Scholia Reviews ns 17 (2008) 30.
Daniel Ogden, In Search of the Sorcerer's Apprentice: The Traditional Tales of Lucian's Lover of Lies. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 2007. Pp. ix + 310. ISBN 978-1-905125-16-6. UK£45.00.
Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
In Search of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice is Daniel Ogden’s attempt at addressing the ten tales of Lucian’s Philopseudes. He places them within the context of their various storytelling traditions -- certainly a most interesting endeavour as, until now, no English commentary upon this Lucianic text has existed. Ogden’s work broaches the topic in a fulfilling and thorough manner with individual chapters devoted to each of the stories related in the Philopseudes. He also provides his own translation of the original text along with notes for any areas of textual inconsistency or uncertainty. Ogden’s translation is neatly signposted and separated out into the ten tales, making it a very useful addition to the commentary as a whole.
The book opens with a substantial introduction in which Ogden discusses the overarching purpose and structure of Lucian’s text by engaging with several of the major theories on the work as related by the likes of Radermacher, Helm, Anderson, Bompaire and Jones. It is ultimately Ogden’s contention that although there are some similarities in the tales of the Philopseudes it is unlikely that they are linked by some sort of internal story architecture (p. 18). He then moves on to a highly detailed discussion of the specific characters found in the text, revealing not only their place and disposition within the ancient text itself, but investigating other occurrences of characters with similar names as well, particularly within the entirety of the Lucianic corpus. He compares descriptions of and qualities ascribed to these figures in an effort to discern the underlying reasons for bringing together this specific group of characters in a largely fantastic dialogue like the Philopseudes. For example, Eucrates, the host at whose home the dialogue takes place, is shown to appear in other works of Lucian’s and appears to be shorthand for a ‘very rich, generous and salon-keeping elderly man’ (p. 23). The introduction concludes with a full set of endnotes, as does every other chapter of Ogden’s book.
Chapter 1, ‘The Chaldaean snake-blaster’ (pp. 65-104), is the story of a slayer of snakes/dragons. For this reason, and because of the ambiguity inherent in the Greek dr£kwn, Ogden translates the word as dragon-snake. He suggests that this tale is the ancestor of the story of St. George and the dragon, and is one of eleven similar tales that survive from antiquity. In general the story type has two elements, the revivification or healing of someone unfortunate enough to encounter the powerful dragon-snake, and the destruction of the creature itself. Depending on the purpose of the tale, one aspect is often emphasized over the other. Ogden draws out a wide variety of intertextual references in making his case, and points to Reitzenstein and Müller who suggest that this particular story can be traced as the ancient ancestor of certain folktales from the Tyrol.
Chapter 2 entitled ‘The Hyperborean mage’ (pp. 105-29), tells the story of a magician hired to use erotic magic to bring a certain woman to his young client. Ogden begins by comparing this tale to another, namely the story of Ss. Cyprian and Justina. He seems to suggest that this pair of stories share a common root and then proceeds to ask why a Hyperborean would have been chosen as the central magical figure? According to Ogden the reason lies in the fantastic power of flight that was ascribed to Hyperborean shaman, a power that is essential for the creation of the animated flying doll that the magician uses in seeking out the object of his client’s affections.
The rather short tale of ‘The Syro-Palaestinian exorcist’ (pp. 131-36) follows with the brief description (by the speaker Ion) of his personally witnessing an exorcism. This act is likened to the catalogue of similar feats, all of which seem to derive from a Judeo-Christian tradition.
The fourth tale, ‘The animated statue of Pellichus’ (pp. 137-59), is described by Ogden as a ‘parody of ecphrasis’ (p. 138) as it tells the story of a statue that is part of the vast collection held by the host, Eucrates. This statue is so lifelike that it is actually capable of coming to life. It wanders the house at night and even bathes. It is also capable of working healing magic as well for which it is honoured with coins and gold leaf. This leads a slave to steal the offerings one night while the statue is away, for which Pellichus punishes him. Ogden suggests that the reason for this story’s inclusion in the Lucianic text may be that at the time, animated statuary was most often found in the possession of some sort of charlatan (p. 144).
‘Eucrates’ vision of Hecate’ (pp. 161-70) is next with Eucrates telling of his experience in which he encountered Hecate and was able to dispatch her to the underworld through the use of a magic ring. It was at this time that he was able to view the underworld itself. Ogden notes that there are no analogues for this tale ‘as a whole’ in ancient stories and legends, although parts of it are clearly recognizable (p. 161). He divides his discussion into several sections that approach the more familiar elements -- the ‘Manifestation’, ‘The Arab’s ring’, ‘The terror of Hecate’, ‘The view of the Underworld’, and ‘Cynic imagery’. In this way he is able to address the numerous earlier works that can be seen as foreshadowing the later Lucianic compilation.
