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Lucian (ca 120-ca 185)  

Lucian, born at Samosata, a town on the Euphrates, is best known as a satirical author of seventy to eighty prose pieces in Greek, including essays, speeches, letters, dialogues, and stories influenced by Attic old comedy, Homeric myth, Platonic dialogue, and Menippean satire. Only incidentally engaged with the details of contemporary history, Lucian's works deploy stock types such as the misanthrope, tyrant, debauchee, and sycophant and do not advance a consistent philosophical position.

Homosexuality in Lucian is not the root of individual identity. It is instead treated as one of a related series of personal traits that characterize villainy, pretension, and ignorance.

The titular character of The Mistaken Critic, for instance, is deplored, as a part of his general iniquity, for his effeminacy and prostitution, and for two incidents of fellatio, one of which the critic performed at a public banquet on a hired man with a penis so enormous that his jaw is hyperbolically described as having been dislocated. A Professor of Public Speaking, Alexander the False Prophet, The Passing of Peregrinus, and The Ignorant Book-Collector similarly present homosexuality in connection with other forms of apparent profligacy and cultural uncouthness.

In "Zeus and Ganymede," part of Lucian's Dialogues of the Gods, Zeus's infatuation with the lunkheaded Ganymede is in keeping with the sensuality of the heterosexual gods. The novel Lucius, or the Ass includes a rollicking tale of priests who capture a village youth and force him to have sex with them, thus making a minor point on moral hypocrisy.

The ironically titled A True Story is an account of a voyage to the moon, a land where there are no women and where marriage and procreation is between men under 25, who act as wives, and older men, who act as husbands, an obvious glance at classical male-male pederasty. Because moonmen do not possess anuses, intercourse is through an opening above the calf, and new men are thus conceived in the thigh. Alternately, "tree people" emerge from acorns that grow on enormous penis-shaped trees of flesh produced by the planting of right testicles in the ground.

The nonsatirical Erôtes, or Amores, written by pseudo-Lucian, is a third- or fourth-century dialogue within a dialogue that advocates male-male love. In the Erôtes, Lycinus recounts a debate between Charicles of Corinth, who advocated love for women, and Callicratidas of Athens, who favored men.

Callicratidas carries the day by arguing three main points: Marriage to women was invented out of reproductive necessity, whereas love for men was cultivated for its beauty and is therefore more honorable and a sign of social progress; though animals do not engage in homosexual love neither do they know anything of philosophy or friendship; women are vain and trite, whereas young men are sober, brave, and intelligent, and therefore, to love a young man is to express one's own wisdom and virtue.

In his defense, Callicratidas departs from normative hierarchical pederasty by envisioning an Aristotelian friendship between equals that also includes sexual relations.

M. Morgan Holmes


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Anderson, Graham. Studies in Lucian's Comic Fiction. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1976.

Branham, Robert Bracht. Unruly Eloquence: Lucian and the Comedy of Traditions. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Cantarella, Eva. Bisexuality in the Ancient World. 1988. Trans. Cormac Cuilleanáin. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

Halperin, David M. "Historicizing the Sexual Body: Sexual Preferences and Erotic Identities in the Pseudo-Lucianic Erôtes." Discourses of Sexuality: From Aristotle to AIDS. Domna C. Stanton, ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992. 236-261.

Jones, C. P. Culture and Society in Lucian. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986.

Lucian. Lucian. Trans. A. D. Harmon, K. Kilburn and M. D. Macleod. 8 vols. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1913-1967.

Robinson, Christopher. Lucian and his Influence in Europe. London: Duckworth, 1979.


    Citation Information
    Author: Holmes, M. Morgan  
    Entry Title: Lucian  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated June 11, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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