Lucian of Samosata – ‘A True Story, Book 1’ (2nd Century)


Having nothing better to do, I now turn my attention to the writing of untruths, but honestly, in that the only truth I assert is that I lie, this being an excuse for all the rest, which I have neither seen, nor suffered, nor heard about from others.

On a whim, then, and for no particular reason, I outfitted a crew of 50 men and set out to locate the bounds of the West Ocean. Shortly after losing sight of land, darkness descended upon our ship, and we were caught in a tempest, which raged for 79 days. On the 80th day, the sun reappeared, and we saw on the horizon an island full of mountains and forests. The ship weighed anchor, and I took half my crew to explore the island. Midway through the forest, we came upon a river of wine, which we followed upstream to a great thicket of vines whose roots grew deep, but whose tops ended in the torsos of naked women–grapes sprang out of their fingertips, and their hair was made of  grape leaves all entangled. Some of them spoke Greek, and they kissed us, and two of my men were bold enough to enter into carnal mixture with them, but afterwards could not be loosened, and remained attached to the vines by their nether regions.

We fled in terror and set sail. The very next day, a whirlwind captured us and lifted us aloft many thousands of miles in the air and bore us forward, full sail, for seven days, until on seventh night we saw a great glittering country floating in the air.

We landed and were brought to the king, to whom we told our misfortunes, and who in turn told us of his own, and how he too was born in Greece, but then abducted in his sleep and brought here to be king of this country which those down on earth call the Moon. It seemed that the Moon King was now at war with the King of the Sun over the rights to colonize the Morning Star.

We pledged our fealty to the Moon King, and vowed to wage war on his behalf. Having no mounts, we crossed the heavens on foot, atop a great shimmery web woven by spiders of mighty size. But the Moon King’s army was vanquished by the mercenaries of the Sun King, –men with dog faces who rode into battle atop winged acorns. My companions and I were taken captive, and the Sun King erected a great wall of clouds to block its light, thereby casting eternal darkness over the surface of the Moon. But we pleaded on behalf of the Moon people, and brokered a treaty with the Sun King, and returned to the Moon, where the King  offered me his son in marriage, there being no women amongst them. I declined, with much respect, and after a week of feasting we again set sail and continue on down through fiery star countries of glittery color, until we landed once again upon the sea.


In our course we coasted many other countries, and lastly arrived at the Morning Star, now newly inhabited…from thence we entered the Zodiac, passing by the Sun…Then we made forwards all the next night and day, and about evening-tide following we came to a city called Lychnopolis, still holding on our course downwards. This city is seated in the air between the Pleiades and the Hyades, somewhat lower than the Zodiac, and arriving there, not a man was to be seen but rather lights in great numbers running to and fro, which were employed, some in the marketplace, and some about the haven, of which many were little, and but poor things; some again were great and mighty, exceeding glorious and resplendent, and there were places for them all; everyone had his name, as men do, and we did hear them speak. These did us no harm, but invited us to feast with them.

Their court of justice stands in the midst of the city, where the governor sits all the night long calling everyone by name, and he that answers not is condemned to die, as if he had forsaken his ranks. Their death is to be quenched. We also standing amongst them saw what was done, and heard what answers the lights made for themselves, and the reasons they alleged for tarrying so long: there we also knew our own light, and spake unto it, and questioned it of our affairs at home, and how all did there. That night we made our abode there, and on the next morrow returned to our ship…


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