Strong and Garstang's 1913 translation, "I performed this act myself when a youth, and my hair remains still in the temple, with my name on the vessel."
Lucian's claim in Double Indictment to be a native speaker of a "barbarian tongue" has been suggested to refer Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic. A more likely interpretation is that he is referring to speaking an unpolished variety of Greek, considering that there is no evidence Aramaic was spoken in Samosata or Commagene in general. It has been suggested that in referring to himself as  a "barbarian", "he was from the Semitic and not the imported Greek population" of Samosata.
There are eighty-two surviving works attributed to him (though several are doubtful): declamations, essays both laudatory and sarcastic, satiric epigrams, and comic dialogues and symposia with a satirical cast, studded with quotations in alarming contexts and allusions set in an unusual light, designed to be surprising and provocative. His name added lustre to any entertaining and sarcastic essay: more than 150 surviving manuscripts attest to his continued popularity. The first printed edition of a selection of his works was issued at Florence in 1499. His best known works are A True Story (a romance, patently not "true" at all, which he admits in his introduction to the story), and Dialogues of the Gods (Θεῶν διάλογοι) and Dialogues of the Dead (Νεκρικοὶ Διάλογοι).
Lucian was trained as a rhetorician, a vocation whose practitioners pleaded in court, composed pleas for others, and taught the art of pleading. Lucian's practice was to travel about, giving amusing discourses and witty lectures improvised on the spot, somewhat as a rhapsode had done in declaiming poetry at an earlier period. In this way Lucian travelled through Ionia and mainland Greece, to Italy and even to Gaul, and won much wealth and fame.
What blessings that book creates for its readers and what peace, tranquillity, and freedom it engenders in them, liberating them as it does from terrors and apparitions and portents, from vain hopes and extravagant cravings, developing in them intelligence and truth, and truly purifying their understanding, not with torches and squills [i. e. sea onions] and that sort of foolery, but with straight thinking, truthfulness and frankness.
There are 80 surviving works attributed to Lucian. He wrote in a variety of styles which included comic dialogues, rhetorical essays and prose fiction.
Lucian was also one of the earliest novelists in Western civilization. In A True Story, a fictional narrative work written in prose, he parodies some of the fantastic tales told by Homer in the Odyssey and also the not so fantastic tales from the historian Thucydides. He anticipated "modern" fictional themes like voyages to the moon and Venus, extraterrestrial life and wars between planets, nearly two millennia before Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. His novel is widely regarded as an early, if not the earliest science fiction work.
Lucian's On Dance (Περὶ Ὀρχήσεως) is important for the history of dance as it is one of very few literary discussions of dance - specifically pantomime - that treats Roman dance in detail.
Lucian also wrote a satire called The Passing of Peregrinus, in which the lead character, Peregrinus Proteus, takes advantage of the generosity of Christians. This is one of the earliest surviving pagan perceptions of Christianity. His Philopseudes (Φιλοψευδὴς ἤ Ἀπιστῶν, "Lover of Lies or Cheater") is a frame story which includes the original version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
The Macrobii (Μακρόβιοι, "long-livers"), which is devoted to longevity, has been attributed to Lucian, although it is generally agreed that he was not the author. It gives some mythical examples like that of Nestor who lived three generations or Tiresias, the blind seer of Thebes, who lived six generations. It tells about the Seres (Chinese) "who are said to live 300 years" or the people of Athos, "who are also said to live 130 years". Most of the examples of "real" men lived between 80 and 100 years, but ten cases of alleged centenarians are given. It also gives some advice concerning food intake and moderation in general.
Lucian's Kataplous or Downward Journey was deathbed-reading for David Hume and the source of Nietzsche's Übermensch or Overman.
There is debate over the authorship of some works transmitted under Lucian's name, such as the Amores and the Ass. These are usually not considered genuine works of Lucian and are normally cited under the name of "Pseudo-Lucian". The Ass (Λούκιος ἢ ῎Oνος) is probably a summarized version of a story by Lucian, and contains largely the same basic plot elements as The Golden Ass (or Metamorphoses) of Apuleius, but with fewer inset tales and a different ending.
Lucian wrote in the Atticizing Greek popular during the Second Sophistic. He further imitated Herodotus's Ionic dialect so successfully in his work The Syrian Goddess that some scholars refuse to recognize him as the author.
- Neil Hopkinson (ed.), Lucian: A Selection. Cambridge Greek and Latin Texts (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
- Fowler, H. W. & F. G. (trans.), The Works of Lucian of Samosata. Complete with exceptions specified in the preface (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905). Four volumes.
Notes and references
- Guy G. Stroumsa (2009). "Transformations of Ritual". The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations in Late Antiquity. The University of Chicago Press. p. 79.
the pagan Lucian of Samosata, makes him one of our most precious witnesses about various "mystery" cults
- howard D. Weinbrot (2005). "Introduction. Clearing the Ground: The Genre". Menippean Satire Reconsidered: From Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century. The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 18.
the pagan Lucian was a "most execrable villain" who attacked both Christianity and religion in general
- Paul of Samosata, Zenobia and Aurelian: The Church, Local Culture and Political Allegiance in Third-Century Syria Author(s): Fergus Millar Source: The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 61 (1971), pp. 1-17.
