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"I am going to write about what I never saw myself, nor experienced, nor so much as heard from anybody else, and, what is more, of such things as neither are, nor ever can be. I give my readers warning, therefore, not to believe me." --A True Story (2nd century) by Lucian

"Lucian's work "Menippus, or the Descent into Hades" had an essential influence on Rabelais, more precisely on the episode of Epistemon's journey to hell in Pantagruel. Another important influence was Lucian's "Dialogues." Here are a few characteristic excerpts from the "Dialogues": "Menippus, Diogenes advises you, if mortal subjects for laughter begin to pall, come down below, and find much ..." --Rabelais and His World (1965) by Mikhail Bakhtin (p. 69)

This page Lucian is part of the fantasy series.Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès
This page Lucian is part of the fantasy series.
Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès

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Lucian of Samosata (circa AD 125 – after AD 180) was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. His best-known work is True History (a romance, patently not "true" at all, with its trip to the moon). He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.

Although he wrote solely in Greek, mainly Attic Greek, he was ethnically Syrian. Lucian claimed be a native speaker of a "barbarian tongue" (Double Indictment, 27) which was most likely Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic.

His ironic dialogues Of the Gods, Of the Dead, Of Love and Dialogues of the Heterae he attacks superstition and philosophical error with the sharpness of his wit; and paints scenes of modern life. His Dialogues of the Heterae predate the whore dialogues of the Renaissance by centuries and he has been called the father of science fiction.

Lucian almost certainly did not write all the more than eighty works attributed to him— declamations, essays both laudatory and sarcastic, 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.

Lucian was trained as a rhetorician, a vocation where one pleads in court, composing pleas for others, and teaching the art of pleading, but 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.

Lucian admired the works of Epicurus, for he breaks off a witty satire against, 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."

In his Symposium, far from Plato's discourse of the same name, the diners get drunk, tell smutty tales and behave badly.

But he was also one of the first novelists in occidental civilization. In A True Story, a fictional narrative work written in prose, he parodied some weird 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. He could actually be called the Father of science fiction.

Lucian is also the presumed author of Macrobii (long-livers) which is devoted to longevity. He gives some mythical examples like that of Nestor (mythology) 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.

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

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 (Template:Polytonic) 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 digressions and a different ending.





See also

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