(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Heading westward from the Pillars of Hercules, Lucian in his sloop and with a crew of fifty finally reach the Atlantic Ocean. Filled with a thirst for adventure and an intellectual restlessness to see what is on the other side of the world, he finds the first day of the voyage delightful. Then comes a terrible storm that drives the ship before it for seventy-nine days. On the eightieth day, the adventurers come to a lofty wooded island and go ashore.

After resting, twenty sailors accompany Lucian on an exploration of the island. They discover a bronze tablet announcing that Hercules and Dionysus were there, and they see two huge footprints. They also discover that the river has its source in a grapevine and contains Chian wine. Eating the fish that swam in it makes them drunk.

The inhabitants of the island are women, human from the waist up, but growing on vines. Several of the crew, who become too friendly with these creatures, soon find themselves entangled in the vines and taking root. They have to be left behind. The others fill their casks with wine and water and set sail, but they run into a whirlwind that whips the sloop hundreds of miles into the air. A week later, the ship is thrown upon the moon, which is inhabited by men riding vultures. The king of the moon, Endymion, enlists the service of the Greeks in his war against Phaethon and his people of the sun.

The mighty invasion force is made up of eighty thousand vulture-riding cavalry and twenty thousand troops riding birds covered with grass who have lettuce leaves for wings. This vegetarian force has armor of vegetable husks but Greek swords. Among their allies are fighters from other constellations astride monster fleas.

The army of the sun rides flying ants, gnats, and mosquitoes. Some hurl giant radishes; others wield asparagus spears. They are nevertheless no match for the lunar troops until so many centaur reinforcements arrive that the number cannot be set down for fear of creating incredulity. When the moon army is put to flight, Lucian and his friends are captured and bound with spider webs.

To bring the...

(The entire section is 871 words.)