Menippus (meh-NIHP-uhs) of Gadara was born a slave in Sinope, a city on the southern shore of the Black Sea associated with the Cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope and the comic poet Diphilus. Diogenes Laertius reports that Menippus bought his freedom, acquired huge riches through money lending, became a citizen of Thebes, lost his fortune, and finally committed suicide in grief at the loss.
Menippus was known for his serious-comic writing, in which he mingled humor with philosophical reflections. Though none of his writings remain, his work was imitated through the 150 books of Saturae Menippeae (probably 81-67 b.c.e.; Menippean Satires, 1985) adapted by the Roman Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 b.c.e.), of which some surviving fragments give an idea of the original. The satires of the Sophist Lucian perhaps also give an idea of the kind of writing Menippus produced, in which he alternated poetry and prose. Menippus’s works, like iambic poetry generally, included criticisms of people, places, and things.