Biography of Luciano de Samósata (ca.120-180)

Greek, master writer of satire, which was extremely skillful in the handling of the dialogue. Despite its enormous success and his extensive literary, very little we know about his own life; in fact, most of the data come from his writings. It is known that their mother tongue was not Greek, since it came from Samosata, a city located in the upper Euphrates: the own Luciano called himself Syrian.

His first contact with the art world was with the sculpture, discipline that he/she learned at his uncle's House; However this experience did not have a happy ending, as he/she tells in one of his works; from there, he/she went to the schools of rhetoric in Ionia, where his talent shone with own light. It was there where he/she studied Greek literature from Homer to the Alexandrian poets and where he/she met the great works of attic prose.

All this literary background appears in his own writings directly through appointments or, much more frequently, in an indirect manner thanks to allusions, technique that dominated to perfection. By means of this rhetorical and literary training, Luciano molded his style while maintaining a moderate atticism, he/she knew how to insufflate a new very personal air.

Once this period of study, Luciano worked for a while as a lawyer and, after its failure in the field, began to successfully cultivate the profession's return to the way of the Sophists, traveling from one side to another and offering Conference. Come to the quarantine, he/she settled in Athens, where abandoned their dedication to the rhetoric by philosophy; However, his approach to this science was not big changes in his life or in his thought; It was rather a superficial approach that enabled him to enrich his already sharp skepticism.

Luciano exposes his contacts with the Academy and high school at the same time as cynics and Epicurean. All of these schools it extracted a greater critical sense regarding society and the contemporary world, but was not beyond nor worry about delving into the major philosophical problems that decided around those centers of thought; Similarly, Luciano always felt a deep dislike for the Stoics, which was also reflected in his work. From this moment on, Luciano developed a new kind of dialogue under the influence of the philosophical diatribe of Menippus of Gadara: satirical dialogue, in which mixed elements of Socratic dialogue with dialogue of the new comedy (that Luciano had extensive knowledge).

Throughout his life and, above all, because of their profession of itinerant teacher of rhetoric, Luciano traveled through Asia minor, Greece, Italy and came even to Gaul, where he/she lived for some time. Finally, thanks to his contacts with good Roman society, he/she obtained a post as a civil servant in the administration of Egypt, where he/she continued his literary work until his death, which took place after the year 180.


Given the enormous variety of his work, it is very difficult to provide a classification of the same, so it is best to follow a chronological criterion who aware of the different stages or key moments of the literary life of Luciano. As he/she has been said, Luciano began his career in the world of literature as a speaker or lecturer; of this first period are his speeches Abdicatus, Phalaris, Tyrannicida, their artistic descriptions as of dome and some praise as the entitled Muscae encomium, in which the Sophists like praising a fly. Also belong to this period their Prolaliai, small rhetorical pieces that served as introduction to some sophist dissertation. While it is a literature of artifice and vain intention, Luciano always shows a great compositional sobriety and, in its style, put aside over the asianismo ornaments. Although this type of work was more common in his youth, Luciano never left completely the practice of rhetoric as seen in his Hercules, part that was already in advanced age.

When Luciano, weary of rhetoric, became interested in philosophy, he/she opted for the genre of satire and criticism. To this period belong his Bis accusatus, where Luciano imagines a judgement that must defend the rhetoric, discipline that had abandoned not long. In this same line are its Rhetorum praeceptor and its Pseudosophista, which contains a steel attack against the hiperaticismo. From this moment and, above all, after adopting to Menippus of Gadara as model, Luciano began composition of his famous dialogues, in which serves with good dose of sarcasm to certain matters lies and where references to the vulgar philosophy of the cynics and skeptics abound. These works include his dialogues of the gods, the Prometheus and the dialogues of the sea gods, that is some themes already present in the great classical Greek poetry. Inspired by the comedy are its dialogues of the hetairas, where Luciano goes back to the 3rd century BC Athens to reproduce a conversation in which the hetairas, with an air of comedy of Menander, reveal their sorrows and their tricks to keep their lovers, and his rudder. As he/she progressed in the composition of this type of works, Luciano scathing spirit reached its maximum critical and parodic expression in those dialogues in which attacked religion as the Icaromenipo, the Iuppiter tragoedus or Deorum concilium. His criticism against the corruption of the rich and his praise of the wise that nothing needs appears in your Menippus, Cataplus, Charon, the dialogue of the dead and the Rooster; in them, appear in the Hells the spectra of those that were something in life and who have to suffer the taunts and delusions of the poor and marginalized, who lost nothing with the death. In his works, Luciano mocks, sometimes with an acid humor and others simply with hilarious and comical purposes, the old gods, false philosophers, the imposters or inheritance-hunters.

