Lucian of Samosata

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Lukian of Samosata ( ancient Greek Λουκιανὸς ὁ Σαμοσατεύς Lukianós hó Samosateús , Latin Lucianus Samosatensis ; * around 120 in Samosata ; † before 180 or around 200 probably in Alexandria ) is the most important satirist of ancient Greece .

His hometown Samosata on the upper reaches of the Euphrates had been the capital of the Kingdom of Commagene before Lukian's lifetime and was then incorporated into the Roman province of Syria ; its ruins are now near the city of Samsat in what is now southern Turkey. Lucian therefore called himself a Syrian, which, according to the understanding of the time, did not mean that he was not also Greek and Roman at the same time: Lukian (Lucianus) was a common Roman name.


Belonging to a thoroughly Hellenized family of eastern Syrian descent, Lukian initially apprenticed to his maternal uncle, a successful sculptor. But he gave up this a short time later in order to be instructed in Ionia in Greek literature and rhetoric . After that he probably earned his living as a court speaker, and later as a freelance writer. He traveled the Mediterranean several times in his life ( Athens , where he lived for a long time, Olympia , Rome and Gaul , where he was teaching). His mother tongue was Greek, but he also knew some Latin. In old age he accepted a post with the Roman governor of Egypt ( praefectus Aegypti ) in Alexandria , where he presumably also died, while according to other reports he died in Athens. His main creative period and the last years of his life fell during the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161–180); whether he still lived under Commodus (180–192) and Septimius Severus (193–211) is controversial, as there are no clear indications.


Lukian was an immensely prolific writer. 80 works are listed under his name, around 70 of which are considered real. They also serve as the main source of his life. As was customary in the Second Sophistics , Lukian wrote Attic Greek throughout , as it was in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. BC, and not the Koine of its time. In the beginning he wrote dialogues about everyday life. In social, philosophical and theological topics were discussed, which also Lucian's fundamental critique of religion was expressed ( Θεῶν διάλογοι - gods talks; Νεκρικοὶ διάλογοι - Dead discussions ). He lashed out at the profligacy of the rich ( Τίμων ἢ Μισάνθρωπος - Timon the misanthrope ; Περὶ τοῦ παρασίτου - The parasite ), highlighted the "slippery Commercial" ( Ἑταιρικοὶ διάλογοι - Hetärengespräche ) and made fun of the stupidity ( Πρὸς τὸν ἀπαίδευτον καὶ πολλὰ βιβλία ὠνούμενον - The unlearned book lover ). These dialogues are interspersed with slight mockery and aptly reflect the social situation in the Roman Empire at that time. In these works he lets his rhetorical talent flash and stays in the wake of satire .

At an advanced age he wrote biting reports and dialogues in the style of Menippos , in which historical figures of this time were attacked ( Alexander about Alexandros of Abonuteichos ; Peregrinos about a self-proclaimed prophet and his followers). He unmasked the philosophy business ( Βίων πρᾶσις - selling life ), which was no longer what it seemed for a long time ( Φιλοψευδής - the friend of lies ).

Besides Lucian works wrote, which is to deal with fundamental issues and where often difficult to determine how much satire in them lies (especially important for the understanding of the ancient historiography is Πῶς δεῖ ἱστορίαν συγγράφειν - to how to write one story ), created early forerunner of the science fiction novel ( Ἰκαρομένιππος - The Air Travel ; Ἀληθεῖς Ἱστορίαι - True Stories ), gave descriptions of paintings, statues, buildings (e.g. the Pharos of Alexandria , whom he knew from firsthand) and people and defended himself against it Anger of those attacked by him.


Lukian is one of the ancient writers who significantly influenced European culture. A great admirer was Erasmus of Rotterdam , who together with Thomas More in 1506 published a new collection of works ( Luciani opuscula ) and adapted "a lot of Lucian" in his satire The Praise of Folly . Wieland , who translated Lukian's entire work into German in an exemplary manner, was later inspired by Goethe and Schiller . According to Lukian's descriptions, paintings, buildings, plays were created and music was composed.

On the basis of Lukian's "Ikaromenippus or Die Luftreise", the Austrian composer Hartmut Schmidt created the opera "Menippus" (text by Werner Thuswaldner) in 1980. The opera in 6 scenes was premiered in 1990 at the Salzburg State Theater.

The lunar crater Lucian is named after him.


