Lucian

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Lucian

Lucian of Samosata (Greek, Λουκιανὸς Σαμοσατεύς, Latin, Lucianus; c. AD 120 - after 180) was a rhetorician and satirist, writing in the Greek language, noted for his witty and scoffing nature.

He was born in Samosata , (now inundated in a reservoir of eastern Turkey), in the former kingdom of Commagene, which had been absorbed by the Roman Empire and made part of the province of Syria, thus he referred to himself as a "Syrian" (Harmon (http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/lucian/lucian_intro.htm)). He died probably in Athens. His birthplace was recently lost when the Attaturk Dam project led to the destruction of the site. 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. 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 Florence, 1499. His best known works are A True Story (a romance, patently not "true" at all, with its trip to the moon), and Dialogues of the Gods and Dialogues of the Dead.

Lucian was trained as a rhetorician, a vocation that was to plead in court, to compose pleas for others and to teach 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 Alexander the false prophet (http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/lucian/lucian_alexander.htm), 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, the diners get drunk, tell smutty tales and behave badly.

In A True Story 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, 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 also wrote a satire called The Passing of Peregrinus, in which the lead character, Peregrinus, 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".

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Further reading

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