Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.11.05

Bernard Pouderon, Cécile Bost-Pouderon (ed.), Passions, vertus et vices dans l'ancien roman. Actes du colloque de Tours, 19-21 octobre 2006, organisé par l'université François-Rabelais de Tours et la UMR 5189, Histoire et Sources des Mondes Antiques. Collection de la Maison de l'Orient Mediterraneen, 42, série littéraire et philosophique 14.   Lyon:  Maison de l'Orient de la Méditerranée-Jean Pouilloux, 2009.  Pp. 457.  ISBN 9782356680082.  €38.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Froma I. Zeitlin, Princeton University (

[Table of Contents at the End of the Review]

This is the fourth volume in a series edited by Bernard Pouderon resulting from colloquia on the ancient novels (and their reception or predecessors) held at the University of Tours (1999, 2004, 2005, 2006).1 Like its predecessors, it is handsomely produced with individual bibliographies, copious indices, and abstracts in both French and English. Like them, its numerous essays (26) are of greater or lesser merit (or interest) and cover a broad range of texts: here the ancient novel, to be sure, both Greek and Roman (except Petronius), their Christian imitators (Clementines, Passions of the Martyrs), predecessors (Xenophon and Iamboulos), and late epic (Nonnos). Add the Alexander Romance, a late Byzantine novel (Erotocritos), and several neo-Greek novels of the 19th century. The volume is divided into five subsections: (1) Political and Social Virtues; (2) Individual, Philosophical, or Religious Virtues; (3) The Passions between Vice and Virtue; (4) Virtues, Ideology and Edification; and (5) Virtues and Narrativity. Names of authors are arranged alphabetically under each rubric. This is hardly an ideal arrangement, leading to confusing leaps, whether between texts and periods or between general observations and studies of individuals or words. Contributors rarely respond to or even acknowledge one another’s work. There may be a hint of desperation in assorting these many essays into such broad, sometimes overlapping, categories. A general introduction that established some of the more salient themes and possible links among them would have been welcome, along with reference to the status of moral theory and ideas about the passions under the Empire (and beyond). Yet, no one can deny that the topic is of essential significance in the corpus of ancient prose fiction (its characters, plots, and ideologies): love, hate, shame, sorrow, anger, jealousy, fear, courage, cowardice, boldness, impiety, wisdom, prudence, etc. How do people behave in straitened circumstances when challenged by the vagaries of life; what are their reactions, internal struggles, underlying values, psychological and physical manifestations under pressure? Do the later novels, for example, reflect Christian influence regarding piety, virginity, chastity, and fidelity, as some here would claim? What roles do familial or social status play? Do these texts respond to philosophical doctrines, religious beliefs, or the so-called spirituality of the age. Above all is the continual struggle between rational wisdom and erotic passion, often with ambiguous results, according to specific characters or plots. Finally, does the moral universe of one or more characters evolve (or mature) as a result of his/her ordeals? To cut across the divisions, there are two essays on the Cyropedia (Létoublon, Jouanno), four essays on Chariton (*Guez, *Brethes, de Temmerman, and *Billault), four on Achilles Tatius (Kaspryzk, *Daude, *Briand, Woronoff), two on Apuleius (Garbugino, Puccini- Delbey). The rest either treat different texts and authors or range more widely. (See appended Table of Contents). Readers may browse according to their interests (I have asterisked my choices).

1. POLITICAL AND SOCIAL VIRTUES. Bowie examines the virtues of the country and vices of the city in a tabulated list (with some dubious entries, he acknowledges), concluding that the moral universe, with a few exceptions, is common to both country and city. *Guez points to the differences between “tyrant” and “king” in Chariton, referring to previous Platonic models as well as contemporary attitudes toward rulership. The “tyrant” represents a moral paradigm that structures the novel’s system of values, projected on different characters at various times reflecting anxiety about the power of Eros (Eros tyrannos) to unsettle the individual in all his pursuits. For the figures of power among the lovers of Callirhoe (a future general, first man of Ionia, satraps, and monarch), their (royal) vocation to command others is finally put to the test by the domination of one’s own erotic passions. Chaereas is an excellent case, shifting from Tyrant (in his jealousy and cruelty) to King, when he learns to rule over himself. Létoublon follows with a useful study of the ideal prince in the Cyropedia, an acknowledged predecessor of prose fiction, and the axiological semantics it contributes to the evaluation of characters in the novel, with emphasis on Cyrus’s encounters with the lovers, Panthea and Abradates (See also Jouanno’s contribution). *Montanari likewise looks backward, this time to Iamboulus’ utopian Hellenistic treatise, Islands of the Sun. He argues that the virtue of the inhabitants relies both on their primitive nature as well as respect for highly codified social rules that encourage mutual respect, harmony, and equality through inculcation in paideia.

