Lucian (Δουκιανός), a celebrated Greek rhetorician, the Voltaire of Grecian literature, was born at Samosata, a city on the west bank of the Euphrates, in the Syrian province of Commagene. We possess no particulars respecting his life on which any reliance can be placed except a few scattered notices in his own writings. From these it appears that he was born about the latter end of Trajan's reign (A.D. 53-117), that he lived under both the Antonines, and died about the end of the 2d century. His parents, who were in humble circumstances, placed him with his maternal uncle, a sculptor, in order to learn statuary; but he soon quitted this trade, and applied himself to the study of the law. He afterwards practiced at the bar in Syria and Greece; but. not meeting with much success in this profession, he resolved to settle in Gaul as a teacher of rhetoric, where he soon obtained great celebrity and numerous scholars. He appears to have remained in Gaul till he was about forty, when he gave up the profession of rhetoric, after having acquired considerable wealth. During the remainder of his life we find him traveling about from place to place, and visiting successively Macedonia, Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, and Bithynia. The greater part of his time, however, was passed in Athens, where he lived on terms of the greatest intimacy with Demonax, a philosopher of great celebrity, and where he probably wrote most of his works, which principally consist of attacks upon the religion and philosophy of his age. Towards the latter part of his life he held a lucrative public office in Egypt, which was bestowed upon him by the emperor Commodus. The account of his being torn to death by dogs for his attack on the Christian religion rests on no credible authority, and was probably invented by Suidas, who appears to have been the earliest to relate it.
The writings of Lucian, in the form of dialogue, are in a remarkably pure and elegant Greek style, free from the false ornaments and artificial rhetoric which characterize most of the writings of his contemporaries. Modern critics have usually given him his full need of praise for these excellences, and have also deservedly admired the keenness of his wit, his great talent as a writer, and the inimitable ease and flow of his dialogue; but they have seldom done him the justice he deserves. They have either represented him as merely a witty and amusing writer, but without any further merit, or else they have attacked him as an immoral and infidel author, whose only object was to corrupt the minds of his readers, and to throw ridicule upon all religion. But these opinions appear to us to have arisen from a mistaken and one-sided view of the character of Lucian and an intent to utterly ignore the peculiarities of the period in which he flourished. He seems to us to have endeavored to expose all kinds of delusion, fanaticism, and imposture; the quackery and imposition of the priests, the folly and absurdity of the superstitious, and especially the solemn nonsense, the prating insolence, and the immoral lives of the philosophical charlatans of his day (see his Alexander). Lucian may, in fact, be regarded as the Aristophanes of his age, and, like the great comic poet, he had recourse to raillery and satire to accomplish the great objects he had in view. His study was human character in all its varieties, and the times in which he lived furnished ample materials for his observation. Many of his pictures, though drawn from the circumstances of his own days, are true for every age and country. As an instance of this, we mention the essay entitled On those who serve the Great for Hire. If he sometimes discloses the follies and vices of mankind too freely, and occasionally uses expressions which are revolting to our ideas of morality, it should. be recollected that every author ought to be judged by his standard of religion and morality. The character of Lucian's mind was decidedly practical; he was not disposed to believe anything without sufficient evidence of its truth, and nothing that was ridiculous or