The Dream or Lucian's Career  

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"The Dream or Lucian's Career" (Περὶ τοῦ Ἐνυπνίου ἤτοι Βίος Λουκιανοῦ, Somnium sive Vita Luciani) is an incomplete autobiographical sketch by Lucian.

Lucian tells how a vision inspired him to abandon a career in sculpture for one in literature.

Full text


The Dream contains no hint that a lecture is to follow it, but its brevity, its structure—a parable followed by its application—and the intimacy of its tone show that it is an introduction similar to Dionysus and Amber. Read certainly in Syria, and almost certainly in Lucian’s native city of Samosata, it would seem to have been composed on his first return to Syria, after the visit to Gaul that made him rich and famous ; probably not long after it, for his return home is quite likely to have come soon after his departure from Gaul. It reads, too, as if it were written in the first flush of success, before his fortieth year.

Since it gives us a glimpse of his early history, and pro¬ fesses to tell us how he chose his career, it makes a good introduction to his works. For that reason it was put first in the early editions, and has found a place in a great many school readers, so that none of his writings is better known.

The amount of autobiography in it is not great. Lucian names no names, which might have given us valuable inform¬ ation as to his race, and he says nothing about his father except that he was not well off in the world. That his mother’s father and brothers were sculptors, that he evinced his inheritance of the gift by his cleverness in modelling, and that he was therefore apprenticed to his uncle to learn the trade—all this is inherently probable, and interesting because it accounts for the seeing eye that made his pen- pictures so realistic. As to the dream, and his deliberate choice of a literary career on account of it, that is surely fiction. From what he does not say here, from what Oratory lets drop in the Double Indictment —that she found him wandering up and down Ionia, all but wearing native garb— we may guess that distaste for the sculptor’s trade led him to run away from home without any very definite notion where he was going or what he should do, and that the dream, plainly inspired less by a thrashing than by the famous allegory of the sophist Prodicus, Heracles at the Crossways (Xenophon, Memorabilia 2, 1, 21), came to him in later years, while he meditated what he should say to those at home upon his return to them.



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No sooner had I left off school, being then well on in my teens, than my father, and his friends began to discuss what he should have me taught next. Most of them thought that higher education required great labour, much time, considerable expense, and conspicuous social position, while our circumstances were but moderate and demanded speedy relief; but that if I were to learn one of the handicrafts, in the first place I myself would immediately receive my support from the trade instead of continuing to share the family table at my age ; besides, at no distant day I would delight my father by bringing home my earnings regularly.

The next topic for discussion was opened by raising the question, which of the trades was best, easiest to learn, suitable for a man of free birth, required an outfit that was easy to come by, and offered an income that was sufficient. Each praised a different trade, according to his own judgement or experience; but my father looked at my uncle (for among the company was my uncle on my mother’s side, who had the reputation of being an excellent sculptor) and said: " It isn’t right that any other



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trade should have the preference while you are by. Come, take this lad in hand”—with a gesture toward me —“ and teach him to be a good stone¬ cutter, mason, and sculptor, for he is capable of it, since, as you know, he has a natural gift for it.” He drew this inference from the way in which I had played with wax; for whenever my teachers dismissed me I would scrape the wax from my tablets and model cattle or horses or even men, and they were true to life, my father thought. I used to get thrashings from my teachers on account of them, but at that time they brought me praise for my cleverness, and good hopes were entertained of me, on the ground that I would soon learn the trade, to judge from that modelling.

So, as soon as it seemed to be a suitable day to begin a trade, I was turned over to my uncle, and I was not greatly displeased with the arrangement, I assure you ; on the contrary, I thought it involved interesting play of a sort, and a chance to show off to my schoolmates if I should turn out to be carving gods and fashioning little figures for myself and for those I liked best. Then came the first step and the usual experience of beginners. My uncle gave me a chisel and told me to strike a light blow on a slab that lay at hand, adding the trite quotation: " Well begun, half done.” But in my inexperience I struck too hard; the slab broke, and in a gust of anger he seized a stick that lay close by and put me through an initiation of no gentle or encouraging sort, so that tears were the overture to my ap¬ prenticeship.

