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The Ancient Greek Novel and Its Heroines: A Female Paradox

Author(s): S. Wiersma
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 43, Fasc. 1/2 (1990), pp. 109-123
Published by: BRILL
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Mnemosyne, Vol. XLIII,

GREEK

ANCIENT

THE

AND

NOVEL

A FEMALE

ITS

Fase. 1-2 (1990)

HEROINES:

PARADOX
BY

S. WIERSMA
role played
In this paper I discuss some aspects of the dominant
clear that
I
to
make
Greek
novels.
ancient
in
heroines
the
the
try
by
within
the
acted
of the audience
from the viewpoint
they probably
behaviour.
female
and socially
of familiar
bounds
acceptable
First I shall survey the historical
background
treat
late
Hellenistic
I
Next
shortly
(I).

with the settings


ical combination

Greek

of the ancient

in comparison
I deal with the paradox-

novels

of the novels

milieu

(II). Finally,
which is characteristic
and prominence
of modesty
in the Greek
of the heroines
not only of the actions and behaviour
women could play
novels but also of certain public roles upper-class
in Hellenistic
I.
their

The

society (III).
writers
of ancient

stories

imitators

with

a touch

in Renaissance

fiction

some

took

of reality,
and baroque

and,

European

eschewed
coct

to furnish

trouble

unlike

they
Apparently,
digression.
philosophical
course.
a 'natural*
series of events following

some

of their

literature,
they
set out to con-

pieces of entertainThey tried to make their books agreeable


of
effective
tools as,
a
ment. Accordingly,
variety
they developed
and
the
the subde play of literary allusion,
for instance,
practice of
the
of faraway
the exotic atmosphere
countries,
evoking
evoking
thrill

of adventure,

and

other

stock

of narrative.

devices

No

less

to
however,
effective,
special
the
of
balance:
about
the
knew
above.
heavy weight
They
appeal
for by lovely and
if implicit)
of (unavoidable
ethics is compensated
of happiness
and pleasure.
sometimes
presented
episodes
fruitily
at two levels:
works
the
of
their
make
develop
Moreover,
they
plots
was

the

heroes

have
but

the

kind

of

realism

referred

and grotesque
bizarre
to go through
sufferings
at the same time the scene for their experiences

experiences,
appears to be set in terms

of a real human

society.

We

may

safely

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THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES

110
assume
to lose

of prose fiction were anxious not


that already the Creators'
attention
their public's
by losing all traces of recognizable

social

reality.
What do we know

some

facts about

about

*
We are in possession
of
reality'?
of the
context and social background

that

the historical

while dating Chariton,


still wavered
Rohde,
A.D.
and more
between
the fifth and sixth
Recent,
century
or even 'atticism',
are
studies of Chariton's
classicism,
systematic,
a solid basis to place his work no later than the beginning
of the first
romance
is probably
the first comAs Chariton's
century
B.C.1)
ancient

novel.

Erwin

one, the structurally


plete surviving
Heliodorus
may be the last. There

narrative
very complicated
by
is some reason to suppose
that
a comparable
Heliodorus
imitated

of a given siege
in
the
work of Julian,
the Roman
description
emperor,
he must have been working in the latter half of the fourth
in his account

and hence

century2).
We may conclude
that ancient fiction was written and read from as
early as the second century B.C. until the end of the fourth A.D.3).
not only of the period of the ancient
We have a fair knowledge
novel's development,
but also of the geographical
region where this
genre

came

convincing
and partly

into existence

and the area of its distribution.

picture is given by T. H?gg, who,


and Reardon's
following
Perry's

The

partly deviating
arrives
views,

most
from
at the

1) A fundamental study is: A. D. Papanikolau, Chariton und Xenophon von


Ephesos: Zur Frage der Abh?ngigkeit, in: Charts: FestschriftK. Vourveris(Athens 1964),
305-20. Xenophon, as P. demonstrates, imitated Chariton. In his dissertation P.
shows that Chariton worked in the first century B.C. (Zur SpracheCharitons, diss.
Cologne 1962). Cf. by the same author: Chariton-Studien,G?ttingen 1973. More
titles in: T. H?gg, The Novel in Antiquity (Oxford 1983), 237. H?gg does not mention M. Pakcinska, Pierwszy Zachowany Romans Grecki, Meander 19 (1964), 128-42
and 183 (summary in Latin), who argues that Chariton's novel, when dated early,
may be compared effectively for style and structure with the historical writings of
the Hellenistic period.
2) The description of the siege of Syene in Egypt "has some striking similarities
with Emperor Julian's description of the siege of Mesopotamian Nisibis in AD
350" (T. H?gg, op. cit. 59). Of course, these similarities, as H?gg observes
himself, are relevant only if the emperor "is giving an authentic report of an
historical event". Cf. R. Keydell, Polychronion: Festschrift F. D?lger (Heidelberg
1966), 345-50.
3) Cf. on the vitality and popularity of the genre: C. W. M?ller, in: E. Vogt
(ed.), GriechischeLiteratur (Neues Handbuch der Literaturwissenschaft, Band 2,
Wiesbaden 1981), 386-7.

