Ellen Finkelpearl

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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The field once known as that of the ‘ancient novel’ evolved into that of ‘prose fiction’ and thence of ‘ancient narrative’, in part as a step towards inclusiveness, but also as a retreat from the anachronism of the term ‘novel’. The extant Latin novels spend more time in the world of ‘slum-realism’ than do the extant Greek novels/romances, and feature an inverted world in which libidinous women, slaves, freedmen, eunuchs, and robbers wield power. Where the ethos of the typical Greek novel/romance is essentially bourgeois, with a return after perilous adventures to a quiet married life amid the elite of one of the cities of the Roman Empire (though without explicit mention of Rome), scandalous adventures in Roman novels either do not lead to a spiritual life outside society. Reading Petronius and Apuleius, one can move imperceptibly from an epic intertext to a scene of sub-literary mime, both of which have contributed to the genre's making. This article looks at ‘Menippean satire’, the Satyricon, narrators, Cupid and Psyche, the History of Apollonius King of Tyre, and ‘novel-like narratives’.

Keywords: Petronius; Apuleius; novels; prose fiction; Menippean satire; Satyricon; narrators; Cupid and Psyche; History of Apollonius; novel-like narratives

Article.  6841 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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