I ran away from the place and came home sobbing continuously, with my eyes abrim with tears. I told



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about the stick, showed the welts and charged my uncle with great cruelty, adding that he did it out of jealousy, for fear that I should get ahead of him in his trade. My mother comforted me and roundly abused her brother, but when night came on, I fell asleep, still tearful and thinking of the stick.

Up to this point my story has been humorous and childish, but what you shall hear next, gentlemen, is not to be made light of; it deserves a very receptive audience. The fact is that, to use the words of Homer,

“ a god-sent vision appeared unto me in my slumber Out of immortal night," 1

so vivid as not to fall short of reality in any way. Indeed, even after all this time, the figures that I saw continue to abide in my eyes and the words that I heard in my ears, so plain was it all.

Two women, taking me by the hands, were each trying to drag me toward herself with might and main ; in fact, they nearly pulled me to pieces in their rivalry. Now one of them would get the better of it and almost have me altogether, and now I would be in the hands of the other. They shouted at each other, too, one of them saying, “ He is mine, and you want to get him! ” and the other: “ It is no good your claiming what belongs

to someone else.” One was like a workman, mas¬ culine, with unkempt hair, hands full of callous places, clothing tucked up, and a heavy layer of

  • 1 Iliad 2, 56.



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8 Bekker: cu/mitos MSS.

4 t(np Dindorf: 7 ivoio MSS.



marble-dust upon her, just as my uncle looked when he cut stone. The other, however, was very fair of face, dignified in her appearance, and nice in her dress.

At length they allowed me to decide which of them I wanted to be with. The first to state her case was the hard-favoured, masculine one.

“ Dear boy, I am the trade of Sculpture which you began to learn yesterday, of kin to you and related by descent; for your grandfather ”*—and she gave the name of my mother’s father—"was a sculptor, and so are both your uncles, who are very famous through me. If you are willing to keep clear of this woman’s silly nonsense”—with a gesture toward the other —■“ and to come and live with me, you will be generously kept and will have powerful shoulders, and you will be a stranger to jealousy of any sort; besides you will never go abroad, leaving your native country and your kinsfolk, and it will not be for mere words, either, that everyone will praise you.

" Do not be disgusted at my humble figure and my soiled clothing, for this is the way in which Phidias began, who revealed Zeus, and Polycleitus, who made Hera, Myron, whom men praise, and Praxiteles, at whom they marvel. Indeed, these men receive homage second only to the gods. If you become one of them, will you not yourself be famous in the sight of all mankind, make your



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father envied, and cause your native land to be admired? ”

Sculpture said all this, and even more than this, with a great deal of stumbling and bad grammar, talking very hurriedly and trying to convince me : I do not remember it all, however, for most of it has escaped my memory by this time.

When she stopped, the other began after this fashion:

“ My child, I am Education, with whom you are already acquainted and familiar, even if you have not yet completed your experience of me. What it shall profit you to become a sculptor, this woman has told you; you will be nothing but a labourer, toiling with your body and putting in it your entire hope of a livelihood, personally incon¬ spicuous, getting meagre and illiberal returns, humble-witted, an insignificant figure in public, neither sought by your friends nor feared by your enemies nor envied by your fellow-citizens—nothing but just a labourer, one of the swarming rabble, ever cringing to the man above you and courting the man who can use his tongue, leading a hare's life, and counting as a godsend to anyone stronger. Even if you should become a Phidias or a Polycleitus and should create many marvellous works, everyone would praise your craftsmanship, to be sure, but none of those who saw .you, if he were sensible, would pray to be like you ; for no matter what you might be, you would be considered a mechanic, a man who has naught but his hands, a man who lives by his hands.