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THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES


that

conclusion
developed

in

this

Asia

late
Minor

Hellenistic
and

111

must
have
been
genre
its real flourishing
in

reached

whence it spread over the world during the first cenAlexandria4),


turies after Christ. These general facts of time and place provide us
with a first, if still very rough,
of the historical
outline
in
milieu
which

ancient

advanced.
more

But

detailed

"The
Hellenistic

first

prose fiction
some other

was created,
and
valued,
(apparently)
historical
data are available
to yield a

picture.
novels
were

aimed

cities

of Asia

to a distinguishing
some way the birth

Minor".

characteristic

at the
This
of the

educated

statement
genre

classes

of the

by H?gg points
In
and its public.
with
is interrelated

of prose fiction in antiquity


It is hardly conceivable
that the professional
literacy.
storytellers
of such complicated
could master the memorizing
and elaborately
stories as are put down in the novel5).
structured
we have
Actually,

enough reasons to suppose that already the ancient writers of fiction


to a public able to read for pleasure.
addressed
themselves
They
their books as reading material.
offered (and designed)
This is, for
indicated
found on ancient
bookinstance,
strikingly
by drawings
added to illustrate
the text6).
however,
obviously
Literacy,
on
increase
the
the
last
centuries
B.C., did not imply
though
during
all strata of Hellenistic
general ability to read and write, pervading
When Greek romance
was born, only the top stratum
of
society.
middle
class
could
society and the 'professional'
(Hellenized)
enjoy
rolls,

it. Later

on the novel

also reached

other

people.

A variety

of causes,

4) Modem historiography concerning ancient prose fiction has a sound basis


in: B. E. Perry, The Ancient Romances: A Literary-HistoricalAccount of Their Origins,
Berkeley /Los Angeles 1967. Indispensable are B. P. Reardon's theories, partly
presented as comments on Perry's argument: cf. Courants litt?rairesgrecs des Ile et
Ille si?cles apr?s J.-C. (Paris 1971), 309-403, and The Greek Novel, Phoenix 23
(1969), 291-309.
5) See on the possible function of those storytellers: A. Scobie, Aspects of the
Ancient Romance and Its Heritage (Meisenheim/Glan
1969), 9-29.
6) K. Weitzmann, Ancient Book Illumination, (Cambridge/Mass. 1959), 100. Cf.
the same, Illustration in Roll and Codex, Princeton 1970. Recently, Berber Wesseling
has thoroughly dealt with the problem of literacy and the audience of the ancient
novels. Arguing from a sociological point of view, she concludes that the intended
readership "is probably the intellectuals in the first place". Berber Wesseling, The
Audienceof the Ancient Novels, in: H. Hofmann (ed.), GroningenColloquia on the Novel,
I (Groningen 1988), 67-79.

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THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES

112

and other literates7),


recitations
probably
including
by scribes
It is clear, however,
made the genre widely popular.
that the few
at.
literate
were
aimed
the
Moreover,
fully
people
being
style and
of the

contents

novels

surviving
on the reader's

seem

to presume

some

higher
and (in a lesser
the 'sophistic'
the 'non-sophistic'
are spiced with allusions
to
specimens
degree)
the 'classical'
Homer
to
literature
(from
Theocritus)8).
education

To

both

part:

outline

up, more or less definite


the world in which the Greek

literary
course

genre.
of the

sum

From

Hellenistic

indicate

the

central

aspect, apart
tion aesthetics,

from

The

as

as a

the

contents

of the

novels
surviving
must have been

of literacy:
the genre
material
to literate

This
people.
in
of
the
directly pertinent
sphere
recepof the group
illustrates
the social position

reading

being

indirectly

ancient

to keep

their fictitious
stories, tried
'staging'
readers'
The above
reality.
everyday
of that reality with respect to
delineation

novelists,while
in touch with their

is a provisioned
place and social stratification.

summary

from this outline we


Starting
whether
further
and to what extent

may go into detail and check


features of Hellenistic
(and imperial)
to balance
II.

us to

at.

