Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet

LCL 162: 234-235

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The Works of Lucian

47Ἓν γοῦν καὶ γελοιότατον ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος· εὑρὼν γὰρ τὰς Ἐπικούρου κυρίας δόξας, τὸ κάλλιστον, ὡς οἶσθα, τῶν βιβλίων καὶ κεφαλαιώδη περιέχον τῆς τἀνδρὸς σοφίας τὰ δόγματα, κομίσας εἰς τὴν ἀγορὰν μέσην ἔκαυσεν ἐπὶ ξύλων συκίνων ὡς δῆθεν αὐτὸν καταφλέγων, καὶ τὴν σποδὸν εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν ἐξέβαλεν, ἔτι καὶ χρησμὸν ἐπιφθεγξάμενος·

Πυρπολέειν κέλομαι δόξας ἀλαοῖο γέροντος·

οὐκ εἰδὼς ὁ κατάρατος ὅσων ἀγαθῶν τὸ βιβλίον ἐκεῖνο τοῖς ἐντυχοῦσιν αἴτιον γίγνεται, καὶ ὅσην αὐτοῖς εἰρήνην καὶ ἀταραξίαν καὶ ἐλευθερίαν ἐνεργάζεται, δειμάτων μὲν καὶ φασμάτων καὶ τεράτων ἀπαλλάττον καὶ ἐλπίδων ματαίων καὶ περιττῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν, νοῦν δὲ καὶ ἀλήθειαν ἐντιθὲν καὶ καθαῖρον ὡς ἀληθῶς τὰς γνώμας, οὐχ ὑπὸ δᾳδὶ καὶ σκίλλῃ καὶ ταῖς τοιαύταις φλυαρίαις, ἀλλὰ λόγῳ ὀρθῷ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ καὶ παρρησίᾳ.

48Ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἕν τι καὶ μέγιστον τόλμημα τοῦ μιαροῦ ἀνδρὸς ἄκουσον. ἔχων γὰρ οὐ μικρὰν ἐπίβασιν ἐπὶ τὰ βασίλεια καὶ τὴν αὐλὴν τὸν Ῥουτιλιανὸν εὐδοκιμοῦντα, διαπέμπεται χρησμὸν τοῦ ἐν Γερμανίᾳ πολέμου ἀκμάζοντος, ὅτε θεὸς Μάρκος ἤδη τοῖς Μαρκομάνοις καὶ Κουάδοις συνεπλέκετο. ἠξίου δὲ ὁ χρησμὸς δύο λέοντας ἐμβληθῆναι ζῶντας εἰς τὸν Ἴστρον μετὰ πολλῶν


Alexander the False Prophet

One of Alexander’s acts in this connection was most comical. Hitting upon the “Established Beliefs” of Epicurus, which is the finest of his books, as you know, and contains in summary the articles of the man’s philosophic creed,1 he brought it into the middle of the market-place, burned it on fagots of fig-wood just as if he were burning the man in person, and threw the ashes into the sea, even adding an oracle also:

“Burn with fire, I command you, the creed of a purblind dotard!”

But the scoundrel had no idea what blessings that book creates for its readers and what peace, tranquillity, and freedom it engenders in them, liberating them as it does from terrors and apparitions and portents, from vain hopes and extravagant cravings, developing in them intelligence and truth, and truly purifying their understanding, not with torches and squills and that sort of foolery, but with straight thinking, truthfulness and frankness.

Of all this blackguard’s emprises, however, hear one, the greatest. Since he had no slight influence in the palace and at court through the favour which Rutilianus enjoyed, he published an oracle at the height of the war in Germany, when the late Emperor Marcus himself had at last come to grips with the Marcomanni and Quadi. The oracle recommended that two lions be cast into the Danube alive, together with a quantity of perfumes and

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.lucian-alexander_false_prophet.1925