Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10593/12205
Title: Peregrinos Lukiana z Samosat – szaleństwo w krzywym zwierciadle satyry
Other Titles: Peregrinus of Lucian of Samosata – madness in the distorting satire
Authors: Siwicka, Małgorzata
Keywords: the passing of Peregrinus
histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders
self-deception
Cynic asceticism
pathological desire for fame
madness
theatrical behaviour
suicide
Issue Date: 30-Dec-2013
Publisher: Wydawnictwo Poznańskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk
Citation: Symbolae Philologorum Posnaniensium, 2013, nr XXIII/2, s. 153-170.
Abstract: The work The Passing of Peregrinus by Lucian of Samosata presents a picture of a pseudo-philosopher , who under the disguise of Cynic asceticism and courageous death, hid such an extraordinary desire for fame and publicity that it took on a pathological size. This morbid craving for popularity that he acquired by any possible means finally brought Peregrinus to suicidal death, although, in fact, he did not really want it. What Lucian did not approve of his conduct was falseness, cheap theatrical claptrap, using human simplicity and warm-heartedness. Lucian damasks in a brutal way the unbound craving for publicity from which all actins of Peregrinus stemmed. By removing a tragic mask from his face Lucian pinpoints his ridiculousness and ugliness. It was the pursuit of popularity that brought Peregrinus to destruction. His self-immolation, however, was not viewed upon by Lucian as an act of heroism, but merely as a grotesque and miserable ending of an equally grotesque and deplorable life.
Description: The character of Peregrinus , a Cynic philosopher has been known particularly for Lucian’s mocking dialogue entitled The Passing of Peregrinus as well as for several mentions in his writings. This dialogue is classed as an aggressive satire aiming specifically at one, specific individual, who is presented as a mad, kind of possessed person, whose madness, however, deserves neither mercy nor sympathy. The event that made Lucian wage such a violent attack was the death of that particular man in 165 A.D. in Olympia just after the Olympic Games. It was at that time that he committed suicide in extremely dramatic circumstances cremating himself in the flames in full view of the audience. The reason he did it was, as he had claimed himself, to teach people contempt for death and endurance in suffering. He compared his life and effort to the life and achievements of Heracles and that is why he chose a similar death. The deed of Peregrinus arose admiration and gave him extraordinary publicity, but, in Lucian’s view, it only proved human gullibility, stupidity and pursuit of cheap publicity. Lucian refers to Peregrinus as “mad, crazy”, and his suicide is referred to as stupidity combined with madness. Neither in his act of suicide nor in his entire life did he find noble motives, but only exuberant craving for fame or publicity at any cost. All Peregrinus’s actions stemmed from vanity, which brought him eventually to his last act of despair. While presenting the history of Peregrinus, Lucian tells us about him having murdered his father, his flight from his native town and then about him joining a Christian community and abuse of goodness and simple-mindedness of those people, who considered him an extremely wise and pious follower of Christ. Afterwards, he mentions his activity as a wandering Cynic philosopher, who while deliberately insulting the Emperor tried to provoke his anger or irritation of the Emperor’s governors on one hand and admiration and enchantment of common people on the other one. As he did not get that way the publicity he expected, he decided to practice Cynic asceticism in its most extreme, sometimes obscene, form. However, this type of conduct did not make his famous as he expected, but brought about mere laughter and sneering instead. It is for that reason that he chose one if the most crowded gathering all over Hellas i.e. the Olympic Games, where he made an attempt to get attention of others. All those acts stemmed from a pathological desire for fame even at the cost of imprisonment or exile. However, when such methods failed and he lost face in Olympia losing recognition in the eyes of local residents and exposing himself to their sneering, he made his last desperate attempt to regain popularity by means of spectacular suicide. In Lucian’s eyes such unbounded desire for fame takes on the form of madness, which despite its being grotesque, deserves sharp contempt and derision. That particular fierceness shown in his attacks at Peregrinus stemmed from the fact that his conduct was in conflict with the three principles Lucian adhered to i.e. the truth, simplicity and beauty. The pursuit of fame, getting publicity at any cost and the methods used by Peregrinus to achieve his goals were in conflict in particular with the principle of truth. By his conduct that individual deliberately misled his admirers. What is more significant he wanted to be called Proteus and like this mythical protagonist, he kept on changing his shape, never showing his true face. Depending on the situation, he was able to adapt in a clever way to the circumstances, taking on either a mask of a pious Christian or a Cynic philosopher, or a Hellenic patriot calling for fight with the Romans. In his dialogue Lucian introduces a lot of terminology related to the theatre, staging a drama, performance and in this context the way Peregrinus acts is rooted. Even his suicidal death in Olympia was preceded by kind of a wide scale “self-advertising” : not only had Peregrinus announced his intentions at an earlier date during the Olympic Games, for which numerous crowds of spectators were gathered, but what he did was sending letters to the major cities of Hellas in order to attract as many spectators as possible. In Lucian’s opinion, despite all those detailed preparations, Peregrinus believed that his friends and supporters would not let him die on a pyre and that he would be able to withdraw at the last moment. However, he got deeply disappointed. The way the spectators acted was against Peregrinus’s expectations , because they treated seriously the mask he had put on – the tragic mask of a courageous philosopher - to his own undoing . Not only did they fail to prevent him from committing suicide, just the opposite they encouraged him to commit that act; what is more, they were indifferent to the tragic and grotesque pose shown by Peregrinus. Moreover, according to Lucian, the way Peregrinus acted was in conflict with the principle of simplicity. The very decision regarding committing suicide in such theatrical circumstances, seemed to Lucian exceeding the principle of moderation of conduct. Peregrinus made sure that all details were provided: the torch-light procession, the ceremony of setting the pyre on fire, special prayers and even a eulogy that he gave in praise of himself. Lucian found all that setting filled with falseness and exaggeration. What is against the principle of truth and simplicity is also in conflict with the principle of beauty. At the time of his death Peregrinus was already an old man and his miserable appearance, filthy robes and obviously the conduct described above arouse according to the satirist of Samosata disgust rather than respect. In Lucian’s view such a conduct is not suitable to a person of his age, it is simply disgusting and makes one look not only ridiculous but also abominable. What Lucian unmasks is the irresistible desire for fame that , in case of Peregrinus, took on a pathological size. He strips of all dignity not only his life, but even death. To do so he employs a principle contained in one of his works : “If somebody put on a beautiful mask onto the face of an ugly man and that man boasted of his beauty even though it could be removed, he would become even more ridiculous if he stood up before us showing his natural face and if we saw what kind of ugliness was hidden under that mask.” Peregrinus puts on such a mask himself believing that it is his true face. His madness and tragedy at the same time is that he cannot live without that mask, he is unable to live in truth, simplicity and beauty.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10593/12205
ISSN: 0302-7384
Appears in Collections:Symbolae Philologorum Posnaniensium, 2013, nr XXIII/2

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