absurd escaped his raillery and sarcasm. The tales of the poets respecting the attributes and exploits of the gods, which were still firmly believed by the common people of his age, were especially the objects of his satire and ridicule in his dialogues and in many other of his works. That he should have attacked the Christians in common with the false systems of the pagan religion will not appear surprising to any one who considers that Lucian probably never took the trouble to inquire into the doctrines of a religion which was almost universally despised in his time by the higher orders of society, who did, indeed, visit with ridicule all religious belief. Says Gibbon (Harpers' edit. 1:36), "We may be well assured that a writer conversant with the world would never have ventured to expose the gods of his country to public ridicule had they not already been the objects of secret contempt among the polished and enlightened orders of society." Volaterranus, indeed, affirmed, but without stating his authority, that Lucian apostatized from Christianity, and was accustomed to say he had gained nothing by it but the corruption of his name from Lucius to Lucianus. So also the scholiast on the Peregrius calls him παραβάτης, while the scholiasts on the Verae Historia and other pieces frequently apostrophize him in the bitterest terms, and make the most far- fetched and absurd charges against him of ridiculing the Scriptures. These accusations of blasphemy, however, could be made only against an apostate, and such, it is now well established, Lucian was not. Born of pagan parents. he led the life of a pagan philosopher of the 2d century, when, as Gibbon tells us, "the ingenious youth who, from every part, resorted to Athens, and the other seats of learning in the Roman empire, were alike instructed in every school to reject and to despise the religion of the multitude" (1:36). Lucian is no more amenable to the charge of blasphemy than Tacitus or any other profane author, who, from ignorance of the Christian religion, has been led to vilify and misrepresent it. The charge might be urged with some color against Lucian if it could be shown that he was the author of the dialogue entitled Philopatris. A sneering tone pervades the whole piece, which betrays so intimate a knowledge of Christianity that it could hardly have been written but by one who had been at some time within the pale of the Church. Some eminent critics, and among them Fabricius (Biblioth. Graeca, 5:340 [ed. Harles]), have held Lucian accountable for this production, but it is now pretty generally admitted not to be from his pen. (Compare Gesner, De AEtate et Auctore Philopatridis, in which it is shown that the piece could not have been Lucian's; and many considerations are brought forward which render it very probable that the work was composed in the reign of Julian the Apostate. Compare Neander, Church History, 2:89, note 5.)
The works of Lucian may be divided into,
I. RHETORICAL. — Περὶ τοῦ ἐνυπνίου, Somnium seu Vita Luciani: ῾Ηρόδοτος, Herodotus sive Aetion; Ζεύξις, Zeuxis sive Antiochus; Α῾ρμονίδης, Harmonides; Σκύθης ἤ Πρόξενος, Scytha; ῾Ιππίας ἢ Βαλανείον, Hippias seu Bableum; Προσλαλία ἢ Λιόνυσος, Bacchus; Προσλαλία ἤ ῾Η ρακλῆς, Hercules Gallicus; Περὶ τοῦ ἠλἐκτρου ἢ τῶν κύκνων, De Electro seu Cygnis; Περὶ τοῦ οἴκου De Domo; περὶ τῶν διψάδων, De Dipsadibus; τυρανυοκτόνος, Tyrannicida (perhaps spurious); Α᾿ποκηρυττόμενος, Abdicatus (attributed sometimes to Libanius); Φάλαρις πρῶτος καὶ δεύτερος, Phalaris prior et alter; Μυίας ἐγκῶμιον, Encomium Muscae; Πατρίδος ἐγκώμιον, Patriae Encomium.
II. CRITICAL WORKS. — Δίκηφωνηέτων, Judicium Vocalium; Λεξιφάνης, Lexiphanes (considered by some as directed against the Onomasticon of Pollux, by others against Athenseus); Πῶς δεῖἱστορίαν συγγάφειν, Quomodo Historia sit conscribenda, the best of Lucian's critical works; ῾Ρητόρων διδάσκαλος, Rhetorum Preceptor; Ψευδολογιστής, Pseudologista; Δημοσθένους ἐγκῶμιον, Demosthenis Encomium (rejected by some as spurious); Ψευδοσφιστής, Paseudosophista (also attacked, and on better grounds than the preceding).
