Identity in the Writings of Lucian of Samosata



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The second-century CE Greek sophist, rhetorician, and satirist Lucian of Samosata (c. 120-185 CE) presents a complex figure in his writings. A native of the province of Syria who wrote in Greek under the Roman Empire, Lucian’s identity and perspective on the world around him seems complex and often self-contradictory in his works. In light of Lucian’s complexity, readers and later scholars have sometimes tried to pigeonhole his identity into simple terms of “Greek,” “Syrian,” or “Roman.” This thesis offers an alternative view, applying the postcolonial lens of “discrepant identities” to Lucian’s literary personae in his writings. Lucian’s self-portrayal shifted between his works due to a variety of factors stemming from Roman imperial rule. Through a series of case studies of Lucian’s works (De Dea Syria, Heracles, De Mercede Conductis, Apologia, and Patriae Encomium) this thesis shows the malleability of Lucian’s self-presentation within his literary corpus due to his evolving circumstances, the broader context of the Roman Empire, and the pressures of unfavorable stereotypes. Finally, as a figure with a sizable literary record, Lucian offers an excellent model of how the identities of other provincials may have shifted as a response to the necessities of life in the heterogeneous Roman Empire.