BMCR 2021.01.12

Chariton of Aphrodisias’ ‘Callirhoe’

, Chariton of Aphrodisias' 'Callirhoe': a critical edition. Antike Texte, Band 2. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2020. Pp. xxx, 185. ISBN 9783825366155 €32,00.

The Sanz Morales Callirhoe is the second book published in Winter Verlag’s series “Antike Texte,” a series that aims to provide students, teachers, and scholars with reliable scholarly editions of Greek and Latin texts. Indeed, the Sanz Morales edition reflects the author’s expert knowledge of the text of Chariton in a book that will be both of significant use to advanced scholars and accessible to students. The preface (in English translation by C. F. Zoltowska) focuses on the history of the text, previous editions, and (briefly) Chariton’s language and date. I suspect the author will treat these last two matters in more detail in a forthcoming commentary on Books 1–4 that he is preparing with Michael Baumbach. Following the preface, Sanz Morales provides an ample bibliography (over 150 entries) focused on scholarship on the text and Chariton’s language. The text of the novel follows: 166 pages; at the foot of each page is not only the usual critical apparatus but also an index fontium. The author has numbered the lines on each page and keyed the apparatus and index to the line numbering. I found this arrangement very easy to use. After the text, the author has included a supplementary critical apparatus “reflecting all the other corrections to the text, with the exception of those that are clearly erroneous” (p. xvi), and an index nominum.

Bryan Reardon’s 2004 critical edition of Chariton’s Callirhoe was the first modern critical edition of the novel in two generations, replacing that of W. E. Blake (1938), who was, incredibly, the first modern Chariton editor to consult the sole manuscript (F Florentinus Laurentianus Conventi Soppressi 627). In his review for BMCR, Stephen Trzaskoma wrote that Reardon’s edition would, “like Blake’s text in its time, make all earlier editions essentially obsolete.” Richard Hunter noted that Reardon would serve as “the standard text for many years to come.” Sanz Morales himself, in a 2006 review article, wrote that Reardon produced a good and rigorous edition, managing to correct many errors in the transmission of the text without stumbling into “hypercritical excess” (p. 468, evitando caer en excesos hypercríticos).[1]

So, then, one may well ask, “Is a new critical edition of Callirhoe justified so soon after Reardon?”  The answer here is an unqualified “Yes.”

The author provides a three-fold rationale for his edition in the introduction, noting that he has provided: (i) a more comprehensive critical apparatus, including significant conjectures that Reardon had excluded from his apparatus; (ii) the supplementary critical apparatus I mentioned above (iii) the index fontium, a guide to Chariton’s quotations and allusions to earlier Greek literature. The author notes that the expanded critical apparatus, together with the supplementary apparatus, would help readers to “trace the history of the efforts made by scholars to correct Chariton’s text over the years” (p. xvi). This complete accounting of scholarly conjecture on Callirhoe makes the new edition useful to textual scholars, but by complementing Reardon rather than by replacing him. As Sanz Morales comments in his review article (p. 457), the divergences between the two editions reflect his own thorough and independent reading rather than an excessively critical attitude toward the Reardon text.

I myself read Chariton and the other novelists with an interest in the social and cultural contexts of the genre. As such a reader, I found the principal virtue of this edition to be the index fontium. The author here has followed the example of Reardon, who also provided references to Chariton’s allusions to earlier literature in notes printed above the critical apparatus on each page. But the Sanz Morales catalogues almost 50% more citations and allusions than Reardon, a total of 115 vs. 80. In addition, he has for many of these references provided both context (in Latin) and fuller citation of the referenced passage.

For example, both Reardon and Sanz Morales note a Thucydidean echo in Chariton’s account of the tomb robbers’ long and disastrous voyage after selling Callirhoe in Miletus (3.3.11). Reardon’s index fontium quotes a single word in the Chariton passage, θαλαττεύοντες, and then suggests the possible reference: “cf. Thuc. 7.12.3.” The index in Sanz Morales not only quotes Chariton more fully, θαλαττεύοντες δὲ πολὺν χρόνον, but also the Thucydides text, “αἵ τε νῆες διάβροχοιτοσοῦτον χρόνον ἤδη θαλασσεύουσαι.” In addition to that, Sanz Morales provides context for the reference: “Niceae litterae de gravissimo in Sicilia casu coram Athenarum populo leguntur.” At 8.3.4, the Sanz Morales edition picks up on another Thucydidean reference not noted in Reardon. An Egyptian informant has stolen into Chaereas’ camp on the island of Arados after the protagonist’s victory at sea over the Persian navy and his reunion with Callirhoe. The informant tells Chaereas that the Great King has been victorious on land and will soon arrive, ὅσον οὔπω πάρεστι. Sanz Morales notes an allusion to Thucydides 6.34.9, citing both language and context, that is, when Hermocrates warns the Syracusans about the Athenian expedition: “ἐν πλῷ εὖ οἶδ’ ὅτι ἤδη εἰσὶ [sc. οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι] καὶ ὅσον οὔπω πάρεισιν (Hermocratis orationis finis).”

