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The Author of De Dea Syria and his Cultural Heritage

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The present contribution deals with the identity of the author of De Dea Syria, a second century work that claims to provide an accurate description of the religion in the Syrian city Hierapolis. Despite this assertion the information of DS has often been discredited. This is due to its presumed author, Lucian of Samosata. Since Lucian is known for his sceptical attitude towards religion, it is often concluded that the DS intents to ridicule the cult of Hierapolis. This assertion diminishes the reliability of the DS, since it implies that it contains fanciful and exaggerated information. It will be argued that the content of the DS provides no firm proof for Lucian's authorship. If the work was written by Lucian, he wrote in a style normally foreign to him. Apart from the wish to attribute this work to Lucian, there are no grounds to interpret the DS in the light of his oeuvre.

Instead of starting from a preconceived idea about the author, this article aims to establish his identity by means of the contents of the work itself. Starting point is the allegation of the author that he is a Syrian who personally visited Hierapolis. The information provided by the DS on the Hierapolitan cult tallies with contemporary archaeological material and literary sources. It can therefore be concluded that the account is indeed based upon a personal visit. The author's self-identification as a Syrian is confirmed by the contents and the objective of the DS. On the basis of the contents of the DS its author is best described as a Hellenized Syrian who aimed to assimilate the Hierapolitan cult with Greek culture, while retaining its unique characteristics. As such his account intends to propagate the cult of the Syrian goddess in the Hellenistic world, in all probability especially in Hellenistic Syria.

Affiliations: 1: Rijksuniversiteit Leiden Faculteit der GodgeleerdheidPostbus 9515NL-2300 RA, Leiden


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