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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Menippus (3rd century BC) of Gadara, was a Cynic and satirist. His works, which are all lost, were an important influence on Varro and Lucian. The Menippean satire genre is named after him. Menippus himself figures frequently in the Lucian's 'Dialogues of the Dead', and one of Lucian's satires, Menippus or The Descent Into Hades, bears his name.


Little is known about the life of Menippus. He was a native of Gadara in Coele-Syria. The ancient sources agree that he was a slave. He was in the service of a citizen of Pontus, but in some way obtained his freedom and lived at Thebes. Diogenes Laërtius relates a dubious story that he amassed a fortune as a money-lender, lost it, and committed suicide through grief. Lucian ranks Menippus with Antisthenes, Diogenes, and Crates as the most notable of the Cynics.


His works (written in a mixture of prose and verse) are all lost. He discussed serious subjects in a spirit of ridicule, and especially delighted in attacking the Epicureans and Stoics. Strabo and Stephanus call him the "earnest-jester" (σπουδογελοίος, spoudogeloios). His writings exercised considerable influence upon later literature, and the Menippean satire genre is named after him. Although the writings of Menippus no longer survive, there are some fragments of Varro's Saturae Menippeae, which were written in imitation of Menippus. One of the dialogues attributed to Lucian, his avowed imitator, who frequently mentions him, is called Menippus, but since the sub-title ("The Oracle of the Dead") resembles that of a work ascribed to Menippus by Diogenes Laërtius, it has been suggested that it is imitated from his Necromancy.

Diogenes Laërtius says the following works were written by Menippus:

  • Νέκυια - Necromancy
  • Διαθῆκαι - Wills
  • Ἐπιστολαὶ κεκομψευμέναι ἀπὸ τῶν θεῶν προσώπου - Letters artificially composed as if by the Gods
  • Πρὸς τοὺς φυσικοὺς καὶ μαθηματικοὺς καὶ γραμματικοὺς - Replies to the Natural Philosophers, and Mathematicians, and Grammarians
  • Γονὰς Ἐπικούρου - The Birth of Epicurus
  • Τὰς θρησκευομένας ὑπ' αὐτῶν εἰκάδας - The School's reverence of the twentieth day (celebrated in the Epicurean school)

In addition, Athenaeus mentions works called Symposium and Arcesilaus, and Diogenes Laërtius mentions a Sale of Diogenes (Διογένους Πράσει) written by Menippus which seems to be the main source of the story that Diogenes of Sinope was captured by pirates and sold into slavery.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Menippus" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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