aimed

time,

enable

to function

Minor,

and
role

to serve

developed

data

came

century

speaking
of the structure

istics

novel

where it came into being in the


it spread
the late
B.C.,
during
over
Greek
East
the
and
periods
throughout
world. Papyrological
data and some characterAsia

second
and Roman

the Greek

historical

To

fact and
what

their fantastic

extent
love

societies

figured

in the novel

fiction.
did

stories

the Greek

novelists

with a recognizable

to provide
"As far
background?
manage

7) See on this plausible hypothesis: T. H?gg, op. cit. 93.?. ?. Havelock, The
Muse Learns to Write: Reflectionson Oralityand Literacyfrom Antiquity to the Present(New
Haven 1986), deals with problems inherent in the transformation from orality to
literacy in classical and other times.
8) The 'non-sophistic' (Chariton, Xenophon) no less than the 'sophistic' ones
(Longus, Achilles Tatius, Heliodorus) must have been written for a rather select
public, and in the course of time have moved down the social scale. This is the
view T. H?gg adheres to in his book on the novel in antiquity (cf. op. eit 98). I
wonder whether his suggeston at p. 35 that the authors of the three surviving
'sophistic' novels "aimed at a narrower and more refined audience than that of
their predecessors" is compatible with his general view.

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THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES

113

as externals

of life
conditions
go", the novels picture contemporary
land
and
and living:
"...travel
kidsea; pirates and brigands;
by
the ravages
of chance;
and slavery;
syncretism.
napping
religious
Chariton

with

dwells

life in western

relish

and

Asia

inside

knowledge
Achilles
Tatius

on the countryon the big city

Minor,
the
(T. H?gg 87). Just in line with these parallels,
in the novels might mirror other instances
of the 'fiction'
settings
of Hellenistic
as I suggested,
these works
'fact' as well. If indeed,

squire
of Alexandria"

were

for people belonging


to a specific social stratum,
then
or
not
readers
of
ask
whether
the
first
Greek
properly

written

we

may
romance

found

specific

features

of their

own

surrounding

in these

books.
well informed
We are reasonably
about the circumstances,
and doings of the ruling elites in the cities of the Greek
before and after Christ.
Epigraphic
during the first centuries
tion

historico-cultural

material,
archaeological
with
a social stratification

and

other

data

posiEast
and

point to
interests:

economic
closely knit mutual
tried to maintain
their position
by
ruling classes
successfully
whereas
the
means of a system of so-called
people
'euergetism'9),
of profitable
At the
with a situation
used to comply
dependency.
the

same

time

these

upper-class

'benefactors'

means.
by ideological
position
tend to
and public
spheres
in creating
succeeded
privileged
of 'official'
paradoxical
atmosphere
their

private

monuments

and

interdependence
familial
affection"
their

dynastically
themselves
(and

other

felt forced

In a system

to consolidate

of euergetism
and

the

the
evidently
and somewhat

overlap10),
an intriguing
As appears from the
solidarity.
sense
of mutual
the moral

sources,
in terms
and
of paternalism
expressed
in
op. cit. 236). The authorities,
(Van Bremen,
structured
of
position
private
power,
presented
of public interests
their families)
as the guardians
"was

9) Cf. P. Veyne, Le Pain et le Cirque: Sociologie historiqued'un pluralisme politique


(Paris 1976), 215-6.
10) P. Veyne, op. cit., passim. Cf. S. Humphreys, The family, women and death
(London 1983), ch. 2: Public and private interestin classical Athens. An illuminating
account of the social and ideological aspects of euergetism, especially with regard
to the period under discussion, is given by R. van Bremen, in: A. Cameron, A.
Kurth (ed.), Images of Women in Antiquity (London/Canberra 1983), 223-42, esp.
235-6.

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THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES

114

for their part, could honour


people,
them with the titles 'father',
etc., 'of the city'. Striking
'mother',
demonstration
of familial affecare
of
the
mass
available
examples
were largely ceremonial,
but we
those utterances
tion. Of course,
concerned
were at
that the ceremonies
have the strong impression
and welfare

of all citizens.

least

rituals.

living

public mournings
all citizens
seem

The

are impassioned
for instance,
attested,
Widely
of a death in dynastic
families:
on the occasion
to have participated11).
both
Apparently,
parties
but also

not only aware of their economic


interdependency,
shared in each other's ups and downs.
willingly

were

We

asked

above

to what

extent

the ancient

novelists

admitted

Did they content themreality into their narratives.


contemporary
selves with a reference
of life or did they vento general conditions
ture to address their public in its own, more specific setting? The
seems

latter

to be true.

