A Greek Author Lucian (Lat. Lucianus Gr. Aovkiavos), born in Samosata, on the Euphrates, about A. D. 120, died in Egypt about 200. His parents being too poor to give him a learned education, he was apprenticed when about 14 years of age to his maternal uncle, a reputable sculptor in his native city. Receiving a severe flogging for an act of carelessness, he returned home, and devoted himself to the study of rhetoric and literature. He travelled for some time in Ionia, and having completed his studies began to practise as an advocate at Antioch; but, meeting with no success, he was driven to writing speeches for others. He next visited the greater part of Greece, Italy, and Gaul, giving lectures in the cities. At Athens he made himself familiar with the Attic dialect, and cultivated an acquaintance with the philosopher Demonax. In Gaul he appears to have remained for several years, and here he chiefly gained his professional reputation, and made himself rich. On returning to his native country, he applied himself to writing, but still travelled occasionally, visiting Ionia and Achaia about 160 or 165, and Paphlagonia about 170. While in Paphlagonia he planned various contrivances for exposing the impostures of the pseudo-prophet Alexander, who accordingly ordered the crew of the vessel in which Lucian was returning home to throw him overboard.
From this fate he was saved only by the intervention of the captain, who had him conveyed out of the ship and set on shore. In his latter days he was appointed procurator of part of Egypt, and was in expectation of a proconsulship when he died. - The works of Lucian are of a very miscellaneous character. The best known are his "Dialogues," compositions exhibiting various degrees of merit, and every variety of style, from sober seriousness to the broadest humor and buffoonery. They are in general directed against the gods, philosophers, and absurdities of paganism, which, according to Suidas, procured him the surname of the Blasphemer. In the " Sale of the Philosophers " the founders of the different sects are put up to auction, Mercury being the auctioneer. Pythagoras brings 10 minae; Diogenes, with his rags and cynicism, but 2 oboli; for Democritus and Heraclitus there are no bidders; Socrates is knocked down to Dion of Syracuse for 2 talents; Epicurus goes for 2 minae; Chrysippus the Stoic is bought for 12; while Pyrrho, whose price is not mentioned, persists in doubting whether he has been disposed of or not, even after having been sold, paid for, and delivered. "The Banquet," or "The Lapithae," is one of the most humorous of all Lucian's dialogues.
The scene is a wedding feast at which a representative of each of the principal philosophic sects is a guest. The unlettered portion of the company behave with propriety; but the philosophers commence a discussion which ends in a pitched battle. The " Dialogues of the Dead " have found numerous and distinguished modern imitators, including Fontenelle, Voltaire, and Lord Lyttelton. The earlier editions of Lucian's works are those of Florence (1496) and Venice (1503). The best are those of Hemster-huis and Reitz (3 vols. 4to, Amsterdam, 1743), and Lehmann (9 vols. 8vo, Leipsic, 1821-'31). There is an incomplete English version by Dr. Thomas Franklin (4 vols. 8vo, London, 1781); a much superior German one by Wieland (6 vols., Leipsic, 1788-'9); a French translation by De Ballu (6 vols., Paris, 1788); an Italian translation by Manzi (1819-'20); an English version of the entire works by William Tooke (2 vols. 4to, London, 1820); selections, with English notes, by Evelyn Abbott (London, 1872); and an English translation by W. Lucas Collins (Edinburgh, 1873).