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date: 06 December 2023

Lucian, of Samosatalocked

Lucian, of Samosatalocked

  • Manuel Baumbach


The 86 writings from the 2nd century ce that have come down to us under Lucian’s name are characterized by their creative appropriation of literary traditions. The thematic and formal range of Lucian’s oeuvre is enormous: there are rhetorical works such as declamations, paradoxical encomia, prolaliai and ekphraseis, literary-critical treatises, novel-like narratives, epistles critical of society, pamphlets, letters, and a multitude of dialogical writings. With the comedic dialogue, Lucian creates a new hybrid form of comedy and Platonic dialogue. He establishes the tradition of the genre of “dialogues among the dead” and his True Stories (Verae historiae) are taken as a model for fantastic travel novels. Against the background of the educational culture of the Second Sophistic, his writings address appearance and reality, lies and truth in cultural, philosophical, religious, and social discourses. An important key to understanding his works is their intertextual richness of allusion, not only to the canon of classical literature but also to Hellenistic and imperial writings. By using various author figures and different settings, Lucian’s texts constantly change perspectives and lead their recipients to the most diverse places of the Roman Empire, to its margins or to utopian spaces. The unfamiliar views of the real world break with customary ways of looking at things, open up new insights, require new aesthetic approaches, and encourage the listeners and readers of Lucian’s writings to reflect on the relationship between historical life and literary representation. Despite criticism of some works (e.g. De mort. Peregr., Philopatris) for supposed hatred of Christians, Lucian has been read since the 3rd century ce and is highly regarded for his style. From humanism to the Enlightenment, he is one of the most widely received authors of the imperial period.


  • Greek Literature

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