III. BIOGRAPHICAL WORKS. — Α᾿λέξανδρος ἣ Ψευδόμαντις, Alexander seu Pseudomantis; Δημώνακτος βίος, Vita Demonactis; and Περὶ τῆς Περεγρίνου τελευτῆς, De Vorte Peregrini. This last work, containing an account of the life and voluntary auto-da-fe of Peregrinus Proteus, a fanatical cynic and apostate Christian, who publicly burnt himself from an impulse of vain-glory about A.D. 165, is really, for us, the most important work under consideration; for Lucian here discharges his satire upon Cynicism and Christianity. Peregrinus, a perfectly contemptible man, after having committed the commonest and grossest crimes — adultery, sodomy, and patricide — joins the credulous Christians in Palestine, cunningly imposes on them, soon rises to the highest repute among them, and, becoming one of the confessors in prison, is loaded with presents by them, in fact, almost worshipped as a god, but is afterwards excommunicated for eating some forbidden food (probably meat of the idolatrous sacrifices), then casts himself into the arms of the Cynics, travels about everywhere in the filthiest style of that sect, and at last, about the year 165, in frantic thirst for fame, plunges into the flames of a funeral pile before the assembled populace of the town of Olympia for the triumph of philosophy. "Perhaps this fiction of the self-burning," says Dr. Schaff (Church History, 1:189), "was meant for a parody on the Christian martyrdom, possibly of Polycarp, who about that time suffered death by fire at Smyrna.... An Epicurean worldling and infidel, as Lucian was, could see in Christianity only one of the many vagaries and follies of mankind, in the miracles only jugglery, in the belief of immortality an empty dream, and in the contempt of death and the brotherly love of the Christians, to which he was constrained to testify, a silly enthusiasm." We certainly find in Lucian a singular combination of impartiality and injustice. Wrongly interpreting rather than misrepresenting the Christian belief, he treats its advocates oftener with a compassionate smile than with hatred. He nowhere urges persecution. He never calls Christ an impostor, as Celsus does, but a "crucified sophist," a term which he uses as often in a good as in a bad sense. But then, in the end, both the Christian and the heathen religions amount, in his view, to imposture; and there is in all his writings, says Pressense (Early Years of Christianity, 2 [N.Y. 1871, 12mo], 454), "scarcely a page which is not an insult to religion in itself. That by which he is mainly distinguished is what may be called his universal impiety, his contempt of all greatness, goodness, or glory. He was the most accomplished disciple of the nil admirari school," and hence he has most aptly been termed the Voltaire of his day (compare Hagenbach, Kirchengesch. d. ersten sechs Jahrh. [Leipsic, 1869] page 161). It remains a question simply whether in these contemptuous exhibitions of all religion he aimed merely to satirize the failings of the advocates of religious belief, or whether he actually himself believed nothing. The latter must certainly be doubted when we consider his expose of Pyrrhonismn (q.v.); and we are inclined to accept as most just the treatment he has received at the hands of Thomas Dyer, in Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biog. and Mythol. 2:814, col. 2, based on Lucian's own statement in his Α῾λιεύς (§ 20), and in his Alexander (§ 54), where he indignantly spurns the charge of immorality brought against him. Mr. Dyer concedes that Lucian was "a hater of pride, falsehood, and vainglory, and an ardent admirer of truth, simplicity, and all that is naturally amiable." (Comp. however, the dissertations by Krebs, De Malitioso Luciani Consilio Religionem, Christianam scurrili dicacitate vanam et ridiculam reddendi [Opusc. Acad. page 308 sq.], and Eichstadt, Lucianus num scriptis suis adjuvare voluerit Religionem Christianam [Jena, 1822].)
IV. ROMANCES. — Under this head may be classed the tale entitled Λούκιος ἣ ῎Ονος, Lucius sive Asinus, and the Α᾿ληθοῦς ἱστορίας λόγος ά καὶ β᾿, Verae Historiae. The adventures related in the latterwork are of the most extravagant kind, but show great fertility of invention. It was composed, as the author tells us in the beginning, to ridicule the authors of extravagant tales, including Homer's Odyssey, the India of Ctesias, and the wonderful accounts of lambulus of the things contained in the great sea. The adventure with the robbers in the cave is thought to have suggested the well-known scene in Gil Blas. That the Verae Historiae supplied hints to Rabelais and Swift is sufficiently obvious, not only from the nature and extravagance of the fiction, but from the lurking satire.