The

novelists'

reconstructions
imaginative
live and
in which their characters

of the time,

place and conditions


of the
remind us of the world the supposed
act, definitely
readership
novel lived in. Some essential
of this world, as far as we
features
I shall
in the mise-en-scene.
know it, seem indeed to be mirrored
now

give an example.
To us the most characteristic

mentioned

thanksgivings

of

demonstrations

the

above-

of interdependence
are
are
Also
attested
public
public mournings.
who
on behalf of a member
of the ruling families
and national

togetherness
the numerous
attested

feeling

could
from severe illness.
Such a happy recuperation
recuperated
this person
an exchange
of acknowledgements:
recovered,
provoke
while they for their part defray the
treats the people to a banquet,
costs

of the erection

There
solidarity
instance,
the fifth
specific

seems

to

of a statue
be

in the dramatic

more
world

at the agora12).
a shimmer

than

of the ancient

of

of
feeling
for
Chariton,
historical
setting in
this

novel.

a general
giving his narrative
the story with "just
B.C.,
century
provided
and characters
detail and fact to put the action
though

enough
in the

11) Cf. L. Robert, Laodic?edu Lycos. Le Nymph?e: cinqui?mepartie, les inscriptions


(Paris 1966), 85-6. More titles in Van Bremen, op. cit. 241, n. 72.
12) Cf. H. W. Pleket, Epigraphica II: Texts on the social history of the Greekworld
(Leiden 1969), 10-15 (= nr. 3).

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115

THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES

In this world we are indeed touched


by some
world"13).
The
commitment.
of social
manifestations
people's
and
and Callirhoe
of Syracuse,
longing
seeing Chaereas

familiar
moving

assembly
families
in love but their distinguished
itself on their behalf
feud, concerned
their

separated
through a political
in convincing
and succeeded
Chaereas
Later
on, when

a wedding.
to arrange
in order
to set sail for Miletus

fathers

to seek his dearly missed


to pay for his
of Syracuse
decides
the city government
assembled
makes
the
And the lovers' safe homecoming
expedition.
of sympathy
while asking quescrowds burst into joyous utterances

prepares
Callirhoe,

tions
health

about

their

and

welfare.

adventures

and

caring

for

the

loving

couple's

if controvernow, I have left aside one characteristic,


the
to
Strikreferred
above.
sial, aspect of
system of 'euergetism'
female members
of the ruling elite families
played a
ingly enough,
role as benefactors.
could
own,
prominent
they
by
Apparently
or otherwise,
inheritance
This need not point,
enormous
fortunes.
III.

Until

of course,
to any real evolution
in women's
What
legal status.
D. M. Schaps found for the classical
and early Hellenistic
periods
also holds true for the ensuing
probably
periods in the Greek East:
though
women
control

than their Athenian


more legal freedom
enjoying
in the other Greek cities still seem to have had only
of their own properties14).
During the periods under

sion we find no sign of any real alternation.


of a wealthy
instances
public benefaction
the Greek East are no sufficient
grounds

sisters,
limited
discus-

Even

the many attested


in
women
by upper-class
for postulating
an actual

in women's
R. van Bremen
legal freedom.
may be
in stating that "the important
role
played by
public
members
of these elites has to be understood
rather as a

improvement
right indeed
female
result

of the

social

and

ideological

components

of the

system

of

13) G. L. Schmeling, Chariton (New York 1974), 79. On history and imagination in Chariton see: A. Billault, Aspects du romande Chariton, IL 33 (1981), 205-11.
Cf. alsoj. R. Morgan, History, Romance, and Realism in the Ethiopica, Classical Antiquity 1 (1982), 223-65. ?. P. Reardon, Theme, Structureand Narrative in Chariton,
YCLS 27 (1982), 1-27, illuminates from a literary-critical point of view the theme,
structure and narrative method of Chariton's story.
14) Cf. D. M. Schaps, Economic Rights of Women in Ancient Greece, Edinburgh
1979.

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116

THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES

euergetism
legal and

economic

abundance
difference
Roman

of changes
in women's
consequence
cit.
Bremen,
op.
(Van
237). The
of their gifts should be related to the well-known
general
in wealth
between
the Greek
East in Hellenistic
and

times

In

her

appreciate
members

as a direct

than

and

freedom"

mainland

Greece

in the classical

Van

however,

argument,
"the
important

period.
seems
unable

Bremen
role

the

to

female

public
played
by
as such. I cannot
see, as she does, any
contradiction
between
this honourable
social posi(or ambiguity)
in the funerary
used
comtion and the epithets
inscriptions
of these

memorating
they were

elites"

The high esteem in which


women.
distinguished
held
is
as Van
Bremen
publicly
expressed,
rightly
from "the traditional
feminine
in wordings
derived
area
those

observes,
of modesty,
to husband
dedication
and family,
piety,
loving
or any social disqualificaI see no inconsistencies
etc.".
decency
have ordered
new ethics
the city government
tion. Why should
about
Would
public
It may

to be carved on their memorial


women
stones?
important
while
their
those women
themselves,
playing
prominent
roles, have felt any need to tamper with traditional
morality?

