Menippean satire. (That means Plain Awesome, for all'y'all greasers.)
Beloved by Erasmus. First recognizable science fiction in the European tradition, mirroring in "The True History" and the "Icaromenippus" Wells' later The First Men in the Moon
Volume presents irreverant portraits of classical paganism, foundational Greek mythologies, antique class relations, and so on. Introduction notes that Lucian had equal opprobrium for Christianity, which he mentions several times in this volume, but whose more sustained attacks thereupon were not selected for this text. The anti-Christian writings must be poignant, for editor here reports:
"The earliest surviving biography of Lucian appears in a tenth-century encyclopedia," recording "otherwise known as Lucian the Blasphemer," "born somewhere about the time of Trajan," "practised for a while as a barrister," "did so badly at it that he turned over to literature and wrote no end of stuff," "torn to pieces by mad dogs, because he had been so rabid against the truth - for in his Death of Peregrinus
the filthy brute attacks Christianity and blasphemes Christ himself. So he was adequately punished in this world, and in the next he will inherit eternal fire with Satan" (7). Gotta love the charitable attitude of the pious when their ideas are threatened: not sufficient that someone is torn limb from limb by animals, the unbeliever must also thereafter burn forever. Anyway, dude, Lucian is still laughing at your feeble encyclopedia entry, which is only known now because readers of Lucian join him in laughing at you.
Some great bits wherein Lucian, or his alter ego Menippus (who serves him just like Socrates serves Plato), cross-examines deities, writers, philosophers. My favorite is "Philosophies Going Cheap" (147-165), wherein Zeus and Hermes auction off various schools of philosophy, bringing forward the most well known member of each school as the representative bondsman. Nails Pythagoras, Diogenes, Epicureans, Heraclitus & Democritus, Socrates & Plato, the Skeptics, Aristotelians, and so on. The caricatures are revealing and comical--and by the third reference to how all philosophers are identifiable by their long, unkempt beards, I was laughing audibly. The stage instruction for "Fishing for Phonies" (166-195), another satire of professional philosophers, who confront Lucian because of the publication of "Philosophies Going Cheap," captures the anti-beardism well enough: "Lucian has come face to face with a crowd of angry philosophers, heavily equipped with beards, sticks, and knapsacks" (166). Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I find that image, and its persistent permutations herein, hilarious.
Anyway, this one is necessary to understand Erasmus, and as I have stated concurrently hereto that Erasmus is required reading, the syllogism should be readily apparent.