" If you follow my advice, first of all I shall show you many works of men of old, tell you their



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v epcDTi, rrj irpos ra aepvorara bpprj 9 ravra yap eanv 6 yjrv^r)? d/crfparos d)<? dXrj0d)<; /coapos. Xqaei Be ae ovre nraXaiov ovBev ovre vvv yeveaOai B4ov, dXX? aTtavra oiroaa earl, rd re 0ela ra r dvOpcoiriva, ov/c eh pa/cpdv ae SiBagopai. 11 “ Kai 6 vvv irevrp; 6 rov Beivos, 6 /3ovXevadpevo <? tl 7 Tepl dyevvovs ovTd) reyvrjs, per oXtyov airaai f rjXcoro 9 /cal iirlfyOovos cay, npcopevos /cal eTrat- vovpevos /cal iirl roh apLaroi ? evBo/cipd)v /cal biro r&v yevei /cat irXovrcp TTpov^ovrcov dno^Xeiro- pevo?, eaOrjra pev TOiavrrjv dpirexopevo *;,”— BeL^aaa ttjv eavTrj 9 * 7 Taw Be Xapirpav i<f>opei — “ dpxv 9 Be /cal irpoeBpias a%iovpevo<;. kolv ttov a 7 roor)pr)<; f ovo em 7*779 aXXooa'irrjt; ayvax; ovo dcfiaviearj 9 roiavra aoi irepiOrjao) ra yvoopia- para ware r&v opcbvrayv e/caaro<; rov irXrjaiov /avrjaas BeL^ec ae T<p Ba/crvXcp , * Ovr 09 e/celvo<; ’ 12 Xeycov. dv Be t 1 airovBrj 9 afyov fj tovs <f>iXov 9 r \ /cal ttjv iroXiv oXrjv /caraXapftavrj, eh ab irdvres a7ro/3XeyfrovTar /cav ttov t 1 Xeycov tvxv*>> Ke X^~ vot€$ oi iroXXol d/covaovrai , 0avpd%ovre<? /cal evBaipovL^ovrh ae rr)<; Bvvapeax; r&v Xoycov /cal rov irarepa 7-779 evirorpia 9. 1 0 Bb Xiyovaiv, ax? a pa /cal adavaroi yiy vovrai rive? i(j dvffpdircov, 1 efaraiStaf y 8 (conjectural?) and Hemsterhuys. 224 THE DREAM, OR LUCIAN’S CAREER wondrous deeds* and words, and make you conversant with almost all knowledge, and I shall ornament your soul, which concerns you most, with many noble adornments—temperance, justice, piety, kindliness, reasonableness, understanding, steadfastness, love of all that is beautiful, ardour towards all that is sublime; for these are the truly flawless jewels of the soul. Nothing that came to pass of old will escape you, and nothing that must now come to pass; nay, you will even foresee the future with me. In a word, I shall speedily teach you everything that there is, whether it pertains to the gods or to irian. " You who are now the beggarly son of a nobody, who have entertained some thought of so illiberal a trade, will after a little inspire envy and jealousy in all men, for you will be honoured and lauded, you will be held in great esteem for the highest qualities and admired by men preeminent in lineage and in wealth, you will wear clothing such as this ”—she pointed to her own, and she was very splendidly dressed —“ and will be deemed worthy of office and precedence. If ever you go abroad, even on foreign soil you will not be unknown or inconspicuous, for 1 will attach to you such marks of identification that everyone who sees you will nudge his neighbour and point you out with his finger, saying, ( There he is ! * If anything of grave import befalls your friends or even the entire city, all will turn their eyes upon you; and if at any time you chance to make a speech, the crowd will listen open-mouthed, marvel¬ ling and felicitating you upon your eloquence and your father upon his good fortune. They say that some men become immortal. I shall bring this to pass Q VOL. III. 225 THE WORKS OF LUCIAN tovto aoi nepmoiyaw xal yap fjv ai/Tos itc tov y 9 tov dneXOys, ovnoTe navarj avvoov Tots nen rat- SevpAvots /cal npoaoptX&v tols apiaro 49. o/>a 9 top &rjpLO<T 0 evr)v i/eeivop, tlvos vlov ovra iyd> ifki/cov inotrjaa. opas tov Alaxtvrjv, cos Tvp- navtaTptas vlos f)V, dXX* opcos 1 avrov St ipe <PtXnmos iQepanevev. 6 Si Hco/cpaTT )9 /cal avro 9 U 7 TO 'E/D/ACPyXu^tif/ raoriy t packets, inetSij raxiara auvfj/cev tov KpetTTovos /cal SpaneTevaa 9 7 ra/>* avTrjs rjvTopoXrjaev cos e/Lte, aKOveis ©9 napa ndvTcov aSeTai. 13 “ * A<fiels Si at/ tovs ttjXckovtovs /cal toiovtov 9 avSpa 9 *al npa^ets Xapnpa 9 X0701/9 aepvov 9

