Article

Heliodorus (4), Greek novelist, c. 4th century CE

Benedek Kruchió

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics


Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.2984

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Heliodorus was the author of the Aethiopica, the latest and longest Greek novel to survive from antiquity. In his work, Heliodorus claims to be a Phoenician from Emesa, but there are good reasons against treating this as an authoritative autobiographical statement. The Aethiopica tells the adventures of Charicleia, the white daughter of the black queen and king of Ethiopia. Her mother abandons her, and she is brought up by foster-fathers in Ethiopia and Delphi. There she falls in love with the young Greek Theagenes, with whom she travels via Egypt to Ethiopia. They are almost sacrificed to the local gods, but Charicleia’s parents eventually recognise her. The protagonists become priests and marry. The novel is a narratologically ambitious work that draws on the structure of the Odyssey (in mediis rebus beginning, embedded heterodiegetic narratives) and takes these devices to a whole new level. A wide range of topics play important roles in the Aethiopica, such as religion, multiculturalism, identity, and epistemology.

Keywords: Heliodorus; Greek novel; late antiquity; fiction; narratology; Ethiopia; religion; interpretation; chastity; Helios

Article.  4843 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature ; Byzantine Studies ; Middle Eastern History ; Classical Reception

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