Satire and Historiography

The Reception of Classical Models and the Construction of the Author’s Persona in Lucian’s De historia conscribenda

in Mnemosyne
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This paper examines the reception of classical historiography in Lucian’s De historia conscribenda by suggesting that classical historians constitute a vehicle through which the author constructs his own persona; while presenting the rules of historiography, Lucian often equates himself to the classical historians. After offering a brief outline of the relevant vocabulary, expressions and allusions, I argue that Lucian’s exploitation of classical historiography does not aim merely at aesthetic imitation or parody, but serves a deeper function: Lucian wishes to establish a connection between the act (traits, process) and the theory of history writing and uses the former in order to legitimize the latter. Furthermore, his adaptation of classical historians (especially Thucydides) has a self-referential aspect, since the ideal historian should possess the qualities of the competent orator that Lucian himself represents. I interpret these traits of Lucian’s treatise by taking into account the cultural context of the second sophistic, as well as Lucian’s thematic interests and priorities.

Satire and Historiography

The Reception of Classical Models and the Construction of the Author’s Persona in Lucian’s De historia conscribenda

in Mnemosyne



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Homeyer 196516-29.


For Lucian as an entertainer see Hall 1981389-394. Cf. also Whitmarsh (2001 251) who aptly characterizes Lucian’s work as a ‘comedy of nihilism’ and highlights its self-subversive character (but he does not deal extensively with the De historia conscribenda). For the didactic function of satire see Branham 1984 who develops the idea of ‘the comic as critic’. Cf. also Camerotto 1998 116 for the ambiguity of spoudogeloion and 125-126 135 for the idea of the ‘serio-comico’ in Lucian’s work.


See Bowie 1970; Anderson 199386-100; Swain 1996 65-100 and 298-329; Schmitz 1997 39-66; Whitmarsh 2001 41-130; Whitmarsh 2005 41-56.


Georgiadou and Larmour 19941450-1482.


Th. 2.48.3. Translation from Lattimore 1998.


Luc. vh 1.1-4. See Möllendorf 200030-61Georgiadou and Larmour 1998 51-59 Gassino 2010.


See especially Georgiadou and Larmour 19941478-1500.


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