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enatvov /cal npoeSptas /cal Svvap.iv /cal ap^as /cal to ini Xoyots evSoKipetv /cal to ini avveaei evSatpovt^eaOat, ytToovtov tl ntvapov ivSvarj /cal axiP& So vXonpenes dvaXtfyfrj) /ecu poxXta Kal 7X1 Kpela Kal Koneas /cal KoXanTrjpas iv Talv •yepolv e^eis kcltco vevevKoos els to epyov, xapeu- neTfjs /cal xapaLZrfXo 9 navTa Tponov Tanet- 1/09, avaKvnrcov oe ovbenoTe ovoe avbpcobe 9 oooe eXevOepov ovSiv intvocov, aXXa tA /iev e/07a oncos evpvOpa Kal evaxvpova ecrTai aoi npovoSov , 07 tq )9 $€ avT 09 evpvOpos tc Kal Koapios ear ), fjKiaTa ne<f>povTiK(os, aXX aTtpoTepov noi&v aeavTov XiOcov.” 14 TaOra er* Xeyovarjs avTrjs ov nepipelvas iyo> to TeXos t&v Xoycov avaaTcts dne<^r)vapr)v, Kal Trjv apop<f>ov iK€ivr)v Kal ipyaTiKrjv dnoXtnebv 1 8/i«s N marg., 5-, vulg.: 8w»y MSS. 226 THE DREAM, OR LUCIAN’S CAREER with you; for though you yourself depart from life, you will never cease associating with men of education and conversing with men of eminence. You know whose son Demosthenes was, and how great I made him. You know that Aeschines was the son of a tam¬ bourine girl, but for all that, Philip paid court to him • for my sake. And Socrates himself was brought up under the tutelage of our friend Sculpture, but as soon as he understood what was better he ran away from her and joined my colours ; and you have heard how his praises are sung by everyone. “ On the other hand, if you turn your back upon these men so great and noble, upon glorious deeds and sublime words, upon a dignified appearance, upon honour, esteem, praise, precedence, power and offices, upon fame for eloquence and felicitations for wit, then you will put on a filthy tunic, assume a servile appearance, and hold bars and gravers and sledges and chisels in your hands, with your back bent over your work; you will be a groundling, with ground¬ ling ambitions, altogether humble ; you will never lift your head, or conceive a single manly or liberal thought, and although you will plan to make your works well-balanced and well-shapen, you will not show any concern to make yourself well-balanced and sightly ; on the contrary, you will make yourself a thing of less value than a block of stone.” While these words were still on her lips, without waiting for her to finish what she was saying, I stood up and declared myself. Abandoning the ugly 227 0 2 THE WORKS OF LUCIAN perefiaipov irpo? ttjp ThuheLav pdXa yeyrj0<b<;, /cal paKiara iirei poi /cal 649 vovv fj\0ev rj (TKVjaXrj /cal on irXrjycis ev0v 9 1 ov/c okxyas apxopevtp poi ^#6? ipeTpiyjraTO. fi he airoXeuj/Oelaa to pep Trp&TOP 7]yapaKTei /cal tod yelpe avve/cporei /cal T 009 oSovTa? avveirpte • T€Xo9 hi, &<nrep t rjp N io/3rjp d/covopep, iireirriyei /cal €49 \l0op pere- {H/SXtjto. el he irapdhofja eirade, prj dmaTrj- arjre* 0 av pxLTOiroiol yhp ol oveipoi . 15 f H eripa he 777909 pe amhovaa, (t Toiyapovv dpeL^ropai <T€,” ecf/rj, “ rrjcrhe tt /9 hi/caioavprjs, on fca\co 9 T fjv hl/crjp ihiKacras, /cal i\0i fjhrj, i'rrL/3r]0i rovrov rov oxypaTos,” — hel^aad n oxvP a hi to- TTTepcop iinrcop tiv&p rep Tlrjydatp eoi/coT(ov — “ 07 Tft )9 648*79 ola /cal fjXi/ca prj a/co\ov0rjaa<; ipol ayvorjaeiv epeWe 9 .” eirel hi dvrj\0ov, rj pep rjkavve /cal v^rjviox^i, dp0el<$ he €49 0^09 iy(o iirea/coTTOVP airo rr \9 &> dpgapepo 9 a%/H 717909 ra eairipia 2 ttoX649 /cal e0vrj /cal hijpovs, /caOairep 6 TpnrToXepo? dirotnreipcop n €49 t tjp yrjp. ov/cin pivroi pepprjpai 0 ti to aireipopevov e/celvo rjv> ir\rjv tovto povov on /cdrovOep dcf/opcovre^ ap0p(o- 7 ro 4 eirrjpovp /cal pe t ev<j>rjpia 9 0&9 yepoiprjp rfj TTTrjaei irapemepirop. 