My friend Daniel has written an excellent post about the cult of Glycon, the ancient sock-puppet snake-god Abonoteichus. I highly recommend checking it out.
Content warning: Cults, Sexual Abuse, Snakes
One of the strangest stories from the ancient world comes from the pen of the Second Century CE writer Lucian of Samosata. Lucian, a Greek-speaking Syrian, was part of the great flowering of Greek culture under the Roman Empire that we refer to as the Second Sophistic. To generalize greatly, the Second Sophistic was characterised by great erudition, self-consciously elaborate language, and a playful attitude toward history, myth and literature. Lucian is one of the most emblematic of this movement, and many of his works are wonderful examples of wit, learning and subtle self-parody.
The work I’m discussing today, though, is a bit more exotic. Apparently at the request of a friend named Celsus, Lucian recounts the career of a notorious con-man who has become known as the False Prophet Alexander. Combining stage-magic, razzmatazz and careful puppetry, this man briefly created a new religion,
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