This book is a collection of nine papers delivered at the colloquium “The Ancient Novel and its Reception of Earlier Literature”, held at University College Cork in 2007. The volume is a worthwhile contribution to the studies of intertextual relations in ancient prose fiction from a perspective which sheds fresh light on the knowledge of the ancient novel.1 This approach enriches our understanding of the fictional texts and supports the traditional thesis that the ancient novel is influenced by all the previous literary genres.
In this volume allusions and parallels of genres and of specific works in different Greek and Latin fictional texts are analyzed, from the Greek “canonical” novels ( Chaireas and Callirhoe, Ephesiaca and Daphnis and Chloe) and the Roman novels ( Satyricon, Metamorphoses and Historia Apollonii Regis Tyri) to Alexander’s Letter about India and Alexander Romance. The quality of the contributions is high and at the end of each paper we find its bibliography updated to 2010 with few exceptions. In Konstantin Doulamis’ introduction a too concise status quaestionis is made and the overall structure of the book is described, including a brief summary of every paper.
After Doulamis’ introduction, Koen De Temmerman and Kristoffel Demoen revise the traditional theory about the characterization of the protagonists of the ancient Greek novel as ideal figures and the literal understanding of their assimilation with mythological, historical and exempla, a theory already questioned. They focus on the central virtue of continence (σωφροσύνη) and pay special attention to Charito’s Callirhoe and her assimilation – apparently contradictory – to Helen and Penelope at the same time. Their fine and thought-provoking analysis shows that novelistic protagonists are less ideal than they might appear at first sight and that they present nuances and ambiguities that presuppose a complex characterization.
The second paper, by Konstantin Doulamis, examines the two speeches delivered in the trial scene of Book 5 of Chaireas and Callirhoe, the prosecution by Dionysius and the defence by Mithridates. His detailed analysis is organized in five sections: content and arguments, according to the sections of the speech as established by classical rhetorical theory (Aristotle); echoes of classical forensic arguments (Lysias, Andocides, Isocrates, Aeschines, Demosthenes) found in the two speeches (by means of some illustrative examples); stylistic analysis of the discourses according to the Imperial rhetorical treatises; and finally the “narrative context”, where is shown that the style and setting of the two speeches reflect Atticist and Asianist rhetorical principles respectively, with a similar analysis to Steven Smith’s.2 The line of the argumentation is clear and progressive, but there are some repetitions which could have been avoided if the division into sections had been simplified.
Maria-Elpiniki Oikonomou, after a brief description of the dreams in Xenophon Ephesius’ novel, draws attention to Anthia’s dream (5.8.5-6) and considers its parallels with other dreams of the literary tradition. Anthia’s dream has two interpretations: on one hand, it is the result of her mental state and of the negative environment that surrounds her; on the other hand, the dream is prognostic and is foreshadowing a situation where the chastity of one of the two protagonists is threatened, but it must be interpreted “in reverse,” as it refers not to Habrocomes, but to Anthia, foretelling the last attack against her virginity.
In the following paper Michael Paschalis examines the presence of Virgilian intertexts in Petronius’ Satyrica 79-99 and the relation of Virgil with Homer within the Satyrica. After an accurate philological analysis of several passages of the Satyrica which show parallels with Virgil and Homer, he concludes on one hand that Homeric imitation is exclusively thematic and that Homer is “Virgilianized” in Petronius; on the other hand, he emphasizes that the imitation of Virgil is not limited to several isolated allusions, but represents a sustained intertext with relevant and meaningful implications.
In a very interesting contribution, Ian Repath argues that, despite the very different nature of eros in Plato and in Longus (and broadly speaking, in the genre of the Greek Novel), the latter exploits the erotic theories of Phaedrus and that the Platonic text is alluded to repeatedly. From the prologue onwards, Longus’ novel presents allusions to some canonical Platonic texts on love at representative moments in the plot, allusions that are adapted by Longus to his erotic concerns and that are suggestively and brilliantly interpreted by Repath.
Maeve O’Brien’s paper takes into consideration the Platonic Socrates as reinterpreted by Apuleius, the Philosophus Platonicus, in the first embedded story of the Metamorphoses. She underlines the differences between the two Socrates, the real one and the character of Apuleius and concludes that the Apuleian remodelled Socrates is a “pale imitation” ( larvale simulacrum ( Met. 1.6.3) of the earlier Socrates, a kind of anti-Socrates.
John Morgan, in an original disposition imitating a symphony, explores the relationship between Philetas (the old and peritus shepherd of Daphnis and Chloe) and the Hellenistic poet Philitas of Kos. Taking into account that very few of Philitas’ own words survive though he is admired as one of the founders of Hellenistic poetry, Morgan writes an interesting essay, sometimes rather conjectural but highly persuasive, considering Philitas as an hypotext for Longus.
The last two papers of the volume focus on second-class works. Elias Koulakiotis’ paper – with an impressive bibliography – pays attention to the vision of the “Others” (mainly animals and gods) in the apocryphal Alexander’s Letter about India. The purpose of this letterwithin the Alexander Romance is to describe systematically the new species of animals found in India, in the wake of the Hellenistic paradoxographical literature. It portrays Alexander as a tamer of beasts, a ruler of the world and as a follower in the steps of Dionysius and Herakles, even outdoing them.
S. Panayotakis’ paper centers on the Historia Apollonii regis Tyri and focuses on the scene of the divided cloak. The word cloak itself ( tribunarion, a hapax from the Greek τριβώναριον) is found interesting not only for its linguistic value a as loanword but also for its philosophical connotations. Greek and Latin parallels of this scene have been proposed, but there are other clear connections, both thematic and verbal, with Christian narratives. Panayotakis finally suggests a thematic parallel with Lucian’s Toxaris and concludes that the fisherman’s gesture of cutting his cloak in two for Apollonius is apparently an invitation to share the simple life of a philosopher; in actuality the two characters in this scene have aspirations very different from the true philosophers and they end up living wealthy lives.
In conclusion, this is a very interesting contribution to the study of the ancient novel which I highly recommend because it proposes new and suggestive interpretations of some specific works of fiction, taking into account texts which can be considered as their intertexts. Perhaps one might miss contributions about Achilles Tatius and Heliodorus, narratologically the most complex authors who present evident parallels with other works, even with the previous novels. I am sure that the desire of its editor will be fulfilled: “it is hoped that the present collection of articles will create scope for debate and will generate greater scholarly interest in this area.”
1. In the line of recent publications such as J. Morgan “Intertextuality”, T. Whitmarsh (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Greek and Roman Novel, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, pp. 218-227, glanced at Longus and Heliodorus.
2. S. D. Smyth, Greek Identity and the Athenian Past in Chariton. The Romance of Empire, Ancient Narrative Supplementum 9, Groningen: Barkuis, 2007, pp. 134-140.