Research to investigate links between Ancient Greeks and modern science fiction

June 20, 2005

New research into the Ancient Greeks shows their knowledge of travel inspired early forms of fantasy and science fiction writing.
There is a long tradition of fantasy in Greek literature that begins with Odysseus' fantastic travels in Homer's Odyssey. Dr Karen Ni-Mheallaigh, at the University of Liverpool's School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, is exploring fantasy in ancient literature, examining theories of modern science fiction writing and how these can be applied to texts from the ancient world.

Dr Ni-Mheallaigh is looking at the work of 2nd century AD writer, Lucian of Samosata, who wrote True Histories, a travel narrative that includes an account of a trip to the moon and interstellar warfare. Antihanes of Berge - who wrote about his travels in the far north of Europe, where it was so cold that conversations 'froze in the air,' - will also be examined, as well as the writer Herodotus who wrote about 'flying snakes; and 'giant gold-digging ants' in India.

Dr Ni-Mheallaigh explains: "Fantasy writing in the ancient world is still relatively unexplored from a literary perspective. What is so interesting about these fantastical journeys is that many of them are written in the form of truthful travel logs and historical texts. The Greeks had a fascination with the exotic and other worlds and some writers travelled to the north and Far East to satisfy their intrigue. The cultures they found there were so different from their own that they were inspired to fantasize and speculate about even more remote and exotic worlds.

"The Greeks seemed to have had an anxiety about writing pure fiction, and so writers who were notorious for their 'tall' tales – such as Ctesias, Antiphanes and Megathenes - would write about their adventures in the form of travel logs, or back up their findings with pseudo-documentary evidence, such as 'rediscovered' texts or invented inscriptions.

"It was Lucian who was the first to admit that everything he wrote was untrue and could never occur. His writing-style is however calculated to convince his reader that all his adventures are in fact true. His writing plays a very clever game with the reader's mind, and, like all science fiction and fantasy writing today, allows the reader to ponder, what if…?

Source: University of Liverpool

Explore further: Wired youth forget how to write in China and Japan

Related Stories

Real to reel: Ancient Greece and Rome in the movies

August 17, 2012

Was "Spartacus" an anti-fascist polemic? Does "Agora" demonstrate the horrors of anti-science religious zealotry? Did the Trojans really dress only in blue and white outfits? Quiz: Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor in un-credited ...

Will robots take over the world?

July 30, 2013

Robots can do a lot for us: they can explore space or they can cut our toenails. But do advances in robotics and artificial intelligence hold hidden threats? Three leaders in their fields answer questions about our relationships ...

Recommended for you

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

The hottest white dwarf in the Galaxy

November 25, 2015

Astronomers at the Universities of Tübingen and Potsdam have identified the hottest white dwarf ever discovered in our Galaxy. With a temperature of 250,000 degrees Celsius, this dying star at the outskirts of the Milky ...

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.