be,
"act within

other
tions
of

as Van

Bremen

hand, we should
no less than their

statues

and

other

(female)
personality.
We have to deal
interrelated,

points
created

the framework

historical

realize

that

permanent
monuments

with

the

facts:

to
out, that they were confined
their
male
relatives".
On
the
by
the grandeur
'physical'
strongly

of their

presence
suggests

benefac-

in the form
the

force

of

of two, in some way


clear evidence
activities
the fact of socially integrated
the
fact
that
and
they
individually,

by strong women,
operating
for their efforts
were rewarded

with words referring to "their tradior not we should assume any


Whether
qualities".
tionally feminine
a matter
between
these facts is basically
or ambiguity
contradiction
to
have
no
reason
At
we
of our personal
rate,
any
interpretation.
ladies
felt
far
were
those
ancient
as
as
concerned,
they
suppose that,
themselves.
any conflict
of the ancient Greek
As such they seem to live on in the heroines
come to the fore although
These ladies frequently
they are
These
fictional
and
faithfulness.
of
the
modesty
always
very picture
novels.

women

in love

would

not have

felt ashamed

of being

honoured

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for

THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES


we find
qualities
in the real world.

in the epitaphs
for instance,
Chariton,

exalted

to stress

the fidelity
At the same time,

of their
does

beneficent

not miss

at by his heroine.
however,
trying to relieve

117
sisters

any chance

aimed

of Callirhoe's

heavy weight
a touch of subtle

loyalty,

Chariton

his audience

of the

us with
has obliged
to be able to call the

Dionysius,
eager
irony.
of Callirhoe's
first marattractive
woman his wife, but not knowing
easily consents
riage nor that she is already two months
pregnant,
to be the

father

of her

child.

in a position
to thank
his
Chariton
demonstrates
himself

he feels
afterwards,
shortly
for
'their'
newborn
Aphrodite
baby,
of humour:
subtle
sense
either
When,

is not really au fait with


not really faithful.
Callirhoe's
affair with Dionysius

Dionysius
Callirhoe

somewhat

the secrets

of reproduction

or

for the
playfully
compensates
of chastity that generally
applies
of the ancient novels.
have
Attempts

standard

overwhelming
to the conduct
of the heroines

on the ground
Callirhoe
that she married
It is several
she
was
Chaereas
Dionysius
thought
dead15).
at the end of book 3, that she learns from
months
later, however,
her first
been
steward
that
has
husband
killed.
Dionysius'
as
L.
was
G.
"too human
Apparently,
Schmeling
puts it, Callirhoe

been

made

to 'defend'

because

and

real"

of Greek
On

the

for the level


romance16).
other hand,

attained

by the other

of frivolity
element
contributes
It even seems
as a full character.

this

of Callirhoe

plausibility
been introduced

of morality

heroines
to the
to have

by the author in order to make her faithfulness


and in a more characteristic
clearly,
way. In her
own mind she does not break her pledge of loyalty,
and the na?vet?
of her reasoning
creates an atmosphere
of charming
self-deception.
stand

out

more

Pondering
Dionysius'
her decision,
having

proposal
day and
the
discussed
matter

night
with

she

finally reaches
Chaereas'
portrait,

15) So, for instance, T. M. Rattenbury, Chastity and Chastity Ordeals in Ancient
GreekRomances, Proc. of the Leeds Philos, and Liter. Soc.: Literature and History,
Section 1 (Leeds 1926), 63.
16) G. L. Schmeling, op. cit. 103. See on characterization in Chariton: T.
H?gg, Some Technical Aspects of the Characterizationin Chariton's Romance, in: Studi
classici in onoredi Q Cataudella, Catania Fac. di Lett, e Filos. 1972, 2, 545-56. Cf.
J. Helms, CharacterPortrayal in the Romance of Chariton, The Hague/Paris 1966.

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118

THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES


to her stomach,
and with their unborn
child. There is no
to suppose
that in later antiquity
were able to
embryos
let alone to recommend
a second father for their protection.

hugged
reason

speak,
Yet Callirhoe's

advises her to safeguard


their life through
embryo
a marriage
with Dionysius
she delivers
Next
a
(Chariton
2.11.3).
fine example
of dialectics
that Chaereas,
whilst maintaining
who
in her dream and put their "son"
appeared
(?) under her care,
a new marriage
recommended
he only gave the
Actually,
(2.11.3).
without
child into the charge of its mother (2.9.6),
any indication
to her how to take her task.
In her own opinion
Callirhoe
does not commit
and we
adultery,
to endorse her view. Yet no one would deny that (even
feel tempted
in late Hellenistic
second
was
times17) ) Callirhoe's
marriage
bigamy.

