Lucian


Biography of Lucian

Lucian of Samosata (c. AD 125 – after AD 180) was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature. Although he wrote solely in Attic Greek, he was ethnically Assyrian.

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", and "barbarian", perhaps indicating "he was from the Semitic and not the imported Greek population" of Samosata. Lucian almost certainly did not write all of 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 Florence 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 and Dialogues of the Dead.

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 Greece, to Italy and even to Gaul, and won much wealth and fame.

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