Earliest manuscript of Lucian


This is the earliest extant manuscript of the Greek author Lucian of Samosata (c. 125-180). It is from the early 10th century and contains 19 of his Dialogues. Lucian’s language was prized for its faithfulness to the idealised style of 5th-century Attic Greek, and he was a popular author in Byzantium.

This manuscript is not only significant for the text of Lucian. The circumstances of its composition also shed light on the intellectual culture of 10th-century Byzantium. It was copied by Baanes, a professional scribe, for Arethas, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, who also annotated the manuscript. Arethas is a significant figure in the history of Byzantine scholarship, and other books he owned and annotated can be found in libraries across Europe.

The manuscript was subsequently owned by scholars and clergymen in Constantinople, Italy, and the Netherlands, before being purchased for the Harleian Library in 1726. The Harley Collection forms one of the foundation collections of the British Library.

Full title:
Lucian of Samosata, Dialogi
10th century
Lucian of Samosata (author), Baanes (scribe)
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Harley MS 5694

Full catalogue details

Related articles

British collectors of Greek manuscripts

Article by:
Cillian O’Hogan
Scholarship, The Greek World

Cillian O’Hogan surveys how a number of manuscripts came to be in the British Library through the actions of successive British collectors over the centuries.

Scribes and scholars in Byzantium

Article by:
Georgi Parpulov
Scholarship, The makers of Greek manuscripts

Byzantine manuscripts were created by and for educated men both in Constantinople and further afield. Georgi Parpulov explores the lives and works of some of these figures.

Authors of Classical Greece

Article by:
Mark Joyal
The Greek World

Our knowledge of the great works of ancient Greek literature derive from two main sources: manuscripts from Byzantium, and papyri discovered in Egypt since the late 19th century. Here, Mark Joyal surveys the process by which these works were transmitted through the centuries.