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Through the Pillars of Hercules: The Invention of Science Fiction in the Ancient World

November 22, 2022 at 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm EST

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Join Classicist Ashley Mehra and linguist Colin Gorrie to explore the roots of science fiction in the ancient world.

In the second century Roman Empire, the Syrian satirist Lucian of Samosata wrote a short novel called A True Story (Greek: Ἀληθῆ διηγήματα, Latin: Vera Historia). In A True Story, the author reports a series of fantastic occurrences including aliens, space travel, and interplanetary warfare. It was the first novel known to history to contain these elements, which would later become mainstays of science fiction. But A True Story is no simple adventure tale: its multilayered, deeply intertextual narrative has fascinated readers and scholars for centuries.

In this salon, we’ll explore it together. We’ll tackle questions like: What is science fiction? What cultural parallels can we find between the literary scene of the early Roman Empire and today’s age of remakes and reboots? How does the use of intertextuality interrogate our meaning of knowledge? What do we make of a ‘true’ history full of falsehoods and fantasies? Join us as we venture ‘through the pillars of Hercules’ into the strange world of the far past and far future.


  • Clay, Diskin. (2021) “Lucian, True History: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary”. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  • Mayor, Adrienne (2018). “Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology.” Princeton: Princeton University Press.


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November 22, 2022
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm EST
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