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Lucian of Samosata (Lucien de Samosate) (ca 125-192)
Comment : "True History" or "True Story" (Greek: Ἀληθῆ διηγήματα) is a fantastic travel tale by the Greek-speaking Syrian author Lucian of Samosata, the earliest known fiction about travelling to outer space, alien life-forms and interplanetary warfare. Written in the second century AD, the novel has been referred to as "the first known text that could be called science fiction". The work was intended by Lucian as a satire against contemporary and ancient sources, which quote fantastic and mythical events as truth. In True History, Lucian and a company of adventuring heroes sailing westward through the Pillars of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar) are blown off course by a strong wind, and after 79 days come to an island. This island is home to a river of wine filled with fish, and bears a marker indicating that Heracles and Dionysos have traveled to this point. Shortly after leaving the island, they are lifted up by a giant waterspout and deposited on the Moon. There they find themselves embroiled in a full-scale war between the king of the Moon and the king of the Sun, involving armies which boast such exotica as stalk-and-mushroom men, acorn-dogs ("dog-faced men fighting on winged acorns"), and cloud-centaurs. Unusually, the Sun, Moon, stars and planets are portrayed as locales, each with its unique geographic details and inhabitants. After returning to the Earth, the adventurers become trapped in a giant whale; inside the 200-mile-long animal, there live many groups of people whom they rout in war. They also reach a sea of milk, an island of cheese and the isle of the blessed. There, he meets the heroes of the Trojan War, other mythical men and animals, and even Homer. They find Herodotus being eternally punished for the "lies" he published in his Histories. After leaving the Island of the Blessed, they deliver a letter to Calypso given to them by Odysseus explaining that he wishes he had stayed with her so he could have lived eternally. They then discover a chasm in the Ocean, but eventually sail around it, discover a far-off continent and decide to explore it. The book ends rather abruptly by Lucian saying that their adventure there will be the subject of following books. (Compiled from various sources)A beautiful and brief introduction to early works dedicated to travels to the Moon can be had in Lester G. Wells ‘Fictional Accounts of Trips to the Moon’ published in 1962. Wells was the rare books librarian of Syracuse University and wrote brief introductions to a number of works that documented imaginary voyages to the Moon. According to Wells, Lucian of Samosata’s ‘Vera Historia’ (True History) was the first work of science fiction, and written sometime in the 2nd century of our era. It contains the first journey of a man to the Moon. In it Lucian travelled to the ‘great country of the air’ by a whirlwind that propelled his ship to the Moon. On the Moon he found the inhabitants to be quite advanced, they adhorred filth, had no knowledge of sex, and when they died they dissolved in a puff of smoke. The Moon men could observe the goings on the Earth by a glass bottom at the end of a deep well. Another of Lucian’s works, the ‘Icaromenippus’, contains another journey to the Moon. The traveller, in this case sticks wings (from a vulture and eagle respectively) to his body. When he arrived at the Moon he didn’t like it there and so proceeded onto Heaven, where the immortals have him packed back to Earth via the swift and secret messenger Hermes. (Carol Duncan, Gionni Di Gravio)
French comment : Lucien de Samosate était un rhétoricien, né à Samosate (Syrie). il pratiqua le métier d'avocat à Antioche, et voyagea en Asie Mineure, en Grèce, en Italie et en Gaule. Il s'installa à Athènes pour se consacrer à la philosophie. Il donna naissance à une nouvelle forme littéraire, le dialogue humoristique et il est généralement considéré comme le premier auteur de science fiction. Ses préoccupations sont d’ordre philosophique. Il s’interroge sur la distinction du vrai et du faux et sur les mensonges des philosophes. Son style est essentiellement parodique : il se moque des philosophes, des poètes, des historiens. La critique récente a mis en évidence la modernité de son œuvre : problématisation de l’acte de lecture, interprétation des allégories, fiabilité de l’auteur, validité des normes culturelles et des genres littéraires, ... Dans ses "Verae Historiae", il imagine la conquête de l’espace. Son explorateur de l’espace découvre une peuplade sélénite qui dispose d’un système d’observation sonore et visuel universel. (André Lange)
