University Of Tasmania
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Centaurs, sophists and satire : hybridity in the works of Lucian of Samosata

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:00 authored by Abel, MC
The following dissertation assesses the works of Lucian of Samosata, a satirist writing during the Second Century AD. It is proposed that in his satires, Lucian uses the theme of hybridity in order to critique contemporary philosophical ideals and practices, framing the philosopher-sophists of the period as hybrids through their unsuccessful melding of the virtues of philosophy with the power of rhetoric. The theme of hybridity is explored in multiple ways, and this dissertation recognises Lucian's own hybridity, both in terms of his ethnicity and of his use of the serio-comic genre. Lucian, in a number of his works, underscores what a true hybrid and a false hybrid is, and the motif of the centaur serves to illustrate his point well, being simultaneously an admired figure through the mythical tradition surrounding Cheiron, while also being a source of violence and uncivilised behaviour, as evident in tales of the Centauromachy. It is proposed that Lucian, rather than dismissing his hybridity, acknowledges (Bis. Acc. 33) and utilises it to create a more informed critique of the philosopher-sophists, establishing a series of works that serve to address both elite and non-elite concerns simultaneously. This is explored through an Aesopic framework, as it reveals how many of the tensions of high and low culture are present throughout the fable, and within tradition surrounding Aesop himself. Using this framework, the theme of hybridity is explored through various examples of the human-animal hybrid; exploring physical hybridity through the centaur, while also discussing hybrid wisdom through modes of speech, and the capacity for hybridity to stretch across multiple spheres. In doing so, it is shown that Lucian frames the philosopher-sophists as hybrids who, through their concerted effort to appear as a source of wisdom, have in fact failed to reach such heights, merely becoming a source of corrupted, false wisdom.


Publication status

  • Unpublished

Rights statement

Copyright 2018 the author Author also known as Megan Campbell Hancock. The second half of chapter 2 has been published as: Hancock, M., 2019. Centaurs at the symposium: two types of hybridity in Lucian, Ancient narrative, 15, 89-107

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  • Open

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