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Chariton

Chariton, of Aphrodisias in Caria, the author of a Greek romance entitled The Loves of Chaereas and Callirhoe, probably flourished in the 4th century AD.

The action of the story, which is to a certain extent historical, takes place during the time of the Peloponnesian War. Opinions differ as to the merits of the romance, which is an imitation of Xenophon of Ephesus[?] and Heliodorus.

Editions by JP D'Orville (1783), GA Hirschig (1856) and R Hercher (1859); there is an (anonymous) English translation (1764); see also E Rohde, Der griechische Roman (1900).

The above material was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

There is now a recent (1995) translation in the Loeb series. To the modern reader, the story is ridiculous; Chaereas suspects the faithfulness of his beautiful wife Callirhoe, and kicks her so hard that she falls over dead. There is a funeral, and she is shut up in a tomb, but then it turns out she was only in a coma (doesn't anyone ever check for a pulse?), and wakes up in time to scare the pirates who've opened the tomb to rob it, but they recover quickly, and take her to sell as a slave in Miletus, where the new owner Dionysius falls in love with her and marries her, she being afraid to mention that she is already married. Meanwhile Chaereas has heard she is alive, and has gone looking for her, but is himself captured and enslaved, and yet somehow they both come to the attention of the Great King (of Persia), who must rule on who is her rightful husband, but is thinking about acquiring her for himself, and so on.

It does have some amusing insights into ancient culture. For instance, the pirates decide to sell Callirhoe in Miletus rather than in the equally wealthy Athens, because they considered Athenians to be litigious busybodies who would ask too many questions!



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