Original Publication Babich, Babette. “Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and Parodic Style: On Lucian’s Hyperanthropos and Nietzsche’s Übermensch.” 58, 4 (November 2011 [March 2013]): 58-74.


Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Classical Literature and Philology | Continental Philosophy | German Literature | History of Philosophy | Rhetoric


It is well-known that as a term, Nietzsche’s Übermensch derives from Lucian of Samosata’s hyperanthropos. I argue that Zarathustra’s teaching of the overman acquires new resonances by reflecting on the context of that origination from Lucian’s Kataplous – literally, “sailing into port” – referring to the soul’s journey (ferried by Charon, guided by Hermes) into the afterlife. The Kataplous he tyrannos, usually translated Downward Journey or The Tyrant, is a Menippean satire of the “overman” who is imagined to be superior to others of “lesser” station in this-worldly life and the same tyrant after his (comically unwilling) transport into the underworld. As a reflection on the life and the death of Zarathustra, this essay also explores the politics of kingship for Empedocles as reformer in terms of Hölderlin’s Death of Empedocles and Nietzsche’s unpublished drafts on the same topic. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche points to a perspective beyond the here and now, including the “values” of our all-too-worldly and all-too-human concerns, no matter whether in terms of perceived political/economic advantage, or indeed in the pursuit of more trivial satisfactions.



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