“The Works of Lucian of Samosata” by Lucian

Lucian, an Assyrian who lived during the Roman Empire and wrote in Greek, was known for his witty satires.

A Pagan Perception of Christians

Lucian’s depiction of Christians in antiquity is almost sympathetic by his standard, and perceptive as well:

The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. … The activity of these people, in dealing with any matter that affects their community, is something extraordinary; they spare no trouble, no expense. These misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on trust, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property. Now an adroit, unscrupulous fellow, who has seen the world, has only to get among these simple souls, and his fortune is pretty soon made; he plays with them.

The danaides
The Danaïdes, John William Waterhouse 1903

Inheritance of the Philosophers

The real necessities Diogenes inherited from Antisthenes, and Crates from Diogenes; and in those necessities was more grandeur and majesty than in the Persian Empire — wisdom, independence, truth, frankness, freedom. Diogenes inherited all this from Antisthenes, and left it to Crates with some addition.

Others, however, were not interested in such property; no one paid the philosophers the attentions of an expectant heir; they all lad their eyes on gold, instead. They had no receptacle for such things as the philosophers could give; luxury had made them so leaky — as full of holes as a worn-out purse. Put wisdom, frankness, or truth into them, and it would have dropped out; the bottom of the bag would have let them through, like the perforated cask into which those poor Danaids are always pouring. Gold, on the other hand, they could grip with tooth or nail or somehow.

[more to follow]



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