Tuesday, April 14, 2015


C. T. Hadavas, Lucian, On the Death of Peregrinus: An Intermediate Ancient Greek Reader. [Beloit, WI]: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014. Pp. xxviii, 154. ISBN 9781500303099. $12.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Serena Pirrotta, Berlin (serena.pirrotta@web.de)

Version at BMCR home site

As is made clear by the subtitle, this book is conceived as an ancient Greek reader for students with a basic acquaintance with Ancient Greek grammar. The choice of Lucian's On the Death of Peregrinus is certainly very appropriate for this purpose: Lucian's koiné with atticizing elements can easily be read and understood by beginners, and the serio-comic tone makes reading this text a very enjoyable experience. The book opens with a short but exhaustive introduction, which provides basic information on Lucian, his work, and his historical and literary context. After summarizing the content and the meaning of the Peregrinus — including its references to Jesus and the Christians (§ "Introduction") — the author describes the figure of Peregrinus–Protheus as portrayed by Lucian (§ "Peregrinus–Proteus–Phoenix"), as well as by his contemporary Aulus Gellius in his Noctes Atticae (12.11) and later by Philostratus in his Lives of the Sophists (§ "Two other perspectives on Peregrinus"). The two following sections are dedicated to Lucian's relationship with Christianity, which was slowly beginning to gain the attention of pagan educated elites, and to his position within the cultural movement of the Second Sophistic (§ "Lucian and Christianity"; § "Lucian and the Second Sophistic"). The last three sections deal with Lucian's narrative technique – in particular his use of fictional autobiography and "mirror characters" (§ "Lucian, 'Lucian', and 'Lucian's Double'") –, his literary models, his style and his language (§ "Literary Style"; § "Language"). An essential bibliography provides tips for further readings and lists existing text editions, commentaries and English translations.

The text of the Peregrinus is presented in a very reader-friendly way. On the left page a few lines of Greek text are followed by rather detailed grammatical and syntactical notes, as well as explanatory notes providing all necessary background information for understanding Lucian's allusions to historical facts and literary references. The comfortably large line-spacing leaves enough room for annotations. All vocabulary occurring in the portion of the text presented on the left page is given on the facing page; after a word occurs five separate times in these vocabulary lists, it doesn't appear again. For verbs with unusual forms the first person singular active forms of the present, future, and aorist are given. All the words can be found in the Glossary at the end of the book, along with all pronouns.

The compact presentation of all necessary information about Lucian and the Peregrinus in the introductory chapters, the exhaustive footnotes with suggestions for translation, and the reader-friendly layout make Havadas' book a useful learning tool for students near the beginning of their classics curriculum.

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