Lucian's "Alexander the False Prophet": Pagan Culture

Essay by Prue750College, UndergraduateA+, December 2006

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From Alexander to Miss Cleo, from Paphlagonia to Las Vegas. Con-artists can be anyone you meet in any place you go. Every society has them, but do these societies need them? How do they contribute to society? I propose that the little contribution they give, society would be okay without and I think that humanity would, as a whole, be better without them. For the most part society is not helped, but instead harmed by individuals such as Alexander.

Although Alexander is long gone, his character lives on. Society today still has con-artists and people who are willing to go to any length in order to get what they want. So what is it that these types of people do that is such a drain on society? It's important in this essay for you to understand my definition of someone who is a drain on society and the characteristics that I attribute them.

In my opinion a menace to society would be one who is lazy in the sense that they aren't willing to do the work that could benefit many and instead will do the minimal amount of work that will only benefit themselves. This person is deceitful, someone who lies or tricks others in order to gain something for their own and are willing to go to any length to get what they want. They will feed on other's trust of others and ignorance of the world. These "salesmen" of a sort, often create "acts"...a scheme they will repeat over and over with many people that may include props, costumes, a script and other actors who attest to their validity. Eventually the wrong-doings of these people end up hurting more than the poor suckers who have been lured into their scheme and take away from society as a whole.

An equal (or as close as possible) contribution is important when it comes to the fabric of society. Everyone needs to carry their own weight and give back to the community. A teacher, for example, educates students who will eventually grow to become the future of the society. Alexander, and other hucksters such as him, does not do this. Usually the qualities that they possess which could be used to do this, they cast aside and instead choose to do something that is easy and will only give back to them. On page 270 Lucian says of Alexander, "You see, in brains and shrewdness and keenness there wasn't anybody like him. Energy, grasp, memory, a natural aptitude for learning - he had more than his due of each. But he used these endowments for the worst possible ends." On page 271 Lucian also says, "[Alexander] made an out-and-out prostitute of himself: he went to bed with whoever wanted him and would pay." A prostitute. Alexander had the qualities to be something as great as a teacher but instead took the easy way out and sold himself for money. How does that profession contribute to the fabric of a society?

Another quality of a rogue is that they're willing to go to any length in order to satisfy their own desires. Alexander illustrates this in many ways. It flat out says on page 272 that Alexander and his cohort "Nutsy" were "out-and-out rascals who were ready to stoop to anything and stop at nothing." Probably the furthest length that a con artist could go to is to take the life of another in order to stay on top with the scheme they're playing or to kill just to get there. Alexander did this and it's noted on page 281: "he ordered everyone who wanted to stay in the good graces of his god to stone the offenders." Anyone who might reveal his secrets and prove that he, Alexander, was not a true oracle, he told people to stone to death. Killing is not a contribution to society, and especially the killing of people who are smart enough to realize that there is something wrong going on and have the knowledge to expose the truth.

Hucksters prey on the trustworthy. They exploit people who are willing to believe a man's word and they usually do it for money. Alexander is a great example of this. He charged people "two dollars and thirty cents per oracle" (page 280) and made somewhere "between a hundred and fifteen and a hundred and thirty thousand dollars." That's a WHOLE lot of money, even in today's standards!! Because people are trustworthy, the untrustworthy ones doing all the scheming are able to cheat the honest ones out of their money. How is this fair? It's true that if people just opened their eyes a bit more and didn't get suckered into the conspiracy then they wouldn't lose their money. It's a "catch 22"...if people were less trusting they wouldn't lose their money but if they're very trusting of others then they do lose their money. Swindling money out of people doesn't seem like an honest profession to me and I sure as hell don't see how it helps society at all!

As I've hopefully illustrated, charlatans are not helpful to the fabric of society. They lie, cheat, kill, and rob people of their hard earned money. There is no significant benefit or contribution that people like Alexander offer to their communities and therefore I see no need for them to be a part of it. The only reason they do what they do is because they're too lazy to put any real effort out that would help the general public.