Visions of Utopia in Lucian's "True Story" and Philostratus' "Life of Apollonius".
The word utopia, despite its (faux) Greek etymology, is of relatively modern provenance, dating to the 16th century. However, the conception of an ideal society was familiar to the Greco-Roman imagination. A few of these ancient utopian visions, like some modern futurist attempts at creating a utopian society, were actually put into practice. The most famous of these was the short-lived colony of Uranopolis in the Chalcidice financed and ruled by the eccentric son of the Macedonian general Antipater. The majority of ancient utopias were, however, purely literary creations and were never intended to be put into practice. These literary utopias fall into two groups – on the one hand, sustained philosophical descriptions of ideal constitutions, like those of Plato or Zeno – or, on the other hand, shorter descriptions of ideal societies and landscapes which I term embedded utopian narratives. It is this category, that of the embedded utopian narrative, that is the concern of this paper. This paper considers the construction and function of utopian narratives in two texts written during the height of the Roman Empire: the satirical True History of Lucian, and Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana.
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