Original excerpt 1 : « 26.Καὶ μὴν καὶ ἄλλο θαῦμα ἐν τοῖς βασιλείοις ἐθεασάμην· κάτοπτρον μέγιστον κεῖται ὑπὲρ φρέατος οὐ πάνυ βαθέος. ἂν μὲν οὖν εἰς τὸ φρέαρ καταβῇ τις, ἀκούει πάντων τῶν παρ’ ἡμῖν ἐν τῇ γῇ λεγομένων, ἐὰν δὲ εἰς τὸ κάτοπτρον ἀποβλέψῃ, πάσας μὲν πόλεις, πάντα δὲ ἔθνη ὁρᾷ ὥσπερ ἐφεστὼς ἑκάστοις· τότε καὶ τοὺς οἰκείους ἐγὼ ἐθεασάμην καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν πατρίδα, εἰ δὲ κἀκεῖνοι ἐμὲ ἑώρων, οὐκέτι ἔχω τὸ ἀσφαλὲς εἰπεῖν. Ὅστις δὲ ταῦτα μὴ πιστεύει οὕτως ἔχειν, ἄν ποτε καὶ αὐτὸς ἐκεῖσε ἀφίκηται, εἴσεται ὡς ἀληθῆ λέγω. »
Original excerpt 2 : « Book I.26.Another marvel I saw in the palace. There is a large mirror suspended over a well of no great depth; any one going down the well can hear every word spoken on our Earth; and if he looks at the mirror, he sees every city and nation as plainly as though he were standing close above each. The time I was there, I surveyed my own people and the whole of my native country; whether they saw me also, I cannot say for certain. Any one who doubts the truth of this statement has only to go there himself, to be assured of my veracity. » (Translated by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler)
French translated excerpt 3 : « Livre Premier.26.Je vis deux merveilles dans le palais du roi ; un puits qui n'était pas fort profond, où en descendant on entendait tout ce qui se disait dans le monde ; et un miroir au-dessus, où en regardant on voyait tout ce qui s'y passait. J'y ai vu souvent mes amis et ceux de ma connaissance, mais je ne sais s'ils me voyaient. Si quelqu'un ne veut pas me croire, quand il y aura été, il me croira.26.Je vis une bien autre merveille dans le palais du roi. C'était un grand miroir, placé au-dessus d'un puits d'une profondeur médiocre. En y descendant, on entendait tout ce qui se dit sur la terre, et en levant les yeux vers le miroir, on voyait toutes les villes et tous les peuples, comme si l'on était au milieu d'eux. J'y vis mes parents et ma patrie ; je ne sais s'ils me virent aussi ; je n'oserais l'affirmer : mais, si l'on se refuse à me croire, on verra bien, en y allant, que je ne suis pas un imposteur.26.J'ai vu encore une autre merveille dans le palais royal : un très grand miroir est disposé au-dessus d'un puits, qui n'est pas fort profond. Si quelqu'un descend dans ce puits, il entend tout ce qui est dit chez nous, sur la terre, et si l'on regarde dans le miroir, on voit toutes les cités, toutes les nations, exactement comme si l'on était au milieu d'elles. A cette occasion, je vis moi-même ma famille, ainsi que ma patrie toute entière, mais me virent-ils eux-mêmes, cela je ne puis encore l'assurer pour certain. Quiconque ne croit pas qu'il en est vraiment ainsi, s'il lui arrive un jour de monter lui-même jusque-là, s'apercevra que je dis la vérité. » (Translated by Pierre Grimal, 1958)
Source : Lucien de Samosate (ca 180), "Oeuvres Complètes", trans. Eugène Talbot, Tome Premier, Deuxième édition, Paris : Hachette, 1866.
Source : Lucian de Samosata (ca 180), "The Works", trans. H.W. Fowler and F.G.Fowler, Volume II, BiblioBazaar LLC, 2008, and Volume II, Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
Source : Georgiadou, A., Larmour, D.H.J. (1998), "Lucian's Science Fiction Novel True Histories : Interpretation and Commentary", Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca Classica Batava. Supplementum, No 179, May 1998.
Source : Milner, Max (1995), "Le Thème de la Communication à Distance dans quelques œuvres de science-fiction", In "Hermès sans fil", edited by Alain Montandon, Presses Université Blaise Pascal, pp. 35-36.
Source : Lange, André (1986), “Stratégies de la musique”, Pierre Mardaga, Bruxelles-Liège, 1986.
Urls : http://remacle.org/bloodwolf/philosophes/Lucien/veritable1.htm (last visited ) http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl2/wl212.htm (last visited )

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