Chariton of Aphrodisias and the Invention of the Greek Love Novel

Chariton of Aphrodisias and the Invention of the Greek Love Novel

Stefan Tilg

Print publication date: 2010

ISBN: 9780199576944

Publisher: Oxford University Press


No issue in scholarship on the ancient novel has been discussed as hotly as the origin of the Greek love novel, also known as the ‘ideal’ novel. The present book proposes a new solution to this old problem. It argues that the genre had a personal inventor, Chariton of Aphrodisias, and that he wrote the first love novel, Narratives about Callirhoe, in the mid‐first century AD. This conclusion is drawn on the basis of two converging lines of argument, one from literary history, another from Chariton's poetics. A revisitation of the literary‐historical background provides the basis for further analysis: among other things, it considers Chariton's milieu at Aphrodisias (especially the local cult of Aphrodite), the dating of other early novels, and Chariton's potential authorship of the fragmentarily preserved novels Metiochus and Parthenope and Chione. Chariton's status as the inventor of the Greek love novel, suggested by the literary‐historical evidence, finds further support in his poetics. I argue that Narratives about Callirhoe is characterized by an unusual effort of self‐definition, which can be best explained as a consequence of coming to terms with a new form of writing. The book is rounded off by a study of the motif of Rumour in Chariton and its derivation from a surprising model, Virgil's Aeneid. This part also makes a significant contribution to the reception of Latin literature in the Greek world.