Alexander the False Prophet (Lucian)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Alexander the False Prophet' is a text by Lucian. It is a deeply hostile satire by Lucian of Samosata, allows this 2nd-century-AD writer to describe Alexander of Abonoteichus, an oracle who built a following in parts of the Roman Empire, and who (according to Lucian) swindled many people and engaged, through his followers, in various forms of thuggery.

The strength of Lucian's venom against Alexander is attributed to Alexander's hate of the Epicureans (Lucian admired the works of Epicurus, a eulogy of which concludes the piece). Whether or not Alexander epitomized fraud and deceit as portrayed by Lucian; he may not have differed greatly from other oracles of the age, in which a great deal of dishonest exploitation occurred in some shrines.

Sociologist Stephen A. Kent, in a study of the text, compares Lucian's Alexander to malignant narcissism in modern psychiatric theory, and suggests that the "behaviors" described by Lucian "have parallels with several modern cult leaders."

Ian Freckelton has noted at least a surface similarity between Alexander and the leader of a contemporary religious group, the Children of God.

Other scholars have described Alexander as an oracle who perpetrated a hoax to deceive gullible citizens, or as a false prophet and charlatan who played on the hopes of simple people, who "made predictions, discovered fugitive slaves, detected thieves and robbers, caused treasures to be dug up, healed the sick, and in some cases actually raised the dead" (ch. 24). Alexander did more than combine healing instructions with the oracle (not uncommon at the time); he also instituted mysteries. His main opposition came from Epicureans and Christians.

Lucian also wrote a satire called The Passing of Peregrinus, in which the lead character, Proteus, described by Lucian as a charlatan, takes advantage of the generosity and gullibility of Christians.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Alexander the False Prophet (Lucian)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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