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Selected Satires of Lucian (The Norton Library) Paperback – April 17, 1968
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“This book is primarily intended for the man in the street. In a brief general introduction Casson gives a crisp account of Lucian’s life, views, and influence on posterity. He helps non-specialists by short introduction to each work and by a generous ration of lucid notes…. Casson’s translation… recaptures much of the wit and humor which are Lucian’s greatest gifts…. Casson’s translation can be recommended.”
—M. D. Macleod, The Classical Review--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
'Lucian's genial mockery, ' writes Lionel Casson, 'aimed at man's omnipresent failings, is never out of date: the jabs he gave the hypocrites, grandstanders, fakers, and boobs of the ancient world can just as appropriately be administered to their counterparts of the modern.'
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Others have noted that Lucian influenced Erasmus. I would reply, "Not enough!" I have never been able to read more than two pages of the supposedly hilarious "In Praise of Folly," but I can read anything and everything by Lucian, including his great satire, "Philosophies For Sale," where Zeus tries to raise a little cash by auctioning off philosophers, beginning with "that long-haired guy over there," Pythagoras. His little dialogue, "Timon," has volumes to say about Wealth, and says it all in about fifteen pages.
Lucian loves to poke fun at Socrates, as well, openly doubting the "purity" of Socrates' love for handsome young men.
"Alexander the Quack Prophet" may be Lucian's best piece. It's based upon a real person who lived at the same time as Lucian. I think the most memorable character is one Rutilianus, who is a mature, sensible Roman who has served Rome well in many important functions, but has a serious screw loose when it comes to religious gullibility. The satire is really deadly, especially if you have ever known someone who fits "the Rutilianus Profile." :-)
It's fun reading, but, like most satire, it's making some serious points during all the fun.
One of my favourite satires is 'The judgement of Paris'(from Dialogues of the Gods). Athena, Hera and Aphrodite want Paris to decide which of them is the most beautiful goddess. In the manners of a real beauty contest, the three goddesses try to sell their merchandise to Paris. Finally he chooses Aphrodite and in return she promises that the most beautiful woman on earth, Helen, will be his.(It will start the Trojan War but that's another matter).
If you read this book you will have a good idea of what the people in Antiquity called humour