16 A ei^aaa he pot ra roaavra /cape T049 eiraivov- aiv €/c€lpoi$ eTravrjyayev av0i 9, ov/cen ttjp avrrjv e<T0rjTa e/celvrjp ivhehv/cora fjv elx ov d^nrrdpepos, aXXa poi ehotcovv evTrdpv(f>6<; T49 iiravrjKeiv . /cara\a/3ov<ra ox/p /cal top iraripa ear&Ta /cal 1 6 0€ios Hemsterhuys. 2 ri i<r* 4 pia Gronovius : t&j itnttplas MSS. 228 THE DREAM, OR LUCIANS CAREER working-woman, I went over to Education with a right good will, especially when the stick entered my mind and the fact that it had laid many a blow upon me at the very outset the day before. When I abandoned Sculpture, at first she was indignant and struck her hands together and ground her teeth ; but at length, like Niobe in the story, she grew rigid and turned to stone. Her fate was strange, but do not be incredulous, for dreams work miracles. The other fixed her eyes upon me and said: “ I will therefore repay you for the justice that you have done in judging this issue rightly: come at once and mount this car”—pointing to a car with winged horses resembling Pegasus *—“ in order that you may know what you would have missed if you had not come with me.” When I had mounted she plied whip and reins, and I was carried up into the heights and went from the East to the very West, surveying cities and nations and peoples, sowing something broadcast over the earth like Triptolemus. I do not now remember what it was that I sowed ; only that men, looking up from below, applauded, and all those above whom I passed in my flight sped me on my way with words of praise. After all this had been shown to me and I to the men who applauded, she brought me back again, no longer dressed in the same clothing that I wore when I began the flight; I dreamed that I came back in princely purple. Finding my father standing and waiting, she pointed him out my clothing and the 229 THE WORKS OF LUCIAN jrepifiivovTa ebeiKvvev avreo irceLvrj 1 rrjv iadrjra tea fie , olos f)K0ifii , teal r i Kal vTrepvrjaev ola fiucpov belv 7 repl ipov iftovXevaavro. T avra pepvrjpiu Ibeov dvrirrais en &v 9 epol boKelv eKrapaxOcls nrpos rov r&v irXrjy&v <f>o/3ov. 17 be Xeyovros, "'H pdxXeis,” e<f>rj ns* “ gk fiarcpov to evinrviov real biKaviKovelr a\\o9 vrreKpovae , “Xeipepivos oveipos, ore 2 /*?;- Kicrral eitriv ai vvktcs, fj Ta%a irov rpiearrepos, &<nr€p 6 f H pateXrjs, teal avros eari. ri S’ ovv errrjXOev avrep Xrjprjaai ravra rrpos fjpas teal pvrjaOrjvai 7 Taibircrjs wtcros teal oveipeov rraXaiebv teal yeyrjpatcorcov; eeoXos ybp rj yJrvj(poXoyia. firj oveipeov rivas virotepiras fjpas vrreiXrjepevovtc, t oyaOe • ovbe yap 6 3evo<f)ebv 7 Tore birjyovpevos to evviTviov, cos eSotcei avreS tcepavvos epireercov tcaleiv rrjv irarpeoav olteiav 3 teal t a aXXa,—tare yap — ov% virotcpunv rrjv oyfriv ovb' a>s <f>Xvapelv eyveo- teebs avra bie^rjei, teal ravra ev rroXepep teal a7royv(b(T€i irpaypareov, TTepieerrebreov nroXepieov , <l\\a t i teal ^prjerifwv etyev fj birjyrjais* 18 Kai roivvv Kayo) rovrov rov oveipov vpiv birjyrjadprjv eKelvov evexa, o7reos oi veoi irpos ra fteXrico rperreovrai teal iraibeias e^eovrai, Kal 1 bcclvrj Allinson : iKclvyv MSS.
