Science Fiction Reading - Lucian and His True History

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You're jonesing for some sci-fi, right?

BattleSpiders and Radish (or Turnip) Missiles

Giant BattleSpiders.

Everybody likes science fiction. But it's a recent phenomenon, right? Oh, sure, those old people back in the Fifties might have had a little bit to do with the science fiction craze of today…er, yeah, we guess a few of the greats wrote back then…but, hey, we've got Lucas and Peter Jackson and JJ Abrams…

Forget it. Science fiction goes back ages. Here's an excerpt from the Second Century. Lucian of Samosata wrote this vintage story, sneakily entitled A True History, about Greek heroes boldly going up to the Moon, where they got involved in an interplanetary war, no less. If you want to read all of it, here's the full text. After all the vegetable warfare here, we're sure you'll agree that this book was seminal. After all, it obviously influenced that classic, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Warning: we took this excerpt from Gutenberg, and the two translators – Gutenberg's and the illustrated ebook's – had semantic differences. Our version here claims the aliens were pelting each other with giant radishes. The book version says it was turnips. This could spawn fan club feud. If you want to read it in Greek1, be our guest. You could share your insights on the translation debate. με γεια, as they say in Athens.

And Now, for the Main Attraction…

The army ranged themselves in this manner: the right wing was formed by the Hippogypi, with the king, and round him his chosen band to protect him, amongst which we were admitted; on the left were the Lachanopteri; the auxiliaries in the middle, the foot were in all about sixty thousand myriads. They have spiders, you must know, in this country, in infinite numbers, and of pretty large dimensions, each of them being as big as one of the islands of the Cyclades; these were ordered to cover the air from the moon quite to the morning star; this being immediately done, and the field of battle prepared, the infantry was drawn up under the command of Nycterion, the son of Eudianax.

The left wing of the enemy [solar forces], which was commanded by Phaëton himself, consisted of the Hippomyrmices; these are large birds, and resemble our ants, except with regard to size, the largest of them covering two acres; these fight with their horns and were in number about fifty thousand. In the right wing were the Aeroconopes, about five thousand, all archers, and riding upon large gnats.

Next chapter, killer tomatoes.

To these succeeded the Aerocoraces, light infantry, but remarkably brave and useful warriors, for they threw out of slings exceeding large radishes, which whoever was struck by, died immediately, a most horrid stench exhaling from the wound; they are said, indeed, to dip their arrows in a poisonous kind of mallow. Behind these stood ten thousand Caulomycetes, heavy-armed soldiers, who fight hand to hand; so called because they use shields made of mushrooms, and spears of the stalks of asparagus. Near them were placed the Cynobalani, about five thousand, who were sent by the inhabitants of Sirius; these were men with dog’s heads, and mounted upon winged acorns: some of their forces did not arrive in time; amongst whom there were to have been some slingers from the Milky-way, together with the Nephelocentauri; they indeed came when the first battle was over, and I wish they had never come at all: the slingers did not appear, which, they say, so enraged Phaëton that he set their city on fire.

Post Quiz and Oddities Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

24.02.14 Front Page

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1Why Greek, you ask? It was the English of its day.

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