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§ 33. Lucian.

Edd. of Lucian’s works by Hemsterhuis and Reiz (1743 sqq.), Jacobitz (1836–39), Dindorf (1840 and 1858), Bekker (1853), Franc. Fritzsche (1860–’69). The pseudo-Lucianic dialogue Philopatris (φιλόπατρις, loving one’s country, patriot) in which the Christians are ridiculed and condemned as enemies of the Roman empire, is of a much later date, probably from the reign of Julian the Apostate (363). See Gesner: De aetate et auctore Philopatridis, Jen. 1714.

Jacob:Charakteristik Lucians. Hamburg 1822.

G. G. Bernays: Lucian und die Cyniker. Berlin. 1879.

Comp. Keim: Celsus, 143–151; Ed. D. Zeller:Alexander und Peregrinus , in the "Deutsche Rundschau," for Jan. 1877; Henry Cotterill: Peregrinus Proteus (Edinb. 1879); Ad. Harnack in Herzog (ed. II.), VIII. 772–779; and the Lit. quoted in § 28.

In the same period the rhetorician Lucian (born at Samosata in Syria about 120, died in Egypt or Greece before 200), the Voltaire of Grecian literature, attacked the Christian religion with the same light weapons of wit and ridicule, with which, in his numerous elegantly written works, he assailed the old popular faith and worship, the mystic fanaticism imported from the East, the vulgar life of the Stoics and Cynics of that day, and most of the existing manners and customs of the distracted period of the empire. An Epicurean, worldling, and infidel, as he 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.

Thus he represents the matter in an historical romance on the life and death of Peregrinus Proteus, a contemporary Cynic philosopher, whom he make the basis of a satire upon Christianity, and especially upon Cynicism. Peregrinus is here presented as a perfectly contemptible man, who, after the meanest and grossest crimes, adultery, sodomy, and parricide, 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. This fiction of the self-burning was no doubt meant for a parody on the Christian martyrdom, perhaps with special reference to Polycarp, who a few years before had suffered death by fire at Smyrna (155).8282    Harnack, l.c. denies a reference to Polycarp.1

Lucian treated the Christians rather 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 sense as in the bad. But then, in the end, both the Christian and the heathen religions amount, in his view, to imposture; only, in his Epicurean indifferentism, he considers it not worth the trouble to trace such phenomena to their ultimate ground, and attempt a philosophical explanation.8383    Berneys (l.c. p. 43) characterizes Lucian very unfavorably: "ein anscheinend nicht sehr glücklicher Advocat, ist er ohne ernste Studien ins Literatenthum übergegangen; unwissend und leichtfertig trägt er lediglich eine nihilistische Oede in Bezuq auf alle religiösen und metaphysischen Fraqen zur Schau und reisst alle als verkehrt und lächerlich herunter." Berneys thinks that the Peregrinus Proteus is not directed against the Christians, but against the Cynic philosophers and more particularly against the then still living Theagenes.2

The merely negative position of this clever mocker of all religions injured heathenism more than Christianity, but could not be long maintained against either; the religious element is far too deeply seated in the essence of human nature. Epicureanism and scepticism made way, in their turns, for Platonism, and for faith or superstition. Heathenism made a vigorous effort to regenerate itself, in order to hold its ground against the steady advance of Christianity. But the old religion itself could not help feeling more and more the silent influence of the new.

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