2. INDIVIDUAL VIRTUES: PHILOSOPHICAL OR RELIGIOUS. *Brethes’ illuminating discussion joins Guez on Chariton. He too is interested in the maturation of Chaereas the meirakion, but by comparison to Dionysios, the pepaideumenos. Brethes relies on Aristotle’s ethical precepts on control of one’s emotions and on Menander’s dramatic representations, along with astute scrutiny of implicit references to literary, historical, or mythological types (e.g., Achilles, Hippolytus, Alcibiades). Dowden’s adventurous efforts typically aim to expand our categories of analysis and propose new approaches. This time he uses modern studies of self-affirmation to explore the ways in which characters may be judged by their response to despair, encouragement and benevolence. Focusing on the verb, tharrein (take courage), he judges the success of Charicleia (Heliodorus) and Anthia (Xenophon of Ephesus) vs. negative assessments of brigands’ behavior as due to the balance the women maintain between aggression and timidity. Innovative, if not entirely persuasive. Like Bowie and Dowden, Kasprzyk focuses on a semantic study – a single, if primal word, sophrosune, defined as chastity, moderation, modesty, or good sense. Who is qualified (or not) by this term, by whom and at what moment of the text, in what context and what type of discourse? Through this survey, he argues, one can gauge the evolution of its meaning. He ends with Achilles Tatius, whose manipulation of the word, especially in book 8, is one more indication of the author’s refusal to idealize his characters. Konstan also focuses on a single virtue. Arguing from Philo’s redefinition of andreia as a quality not only associated with war but with sophrosune or enkrateia, or the ability to resist sexual temptation, Konstan looks especially to the Ephesiaca, with further reference to Christian ideals. How widespread was the novelists’ acquaintance with Philo is not addressed. Lastly, Pouderon and Ramelli both address Christian texts. Pouderon contrasts two radically different approaches to chastity (sophrosune) in the Clementines and Passions of Saints Nereus and Achilleus. Sexual “wisdom” consists of marital fidelity, and conversely, marriage is regarded as a loss of integrity, of treason to Christ, the perfect spouse. Since both texts are attributed to Peter or his disciples, Pouderon suggests that perhaps one was a polemical response to the other. (See also Calvet-Sebasti’s later piece). Ramelli also focuses on Christian virtues (here chastity, virginity, fidelity, and piety). She contraposes pagan texts (especially Achilles Tatius and Heliodorus) with Christian themes to argue for reciprocal influence. Her appeal, however, to the (dubious) tradition of the two authors’ purported later careers as bishops is far less persuasive.

3. THE PASSIONS BETWEEN VICE AND VIRTUE. *Billault examines jealousy (zelotupia and phthonos) in the novels. While noting the lexical infrequency of the words themselves, he observes that the emotion is present as a source of psychological trouble and violence in erotic rivalry, but only plays a major dramatic role in Chariton to motivate the entire plot. *Daude’s contribution is more ambitious. It investigates the interrelations between soul and body in Achilles Tatius, drawing upon Galen for support in exploring the lexicon of emotions and their physiological and psychological effects. These indicate a new kind of subject, ruled not by reason but by sensibility. Garbugino focuses on the concept of curiositas in Apuleius, arguing that its valence is generally negative, but also offset by Lucius’s role as an ass in observing the world around him. Lassithiotakis moves ahead to Vincent Cornaros’s 17th century novel, Erotocritos, to claim that commoners and aristocrats may share the same qualities of courage and nobility. de Τemmerman returns to Chaereas in Chariton with an examination of the hero’s uncontrolled emotions, vs. Callirhoe’s ethical discourses, when conventionally, we might expect the male and female roles to be reversed. Woronoff looks at Leucippe and “the misfortunes of virtue” in AT, to claim that with the exception of the heroine, assaults and tortures are deflected through either substitution or artistic representation. Hence voyeuristic pleasure is tempered by limiting the realism of violence.

4. VIRTUES, IDEOLOGY, AND EDIFICATION: Christian Acts of the Apostles (Calvet-Sebasti on anger and compassion); The Life of Alexander Rec. A (Ruiz-Montero and Zambudio on the moral doctrines of the ruler’s virtues and faults, based on the Cynico-Stoic tradition); Apuleius (Puccini-Delbey on sapientia and prudentia as prime virtues, overshadowed, however by the preponderance of negative roles and vices); three obscure 19th century Greek novels (Tonnet on their varied attitudes to vice and virtue); and Historia Apollonii regis (Wolff on vice, lust, and incest focusing on antithetical fathers, tyrant and good king, with Christian overtones).

