Thursday, August 7, 2008


Version at BMCR home site Christopher Ligota, Letizia Panizza (ed.), Lucian of Samosata Vivus et Redivivus. Warburg Institute Colloquia, 10. London/Turin: The Warburg Institute-Nino Aragno Editore, 2007. Pp. 222. ISBN 978-0-85481-138-0. £36.00 (pb). Reviewed by Sonia Sabnis, Reed College

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This book contains eight essays on the reception of Lucian in western Europe, revised and updated from a 1995 Warburg Institute colloquium. The essays demonstrate Lucian's aptness for reception studies; though most of the essays are very specific in their temporal and geographical parameters, the collection coheres somewhat by addressing diachronically various moral and ideological aspects of Lucian's satire. The editors' introduction provides a helpful overview of the important events in the transmission of Lucian; a survey of bibliography on the topic; guidelines for assessing Lucian's impact; and a short summary of the essays in the volume, which are roughly arranged by historical period.

Simon Swain's "The Three Faces of Lucian" (Greek, Roman, Semitic, with a section devoted to each) updates his chapter on Lucian in Hellenism and Empire (Oxford 1996). The linguistic, political, and intellectual complexities of the Second Sophistic and Lucian's place therein are discussed; Swain is admirably able to consider many of Lucian's works in creating his triptych. The emphasis on Lucian's multiculturalism serves the essays on specific moments of reception that follow; at different points in history, the ideological problems of Lucian's reception can often be attributed to a particular face or to the confounding coexistence of the three.

Christopher Ligota's piece, "Lucian on the Writing of History--Obsolescence Survived," demonstrates the relevance of Lucian's Quomodo historia conscribenda sit to the methods of history from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Ligota first sets the treatise in its ancient context, concluding that it is a "distinguished, but conventional, representative of the Graeco-Roman, rhetorical conception of the genre" (57). But a juxtaposition with the Verae Historiae produces non-conventional results, foregrounding Lucian's interest in presentation above all. In the second part, Ligota goes through the treatise's European afterlife. Quomodo appears in Latin in 1507, and throughout the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries multiple translations are produced in the service of historiographical lessons: "Quomodo comes into its own as an ars historica" (61).

Ligota argues for a connection between Lucian's dictum (τοῦ δὴ συγγραφέως ἔργον ἕν--ὡς ἐπράχθη εἰπεῖν, Quomodo 39) and the famous prescription of Ranke, "blos zeigen wie es eigentlich gewesen." Thucydides, the subject of Ranke's dissertation, has been cited as a more logical influence, though Ligota sees the verbal allusion to Thucydides as tenuous. Allusion to Lucian seems no more certain. The argument is somewhat difficult to follow only because Ligota interprets a version of Ranke's proverb (nur sagen) that is not the same as the one he quotes (blos sagen, later replaced by blos zeigen).[[1]] Nevertheless, the demonstration of the reception of Quomodo as a serious and influential treatise on historiography in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is compelling and could easily lead to further study. The essay ends with a stimulating discussion of the Verae historiae a! s a "sustained counterpoint" to the treatise on writing history. Odyssean tall tales are reported by a detached observer, combining epic material with historiographical style. Furthermore, the narrator's supreme authority undermines the tenet of Quomodo that historical events exist prior to and outside of the historian (Quomodo 51). Thus, when read with the treatise, the Verae Historiae shows "what the historian must not do, whereas its very texture is a figure of what he does" (68). The grotesque fiction of Lucian's novella actually proves the ontological point that historical events exist outside language, that the historian cannot make events happen or unhappen.

Letizia Panizza's "Vernacular Lucian in Renaissance Italy: Translations and Transformations" examines Lucian's unprecedented success in Renaissance Italy. Lucian's reception changes as the vernacular elite increasingly challenges Latin humanism; it is the former that Panizza addresses, having supplied ample bibliography for the latter and briefly highlighting Lucian's rise and fall in conjunction with his perceived atheism: vitriolic tirades of Luther and Calvin against Lucian's godlessness show that Lucian's reception was deeply enmeshed in contemporary theological debates. The vernacular reception is somewhat different at least initially. Panizza identifies three stages of Lucian's vernacular diffusion: in the first (from the 1470s, when the first vernacular translation appeared, to 1525, the date of the editio princeps) Lucian is a charming moral philosopher. Illustrations of various editions highlight Lucian's characteristic serio ludere. A vernacul! ar dialogue by Pandolfo Collenuccio unites Lucian with Aesop and Plautus as friends and experts in bringing forth the human condition with pleasantness and wit. The second stage conjoins Lucian and Erasmus, highlighting anti-authoritarian satire and dissimulation through the works of several writers. Finally, Lucian becomes politicized in Counter-Reformation Italy, figuring as "a champion of free speech in times of political and religious repression" (73). Panizza's tour of Lucian's reception in Italian vernacular is quick, but she demonstrates that Lucian's diverse satire was variously attractive to anti-authoritarian skepticism and wit, to be supplanted by the more decorous Horace and Cicero in later years.