  • Luciani Opera. Edited by Matthew Donald MacLeod. 4 vols. Oxford Classical Texts . Clarendon, Oxford 1972-1987
  • Lukian in eight volumes. Edited and translated by Austin Morris Harmon, K. Kilburn, and Matthew Donald MacLeod. Loeb Classical Library . Heinemann, London 1913-1967
  • Lukian, major works . Edited and translated by Karl Mras . Greek and German text, Heimeran, Munich, 2nd edition 1980, ISBN 3-7765-2198-8 .


  • Lukian. Works in three volumes . Edited by Jürgen Werner and Herbert Greiner-Mai . Structure, Berlin 1974 (modernized version of Wieland's translation), 2nd edition 1981
  • Lukian. Complete Works. Edited and supplemented by Hanns Floerke after the translation by CM Wieland . 5 volumes. Georg Müller Verlag, Munich & Leipzig 1911
  • Lukians of Samosata Complete Works. Translated from the Greek and provided with notes and explanations by Christoph Martin Wieland . 6 vols. Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, Leipzig 1788–1789
  • Lukian: Hermotimos or is it worth studying philosophy? , ed. Peter von Möllendorff , Wiss. Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2000. ISBN 3-534-14976-9 (Greek and German)
  • Lukian: Rhetorum praeceptor , ed. Serena Zweimüller, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2008. ISBN 978-3-525-25284-0 (Greek and German, with introduction and detailed commentary)
  • Lukian: From the almost perfect man. Translated by August Pauly. Revised by Lenelotte Möller. Marix Verlag, Wiesbaden 2011, ISBN 978-3-86539-260-2
  • Lukian: Lucian's works , translated by August Friedrich Pauly , 15 volumes. Metzler, Stuttgart 1827-1832.
  • Lukian: How to write history . Translated by Helene Homeyer . Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1965.
  • Lukian: To the moon and beyond , (Ikaromenippus). Translated by Christoph Martin Wieland. Artemis Verlags-AG, Zurich 1967.
  • Lukian: Conversations of the gods and sea gods, the dead and the hetaera . Translated and edited by Otto Seel , Reclam , Stuttgart 1967, ISBN 3-15-001133-7
  • Lukian: Lies and dialogues . Translated from the Greek and provided with notes and explanations by Christoph Martin Wieland, Greno, Nördlingen 1985, ISBN 978-3-921568-15-6 , series: Die Andere Bibliothek , Volume 1


Overview representations


  • Alexander Free: Lukian's book “How to write history” in the educational culture of the 2nd century. n. Chr. Beck, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-406-68606-1 .
  • Christopher P. Jones : Culture and Society in Lucian. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA a. a. 1986, ISBN 0-674-17974-9 .
  • Peter von Möllendorff: In search of the false truth. Lukian's “True Stories”. Narr, Tübingen 2000, ISBN 3-8233-4880-9 .
  • Robert Porod: Lukian's book "How to write history". Commentary and Interpretation. Phoibos, Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-85161-090-1 .


  • Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Lukian (Lukianos of Samosata). In: Christine Walde (Ed.): The reception of ancient literature. Kulturhistorisches Werklexikon (= Der Neue Pauly . Supplements. Volume 7). Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, ISBN 978-3-476-02034-5 , Sp. 465-474.
  • Manuel Baumbach: Lukian in Germany. An analysis of the history of research and reception from humanism to the present. Fink, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-7705-3597-9 .

Web links

Commons : Lucian of Samosata  - Collection of Images
Wikisource: Lukian of Samosata  - Sources and full texts


  1. Lukian, De Syria Dea 1: Ἀσσύριος ἐών .
  2. ^ Richard N. Frye: Assyria and Syria: Definitions (PDF) Harvard University
  3. Lukian, Somnium 2.
  4. Lukian, Bis accusatus 27.
  5. Lukian, Demonax 1.
  6. Lukian, De morte Peregrini 35.
  7. Lucian, Apologia 15.
  8. Lucian, Apologia 12.
  9. Lukian, Quomodo historia conscribenda sit 62.
  10. "If you choose something from the catalog of the masses, don't forget Wieland's Lukian, ... I have already thanked him for many a pleasant hour" (Letter to the senior consistorial councilor Körner in Dresden 1788, quoted from Lukian. Works in three volumes . Edited by Jürgen Werner and Herbert Greiner-Mai. Structure, Berlin 1981, p. V)
  11. Menippus - entry on music austria