V. DIALOGUES. — These dialogues, which form the great bulk of his works, are of very various degrees of merit, and are treated in the greatest possible variety of style, from seriousness down to the broadest humor and buffoonery. Their subjects and tendencies, too, vary considerably. Still we may divide them into three classes: first, those which are more exclusively directed against the heathen mythology; next, those which attack the ancient philosophy; and, lastly, those in which both the preceding objects are combined, or which, having no such tendency, are mere satires on the manners of the day, and the follies and vices natural to mankind. In the first class may be placed Προμηθεὺς ἣ Καύκασος, Prometheus seu Caucasus; Ε᾿νάλιοι Διάλογοι, Dei Marini; Ζεὺς Ε᾿λεγχόμενος, Jupiter Confutatus; Ζεὺς τργóδος, Jupiter Tragoedus, which strikes at the very existence of Jupiter and that of the other deities; Θεῶν ἐκκλησία, Deorun Concilium; Τὰ πρὸς Κρόνον, Saturnalia. To the second class belong Βίων πρᾶσις, Vitarum Auctio: in this humorous piece the heads of the different sects are put up to sale, Hermes being the auctioneer. The Α῾λιεὺς ἣ Α᾿ναβιῦντες, Piscator seu Reviviscentes, is a sort of apology for the preceding piece, and may be reckoned among Lucian's best dialogues; Ερμότιμος is chiefly an attack upon the Stoics, but its design is also to show the impossibility of becoming a true philosopher; Εὐνοῦχος, Eunuchus; Φιλοψευδής, on the love of falsehood natural to some men purely for its own sake. Some commentators have thought that the Christian miracles were alluded to in § 13 and § 16, but this does not seem probable; the Δραπέται, Fugitivi, is directed against the Cynics, by whom Lucian seems to have been attacked for his life of Peregrinus; Ευμπόσιον ἣ Λαπίθαι, Convivium seu Lapithae, is one of Lucian's most humorous attacks on the philosophers. The third and more miscellaneous class, containing some of his best, includes Τίμων ἣ μισάνθρωπος, Timon, which may perhaps be regarded as Lucian's masterpiece. The Νεκρικοὶ Διάλογοι, Dialogi Mortuorum, are perhaps the best known of all Lucian's works. The subject affords great scope for moral reflection, and for satire on the vanity of human pursuits. Among modern writers, these dialogues have been imitated by Fontenelle and lord Lyttelton. The Μένιππος ἣ Νεκυομαντεία, Vecyomanteia, bears some analogy to the Dialogues of the Dead: it wants, however, Lucian's pungency, and Du Saul thought that it was written by Menippus himself. The Ι᾿καρομένιππος ἣ ῾Υπερνέφελος, Icaro-Menippus, on the contrary, is in Lucian's best vein, and a masterpiece of Aristophanic humor. Χάρων ἣ ἐπισκοποῦντες, Contemplantes, is a very elegant dialogue, but of a graver turn than the preceding; it is a picture of the smallness of mankind when viewed from a philosophic as well as a physical height. The Κατάπλους ἣ Τω῏/ραννος, Kataplus sive Tyrannus is, in fact, a dialogue of the dead. ῎Ονειρος ἣ Α᾿λεκτρύων, Somnium seu Gallus, justly reckoned among the best of Lucian's. Δὶς κατηγορούμενος, Bis Accusatus, so called from Lucian's being arraigned by Rhetoric and Dialogue, is chiefly valuable for the information it contains of the author's life and literary pursuits. We may here also mention the Κρονοσόλων, Crono-Solon, and the Ε᾿πιστολαὶ Κρονικαί Epistolae Saturnales, which turn on the institution and customs of the Saturnalia. Among the dialogues which may be regarded as mere pictures of manners, without any polemical tendency, may be reckoned ῎Ερωτες; ῾Εταιρικοὶ Διάλογοι, Dialogi Meretricii; Πλοῖονἢ Εὐχαί, Navigium seu vota. Among the dialogues which cannot be placed in any of the above three classes are the Εἰκόνες, Imagines, which some suppose to have been addressed to a concubine of Verus, and which Wieland conjectures to have been intended for the wife of Marcus Antoninus; Υπὲρ τῶν Εἰκόνων, Pro Imaginibus, a defense of the preceding, with the flattery of which the lady who was the subject of it pretended to be displeased. Τόξαρις, Toxaris, on friendship; Α᾿νάχαρσις, Anacharsis, an attack upon the Greek gymnasia; Περὶ ἀρχήσεως, De Saltatione: this piece is hardly worthy of Lucian, but contains some curious particulars of the art of dancing among the ancients. Διάλεξις πρὸς ῾Ησίοδον, Dissertatio cusm lesiodo, the genuineness of which is doubted.
