Lucian of Samosata and ancient Greek Science Fiction

Λουκιανός Σαμοσατεὺς

In 160 A.D., many centuries before the time of Isaac Newton, the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata wrote an account of how Ulysses' ship had been caught up in a whirlwind and carried on a 7-day flight to the moon. In the early 17th century this work was translated from Greek into Latin by Johannes Kepler, the great early astronomer, in order to make it more widely available. Soon thereafter, Kepler himself wrote a fantasy of space flight called Somnium. In a 1629 letter to a friend he wrote, "If in the end we be driven from the earth, my book will serve as a useful guide for the emigrants and pilgrims who will be settling on the moon . . .' . But Kepler was careful to make clear the speculative nature of his "dream.' James van Allen. Discoverer of the radiation van Allen Belts

Kidnapped by extraterrestrials, star wars, trip to the moon, a story from 160 AD. Apart from legendary tales concerning extra-terrestrial exploits of the Greek Hermes and daring mortals such as the architect Daedalus, the earliest accounts of journeys through space which have come down to us are those of Lucian of Samosata, a second-century satirist (c. 120 – 180 AD) and prose writer. In his Icaromenippus the hero of the tale, Menippus, conceives the idea of paying a visit to Zeus and the story opens with a friend observing Menippus walking in the Street of the Tombs at Athens, talking to himself. From what he is saying, it appears that to assist him in his endeavor, the adventurer, like Icarus and his father before him, placed his reliance on a pair of wings, which he himself fashioned by taking one member from a vulture and another from an eagle. With this hybrid organ of flight buckled about him, he made a number of practice ascents and then set out for his destination from the summit of Mount Olympus. In the vicinity of the moon, finding himself not a little tired , he decided to attempt a lunar landing so as to obtain some relief from his exertion. As a result, he encountered the philosopher Empedocles, who described how, after accidentally falling into the crater of the volcano Mount Etna, he was hurled so high into the air by its smoke that he found himself on the moon!

In the story Menippus meets Endymion who explains that he was kidnapped and brought to the moon while he slept. He adds that he is about to make war on the People of the Sun, whose King Phaethon has refused to allow him to colonize Venus. In the titanic struggle which follows, the People of the Sun are at last victorious and the triumphant Phaethon builds a high wall which prevents the light from his domain from reaching the moon, thus causing a total eclipse....

More Information about Lucian of Samosata

Download the BOOK of Lucian (Gutenberg Project) as a plain text file

Work of Lucian of Samosata:

The Disinherited, Phalaris I & II, Demosthenes, Patriotism, The Fly, Swans and Amber, Dipsas, The Hall, Nigrinus, The Portrait-study, Defence of The Portrait-study, A Trial in the Court of Vowels, Hesiod, The Vision, Pantomime, Anacharsis, Toxaris, Slander, The Way to write History (Πως δεί ιστορίαν συγγράφειν), Hermotimus, The Parasite, The Liar, A Feast of Lapithae, Dialogues of the Hetaerae, Dialogues of the Dead, Dialogues of the Gods (Θεών Διάλογοι ), Dialogues of the Sea-Gods, Menippus, Icaromenippus, Zeus cross-examined, The Cynic, Of Sacrifice, Saturnalia, A True History ( Ἀληθῆ διηγήματα ), A Voyage to the Lower World, Charon, Timon, The Cock, Prometheus on Caucasus, Zeus Tragoedus, The Gods in Council, The Ship, The Life of Peregrine,The Runaways, The double Indictment, The Sale of Creeds, The Fisher, Herodotus, Zeuxis, Harmonides, The Scythian , A literary Prometheus, The Book-fancier, The Purist purized, Lexiphanes, The Rhetorician's Vade-mecum, Demonax, a biography, Alexander The Oracle-Monger (Ἀλέξανδρος ἢ Ψευδομάντις), Mourning, Dionysus, Heracles, Apology for 'The dependent Scholar, A Slip of the Tongue, Peri Tes Syries Theoy, (De Dea Syria / Concerning the Syrian Goddess)., Dream ( Somnium Περὶ τοῦ ἐνυπνίου ), On Dancing (Περί Ορχήσεως ).

Most of these from Gutenberg in 3 parts: Volume 1 , Volume 2 , Volume 3

Other Authors

Iambulos or Jambulus

Winston, David. "Iambulus' Islands of the Sun and Hellenistic Literary Utopias" Science-Fiction Studies vol. 3 (1976), pp. 217-227.


Lucian of Samosata : Introduction and Manuscripts

Zeus Cross-Examined

The Passing Peregrinus

Alexander the False Prophet

Lucian of Samosata: Psallo and Instrumental Music

Lucian of Samosata and Church Fathers

Science Fiction and Ancient Greece

  • Summer Solstice by Charles L. Harness (nominated for a Nebula award in 1985)

How did Eratosthenes discover the method to determine the Earth diameter? Eratosthenes meets a shipwrecked alien, and if we ignore the many historical errors, learns from the alien how to do this!


Lucian: Greek Science Fiction (by Loxias)

Science Fiction Timeline Prehistory

Plato's Dream by Voltaire

A Science Fiction Story: Archimedes Sand Reckoner by Gillian Bradshaw

Sciomancy Nights evenings with the eminent and the imminent dead

Dr. Who and the Trojan War

Lysistrata 3000 AD

C. Gill and T. P. Wiseman, edd., Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World (Austin, 1993).


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