In view

amusing

variation

sincerity

(and

of this fact her own justification


turns out to be an
of
in all
author
on
the
theme
faithfulness:
the
by

somewhat

imagining

(Chaereas),

she
whimsically)
that he is leading

invokes
his

her

wife

to

husband
the

new

As G. Anderson
house (2.11.3).
rightly
(Dionysius')
bridegroom's
Chariton
"is
a
is
to
that
deal
it
reasonable
out,
accept
good
points
I would
than his characters".
that
less naive
indeed,
suggest,
Callirhoe's

naive

be added

to the

casuistry
"string

"Hellenistic
gives
The

operetta"18):
in to the other.
ancient

novelists

So we should

another

remaining
were

fond

rhetorical

Chariton
faithful

paradox to
in his
produced

to the one

man

she

of feelings
and
behaviour
paradoxical

of the reversal

Callirhoe's

appreciate
inserted
entr'acte,
by the author in order to stress
As Schmeling
has
the usual virtuous
side of his heroine.

reality.
as a humorous
indirectly

constitutes
of paradoxes"

17) For the dating of Chariton's novel see: T. H?gg, op. cit. 5 f. In general on
bigamy: C. Vatin, Recherchessur le mariageet la condition de la femme mari?e? l'?poque
hell?nistique(Paris 1970), 204-5.
18) G. Anderson, Eros Sophistes: Ancient Novelists at Play (Chico: Scholars Press
1982), 21. In my opinion Anderson has greatly furthered our understanding of the
ancient novels. Leaving aside his ideas about the origins (as expounded in his
Ancient Fiction: The Novel in the Graeco-Roman World, London, etc., 1984), I fully
agree with the way he deals with the texts as such. In his view the ancient
romances "are best understood as humorous, technically expert play with literary
and rhetorical conventions, whose only goal is lighthearted entertainment of a
literate and sophisticated audience" (Helen Bacon in CW 78 (1985), 616).

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THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES


put it, "her

act of faithfulness

developed
103). Just like the
story"
(Schmeling
remains
Chariton's
Callirhoe
basically

an all-round
other

119

tension

in the

'romantic'

heroines,
a paragon
of prudishness.
situation,
she, unlike her
However,
finding herself in a precarious
of
the
standard
in a
to
observe
sisters,
chastity
literary
prefers
At
the
of
his
end
narrative
rather than practical
theoretical
way.
affair

to Callirhoe's

returns

Chariton

with

a touch

of

piquant
she puts their 'common
at Dionysius
care. As the story tells us, the sending
son' under his 'father's
of
this letter was the only thing she did without
Chaereas
knowledge
But would Dionysius
have accepted
'his' son, if with him
(8.4.4).
she had not once done more 'without
Chaereas'
knowledge'?
in her farewell

humour:

All this does

letter

not keep

on her

her from
she

resolves

statements
making
(well-meant)
to meet the king's
insistence

loyalty.
Firmly
she states, would be
suicide (6.6.5).
One day with Chaereas,
Zeus (6.7.12).
when she
more than eternal life alongside
Finally,
sees Chaereas
again, both of them fall in a faint four times (8.1.8-

with

manifestation
of love, in its characteristically
10). This ultimate
to
has been faithful.
melodramatic
tells
us
whom
Callirhoe
form,
as G.

has

Molinie

made clear19),
her
convincingly
of
not make her insensitive
to the feelings
other
and Callirhoe
touches
us all the more, when, at the moment

However,
faithfulness

did

men,
of complete

she remembers
her former patron,
who so
happiness,
with
to
be
her.
She
has
a
subtle
dearly
happy
understanding
of his situation
and feels obliged
for all he
to express her gratitude
wanted

did.

So she writes

same

magnanimity
Persian
captured

the letter

that also characterizes

queen,
in freedom
This
(8.3.8).
ture of what Callirhoe
Chaereas,

who would

whom

above.

The

her attitude

she courteously

noble

gesture perfectly
on
really is: a queen
the
to
make
Persian
prefer

19) G. Molinie,

knows

how to handle

text reveals
towards

the
the

permits to go home
fits in with the picher

own.

queen
situations.

Unlike

her servant

In many
is the stronger
Callirhoe
of the two leading
respects
personality
In fact, she happily deals with all kinds of difficult situacharacters.
fails. For instance,
his letter to
tions, while her partner repeatedly
the Great King,
in a way comparable
with Callirhoe's
letter to

(8.3.1),

Callirhoe

mentioned

delicate

Chariton: Le roman de Chair?as et Callirho? (Paris 1979), 22-41.

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THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES

120

is marred by mean reproaches


one
Dionysius,
Despair,
(8.4.2-3).
of the story,
seems
to have been
of the favourite
ingredients
reserved
for the male hero. Chaereas
dwells
extensively
especially
on his miserable

and

situation

for the time

to see Callirhoe
wretched

and

a coward,

I cling

not
consented
personality.
Having
he
her
to
witness:
"most
calls
being,

I accept the ban to see you! Like


This comto life and let myself be ruled!" (5.2.5).
I am that

wicked

the woman's
typifies
being pure genre, conversely
plaint,
though
at
as
laments
her
situation
but
art: Callirhoe,
often
Chaereas,
just
her
with
own
decisions.
as
Chaereas
at
never,
does,
Compared
Chaereas

Callirhoe

looks

'heroic

like some

softy'

(G.

