The Ancient Library

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On this page: Lucan – Luceres – Lucerna – Lucian



Lncan (Marcus Annceus Lucanus). A Boman poet, born 39 a.d. at Cordova in Spain.' He was grandson of Seneca the rhe­torician, and nephew of Seneca the philo­sopher. He was brought up in Rome from the first year of his age, and excited atten­tion at an early date by his rhetorical and poetic powers. On the recommendation of his uncle, Nero conferred on him the quges-torship while yet under the legal age, and admitted him to favour. The applause however which his poems received soon aroused the jealousy of the emperor, who was particularly conceited about his own poetic abilities. Accordingly he was for­bidden for the future to recite his poems in public, or to appear on the platform. This inspired the poet with such animosity that he took part in Piso's conspiracy. When it was detected, he sought at iirat j to save himself by the most abject en­treaties, by denouncing his fellow con­spirators, and even by falsely accusing his mother Acilia. Being nevertheless con- I demned to die, he himself caused his veins | to be opened, and thus perished (65 a.d.). 1 Of his numerous compositions, the Phar-salia, an unfinished epic in ten books, is extant. It is an account of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, extending beyond the battle of Pharsalus and down to the capture of Alexandria. It main­tains such strict chronological order and exactitude of detail, that it was a ques­tion after his death whether he deserved to be reckoned a poet at all. [Petronius 118 and, at a later date, Servius, Ad ^En. i 382. Cp. Dryden's preface to Anmts AKrabilis, quoted in Heitland's Introd. to Lucan, ed. Haskins, p. six.]

Lucan represents himself in his poem as an enthusiastic lover of the lost days of liberty, and in that capacity extols Pompey, to the unjust disparagement of Caesar. His narrative displays some talent, but also an inability to give his materials a more than merely outward poetical form. It is more­over turgid, rhetorical to a degree, and its pathos smacks of declamation. Remains of the literary activity which made him its object in olden times are extant in two col­lections of scholia.

Luceres. One of the three old patrician tribes in Rome. (See patricians.) Lucerna (a lamp). See lighting. Lucian (Gr. Loukianos). One of the most interesting of Greek writers, born about 120 a.d. at Sam5s<ita, on the Euphrates in Syria. Owing to the poverty of his parents,

he was apprenticed to a stonemason ; but, thanks to his irresistible eagerness for i higher culture, contrived to devote himself i to the art of rhetoric. After practising for some time as an advocate, he traversed Greece, Italy, and Southern Gaul in the guise of a sophist, and gained wealth and renown by his public declamations. In his fortieth year he removed to Athens, to devote himself to the study of philo­sophy, and attached himself closely to the Stoic Demonax. In his old age the state of his finances compelled him once more to travel as a professional orator. At last, when far advanced in years, he was given an important and influential post in the administration of justice in Egypt, this he seems to have retained till death.

Under his name we still possess more than eighty works (including three col­lections of seventy-one shorter dialogues). Twenty of these are, however, either cer­tainly spurious or of doubtful authenticity. They date from every period of his life, the best and cleverest from the time of his sojourn in Athens. They fall into two classes, rhetorical and satirical. Of the latter the majority are in dramatic form, recalling in dialogue and outward dress the Old Comedy, of which Lucian had a thorough knowledge, and to which his genius was closelj7 akin. These writings present an admirable picture of the ten­dencies and the absurdities of the time. In the field of religion, he directed his mockery (especially in the Dialogues of the Gods) against the tenets of the popu­lar religion, the artificial revival of which was attempted in the time of Hadrian and the Antonines. He further attacked the popular conceptions of life after death in the Dialogues of the Dead. He assails with special bitterness the superstitions which had penetrated from the East, among which he reckons, it is true, Chris­tianity, but without anjr real knowledge of its nature. In Peregrinus Proteus, he attacks mystical enthusiasm; in Alexander, or the Prophet of Lies, the impostors and oracle-mongers who preyed upon the super­stition of the time, which he portrays in a masterly style in his Lover of Lies and his True Stories (Verm Hiatorice}. Another object of his satiric lance was the current philosophy, in which he had sought relief when sated with rhetoric. He had only found in it, however, a petrified dogmatism, a passion for strife and disputation, with the most absolute contradiction between

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