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Lucian of Samasota

Posted: May 6th, 2011, 5:51 pm
by Barry Hofstetter
In reading Lucian's Ἀληθῆ Διηγήματα with my students, it strikes me that there is a formality to Lucian's expression and style that is practically formulaic. Whereas in Plato or Xenophon, or practically any author whose native language was Greek, there is often a variety of expression – the author will say things in ways unexpected to those only familiar with the language as a second language. I rather see Lucian as saying the same sorts of things in the same sorts of way in different contexts. This suggests to me that Lucian really is writing as one who knows Greek as we learn it – as a second language, though surely familiar with it as a spoken medium of communication. Thoughts?

I didn't really pick up on this when writing my M.A. thesis on Lucian way back in the 20th century, but then, I've had a bit more experience with the language since then... :lol:

Re: Lucian of Samasota

Posted: May 6th, 2011, 7:02 pm
by Mark Lightman
Lucian is making fun of something. It's assumed that his writing in mock epic, making fun of Homer's style. Certainly the True Story is simple in its syntax, but the thought occurs to me that Lucian is making fun of the Old Testament.

Re: Lucian of Samasota

Posted: May 6th, 2011, 10:00 pm
by Barry Hofstetter
Interesting Mark -- I can see clear allusions (all over the place) to Homer, and I think the Aeneid (when they come ashore on the Wine island it sounds to me more like the Aeneid than anything else, when Aeneas' people come ashore after the great storm in book 1), but how do you see him making fun of the OT? Can you cite some specific texts which support this?


Re: Lucian of Samasota

Posted: May 6th, 2011, 10:21 pm
by Mark Lightman
No specific allusions, Barry--assuming that Jonah is not in mind with the whale episode! It's more the general theme--how true is history? Given that Lucian did know about the Christians it's hard not to imagine him having in the back of his mind Old Testament Historiography--even the Book of Acts.

But clearly it's the Greco-Roman poets, philosophers and historians that he is having fun with. Have you looked at Georgiadou/Larmour? (cited by Hayes/Nimis in the preface) Sort of parallel over-load, but lots of good stuff to consider.

χαρις σοι και σοις.

Re: Lucian of Samasota

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 8:10 am
by Jonathan Robie
I've been staring at this for a few days, and I haven't gotten very far. I've poked into Lucian a little, reading small portions slowly (and I do read Greek very slowly).

To me, his sentences don't seem formulaic. I may be missing what you are talking about, I haven't read much at all outside the New Testament canon and pre-Nicene fathers, but to me, his sentences seem rich, varied, nuanced, sometimes complex and thoughtfully balanced, with careful and precise use of particles.

Now he may be fooling me because I read this very much as a foreigner. But how does a sentence like this strike you?
πολλοὶ δὲ καὶ ἄλλοι τὰ αὐτὰ τούτοις προελόμενοι συνέγραψαν ὡς δή τινας ἑαυτῶν πλάνας τε καὶ ἀποδημίας, θηρίων τε μεγέθη ἱστοροῦντες καὶ ἀνθρώπων ὠμότητας καὶ βίων καινότητας: ἀρχηγὸς δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ διδάσκαλος τῆς τοιαύτης βωμολοχίας ὁ τοῦ Ὁμήρου Ὀδυσσεύς, τοῖς περὶ τὸν Ἀλκίνουν διηγούμενος ἀνέμων τε δουλείαν καὶ μονοφθάλμους καὶ ὠμοφάγους καὶ ἀγρίους τινὰς ἀνθρώπους, ἔτι δὲ πολυκέφαλα ζῷα καὶ τὰς ὑπὸ φαρμάκων τῶν ἑταίρων μεταβολάς, οἷα πολλὰ ἐκεῖνος πρὸς ἰδιώτας ἀνθρώπους τοὺς Φαίακας ἐτερατεύσατο.
Where do his sentences seem formulaic?

I have only read a handful of pages, I don't see much idiom on those pages. But aren't there some people who write English without much idiom? Perhaps this is simply very formal writing?

I do think very formal writing seems out of place in a novel, at least for modern Americans. But I think this was the first novel, perhaps we have expectations for the writing style of novels that Lucian did not have.

Or maybe I'm simply not seeing things that would be more obvious if my Greek were more advanced.

Re: Lucian of Samasota

Posted: May 9th, 2011, 6:48 pm
by Mark Lightman
Hi, Jonathan,

The sentence you quote is from the preface. There the Greek is quite different from the rest of the text, more complicated syntax, more Attic. After that, the syntax becomes very simple. "And setting out from there we came to an island. We landed and getting out of the ship we marched a little. And leaving the island we came upon the Ant-people." It reminds me of the Book of Acts. (And Luke's prefaces are also more Attic than the rest of his work.)

I agree with Barry's observation that the True Story is formulaic. I've read a little bit from Lucian's other works, so I don't think it is a matter of Lucian not knowing Greek well. I think he is making fun of the travel-logue, parts of the Odyssey, maybe Herodotus.

ελπιζω οτι συ καλως εχεις και ο οικος σου καλως εχει. αγαπῶ τουτο το καινον Β-Γρεεκ. ερρωσο.

Re: Lucian of Samasota

Posted: May 10th, 2011, 6:16 pm
by Barry Hofstetter
Mark nailed it – the citation is from Lucian's own introduction to his work which imitates the introductory style one might find from Thucydides, et al. I actually did not read this with my students, but, since they had just finished C&S, gave it to them in English translation and started them in C. 5 (didn't want to discourage them). Among stylistic markers for his actual narrative text are an overabundance of perfects and pluperfects (when even Attic authors use those tenses relatively rarely), a somewhat stilted use of participles, and a tendency in some instances toward the paratactic. I haven't worked all this out yet – it's still largely a subjective reading of the style, but these are some elements that I have noted. What I really should do at this point is look at some of Lucian's other writings, and see if this is style affected for this particular work, or if it is more generally characteristic.