Molini?,

op.

cit. 31).
Faced

where
Callirhoe
even succeeds,
situation
with a precarious
some kind of ironical detachnever does, in displaying
who commends
the feelings
ment. She warns the Persian eunuch,
of his king to her attention,
not to try to catch a slave: "I won't be
Chaereas

myself worthy of the king. I only am on equal


women"
of the Persian
handmaidens
(6.5.9).
footing
no
of the story Callirhoe
is a real personality,
From the beginning
in
free
to
the
of
a
whether
she
be
matter
person
position
happens
so mad

as to deem
with

the

and suspicions
which make him
Chaereas'
jealousy
Against
full
"like a true general's
she behaves
his balance,
daughter:
fails
to
in
the
hero
When
1.4.12
male
of self-confidence"
(1.3.6).
of the
control
himself
and even grinds his foot into the midriff

or not.
lose

heroine,
Chaereas'

no reader

will

and

Callirhoe's

All differences

between

confirm
venture

stories

to claim

about

the difference

between

moralities.
Chaereas

the above-mentioned
for their

scene

feel dubious

in terms

actually seem to
of the novelists
"to set the

and Callirhoe

tendency
of a real human

that the character

of Callirhoe

I do not
society".
be
conceived
might

I only want to sugkind of female 'benefactor'.


Callirhoe's
to the contemporary
readership
gest that, presumably,
As we saw, people were
moral surplus value would be no surprise.
on the part of women.
On the
behaviour
to prominent
accustomed
to funerary
other hand they were accustomed
(and other) inscripof as that of some

with references
female
prominence
honouring
and other traditionally
feminine
qualities.
decency
in Callirhoe's
This paradox
seems
to be mirrored
tions

behaviour.

It seems

to be

reflected

even

more

to modesty,

clearly

ideals

and

and

con-

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THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES


in

sistently

the

role

of

the

Charicleia,

heroine

of

121

Heliodorus'

deal with the unforeseen",


courageously
with
but Charicleia
herself,
being confronted
a stranger who asks for her hand in public,
starts off by reminding
women
and that her 'brother'
should
the man that silence becomes

Aethiopica. "Women
we are told (4.13.8),

most

do the talking.
She goes on speaking
about her advenextensively
in postponing
the perfortures, and with tact and flattery succeeds
if yet possible,
mance
of a rejected,
The
marriage
(1.21.6-22.9).
a paradox
passage
tersely illustrates
in similar other scenes of Heliodorus'
tone

but

Theagenes,
chastity.
to marry
sword

When
with

and frequently,
find
in
the
same
novel,
bantering
At last the chaste virgin gives in to her

in Chariton.

we found

for the time


in some

another

but Charicleia

we also,

she tends

being

dangerous

situation

to preserve
her very
both of them are forced

person,
Theagenes
eloquently
appeals
knows the true salvation:
the sacrifice

to the
of his

for the sake of hers (7.25.8).


In the end they are captured
in before the king Hydaspes,
and both brought
whom she knows to
be her father. Charicleia
calms down nervous
and tells
Theagenes
him what they have to do, but, when addressed
she
by Hydaspes,
silence
and
lets
her
do
the
keeps
partner
talking (9.25.3).

innocence

Pieces
other

'double
of a comparable
are to be found in the
entendre'
as well, and often we see the "ancient
at
novelists

novels

with performances
of their heroines
and their
play" (G. Anderson)
heroines'
male partners in the fields of word and action. When,
for
the virgin Leucippe
in a sacred cave is being checked
for
instance,
virginhood,
to let his
8.13.4).
ancient

who himself lost chastity,


asks Pan
Clitophon,
ardently
beloved
"come
back to us a virgin"
Tatius
(Achilles
All evidence
a
to
favourite
rhetorical
theme
in
points

fiction:

the

of paradoxical
feminine
actions
and
topos
behaviour.
in a world of men, the heroines
know how to
Portrayed
handle their situation
so as to get what they want out of it, and at
the same time how to ignore their ingenuity.
pattern,
though being a literary motif on its own, is in keepa
with
social
in which women
climate
could play a prominent
ing
role within the limits of a fixed position,
as they could for instance
This

in a system
of euergetism
and Charicleia's
(v. supra). Callirhoe's
decisive
and influential
contributions
to 'their' stories, no less than
the activities
of an Antigone,
a Penelope
or an Iphigenia,
remain
"within

the

bounds

of

acceptable

female

behaviour".

Mary

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THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES

122
Lefkowitz
and

has shown

drama

limitations
courageous
Generally
The strong
"masculine

do exert

that the "influential


their

influence

women"

of classical

without

the

epic
social

exceeding
that apply to them: they even felt obliged to display their
actions on grounds
derived from their very position20).
speaking,
they were acting on behalf of their families.
female

of classical

personalities
women"
(S. B.
masculine
role (H.

