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Prof. Daniel Ogden (Exeter): Lucian's Chaldaean snake-blaster and the saintly dragon-fight tradition yet again, again

A Department of Classics and Ancient History seminar
Date25 September 2019
Time14:00 to 15:30
PlaceStreatham Court Old B

See Further Details for abstract

The earliest extant hagiographical dragon fight is the Acts of Thomas’ account of its saint’s battle against the Dragon of India. This Greek tale was composed c. AD 220-40, possibly on the basis of a Syriac predecessor. But the pagan Lucian’s Philopseudes or Lover(s) of Lies, of the AD 170s (?), incorporates what is evidently a parody of a saintly dragon-fight narrative and in so doing demonstrates that the tradition of such narratives was already well established half a century before this, albeit perhaps on a largely oral basis at this stage. More remarkably still, Lucian’s tale demonstrates the second-century AD currency in the hagiographical tradition of a range of dragon-fight motifs that in some cases are not otherwise attested until many centuries later. In so doing the tale testifies both to the depth and fulness of that tradition at an early stage, to its subsequent durability, and to the degree of its conservatism. The talk will be enlivened by some good stories but, alas, few images.

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