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Costantini, L (2016)
Languages: English
Types: Other
Amongst the many literary products of the Second Sophistic, few are so exuberant and satirical as those by Lucian of Samosata. In the comic dialogue known as the Menippus or Nekyomanteia (‘The Oracle of the Dead’), he narrates the attempt of the Cynic Menippus to consult with the prophet Tiresias in the underworld. In order to descend into Hades, Menippus needs the guidance of the disciples of Zoroaster, the μάγοι, and he finds his guide in Mithrobarzanes, a Chaldean from Babylon (Nec.6). After some preliminary rituals, Mithrobarzanes prepares Menippus for the katabasis by means of a comic disguise: Menippus has to wear a woollen hat, hold a lyre, and gear himself up with a lion skin to pass for Odysseus, Orpheus, or Herakles (Nec.7). With such description, Lucian trivialises the figures of these mythical heroes on the wake of a well-established comic tradition (e.g. Aristoph. Batr.46-7;495-6). In this study, I argue that Mithrobarzanes’ garments (Nec.8) have a comic value as well, and this is due to the fact that he is not a real μάγος, but a Chaldean from Babylon who needs to wear a μαγική στολή (‘Magian stole’) to disguise himself as a μάγος. To support this interpretation, I shall discuss some key passages (i.e. Apul. Apol.25.9-26.6; Philostr. V.A.1.2;1.26; Hist.Alex.Mag. rec.vet. 1.4.3-4;3.30.6; Hsch. s.v. Χαλδαῖοι) clarifying the meaning of μάγος and Χαλδαῖος, and their semantic association with the term γόης (‘enchanter’). This will allow us to understand that, by means of Mithrobarzanes’ costume, Lucian aims to satirise the figure of the Zoroastrian high priests. This study aims, therefore, to shed light on the hilarious connotation of Mithrobarzanes’ disguise as a μάγος, which will enable us to recover an additional farcical note of Lucian’s Nekyomanteia.
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