Chapter 6 discusses the tale entitled ‘Cleodemus dies before his time’ (pp. 171-93). In this tale Cleodemus tells of how he died and was taken down into Hades, only to have Pluto send him back with the explanation that it was his neighbour, Demylus, and not him who was to have died. Ogden writes that there are many tales of DEUTERO/POTMOI (‘those of double death’) or U(STERO/POTMOI (‘those of postponed death’), so much so that this particular kind of tale, which Ogden labels as the ‘mistaken escort story-type’, is seen in many traditions outside of the Graeco-Roman (171-172). A curious aspect of this tale and others like it is the reversal of fortune that sees a rich man taken to Hades and replaced by a poor man who was the one originally meant to die. Ogden points out that it is almost always a smith or some man engaged in a handicraft of some kind that becomes the unfortunate replacement in Hades (pp.. 180-82).
The third story related by the host, Eucrates, is entitled ‘Eucrates and the ghost of Demaenete’ (pp. 195-204). This tale seems to follow the Herodotean (5.92) narrative of Periander and Melissa quite closely, as it is the ghost of Eucrates’ wife, Demaenete, who complains of being burned on the funeral pyre without one of her favourite sandals.
‘Arignotus and the haunted house’ (pp. 205-24) comprises the eighth chapter of this work, with the Pythagorean Arignotus deciding to stay overnight in an apparently haunted house in Corinth. With the typical Pythagorean expertise in the spiritual, he is not only entirely unimpressed by the ghostly wailings in the night but also succeeds at banishing the pesky spirit before he and his associates provide a proper burial for the ghost’s corpse the following morning. A vast catalogue of similar tales exists, with the earliest being Plautus’ Mostellaria, dating to c. 200 BCE. Ogden continues by tracing several other aspects of the tale, ranging from the animal sound effects produced by the ghost to the lamp held by Arignotus himself, and concludes by addressing the possible presence of a Cynic ‘voice’ in the story.
Chapter 9, ‘Democritus and the wags’ (pp. 225-30), relates the story of the philosopher Democritus being molested by a group of youngsters dressed as ghosts. He sits writing in a tomb when the young men appear, but remains untroubled by their presence. Ogden compares a similar account in which Hippocrates is called upon to visit the working Democritus as the locals believe him to have gone mad (pp. 226-27). He also suggests that the tomb has an underlying Cynic reference to the pithos that Diogenes took as his home (pp. 228-29).
‘The sorcerer’s apprentice’ (pp. 231-70) stands at the climax of the Philopseudes and is its final tale. Eucrates tells of how he apprenticed himself to the ‘all powerful’ Pancrates, an Egyptian wizard, and sought to learn from him the power of animating objects to carry out tasks on their own. Pancrates does not teach him this ability, but Eucrates overhears some of the spell and uses it himself upon a pestle to fetch water into the house. Eucrates does not know how to stop the pestle however, with the result that the house begins to flood until Pancrates returns things to normal before vanishing forever. As a whole the story appears to conform to the story-type of ‘master-sorcerer and apprentice’ (p. 259) found especially in Egyptian tales (with two Greek parallels listed as Ps. Thessalus of Tralles and Ps. Democritus.) Ogden comments that these similarities must lead us to conclude that ‘The sorcerer’s apprentice’ is not as unique as was originally believed (p. 259). His analysis of this tale is the longest in the book (along with that of ‘The Chaldaean snake-blaster’) and also includes several pages devoted to unearthing possible Cynic undertones.
The conclusion (pp. 271-73) is very brief, with the majority of Ogden’s major arguments already summarized in the individual chapters themselves. Here he instead seeks to draw together the details of two specific areas of inquiry -- the handling of source material and the use of Cynic imagery. He contends that Lucian uses other stories for his own purposes but in most cases extends the tales for his own purposes, even allowing for an interplay between them in the composition of the Philopseudes (p. 271). Lucian sometimes also draws in characters that he has already established in his other works as part of his manipulation of the existing motifs (p. 272). Cynic influence ranges from the appearance of a Maltese dog in ‘Eucrates and the ghost of Demaenete’ (Diogenes is said to have referred to himself in the same way) to the statue of Pellichus having the look of a Cynic philosopher. In the end Ogden attempts to position the ‘Cynic voice’ within the three levels of narrator that comprise the Philopseudes, eventually settling on the notion that it most probably belongs to the ‘disembodied author’, although not necessarily to Lucian himself (p. 273). Ogden closes with a complete bibliography (pp. 275-300) and a general index (pp. 301-10).
In Search of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice is most certainly a very useful addition to Lucianic scholarship, filling the void left by the lack of an English commentary on this particular text. The lengths to which Ogden has gone in seeking out any intertextual references are quite remarkable, and this is shown in the wealth of material that he is able to marshal in formulating his comparisons. A lack of organization is somewhat apparent in the manner in which these comparisons are carried out, with essential and ancillary points seemingly included side-by-side. A more obvious order to the points for analysis contained in each chapter may have proven quite an asset to the reader. Despite this, Ogden’s work is a highly interesting and considered examination of an entertaining text that is long overdue the attention.