VI. MISCELLANEOUS PIECES. — These bear in their form some analogy to the modern essay: Πρὸς τὸν εἰπόντα Προμεθεὺς ει ἐν λόγοις, Ad eum qui dixerat Prometheus es in Verbis; Περὶ θυσίων, De Sacrificiis, against the absurdities of the heathen worship, and especially of the Egyptian. Περὶ τῶν ἐπὶ μισθῷ συνόντων, De Mercede Conductis; Απολογία περὶ τῶν ἐπὶμ. συν, Apologia pro de Here. Cond.; ῾Υπὲρ τοῦ ἐν τῇ προσαγορεύσει πταίσματος, Pro Lapsu in Salutando, playful little piece, though containing some curiouslearning. Περὶ πένθους, De Luctu, in opposition tothe received opinion concerning the infernal regions.
Πρὸς ἀπαίδευτον, Adversus Indoctum,, is a bitter attack upon a rich man who thought to acquire a character for learning by collecting a large library. Περὶ τοῦμὴ ῥᾷδίως πιστεύειν διαβολῇ), Non temere credendum esse Delttioni.
VII. POEMS. — These consist of two mock tragedies, Τραγοποδάγρα and ᾿Ωκύπους, and about fifty epigrams, the genuineness of some of which is considered doubtful. The following works, which have sometimes been ascribed to Lucian, are considered by the most eminent critics as spurious: Α᾿λκύων ἣπερὶ Μεταμορφώσεως, Halcyon seu de Transformatione, deemed to be by Leo the Academician; Περὶ τῆς Α᾿στρολογίας, De Astrologia; Περὶ τῆς Συρίης θεοῦ, De Dea Syriat; Κυνικός, Cynicus; Χαρίδημος ἣ περὶ καλλοῦς, Charidemus seu de Pulchro; Νέρων ἣ περὶ τῆς ὀρυχῆς τοῦ Ι᾿σθμοῦ, Nero, seu de Fossione Isthmi.
It is probable that the greater part of Lucian's rhetorical pieces, as well as some others, are lost. "His writings have a more modern air than those of any other classic author; and the keenness of his wit, the richness yet extravagance of his humor, the fertility and liveliness of his fancy, his proneness to skepticism, and the clearness and simplicity of his style, present us with a kind of compound between Swift and Voltaire. There was abundance to justify his attacks in the systems against which they were directed, yet he established nothing in their stead" (Dyer, in Smith, s.v.).