5. VIRTUES AND NARRATIVITY. *Briand (the longest essay in the volume) studies the gender of passions and virtues in AT, under the fancy rubric of “cultural anthropology, metafiction, and rhetoric,” to claim that AT disrupts the idealism of romance by hybridization, inversion, or weakening of values. These consist of love, chastity, courage, resistance to misfortune, ambition, and various modes of epic, tragic or dramatic heroism. The reader is caught between conformism and transgression, paratragic catharsis and detached humor, idealism and sadism, affirmation of love and virginity, while exposed to scenes of feminine sufferings and masculine defeats. Crismani (the weakest contribution) meanders around the idea of the pharmakon in the novel, both real (drugs, remedies) and metaphorical (there is no remedy for love but love), with a good deal of non-essential rhetoric. Frangoulis on an episode in Nonnos and novelistic topoi, Jouanno on the later reception of Xenophon’s story of Abradates and Panthea, and Núñez in a bizarre and confused essay on Heliodorus’ narrative authority round out the collection.

Table of Contents

Préface 9
Ewen L. Bowie, Vertus de la campagne, vices de la cité dans Daphnis et Chloé de Longus 13
Jean-Philippe Guez, homme tyrannique, homme royal dans le roman de Chariton 23
Françoise Létoublon, Le prince idéal de la Cyropédie ou l’histoire est un roman 39
Sébastien Montanari, Morale et société idéale dans l’utopie d’Iamboulos 51
Romain Brethes, Rien de trop: la recherche d’un juste milieu chez Aristote, Ménandre et Chariton 71
Ken Dowden, L’affirmation de soi chez les romanciers 85
Dimitri Kasprzyk, Morale et sophistique : sur la notion de σωφροσύνη chez Achille Tatius 97
David Konstan, Le courage dans le roman grec : de Chariton à Xénophon d’Éphèse, avec une référence à Philon d’Alexandrie 117
Bernard Pouderon, Le discours sur la chasteté dans le cycle clémentin : Homélies clémentines et Martyre des saints Nérée et Achillée 127
Ilaria Ramelli, Les vertus de la chasteté et de la piété dans les romans grecs et les vertus des chrétiens : le cas d’Achille Tatius et d’Héliodore 149
Alain Billault, Remarques sur la jalousie dans les romans grecs antiques 171
Cécile Daude, Aspects physiques et psychiques des passions chez Achille Tatius 185
Giovanni Garbugino, La perception des passions dans le roman d’Apulée 209
Michel Lassithiotakis, Τσ᾽ εὐγενειᾶς τὰ δῶρα: passion, vertu et noblesse dans Erotocritos 223
Koen de Τemmerman, Un protagoniste passionné : quelques réflexions sur l’expression incontrôlée des émotions chez Chairéas 239
Michel Woronoff, Leucippé ou les infortunes de la vertu: volupté et souffrance dans le roman d’Achille Tatius 257
Marie-Ange Calvet-Sebasti, Colère et compassion dans les récits apocryphes chrétiens 271
Géraldine Puccini-Delbey, La vertu de sagesse existe-t-elle dans les Métamorphoses d’Apulée ? 283
Consuelo Ruiz-Montero, Josefa Fernandez Zambudio, La doctrine morale de la Vie d’Alexandre de Macédoine (rec. A) 297
Henri Tonnet, heurs et malheurs de la vertu dans trois romans grecs du xixe siècle 309
Étienne Wolff ,Vertus et vices dans l’Historia Apollonii regis Tyri 309
Michel Briand, Le sexe des passions et des vertus : anthropologie culturelle, méta-fiction et rhétorique dans le roman d’Achille Tatius 329
Daria Crismani, Notes sur le pouvoir des herbes dans le roman 355
Hélène Frangoulis, Passion et narration : Nonnos et le roman 367
Corinne Jouanno, Un roman exemplaire : l’histoire d’Abradate et de Panthée au fil des siècles 377
Loreto Núñez, Les πάθη d’un narrateur : le cas des Éthiopiques 393 Indices 417


1.   Les personnages du roman grec (1999:2002), Lieux, décors et paysages de l’ancien roman (2002:2005), Discours et débats dans l’ancient roman (2004:2006), and another in press, Les hommes et les dieux dans l'ancien roman (2009).

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