Lucian; selected writings - PDF book by Lucian of Samosata

Lucian; selected writings 

Lucian of Samosata

LUCIAN was born at Samosata on the Euphrates between 120 and 130 say for brevity, 125 A.D. He died in Egypt, where he held a government appointment, sometime after 180 A.D. On leaving school about 140 A.D. he was bound in apprenticeship to his maternal uncle, a sculptor or maker of images. Still, on receiving a beating for breaking a model, he left him and returned to his parents. He was evidently not made of the stuff that artists are made of. 

A beating would not have driven Rafael from his canvas, Mozart from his piano, or Thorwaldsen from his marble. Yet Lucian had a strong sense of the Beautiful. There are many passages in his works which show his refined taste for sculpture and painting. No one could have drawn the picture of the sleeping Endymion (' Venus and Luna/ Deor. Dial. xi. 2) or written the beautiful Idyll on the Abduction of Europa (' Zephyrus and Notus/ Dial. Mar. xv. 2, 3) without having a truly artistic imagination. 1 The course he took, however, was the natural one: a beating always puts an Asiatic to flight. Further, an artist combines his aesthetic and constructive faculties, and Lucian may have been wanting in the latter. Adrift in the world, what calling was he to adopt? 

The art he had abandoned; commerce he seems to have scorned, and nothing was left but to turn rhetorician or philosopher. The education necessary for the profession of philosophy entailed some study of dry, scientific subjects against which his purely literary nature revolted, and quiet, continuous thought of which his restless and shallow mind was incapable. On the other hand, there was a brilliancy and glitter about rhetoric that naturally attracted the admiration of an Asiatic, and his oriental imagination revelled in dreams of the figure he might cut and the fortune he might reap. 

The education, too, requisite for a rhetorician was just the one that suited the tastes of a young Syrian, with a strong literary bias, who had been suddenly left to his own devices; for all that was needful (beyond practical instruction) was a comparatively light course of reading in oratory, history and imaginative literature, with a smattering of law. At all events, after some hesitation 1, he rejected philosophy, and in order to obtain the necessary instruction in rhetoric, he made his way into Ionia which was at that time as it were a Palace of Art and Eloquence.

Translated by Francis Greenleaf Allinson

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