This review is not the place to assess the interpretive relevance of these and other allusions; however, Sanz Morales’s practice of providing fuller citation and context makes it easier for the reader to entertain the possibility of associations between, for example, the folly and destruction of the Athenians who attack Syracuse and the folly and destruction of the grave robbers who kidnap and sell Syracusan Callirhoe; or the historical Hermocrates, who spoke in the Syracusan assembly to rally his city against the Athenians, and the fictional Hermocrates, father of Callirhoe, who, before the assembly, will encourage Chaereas later in book 8 to tell his story to the people of Syracuse.[2]

This copious and accessible index fontium can open the door to even further consideration of Chariton’s engagement with earlier literature. For example, at 3.3.9, Chariton describes how the tomb robbers sold Callirhoe, τὸ δυσδιάθετον φορτίον, “the difficult-to-dispose-of cargo” near Miletus and then sailed off to Crete. Sanz Morales suggests a possible reference to Menander: “Fort. Men. fr. 22 K.-A., ex Ἁλιεύς vel Ἁλιεῖς (PCG 6.2, 56) χαλεπόν γε θυγάτηρ κτῆμα καὶ δυσδιάθετον,” and provides an internal reference to 1.12.4, where Theron, the chief tombrobber, similarly describes the heroine. But the description also recalls the tombrobbers’ debate at 1.10 7, whether to kill Callirhoe or sell her: one of the bandits describes the heroine as φορτίον δὲ ἔχον ὀφθαλμούς τε καὶ ὦτα καὶ γλῶσσαν, “cargo that has eyes, ears, and a tongue.” The idea reflects Aristotle’s definition of the slave as “a living piece of property” (Pol. 1253b32, ὁ δοῦλος κτῆμά τι ἔμψυχον) or, perhaps more closely, the definition in Varro of the slave as “a tool with a voice” (De agri cultura, 1.17, instrumentum vocale). If it is unlikely that Chariton is alluding in particular to the Aristotle’s or Varro’s definitions of a slave, it seems possible, nonetheless, that he draws here on a tradition of elite discourse about slaves found in many Greek and Roman authors.

The Sanz Morales index fontium suggests a single reference to Virgil at 3.5.4, where Chaereas is planning to set out for Miletus to find Callirhoe. His father Ariston is dying and pleads that Chaereas wait to bury him, then sail. Sanz Morales raises the possibility of an allusion to the Aeneid: “Fort. Verg. Aen. 4.323 cui me moribundam deseris, hospes? (Dido ad Aenean).” Stefan Tilg, however, has identified other allusions to the Aeneid; e.g. 1.4.12 and Aeneid 4.391–2 (slaves attend to Callirhoe and Dido after each has fainted); 1.5.1 and 4.666–70 (the rumors of Callirhoe’s death and the death of Dido); 3.2.7 and 4.174–7 (the descriptions of Rumor).[3] The plausible allusions to Virgil raise the possibility that Chariton, who was an imperial as well as a Greek author, referenced other Latin writers, perhaps Varro.

Another imperial author who could, arguably, be included among Chariton’s sources was his fellow Greek novelist Xenophon of Ephesus. Indeed, the melodramatic parting between Chaereas and his father at 3.5.4 resembles, even more than the parting scene between Dido and Aeneas, an episode at Ephesiaca 1.14.4, when Habrocomes and Anthia are being carried off by pirates and the protagonist’s old tutor, left behind to drown, pitifully calls after him.[4] Other linguistic and situational parallels between Callirhoe and Ephesiaca give additional support to the idea that one author has been reading the other.[5] But who was reading whom? The relative chronology of Chariton and Xenophon remains unsettled. Perhaps for this reason, Sanz Morales excluded Ephesiaca from the references in his index fontium, which by definition looks back in time. However, the author should have discussed the issue further, given that he argues that Callirhoe was written shortly before 200 CE (p. x), a date which would likely place him after Xenophon.[6]

The Sanz Morales edition represents a significant contribution to the study of Chariton that will be useful to both advanced scholars and to students. The scholarship behind the text is rigorous, complementing the Reardon edition with insights by another authority on the text. In addition, the apparatus criticus and the complementary apparatus together offer a full record of the long effort to get the text of Callirhoe right. No discussion of an ancient author’s sources can be definitive; my qualifications of the excellent and accessible index fontium should be considered in that context. Finally, I note that the price of this volume, less than half of the Reardon Teubner, puts it in reach of students.


[1] Stephen Trzaskoma, BMCR 2005.09.63; Richard Hunter, CR 56.2 (2006): 325–6; Manuel Sanz Morales, Exemplaria Classica 10 (2006): 447–68.

[2] Stephen Smith, Greek Identity and the Athenian Past in Chariton (Groningen: Barkhuis, 2007), 1–6 on the significance of the historical Hermocrates in Chariton’s novel.

[3] Stefan Tilg, Chariton of Aphrodisias and the Invention of the Greek Love Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 272–5.

[4] Tilg, Chariton, 89–90.

[5] See, for example, Antonios Papanikolaou, Chariton Studien (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1974), 153–9.

[6] Aldo Tagliabue, Xenophon’s Ephesiaca: A Paraliterary Love-Story from the Ancient World (Groningen: Barkhuis, 2017), 213–5, offers a recent survey of views on the relative dates of Chariton and Xenophon of Ephesus.