- Lucinda Dirven, "The Author of De Dea Syria and his Cultural Heritage", Numen 44.2 (May 1997), pp. 153–179.
- Cite error: The named reference
identitywas invoked but never defined (see the help page).
- Frye, Richard N. (1992). "Assyria and Assyria: Synonyms" (PDF). PhD., Harvard University. First published in Journal of Near Eastern Studies 51 (1992): 281–85. Reprinted together with a “Postscript” in Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies (JAAS) 11/2 (1997): 30–36.
Lucian of Samosata…says (par. 1): “I who write (this) am Assyrian.”
- http://www.jaas.org/edocs/v18n2/Parpola-identity_Article%20-Final.pdf Simo Parpola, National and Ethnic Identity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Assyrian Identity in Post-Empire Times, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, 2004, p.21
- The Bible and the Assyrians: It Kept their Memory Alive
- On the Syrian Goddess
- Simon Swain, 1996, Hellenism and Empire, page 299.
- The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337
- Harmon, A. M. "Lucian of Samosata: Introduction and Manuscripts." in Lucian, Works. Loeb Classical Library (1913)
- Keith Sidwell, introduction to Lucian: Chattering Courtesans and Other Sardonic Sketches (Penguin Classics, 2005) p.xii
- Harmon, A. M. (1925). Lucian Volume IV (Loeb Classical Library). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-674-99179-8.
- Moeser, Marion (Dec 15, 2002). The Anecdote in Mark, the Classical World and the Rabbis: A Study of Brief Stories in the Demonax, The Mishnah, and Mark 8:27-10:45. A&C Black. p. 88. ISBN 9780826460592. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
- C. ROBINSON, Lucian and his Influence in Europe, (London 1979) 23-25.
- A.Bartley, 2003, The Implications of the Reception of Thucydides within Lucian's 'Vera Historia', Hermes Heft, 131, pp. 222-234.
- Grewell, Greg: "Colonizing the Universe: Science Fictions Then, Now, and in the (Imagined) Future", Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, Vol. 55, No. 2 (2001), pp. 25-47 (30f.)
- Fredericks, S.C.: “Lucian's True History as SF”, Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1 (March 1976), pp. 49-60
- Swanson, Roy Arthur: "The True, the False, and the Truly False: Lucian's Philosophical Science Fiction", Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Nov. 1976), pp. 227-239
- Georgiadou, Aristoula & Larmour, David H.J.: "Lucian's Science Fiction Novel True Histories. Interpretation and Commentary", Mnemosyne Supplement 179, Leiden 1998, ISBN 90-04-10667-7, Introduction
- Gunn, James E.: The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Publisher: Viking 1988, ISBN 978-0-670-81041-3, p.249
- Passing of Peregrinus at Tertullian.org
- Long Lives (macrobii), translated by A.M. Harmon (1913).
- For discussion, see Babich, Babette: “Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and Parodic Style: On Lucian’s Hyperanthropos and Nietzsche’s Übermensch.” 58, 4 (November 2011 [March 2013]): 58-74. http://dio.sagepub.com/content/58/4/58.refs.
- Eerdmans commentary on the Bible By James D. G. Dunn, John William Rogerson Page 1105 ISBN 0-8028-3711-5
- Lucian, Works, Loeb Classical Library, 8 volumes.
- Graham Anderson, 1976, Lucian: Theme and Variation in the Second Sophistic, Brill.
- Graham Anderson, 1976, Studies in Lucian's Comic Fiction, Brill.
- Adam Bartley, 2009, A Commentary of Lucian's Dialogi Marini, Cambridge Scholar's Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4438-0960-3
- Adam Bartley, 2003, The implications of the influence of Thucydides on Lucian's Vera Historia, Hermes, Heft 131, pp. 222–234.
- Jane Lightfoot, 2000, Lucian: On the Syrian Goddess, Oxford, University Press.
- Daniel Ogden,2007, In Search of the Sorcerer's Apprentice: The Traditional Tales of Lucian's Lover of Lies, Classical Press of Wales.
- D.S. Richter, "Lives and Afterlives of Lucian of Samosata," Arion (2005) 13.1:75-100.
- P.P. Fuentes González, 2005, art. "Lucien de Samosate", in R. Goulet (ed.), Dictionnaire des Philosophes Antiques IV, Paris, CNRS, pp. 131–160.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Lucian|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lucian of Samosata.|
- Works written by or about Lucian at Wikisource
- Works written by or about Pseudo-Lucian at Wikisource
- Greek Wikisource has original text related to this article: Λουκιανός
- Lucian of Samosata Project - Library/Texts, Articles, Timeline, Maps, and Themes
- A.M. Harmon, Introduction to Lucian of Samosata
- Works by Lucian of Samosata at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Lucian at Internet Archive
- Works by Lucian at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Alexander the False Prophet - the successful travelling prophet of Asclepius and his oracular serpent god
- Works of Lucian of Samostata at sacred-texts.com
- The Syrian Goddess, at sacred-texts.com
- Macrobii and Lucius (The Ass), at attalus.org
- Contents – Harvard University Press
- P. P. Fuentes González, art. Lucien de Samosate, DPhA IV, 2005, 131-160. ISBN 2-271-06386-8
- A Classical F.T.M.