The humanistic reception of Lucian serves as a basis for the next essay, Isabelle Pantin's "Kepler et Lucien: Des voyages extraordinaires au Ludus philosophicus." A rapport between the astronomer Johannes Kepler and Lucian may seem odd to those with limited knowledge of the former; Pantin's essay presumes more of its reader than the others.[[2]] Kepler's citations of Lucian's Icaromenippus and Verae Historiae indicate his interest in the scientific underpinnings of fiction; far from misunderstanding the nature of Lucian's satire, as some have argued, Kepler saw in Lucian a fruitful combination of fictional play and philosophical labor. Lucian's influence is clear in Kepler's Somnium, which imagines a journey to the moon; Kepler's notes and letters pertaining to this work (published posthumously) speak to his belief in the strength of scientific advancement through iucunditas.

As the title "A Few More Calumnies: Lucian and the Visual Arts" suggests, the focus of Jean Michel Massing's contribution is Lucian's Calumniae non temere credendum, perhaps a postscript to his book on the subject.[[3]] In the treatise, Lucian describes how the painter Apelles responded to slander with an allegorical painting, in which Slander is represented as a beautiful woman dragging an innocent by the hair. Apelles, the most famous Greek painter, was already an attractive model for illustrators of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; it is easy to see why Lucian's moralizing filter made the reconstruction of Apelles' work a popular theme of manuscript illustrations and paintings. For classicizing artists, Lucian provided access to a lost world of Greek art that they sought to reconstruct.

Emmanuel Bury's "Un sophiste impérial à l'Académie: Lucien en France au XVIIe siècle" focuses on the literary culture of the time. Various sources for Lucian leading up to a landmark translation by Nicolas Perrot d'Ablancourt (1654) are catalogued; notable among these is a commendation by Jean Baudoin, whose description of Lucian amounts to a true Renaissance man, combining encyclopedic knowledge with practical morality. Bury demonstrates how Lucian may have stood out even in the midst of exuberant classicism. Having himself engaged with the models of classical Athens, Lucian served as a model of mimesis. Importantly, Lucian's work had a cultivative purpose as well, which allied with a new (but nostalgic) kind of urbane paideia, the formation of l'honnête homme. D'Ablancourt's belle infidèle translation (Bury appends a critical text of Ablancourt's Somnium as a work that encapsulates Lucian's appeal) ensur! ed Lucian's place among other classical authors such as Cicero and Tacitus.

Luc Deitz's "Wieland's Lucian" is the liveliest article in the collection. The German poet and intellectual Christoph Martin Wieland (1733-1813) not only translated Lucian's complete works but was also greatly influenced by him in his own writings. Deitz sketches the diverse resources that Wieland used in completing his translation, but then seeks to transcend questions of mere influence and to historicize Wieland's Lucian. It is striking that Wieland compared his Weimar age to the Antonine, when the dominant trend (following Winckelmann and others) favored Greece. Deitz rescues Wieland from the mockery to which his disdain of the idealization of Greece subjected him; both Wieland and Lucian were dismissed, by Goethe and Wilamowitz respectively, on the grounds of lacking true Greek blood.

Manuel Baumbach's contribution, "Lucian in German Nineteenth-Century Scholarship" should pick up where Deitz leaves off, but recaps the main facts of Wieland's translation and reception of Lucian without Deitz's depth of analysis. After a rise in popularity at the beginning of the century, Lucian's cachet sank along with that of Wieland; the two were inseparable in German thought. Moreover, the early nineteenth-century reaction against the Enlightenment led to a negative view of Lucian's satire. Lucian's deep roots in the school curriculum--and here Baumbach notes the closeness between pedagogy and philology during this time--survived controversies between apologists and theologians. However, by the beginning of the twentieth century Lucian had virtually disappeared from German scholarship; Baumbach offers a compelling set of reasons from the complex history of German philology and ideology--racial stereotyping figures prominently here as well. While Lucian has been ! recovered to some degree in German scholarship, Baumbach sees Lucian as still largely inaccessible to a wider German audience.

With such varied stories of reception, this volume as a whole can be read as one chapter in the history of philology and classicism in western Europe; Lucian, with his prolific and multifarious satire, offers a particularly interesting index of the ideologies that could be served or threatened by literature. To scholars of reception, the essays, which are uneven, will best speak individually. Lovers of Lucian will find the first few essays the most valuable, but the collection offers ample evidence for his continued relevance and appeal.

Table of Contents:


Simon Swain, The Three Faces of Lucian

Christopher Ligota, Lucian on the Writing of History: Obsolescence Survived

Letizia Panizza, Vernacular Lucian in Renaissance Italy: Translations and Transformations

Isabelle Pantin, Kepler et Lucien: Des voyages extraordinaires au ludus philosophicus

Jean Michel Massing, A Few More Calumnies: Lucian and the Visual Arts

Emmanuel Bury, Un sophiste impérial à l'Académie: Lucien en France au XVIIe siècle.

Luc Deitz, Wieland's Lucian

Manuel Baumbach, Lucian in German Nineteenth-Century Scholarship

Index of Names and Titles


1. Ligota's footnotes provide the bibliography explaining the multiple versions of the dictum (e.g., M.-J. Zemlin, "'Zeigen, wie es eigentlich gewesen': Zur Deutung eines berühmten Rankeswortes," Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 37 (1986): 333-350). See also Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History (rev. ed., Cambridge 1997), 69. 2. For a useful introduction, see Anthony Grafton, "Kepler as a Reader," Journal of the History of Ideas 53.4 (1992): 561-572 (perhaps too general to be cited by Pantin). 3. Jean Michel Massing, Du Texte à l'image. La Calomnie d'Apelle et son iconographie. Strasbourg 1990.

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