The Most Difficult Plays – n°14.
I started with Oresteia, I continued yesterday with the game God of War – so I’m continuing on my great momentum: Epic Antiquity with this totally unknown play by a totally unknown author – an author who has been forgotten for centuries: Lucian.
Ready ? Let’s go.
So, Lucian is a Latin author of the first century – he lived under Marcus Aurelius. Of his life we know almost nothing – of his private life nothing at all, of his professional life a few uninteresting snippets – for us – for him of course, it was interesting.
But since this poor man did not write a tragedy, he was not considered worthy to be kept in our memories.
Here he is, against his will and in a totally incongruous way, in my list of the Most Difficult Plays: all this because his name is Lucian, his century too far away and his language Latin.
It’s incongruous, because Lucian is an immense Comic Author.
Author – I beg your pardon – of comedies in the worst taste, the gentleman was mocking without feeling a single remorse.
For example, when he recounts a verbal joust in Athens, on the Acropolis, between these worthy Philosophers, bearded, curled up by the years, epically slow and sweating boredom with each blow of the sandal, it goes something like this: official announcement is made, all the philosophers are invited to the Acropolis.
Two, three, maybe four, old men arrive, slow footsteps and a so sad face – watching them go up, it was as if they were going back to the sea.
Total failure of the announcement.
Failure? Lucian – almost – puts himself on stage, offers a reward: and then there is a rush, a downpour, an avalanche. All that Athens has of old men rushes to attack the Acropolis, it comes from everywhere, we can no longer see the sky, it climbs up the ladder to be better placed, the toga slung over the shoulder to be more agile, here comes back the youth in the old bones, a reward? How much reward?
There – that’s it, Lucian.
Do you have his style in mind?
So Lucian has written plays where he will stage the Gods of Olympus – you know, the ones we see in God of War. They are not better treated by Lucian.
The one I prefer is : Tragic Zeus.
Here is the problem: on Earth, two philosophers have started an argument.
Unluckily, the argument was successful, and there are countless hairs tangled to cheer or boo one or the other.
On one side Damis – Damis that mangy dog, that traitor, that evil foggy: Damis maintains that the Gods do not exist.
On the other Timocles, the best among men, the fine, the subtle, the great among the great: Timocles defends the cause of the Gods.
Unfortunately, unfortunately, Damis wins the support of the crowd – so much so that Zeus had to bring down the night in a hurry, so that the debacle is not complete.
Zeus is at the bottom of the abyss: to lose men is to die.
He’s pale, shot down, defeated: their champion is null and void. And no madam, no, it is not because of a woman that he is in this so terrible mood. The hour is seriously serious.
An express convocation of all the Gods – not just those of Olympus, all of them.
And there we enter into a joyful “anything” – how to arrange the various Gods in the Hall, how to determine which ones are best placed? Bastards, these are foreign Gods, they are rich and fat, sons of bitches, assholes, …. foreigners! And the Colossus of Rhodes? But what does this one come to do there, this annoying, this moron? he is just too big, nobody sees anything anymore!
It sets up as best it can – the Gods are asked to give ideas – knowing that the Gods do not have the right to kill men, it is not their prerogative.
So they insult each other. Here is Poseidon sent back to his shells, with his methods that “smell like tuna”; Apollo, with his pretty verses, and no one understands anything, Athena who still talks nonsense, with her plan for the next 20 years – all right, beauty, the time of Homer is over – nothing comes out of the debate and the dawn rises, the philosopher’s debate resumes.
Aghast, the Gods contemplate their hero: who is kind, it’s true, but well…he could make an onion cry.
Who stutters. Who tries to insult Damis – this beggar this traitor this son of a dirty dog, let him die, but he doesn’t die – who clings to an ultimate argument: the Gods exist because there are altars for the Gods – and then Damis’ laughter brings down Olympus.
That’s why I argue – and I won’t let go of my bone – that God of War is a game that respects Ancient Times, almost to the letter?
Yes, Kratos can bring down Olympus.
Centuries before him, on a stage, it was the laughter of Damis that won this success.
And when Altair will exist, we’ll have to combine Oresteia, God of War and Tragic Zeus.
I haven’t finished the series: there are other games – Spartan Total Warrior – Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – to name just two ultra-known ones – and other plays, other comedies, other mockery.
But yes – it’s not that difficult.
Featured Image : Zeus, angry – from God of War –