Who is Menippus?June 26, 2021
He is a Greek philosopher. Born in the Jordanian city of Gadara, Menippus followed Diogenes’ Cynic philosophy. He developed a semi-ridiculous, semi-serious type of literature known as the Menippean satire. It was influential in the development of this type of Latin satire, which was imitated by Greek and Latin authors. The writings of Menippus have not survived, but some idea of the quality of his work can be gained from the Latin writers who imitated him, notably Var, Seneca, and Lukianos.
Menippus’ approach to criticism was an innovation in the exposition of philosophical ideas. In order to reach as wide a readership as possible, he replaced the dialogue form with a satire, a mixture of prose and poetry, mocking institutions, ideas, and traditions.
In his works, he made striking use of unconventional venues such as the descent into Hades, the auction, or the banquet. Latin writers followed the same path. Petronius’ M.S. Satyricon, written in the 1st century, is included in the Menippos tradition. Another later example is the French Satire Menippee (1594), a mixture of prose and poetry written by several royalists on the Sacred Union established by the Catholics.