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Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Callirhoe by Chariton. Callirhoe by Chariton ,. Chariton's Callirhoe, subtitled Love Story in Syracuse, is a fast-paced historical romance of the first century CE and the oldest extant novel.
Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. Published December 15th by Harvard University Press first published More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
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More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Callirhoe. Apr 19, Evan Leach rated it liked it Shelves: , greek-literature , historical-fiction , novels , romance. That question will probably never be definitively answered, but Callirhoe may have the best claim of any text out there. There are other texts hovering around the margins that could be added to this list, most of them very fragmentary, but the seven listed here are the big ones.
The dates of all the early novels are very fuzzy, but Callirhoe was probably composed around the beginning of the second century AD, which could well make it the oldest of the seven Satyricon excepted. The book is a romance between two young Greek lovers who are separated shortly after marriage, and describes their wild adventures as they fight to reunite with each other.
In a relatively short amount of space, Callirhoe crams in kidnapping, slave trading, a character being buried alive, an attempted crucifixion, a trial, and battles on land and sea. In addition to the leading lights of Sicily, the kings of Persia and Egypt wander onto the stage.
Narrative setpieces include Sicily, Turkey, Syria, Babylon, and more. The quick pace and the sheer insanity of all that befalls the two lovers makes Callirhoe a fun read, and unlike some writers of his era the author of Callirhoe manages to tie things off with a satisfying and fulfilling ending. That said, this is not the pinnacle of ancient literature.
The prose, at least in my translation, was nothing to write home about. More disconcerting for modern readers is the one-dimensional nature of virtually every character in the novel. Personally, I really missed the humor that made the Satyricon such a favorite of mine; this romance is all melodrama without a laugh in sight. Still, Callirhoe is a fun story and a quick read.
I would recommend this book to readers interested in Greco-Roman literature, or readers interested in learning more about the development of the novel. View 2 comments. Apr 26, Zadignose added it Shelves: 01st-century. A novel? This book is, to some extent, a prototype of soap operas, lurid romances, and damsel-in-distress stories. It engages in some hyperbolic absurdities and plot contrivances. Characters often launch into laments in order to summarize the plot development and drive home how incredibly unfortunate they've been.
Callirhoe, the heroine, is more admirable than any of the men, including Chaereas, who are enchanted by her. Notably, it's the men who do most of the weepi Old? Notably, it's the men who do most of the weeping and fainting. But the novel is also remarkably sophisticated It shows insight into the darker instincts and motivations of people, and the ways in which they manipulate one another.
Then we were becalmed for a long time, and everyone died of thirst except me--I survived because of my piety. Theron has been preserved by his cunning and impiety , while the gods are planning for him to survive only to suffer more for his wickedness A central theme of the book is beauty and the dangers it attracts. Callirhoe is one of those dazzling beauties who can cause entire cities to swoon. Extraordinary beauty is, of course, a great virtue.
Especially for a woman. But, though we moderns may find it hard to believe, beauty isn't everything. It even has its downside. Envy, lust, and covetousness are inspired everywhere. This book also explores the relationship between private individuals and the crowd.
The public is an interesting force. It is emotional, it is unpredictable, it is prone to manipulation, and it is swayed by rumor, but it also is generally inclined to the good. Its greatest significance is its power to restrain the wickedness of individuals.
Because every powerful man would act without moral restraint if not for fear of lost honor and reputation. I think we cannot even count our male protagonist Chaereas as virtuous. After all, though he was a victim of plots, and he was brave in his kind, he suffered for his own outrageous jealousy after he kicked his wife in the chest so viciously she was presumed dead and was buried.
But his sidekick Polycharmus acts only out of loyalty and devotion to virtue, and Callirhoe herself is governed only by virtuous considerations, though they contradict one another e. The book is peppered with quotations from Homer, given a new context. Meanwhile, there's a bit of ridiculous military adventure thrown in. There is the particular case of the assault on Tyre, which is at the same time incredible and surprising in its As one additional point, there is some unexpected sympathy expressed for a character who might, in a flatter novel, have been portrayed strictly as a villain.
There is some maturity in the way the novel treats Callirhoe's ambiguous relationships. The novel serves as a prototype for many imitations in the second century. It also forecasts developments in the mainstream literature of the western world. While it has its clunkiness in some scenes, it also has its unique charm and shows a lot of inspiration.
View all 5 comments. I really hate myself for liking this Greek tragedy because it revolves around a bout of spousal abuse. Jan 09, Aileen rated it it was amazing Shelves: books-i-ve-read. I wonder if Chariton was the Sidney Sheldon of his day. This book had it all and was a great romp through the 1st century Mediterranean and Asia with a large cast of characters, exotic locations, plots, double-crossings, life, love, death, you name it.
Buried alive after an accidental blow from Chaereas, our Sicilian heroine Callirhoe is found by pirate tomb-robbers and carried off to Ionia where she is sold into slavery.
Dionysus falls in love with her and tries everything to woo her, but she o I wonder if Chariton was the Sidney Sheldon of his day.
Dionysus falls in love with her and tries everything to woo her, but she only agrees when she finds out she's pregnant by Chaereas and thinks this is the way to save her child.
Everyone who sees her falls in love with her and she's pursued by all she meets. Chaereas hears from the pirates that she is still alive and heads off in pursuit to win her back. Their journey goes from Ionia to Babylon and back to a war in Egypt before the lovers are reunited and head home to Sicily. Great stuff, I loved it! Jan 21, Phillip Dupesovski rated it it was amazing. Sep 19, Raisu rated it liked it Shelves: read-in , not-written-in-english , novels , ancients.
Not everything was better in the Olden Days. Like dentistry. Or novels.
Chaereas and Callirhoë
Nothing is securely known of Chariton beyond what he states in his novel, which introduces him as "Chariton of Aphrodisias, secretary of the rhetor Athenagoras". The name "Chariton", which means "man of graces", has been considered a pseudonym chosen to suit the romantic content of his writing, but both "Chariton" and "Athenagoras" occur as names on inscriptions from Aphrodisias. The latest possible date at which Chariton could have written is attested in papyri that contain fragments of his work, which can be dated by palaeography to about AD In the 19th century, before the discovery of the papyri, a date as late as the 6th century AD was proposed on stylistic grounds, while A. Papanikolaou argued in for the second half of the 1st century BC. One recent study of Chariton's vocabulary favours a date in the late 1st century or early 2nd century AD. Edmund Cueva has argued  that Chariton also depended on Plutarch 's vita of Theseus for thematic material, or perhaps directly on one of Plutarch's sources, an obscure mythographer, Paion of Amathus.
Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe
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Chaereas and Callirhoe is the first European novel. Another accurate description would be to call it a melodrama with comical overtones that reads like the Ancient equivalent of a Soap Opera. Their schemes convince him that she is unfaithful and in a fit of rage he kicks her in the stomach, which knocks the wind out of her. He believes he has killed his wife.
But two considerations might have provoked doubt. Another compelling reason emerges from the story, for, as will be discussed below, Callirhoe is the protagonist and does not in this share honors with Chaereas. His first satire. However, in line 13 Persius makes clear that his diatribe includes prose; and line 70 does not exclude Greek. Book 1. The main character, Callirhoe , represented as the most beautiful girl in the world, is the daughter of Hermocrates , ruler of Syracuse.