But Luciano did not only criticism of characters and situations but also attacked, as it had done previously in the case of rhetoric, against philosophy in his dialogues Convivium, Piscator or Philopseudes, where Luciano became philosophers simple fantastic storytellers. In any of the dialogues, Luciano has even entered as one character named Licino as the entitled Hermotimo. Total scepticism about philosophy is made clear when within this last dialog Licino declares that man impossible to ascribe to a particular philosophical system "because it would need more than two hundred years only to start on them".

In accordance with his strong imagination, Luciano discovers is also as a skilled storyteller of fictitious stories that fall into the scope of the novel as the true story, a tale of adventure where utopias, or Pike, also called the donkey, which is considered apocryphal and that was a model of Apuleius are ridiculed. Another genre cultivated by this author was the epistle as his De mercede conductis, letter to a such Timocles, which advised him against the life of a court official. His treatise on history conscribenda also the epistolary form; Here Luciano criticizes the way in which his contemporaries made history, issue that returned to retake in the two books of-the Verae historiae. Similarly, Luciano resorted to the epistle for his works of maturity, the morte Peregrini and Alexandros, which chronicled the life and work of Alejandro Abunoticos, imposter Prophet and founder of new cults.

Luciano de Samósata was one original writer not so much because the issues that developed in his works, many of which had already been treated by authors earlier (visiting the world of beyond the grave or to Olympus appeared already in Aristophanes and Homeric poetry), but by the way he/she did. In his work, is a perfect picture of the society of their time which is enriched with his criticism; on the other hand, his thought reflects a well accomplished blend between the topics of literature that mimicked and the philosophy of most popular dyes. Never was an original thinker, but a skilled Warper's stories. Moreover, led perfectly to a genre that until now had not had too much echo, satirical dialogue, which made him an admired and read throughout the middle ages and the Renaissance author. As for his style, Luciano was an aticista that with the enormous variety of motives that populate his works and his manner of writing clear and bright won for himself a legion of readers that still remain.

Transmission of his work

As to the fortune of Luciano is concerned, it should be recalled that during the middle ages, period in which the Greek language fell into a deep oblivion, the fame of Luciano eclipsed completely. The humanists of the early 15th century were those who put it again fashionable after the translation by Giovanni Aurispa (1370-1459) of one of the dialogues of the dead, soon poured to the Spanish and other languages of culture. In Spanish, there were two different versions within the same 15th century: one of Martín de Avila, one of the intellectuals at the orders of the first Marquis of Santillana; another one is attributed to Vasco Ramírez de Guzmán. The title of the first of the versions is contention between Alexandre, Anibal, and Scipion. This dialogue would see the light in print thanks to Pedro Brun Seville workshop around 1505.

However, Luciano dominated only the Spanish and European literary scene in the 16th century. In fact, without the samosatense model is not understood much of the literature of the moment, especially critical, mocking and reformist mood. In pursuit of Luciano, leave few erasmian dialogues and all authors who put their energies to the task of giving a new life to the so-called menippean fable. From then on, Luciano will be one of the indisputable classics for European culture.



JACOBITZ, c.-Teubner, Leipzig, 1836-1841, 4 vols.

HARMON, A. m.-et al., Loeb, 1921-1967, 8 vols.

Estudio:helm, r.-Lukian und Menipp, Leipzig, 1906.CASTER, M-Lucien et la pensée religieuse de son temps, Paris, 1936.BOMPAIRE, J - Lucien écrivain. Imitation et création, Paris, 1958.VIVES COLL, a.-Lucian of Samosata in Spain (1500-1700), La Laguna, 1959.ZAPPALA, M. O-Lucian of Samosata in the Two Hesperias. An Essay in Literary and Cultural Translation, Potomac, 1990.VIAN, a.-"a masterpiece of Renaissance lucianesco dialogue: the dialogue of the transformations of Pythagoras anonymous", Bulletin Hispanique, 94 (1992), pp. 5-36.

Traduccion:Garcia YAGÜE, F-dialogues of cynical trend, Madrid, 1976.vintro, e. - true story. Prometheus or the Caucasus. Rudder or the Misanthrope. Dialogue of the hetairas, Barcelona, 1974.ESPINOSA ALARCON, a.-works I, Madrid, GONZALEZ, J. l.-Obras 1982.NAVARRON II, Madrid, 1983.ZARAGOZA bottle, j.-works III, Madrid, 1984.

Teresa Jiménez Calvente