Lucian (LEW-shen) grew up in the Roman province of Syria, during the reign of the emperor Hadrian. After being apprenticed to a sculptor, he became a student of rhetoric, at which he excelled. Earning his living as a traveling speaker, he delighted audiences with his satirical dialogs and parodies of the Greek literary and philosophical tradition.
Lucian belongs to the Greek intellectual movement known as the Second Sophistic (first to third centuries c.e.), whose models were the writers of Classical Athens. His writings are pervaded by cynicism, and he pokes fun at human gullibility and the pointless pursuit of wealth and power.
Eighty works survive, ranging from rhetorical exercises through a series of satirical dialogs, Theōn dialogoi (Dialogues of the Gods, 1684), to longer biographies of philosophers (Nigrinus) and religious charlatans (Peregrinus). Of particular interest are a treatise, Pōs dei historian sungraphein (History as It Should Be Written, 1684), and Hermotimus, which subjects Stoic philosophy to ironic scrutiny. His most celebrated work is Alīthōn diīgīmatōn (A True History, 1634), a parodic fantastic voyage to the Moon and the underworld, in which “nothing is true.”
Lucian remained popular through the Renaissance, and his A True History became the model for the...
(The entire section is 579 words.)