The Ancient Library
 

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4-78 GREEK LITERATURE.

avoided any grievous and open scandal, may be presumed from the high office conferred upon him in Egypt.1

As many as eighty-two works have come down to us under the name of Lucian, but some of them are spurious. The most important of them are his Dialogues. They are of very various degrees of merit, and are treated in the greatest possible variety of style, from seriousness down to the broadest humor and buffoonery. Their subjects and tendency, too, vary considerably; for, while some are employed in attacking the heathen philosophy and religion, others are mere pictures of manners, without any polemic drift. Our limits only allow us to mention a few of the more im­portant of these dialogues. The Dialogues of the Gods, twenty-six in number, consist of short dramatic narratives of some of the most popular incidents in the heathen mythology. The reader, however, is generally left to draw his own conclusions from the story, the author only taking care to put it in the most absurd point of view. In the Jupiter Convicted, a bolder style of attack is adopted; and the cynic proves to Jupiter's face that, every thing being under the dominion of fate, he has no power what­ever. As this dialogue shows Jupiter's want of power, so the Jupiter the Tragedian strikes at his very existence, and that of the other deities. The Auction of Lives, or Sale of the Philosophers, is an attack upon the an­cient philosophers. In this humorous piece the heads of the different sects are put up for sale, Mercury being the auctioneer. The Fisherman is a sort of apology for the preceding piece, and may be reckoned among Lu-cian's best dialogues. The philosophers are represented as having ob­tained a day's life for the purpose of taking vengeance upon Lucian, who confesses that he has borrowed the chief beauties of his writings from them.2

The Banquet, or the Lapithce, is one of Lucian's most humorous attacks on the philosophers. The scene is a wedding feast, at which a repre­sentative of each of the principal philosophic sects is present. A discus­sion ensues, which sets all the philosophers by the ears, and ends in a pitched battle. The Nigrinus is also an attack on philosophic pride ; but its main scope is to satirize the Romans, whose pomp, vain-glory, and luxury are unfavorably contrasted with the simple habits of the Athenians.

The more miscellaneous class of Lucian's dialogues, in which the at­ tacks upon mythology and philosophy are not direct, but incidental, or which are mere pictures of manners, contains some of his best. At the head must be placed Timon, which may, perhaps, be regarded as Lucian's master-piece. The Dialogues of the Dead are, perhaps, the best known of all Lucian's works. The subject affords great scope for moral reflec­ tion, and for satire on the subject of human pursuits. Wealth, power, beauty, strength, not forgetting the vain disputations of philosophy, afford the materials. The Icaro-Menippus is in Lucian's best vein, and a master­ piece of Aristophanic humor. Menippus, disgusted with the disputes and pretensions of the philosophers, resolves on a visit to the stars, for the purpose of seeing how far their theories are correct. ' By the mechanical aid of a pair of wings he reaches the moon, and surveys thence the miser- » Smith, 1. c. * Id. ib.

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