Greek
nor

literature

did

were no

an
Pomeroy)
they
E.
C.
did
essentially
Foley,
They only
Sorum).
what the audience
have expected
from women
of a high
might
moral standing
who are confronted
with any complications
in the
assume

The heroines
of the ancient
Greek novels likewise
private sphere.
within the scope of the acceptable.
Their audience,
howoperated
for whom "the distinction
women
ever, even knew of (upper-class)
between
had disappeared,
private and public life" (Van Bremen)
in other words:
role was socially
for whom
a prominent
public
accepted.
In a lavishly
emphasized
substantial
mind,
tary

documented
that

and sensible

heroines

of

the

their

article

Brigitte Egger has


could only exercise
To my
attractiveness21).

novel

their erotic
through
one should allow them a more

influence

however,
role, and

safeguard

the

with

this

innocence.

I do not
Though

refer
not

intentional

to their

anxious
any

possessing
a traditional
and,
displaying
paradoxically,
power
are in fact the often
our heroines
feminine
behaviour,
in
actual social intercourse.
influential
partners

or volunefforts

to

real

legal
of
pattern
decisively

the only ancient novelist who managed


to concenLongus,
on love itself and in doing so found a most successful
way to
all the same adopted the 'female
deal with happy love in literature,
Even

trate

paradox'.
first sight
Chloe's

In his Daphnis and Chloe the feminine


and masculine
at
mark
a
and
is
seem
to
sexual
nowhere
difference,
only
at length
or with any emphasis.
described
Yet
modesty

20) Mary R. Lefkowitz, Influential Women, in: A. Cameron, A. Kurth (ed.),


Images of Women in Antiquity (London/Canberra 1983), 49-64.
21) Brigitte Egger, Zu den Frauenrollenim griechischenRoman, in: H. Hofmann
(ed.), Groningen Colloquia on the Novel, I (Groningen 1988), 33-66. Dominance of
the heroines has recently been stressed by Renate Johne, in: H. Kuch (ed.), Der
antike Roman: Untersuchungenzur literarischenKommunikation und Gattungsgeschichte
(Berlin 1989), 150-77: Zur Figurencharakteristikim antiken Roman, esp. 155-9.

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THE ANCIENT GREEK NOVEL AND ITS HEROINES


there

are some

123

hints.

sworn by Pan that in the future they


Having
each other, Daphnis
and Chloe leave the cave
of the Nymphs.
The girl, however,
"as being but a girl", does not
trust Apollo's
nor her own attractiveness,
and she asks
protection
for another
on
the
this
time
of
flock
Much
oath,
goats (2.39.3-5).
will not live without

later, when the landlord


cannot
"bear so strong
But she knows

(4.14.1).
delicate
dominance

manner,
in many

his retinue

and

visit

the country,
Chloe
into the wood

a presence"
and she flees
her own worth all the same.

has

given
situations.

his

heroine

in his
Longus,
certain
personal
than
years younger

two
Though
Chloe is the first to feel any erotic sensation
when watchDaphnis,
and she keeps playing
a leading
ing the other (1.13.3),
part in the
course of their sexual discoveries.
One day she is the judge
in a
and another boy, with a delightful
beauty contest between
Daphnis
kiss of her own at stake (1.15-17).
In this situation
and in all other
situations
of excitement
unlike Daphnis,
Chloe,
keeps her wits22).
The difference
about amusing
scenes,
as, for instance,
brings
when the boy asks the girl to lie down naked with him longer than
she used to do, and to imitate
"what rams do to ewes, and billies
to she-goats"
Chloe does give in, but only after
(3.14.2)
drawn her 'male's'
to the fact that animals remain
attention

she has

upright
with their own hairy
that, moreover,
they are thickly clothed
makes decisive
in the right
moves
pelt. In summertime
Daphnis
he
but
succeeds
thanks
to
the
sense
of his partdirection,
only
good
ner. Going against her wishes he carries out daredevil
feats in order
to pick a beautiful
apple from the very top of a tree. When he puts
it into her bosom,
Chloe forgets her anger and rewards
him with
one of her enchanting
kisses (3.34.7).
and

With

such

sweet nothings
albeit indirectly,
seems to
Longus,
his
heroine
of
the
female
we disgiven
something
paradox
cussed above:
her
like
sisters in ancient
combines
Chloe,
fiction,
whenever
she handles complex
and difficult
coyness with command
have

situations23)
3583

SB Utrecht,

Gerard

Doustraat

11

22) On the female in Longus see: A. M. Scarcella, La donna nel romanzodi Longo
Sofista, GIF, n.s. 3 (1972), 63-86.
23) I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. J. den Boeft, Dr. J. N. Bremmer and Prof. Dr. K. R. Busby for many helpful suggestions.

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