Editions. — Lucian's works were first published (in Greek) at Florence in 1496, folio, from rather incorrect MSS.; a corrected edition was brought out at Venice by Antoni Francini in 1535 (2 volumes, 8vo), very good and scarce. The first edition of the Greek text with a Latin version appeared at Basle in 1563 (4 volumes, 8vo), the result of the work of several savans: the parts of Erasmus, T. Morus, J. Micyllus, are deserving of praise; this is not the case with that of Vincent Obsopoeus. The notes by Samnbucus are considered of no account, but those of Gilbert Cousin are highly esteemed. In 1730 the distinguished philologist, Tib. Hemsterhuys, began to print his excellent edition; but dying in 1736, before a quarter of it had been finished, the editorship was assigned to J.F. Reitz, a much less capable man: it appeared at Utrecht in 1743 (4 volumes, 4to; republished by Schmidt, at Mittau, 1776-1780, 8 volumes, 8vo). This edition contains a large number of valuable notes; the last volume is a lexicon. A much esteemed edition is that of Deux-Ponts, 1789-93, 10 volumes, 8vo, which is a careful reprint of Hemsterhuys's edition, the lexicon being replaced by an index, and the 10th volume containing the various readings compiled by Belin de Ballu from the MSS. in the Royal Library of Paris. In 1800 Schmieder published at Halle a text without translation, with various readings compiled from the libraries of France and Germany. There were to appear commentaries in connection with it, which, however, were not published. This edition is much esteemed, although some of the various readings are thought to have been collected without sufficient care. The edition of Lehmann (Lpz. 1821-31, 9 volumes, 8vo), with a large number of notes, is of great use for the correct understanding of the text. A much esteemed edition is that of C. Jacobitz (Lpz. 183741, 4 volumes, 8vo); the text was established with the aid of the most valuable MSS. and with the greatest care. Dindorf published in 1840, at Paris, a Greek text of Lucian, with a Latin version, but no notes, which forms part of the Bibliotheca Graec, and stands deservedly high. Separate pieces of Lucian's have been often published.
Lucian has been translated into most of the European languages. In French the best editions are by Belin de Ballu in 1788 (6 volumes, 8vo), and by Eugene Talbot (Par. 1857, 2 volumes, 18mo). Among the English versions may be named one by several parties, including W. Moyle, Sir H. Shere, and Charles Blount (Lond. 1711). It was several years preparing, and Dryden wrote for it a life of Lucian, which is very incorrect. Carr's version (17731798, 4 volumes, 8vo) is a pretty correct translation, but the notes are valueless. The best English version is that of Dr. Franklin (Lond. 1780, 2 volumes, 4to, and 1781, 4 volumes, 8vo), but some of the pieces are omitted. Mr. Hooke's version (London, 1820, 2 volumes, 4to) is of little value. In 1675 Charles Cotton published a burlesque imitation of some of the dialogues: it was reprinted in 1686 and 1751. The best German translation of Lucian has been furnished by Wieland (Leips. 1788, 6 volumes, 8vo). The notes accompanying it are also valuable; but the translator left out some pieces which he considered of minor interest. Another good translation is by Pauly (Stuttgardt, 1828-1831, 15 volumes, 12mo). See, besides the authorities already quoted, Jacob, Characteristic Lucian's v. Samosata (1832); Tiemann, Versuch u. Lucian und seine Philosophie (1804): Struve, Specimina ii de AEtate et vita Luciani (1829- 30); Passow, Lucian u. d. Gesch. (1854); Tzschirner, Fall des Heidenthums, 1:315 sq.; Baur, Die drei ersten Jahrhunderte, page 395 sq.; Donaldson, Greek Literature, chapter 54, § 3 and 4; Lardner, Works, 8, chapter 19; Farrar, Crit. Hist. Free Thought, page 48 sq.; Lond. Qu. Rev. 1828; Fraser's Magazine, 1839; Journal Sac. Lit. volumes 10 and 12; and especially Planck, in Studien u. Kritiken. 1851, and in an English version in the Biblioth. Sacra, 1853 (April and July) Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biogr. and Mythol. 3:812, and the excellent article by Theodor Keim, in Herzog, Real-Encyklopädie 6, 8:497-504.