  • 6t€ Graevius (Z l ?): 5rt MSS.
  • < Ktpavvbs ipiTtaraov > Kale tv r^v irarptpav oik lav A. M. H.: tea l
tv rrj rarpyef. obciq, MSS. 230 THE DREAM, OR LUCIAN’S CAREER guise in which I had returned, and even reminded him gently of the plans that they had narrowly escaped making for me. That 'is the dream which I remember having had when I was a slip of a lad; it was due, I suppose, to my agitation on account of the fear inspired by the thrashing. Even as I was speaking, “ Heracles! ” someone said, “ what a long and tiresome dream! ” Then someone else broke in : “A winter dream, when the nights are longest; or perhaps it is itself a product of three nights, like Heracles ! 1 What got into him to tell us this idle tale and to speak of a night of his childhood and dreams that are ancient and super¬ annuated ? It is flat to spin pointless yarns. Surely he doesn’t take us for interpreters of dreams ? ” No, my friend; and Xenophoif, too, when he told one time how he dreamed that a bolt of lightning, striking his father’s house, set it afire, and all the rest of it—you know it—did not do so because he wanted the dream interpreted, nor yet because he had made up his mind to talk nonsense, particularly in time of war and in a desperate state of affairs, with the enemy on every side ; no, the story had a certain usefulness. 3 So it was with me, and I told you this dream in order that those who are young may take the better direction and cleave to education, above all if poverty 1 The Alexandrians called Heracles “ him of the three nights,” because Zeus tripled the length of the night which he spent with Alcmene. See Dial . of the Gods 14 (vulg. 10).
  • Anabasis 3, 1, 11. Lucian, perhaps confusing this with
a later dream (4, 3, 7), evidently thinks that it was told to the soldiers to hearten them, but this is not the case. Xeno¬ phon was unable to interpret it until after the event, and did not tell it to anyone until he put it into his book.
  • 3 *
THE WORKS OF LUCIAN p<i\ 4 (TTa €i t *9 avTcov viro irevLas iOeXotccucei /cal vrpb<; rrjv tjtto) airo/cXivei , <\>v<jiv ov/c dyevvfj bia<f> 0 €ip<ov. iinpp( 0 (T 0 rj<T€Tai ev olb' on /ca/ceivos aKovaas tov pvdov, l/cavov kavrtp TrapdSeiypa epk 7 r pO(TTtj(Tdp,€vos f ivvo&v o?09 pev &v 7T/909 ra fcdWicrra (opprjaa /cal iraiSela 9 iiredvprjaa, prjbev diroSeiXidfra? 737)09 t rjv ireviav rfjv Tore , 0Z09 Se 7 r ^)09 vpa<; iTraveXrjXvOa , eZ prjbev aXXo , ouSevos yovv rtov Xi 0 oyXv(f)(ov dbogorepo?. THE DREAM, OR LUCIAN'S CAREER is making any one of them faint-hearted and inclin¬ ing him toward the worse, to the detriment of a noble nature. He will be strengthened*, I am very sure, by hearing the tale, if he takes me as an adequate example, reflecting what I was when I aspired to all that is finest and set my heart on education, showing no weakness in the face of my poverty at that time, and what I am now, on my return to you—if nothing more, at least quite as highly thought of as any sculptor. 2 33

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