Lucian – A True Story translated by Achillea
Introduction by translator: This work eludes all effort at classifying its genre; it is satire, science-fiction, fantasy, fiction, and completely and wonderfully absurd. Lucian (Assyrian by descent yet wrote exclusively in Attic Greek) lived circa 125 – circa 180 AD; he was kind of like the G.K. Chesterton or P.G. Wodehouse of his era, if I can get away with such a loose historical comparison. He was prolific and wrote a lot of humorous pieces; there are over 70 works attributed to him, dialogues, rhetorical essays and other works of prose fiction. He is one of the earliest recognized novelists of the world. And apparently one of the few ancients who actually wanted to write “light reading.” Can you imagine…?
I was first inspired to read/translate this after I went digging around in the Greek dictionary at school and found by random chance a noun meaning “one who sails in a nut.” I was immediately captivated (and also by another word that means “drinking on an empty stomach”…but that’s a different, probably no less true, story). Further investigation led me to discover A True Story by Lucian, wherein this wonderful word is found, about which no further information (spoilers) shall be presently given.
I will be using the text provided on the greatest website ever conceived (unless I find some other way of doing this): Perseus. I will be translating and publishing it in short installments, though probably without definite timetable as I will be going back to school soon and unable to post as much as I would like. It’s not terribly long, so we’ll see how this goes.
As far as each installment goes, for the sake of space and ease, I will be posting them further down on this page and titling each with the date on which it was posted, so the longer it gets, the further you will have to scroll, but that seems like the easiest way to do this, unless I find a better way.
And so, without any further ado…
Lucian – A True Story
(1) Just as athletes are concerned with care of their bodies and give thought to their health and exercise, and make sure to rest at appropriate intervals (which they believe is the most effective method of training), so also I think it is appropriate for those who are busy about their letters to rest from the weightiest of their readings and intellectual exertion and thereby become better prepared for their later labors. (2) I think it would be appropriate recreation if they should read these sorts of things, which do not merely provide pure entertainment simply from jokes and silliness, but still provide some profitable considerations. I suppose then they would be better able to take up their letters again: not only because of the novelty of the topic nor the humor of the execution, and not only because I’ve presented the lies in a convincing way, but also because each of the stories presented is meant to parody some one or another of the old poets and teachers and philosophers, with their many incredible tales and fables, whom I would call by name, except that you will recognize many of them when you read on. (3) There is Ctesias the son of Ctesiochus the Cnidian, who wrote much about the land of the Indians, and about things he had never seen and which he had never heard from anyone who was known for truthfulness. Iamboulos wrote incredible stories about the great sea, fabricating entirely what is now a very familiar lie, but even so you do not find the tale unpleasant. And there are many others writing the same kinds of things, writing about their imaginary wanderings and journeys abroad, telling tales about the size of the beasts, the savageness of the men and the strangeness of their lives: the chief example of this sort of buffoonery is Odysseus, as found in Homer, describing to the people of Alcinous the servitude of the winds, and the one-eyed Cyclopes, and the flesh-eating and savage men, and still yet about the many-headed beasts and the metamorphosis of his companions from potions, he told many of these sorts of silly stories to the ignorant Phaeacians.