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Lucian of Samosata ( , ; c. A.D. 125 – after A.D. 180) was an Assyrian rhetorician, and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.

Biography

Few details of Lucian's life can be verified with any degree of accuracy. He claimed 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 his works, Lucian refers to himself as a "Syrian", "Assyrian" and "barbarian", perhaps indicating "he was from the Semitic and not the imported Greek population" of Samosata. His birthplace was recently lost when the Atatürk Dammarker project led to the inundation of the site. Lucian almost certainly did not write all the more than eighty works attributed to him — 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 luster to any entertaining and sarcastic essay: over 150 surviving manuscripts attest to his continued popularity. The first printed edition of a selection of his works was issued at Florencemarker 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 (Νεκρικοί Διάλογοι).

Lucian was trained as a rhetorician, a vocation where one pleads in court, composing pleas for others, and teaching 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 Greecemarker, to Italymarker and even to Gaul, and won much wealth and fame.

Lucian admired the works of Epicurus, for he breaks off a witty satire against Alexander of Abonoteichus, who burned a book of Epicurus, to exclaim:

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 and that sort of foolery, but with straight thinking, truthfulness and frankness.


Works

Lucian was also one of the first novelists in occidental civilization. In A True Story, a fictional narrative work written in prose, he parodied some fantastic tales told by Homer in the Odyssey and some feeble fantasies that were popular in his time. He anticipated "modern" fictional themes like voyages to the moon and Venus, extraterrestrial life and wars between planets centuries before Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. His novel is widely regarded as an early, if not the earliest science fiction work.

Lucian also wrote a satire called The Passing of Peregrinus, in which the lead character, Peregrinus Proteus, takes advantage of the generosity and gullibility of Christians. This is one of the earliest surviving pagan perceptions of Christianity. His Philopseudes (Φιλοψευδής ἤ Ἀπιστῶν "Lover of Lies or Cheater") is a frame story which includes the original version of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice".

In his Symposium (Συμπόσιον), far from Plato's discourse, the diners get drunk, tell smutty tales and behave badly.

Lucian is also the presumed author of Macrobii (Μακρόβιοι) "long-livers" which is devoted to longevity. He gives some mythical examples like that of Nestor who lived three centuries or Tiresias the blind seer of Thebes who lived 600 years. Most of the examples are normal lives (80-100 yrs). He tells his readers about the Seres (Chinese) who live 300 years. He also gives some advice concerning food intake and moderation in general.

There is debate over the authorship of some works, transmitted under Lucian's name, such as De Dea Syria ("On the Syrian goddess"), the Amores and the Ass. These are usually not considered genuine works of Lucian and normally cited under the name of Pseudo-Lucian. The Ass (Λούκιος ἢ ῎Oνος) is probably an epitome (a summarised 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 digressions and a different ending.

Language

Lucian wrote Attic dialogue with a facility almost equal to Plato. 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.

See also



References

General




D.S. Richter, "Lives and Afterlives of Lucian of Samosata," Arion (2005) 13.1:75-100.
Specific
  1. 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.
  2. Harmon, A. M. "Lucian of Samosata: Introduction and Manuscripts." in Lucian, Works. Loeb Classical Library (1913)
  3. Keith Sidwell, introduction to Lucian: Chattering Courtesans and Other Sardonic Sketches (Penguin Classics, 2005) p.xii
  4. 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.)
  5. Fredericks, S.C.: “Lucian's True History as SF”, Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1 (March 1976), pp. 49-60
  6. 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
  7. Georgiadou, Aristoula & Larmour, David H.J.: “Lucian's Science Fiction Novel True Histories. Interpretation and Commentary“, Mnemosyne Supplement 179, Leiden 1998, ISBN 9004106677, Introduction
  8. Gunn, James E.: “The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction”, Publisher: Viking 1988, ISBN 9780670810413, p.249
  9. Passing of Peregrinus at Tertullian.org
  10. Eerdmans commentary on the Bible By James D. G. Dunn, John William Rogerson Page 1105 ISBN 0802837115


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