True History, and Lucius, or the Ass

True History, and Lucius, or the Ass

True History, and Lucius, or the Ass

True History, and Lucius, or the Ass

Excerpt

The TRUE HISTORY is probably the best known and certainly the most entertaining work of Lucian, a Syrian who was born about 115 and died about 200 A.D. Not much is known about him, apart from what can be deduced from his own writings; but he evidently did a great deal of travelling, not only in 'the realms of gold' but also in Greece, Italy, France, and Egypt, where he spent the last part of his life. He was thus able to draw on his own experience for the many realistic details which lend an air of verisimilitude to this fantastic traveller's tale.

It is not known for certain who wrote LUCIUS or THE ASS, but it has long been tentatively ascribed to Lucian, and there seems to be no conclusive reason for rejecting this tradition. The plot of THE ASS was used by Apuleius in his more famous GOLDEN ASS, but here again there is some doubt whether Apuleius borrowed from the author of THE ASS, or whether both writers borrowed from a lost original, possibly written by a man called Lucius of Patrae.

For the ordinary reader neither of these questions is important. All that matters is that he should realise the difference in character, tone and intention between the two surviving versions of the story; for though it is fashionable for admirers of Apuleius to pour scorn on Lucius, it is no more reasonable to do so than to condemn, say, Virgil's treatment of the Orpheus myth in the GEORGICS merely because it is unlike M. Jean Cocteau's ORPHÉE.

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