Lucian, Volume 2

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Harvard University Press, 1919 - Literary Criticism - 519 pages

Lucian (ca. 120Â-190 CE), the satirist from Samosata on the Euphrates, started as an apprentice sculptor, turned to rhetoric and visited Italy and Gaul as a successful travelling lecturer, before settling in Athens and developing his original brand of satire. Late in life he fell on hard times and accepted an official post in Egypt.

Although notable for the Attic purity and elegance of his Greek and his literary versatility, Lucian is chiefly famed for the lively, cynical wit of the humorous dialogues in which he satirises human folly, superstition and hypocrisy. His aim was to amuse rather than to instruct. Among his best works are A True Story (the tallest of tall stories about a voyage to the moon), Dialogues of the Gods (a 'reductio ad absurdum' of traditional mythology), Dialogues of the Dead (on the vanity of human wishes), Philosophies for Sale (great philosophers of the past are auctioned off as slaves), The Fisherman (the degeneracy of modern philosophers), The Carousal or Symposium (philosophers misbehave at a party), Timon (the problems of being rich), Twice Accused (Lucian's defence of his literary career) and (if by Lucian) The Ass (the amusing adventures of a man who is turned into an ass).

The Loeb Classical Library edition of Lucian is in eight volumes.


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Page 63 - Do you depend from their thread ? Zeus. We do. Why do you smile ? Cyn. I was thinking of that bit in Homer, where he makes you address the Gods in council, and threaten to suspend all the world from a golden cord. You said, you know, that you would let the cord down from Heaven, and all the Gods together, if they liked, might take hold of it and try to pull you down, and they would never do it: whereas you, if you had a mind to it, could easily pull them up, And Earth and Sea withal. I listened to...
Page 317 - ... very man who is straining his lungs and bawling and accusing everybody else: "How about yourself? What do you really do, and what in Heaven's name do you contribute to the world?" he would say, if he were willing to say what was right and true: "I hold it unnecessary to be a merchant or a farmer or a soldier or to follow a trade; I shout, go dirty, take cold baths, walk about barefoot in winter, wear a filthy mantle and like Momus [a literary figure who personified faultfinding] carp at everything...
Page 485 - Ad summam : sapiens uno minor est Jove, dives, Liber, honoratus, pulcher, rex denique regum ; Praecipue sanus, nisi cum pituita molesta est.
Page 431 - I mean those that are massed together to make foam? Some of them, being small, burst and are gone in an instant, while some last longer and, as others join them, become swollen and grow to exceeding great compass; but afterwards they also burst without fail in time, for it cannot be otherwise. Such is the life of men; they are all swollen with wind, some to greater size, others to less; and with some the swelling is short-lived and swift-fated, while with others it is over as soon as it comes into...
Page 315 - There is a class of men which made its appearance in the world not long ago, lazy, disputatious, vainglorious, quick-tempered, gluttonous, doltish, addlepated, full of effrontery and to use the language of Homer, 'a useless load to the soil.
Page 297 - Well, my friend, such is the part that all earth's singers play, and such is the discord that makes up the life of men. Not only do they sing different tunes, but they are unlike in costume and move at cross-purposes in the dance and agree in nothing until the manager drives each of them off the stage, saying that he has no further use for him.
Page 221 - I had, pardoned them, to be sure, for their folly, but pitied myself for being no better than the great colossi that Phidias or Myron or Praxiteles made, each of which outwardly is a beautiful Poseidon or a Zeus, made of ivory and gold, with a thunderbolt or a flash of lightning or a trident in his right hand ; but if you stoop down and look inside, you will see bars and props and nails driven clear through, and beams and wedges and pitch and clay and a quantity of such ugly stuff housing within,...
Page 317 - ... continuation of the mutual vilification and invective of rival philosophical schools.8 This violent behavior of philosophers toward their opponents is illustrated brilliantly, though of course with exaggeration, in the dialogues of Lucian. In the Icaromenippus Zeus complains of the scurrility of philosophers: "Whoever of them is the most noisy and impudent and reckless in calling names is held to be the champion."9 In the Hermotbnus we read of a philosophical quarrel which broke out at a banquet...
Page 293 - ... the laughable confusions of human life as he looked down from the heavens: "Although the doings of kings [adultery, murder, conspiracy, oath-breaking, treason against kin] afforded me such rare amusement, those of the common people were far more ridiculous, for I could see them too — Hermodorous the Epicurean perjuring himself for a thousand drachmas, the Stoic Agathocles going to law with his disciple about a fee, the orator Clinias stealing a cup out of the Temple of Asclepius and the Cynic...