Lucian of Samosata ( * ~ 120; † after 180) was an important Greek satirist. An astonishing number of his works have survived. Initially, he used the dialogue form and did not shy away from unusual topics. His criticism of religion was expressed in Dialogues of the Gods and Dialogues of the Dead. In Dialogues of the Courtesans he published his reflections on the trade of venal love. He criticised false prophets, the schools of philosophy or stupid educated people. He was also active in a genre that would later become known as science fiction.

In the Middle Ages, Lucian fell into oblivion and was rediscovered during the Renaissance. The Protestants liked to use him as a model for biting writings against the Catholics. He influenced François Rabelais, Thomas Moore and William Shakespeare. On the other hand, Lucian was considered an atheist author. In the meantime, the attacks against various philosophical schools that run through his entire oeuvre were mixed with his statements about the early Christian communities in The Death of Peregrinus.1

"Die Unglückseligen nämlich haben sich eingeredet, dass sie gänzlich unsterblich seien und in Ewigkeit leben würden, weswegen sie den Tod verachten und die meisten sich freiwillig ausliefern. Dann hat sie noch ihr erster Gesetzgeber [Paulus] davon überzeugt, dass sie alle Brüder seien, wenn sie erst übergetreten seien und den griechischen Göttern abgeschworen hätten, jenen gekreuzigten Sophisten [Jesus] anbeteten und nach seinen Gesetzen lebten. So verachten sie alle weltlichen Dinge in gleicher Weise und halten alles für gemeinsamen Besitz und nehmen solches ohne einen vertrauenswürdigen Beweis hin. Immer wenn also ein zauberkundiger oder gewitzter Scharlatan zu ihnen kommt, der die Gelegenheit zu ergreifen weiß, so wird er in kurzer Zeit sehr reich, indem er diese einfachen Leute zum besten hält."2

Compared to other contemporary descriptions of the first Christians, his remarks, while not flattering, are downright harmless.3 Nevertheless, his bad reputation lasted a very long time. According to John Lemprière, some modern authors believed that Lucian had been torn to pieces by dogs because of his impiety and mockery of Christianity, and further states:

"His frequent obſcenities, and his manner of expoſing to ridicule not only the religion of his country, but alſo that of every nation, have deſervedly drawn upon him the cenſure of every age, and branded him with the appellation of atheiſt and blaſphemer."4

Marlowe was clearly influenced by Lucian, and not only because one of his most famous verses ("Was this the face that launched a thousand ships/And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?")5 is a paraphrase from Lucian’s Dialogues of the Dead. The influence, however, was stylistic and not religious.6 The latter is implied by Gabriel Harvey in A New Letter of Notable Contents with the comparisons between Marlowe and Lucian. Harvey’s attitude to Lucian was just as ambivalent as his attitude to Piero Aretino. In his younger years, he was full of praise for the Italian, whose name he later used almost as an insult for Thomas Nashe.7 Similar was the case with Lucian, whom Harvey at least held in such high esteem that he owned an edition of his works.8

Lemprière, John. 1792. Bibliotheca Classica: Or, a Classical Dictionary, Containing a Full Account of All the Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors: With Tables of Coins, Weights, and Measures, in Use Among the Greeks and Romans. To Which Is Now Prefixed a Chronological Table. 2nd edition. London: T. Cadell.
McPherson, David C. 1969. “Aretino and the Harvey-Nashe Quarrel.” Publications of the Modern Language Association 84 (6): 1551–59.
Pilhofer, Peter. 2010a. “Das Bild der christlichen Gemeinden in Lukians Peregrinos.” In Lukian, Der Tod des Peregrinos, edited by Peter Pilhofer, 97–110. WBG-Bibliothek. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgemeinschaft.
———, ed. 2010b. Lukian, Der Tod ces Peregrinos: Ein Scharlatan auf dem Scheiterhaufen. Sonderausgabe. Vol. 9. WBG-Bibliothek. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgemeinschaft.

  1. Rhodes (2013)↩︎
  2. Pilhofer (2010b), 23 u. 25↩︎
  3. Pilhofer (2010a)↩︎
  4. Lemprière (1792), s. p.↩︎
  5. Doctor Faustus. A. V,81-82↩︎
  6. Rhodes (2013)↩︎
  7. McPherson (1969)↩︎
  8. Rhodes (2013)↩︎

Aktualisiert am 23.05.2024

Comments are closed.