Chariton fl. 1st century ?-
Greek romance writer.
Chariton is the author of the earliest extant Greek romance, Chaereas and Callirhoe (1st century ?). Although he is thus the earliest known European novelist, critics speculate that he was most likely preceded by others, whose works are now lost. The story of Chaereas and Callirhoe involves a newly married couple who are initially very much in love. After a fight with her jealous husband, Callirhoe is rendered unconscious, mistaken for dead, found by a grave robber, and sold into slavery in Asia Minor, where she discovers she is pregnant. The romance details a series of events that keep the couple apart until their final reunion at the end. While Chaereas and Callirhoe is an exciting adventure complete with crises, kidnapping, love affairs, a court trial, and battle, it is set apart from other such tales by its emphasis on the psychological details of its characters. Commentators have also responded favorably to Chariton's straightforward style and unadorned prose in this work.
Virtually nothing is known of Chariton's life. He begins his romance by stating that he is from Aphrodisias and that he is employed as secretary to Athenagoras, a lawyer. Scholars are uncertain whether to take this as a true fact, or simply view it as part of the narrative frame of the novel. Beyond these meager possible facts, little if any other biographical material exists about the writer. A few ancient references to Chariton and to Callirhoe have been identified, but scholars have been unable to determine the exact subject of these references.
Chariton's only known work is Chaereas and Callirhoe, an ingenious adventure that incorporates a love triangle, a dramatic courtroom scene, and a glorious battlefield rescue. Chariton sets his story in the fifth century b.c. Chaereas and Callirhoe was long believed to be the work of a relatively late Greek novelist, but in 1900 and 1910 papyrus fragments of the work were discovered and dated to no later than 200 a.d. Further analysis has led many scholars to the conclusion that Chaereas and Callirhoe probably dates from the first century. B. P. Reardon has held that the work stems from about the time of the reign of the Emperor Nero, which lasted from the year 54 to the year 68. The knowledge that Chaereas and Callirhoe may have been written hundreds of years earlier than originally thought has generated a critical reevaluation of the genesis and history of the Greek novel. There is also considerable disagreement among scholars over the proper title of the work. It is unclear if Chariton himself titled his romance at all, although there is some evidence, emphasized by Reardon, that he called it Callirhoe. Warren E. Blake asserts that the title is Eight Books of the Love Story of Chaereas and Callirrhoë, and still other critics have proposed The Erotic Adventures of Chaereas and Callirhoe.
Aristotle and his followers did not consider the novel serious literature worthy of study. This lack of respect for the novel also meant a lack of respect for the novelist, and thus Chariton's critical reputation suffered for many centuries. There is considerable evidence that novels were popular among the common people in ancient Greece, but it is impossible to know how Chaereas and Callirhoe was received in its own time. It was not widely reprinted in modern times until 1750, and by then other early novels already had become the favorites of critics. In addition, the idea that Chariton was one of the last of the Greek romance writers, or even an early Byzantine one, had gained wide acceptance; instead of being revered as an originator, he was declared an imitator and his work was dismissed as unimportant. It was not until papyrus fragments of his manuscript were discovered in the early twentieth century that Chariton's proper position in literary history was realized. Much of modern Chariton scholarship involves assessing correctly both his true period and his literary and historical importance. To help meet this challenge, critics including B. E. Perry, investigate the possible use of legendary sources in Chaereas and Callirhoe, as well as signs of its influence on other novels. Chariton's work has also recently been studied carefully for what it can reveal about early Christianity; Douglas R. Edwards and Richard S. Ascough explore its influence on the author of Luke-Acts. Chariton's choice to set his tale centuries before his own time has also generated critical attention. Jean Alvares explores this technique and posits that Chariton sought to create an alternate Greek history, one that emphasized love over warfare.
SOURCE: Perry, B. E. “Chariton and His Romance from a Literary-Historical Point of View.” American Journal of Philology 51, no. 2 (April-June 1930): 93-134.
[In the following essay, Perry discusses the impact of ancient writers on the work of Chariton and praises his style, plotting, characterization, and use of irony.]
Owing partly to accident and partly to various misconceptions, Chariton's story of Chaereas and Kallirhoe has received less attention in the past than it deserves, both in respect to its comparative literary value and to its significance in the history of the genre. In the first place, the text was not published until 1750, at a time when Heliodorus, Achilles Tatius, and Longus had already become for moderns the standard and best known representatives of the Greek romance; and in the second place, previous to 1900, Chariton was erroneously assumed by most critics to be the latest of the extant ancient romancers instead of belonging, as we now know, among the earliest.1 The misconception about the date led to an undue disparagement of Chariton's literary merits;2 and the fact that Heliodorus and Achilles Tatius, who were supposed to have preceded Chariton, had long been regarded as standard3 was largely responsible for what has turned out to be a perverted orientation of the whole problem of the Greek romance. For Rohde, influenced by the...
(The entire section is 17178 words.)
SOURCE: Blake, Warren E. “Chariton's Romance—The First European Novel.” Classical Journal 29, no. 4 (January 1934): 284-88.
[In the following essay, Blake explains why Chariton can be considered the earliest known Greek novelist.]
In an age when, as the book-dealers tell us, over seventy-five per cent of the annual output of literature consists of novels, it must have occurred to many people to wonder who stands first in time at the head of this army of countless thousands of novelists. It is, of course, futile to speak of the “inventor” of the novel. Specialized mechanical inventions, such as the electric light, the steam engine, and even the printing press, may with accuracy be attributed to certain definite great geniuses. But in the less tangible realm of literature it is exceedingly difficult and generally impossible to put one's finger on a single name and to say, “So-and-so discovered the use of rhyme in poetry,” or “So-and-so wrote the first essay,” or “So-and-so invented the novel.” Such things are not invented. They grow imperceptibly out of earlier forms with seemingly chance modifications determined by the taste and the feeling of the age which produces them. If the origin of the novel lies in the innate love of mankind for presenting in verbal form a fictitious picture of his external surroundings and his own emotions, then I suppose the first novel might ultimately be...
(The entire section is 1728 words.)
SOURCE: Haight, Elizabeth Hazelton. “Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe.” In Essays on the Greek Romances, pp. 14-37. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1943.
[In the following essay, Haight examines the plot, characters, and style of Chaereas and Callirhoe.]
There are two reasons for beginning a perusal of the Greek Romances with Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe. It is “the earliest Greek romance of which the text has been completely preserved.” It is “a lively tale of adventure in which a nobly born heroine is kidnapped across the sea from Syracuse to Asia Minor, where her beauty causes many complications and she is finally rescued by her dashing lover.” I quote from Warren E. Blake whose publication of the Greek text and a literary translation of it are a monument to American scholarship.
The date of the manuscript of this novel has been proved to be not later than the middle of the second century a.d., by the recent discoveries of papyrus fragments of it.1 Warren Blake comments on the significance of these discoveries:2
In view of the complete absence in ancient literature of any certain allusion to Chariton, he was long supposed to be the latest of the authors of Greek romance, and was dated, purely by conjecture, about 500 a.d. But by a turn of fortune as truly remarkable as any attributed by...
(The entire section is 7241 words.)
SOURCE: Perry, Ben Edward. “Chariton and the Nature of Greek Romance.” In The Ancient Romances: A Literary-Historical Account of Their Origins, pp. 96-148. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.
[In the following excerpt, Perry describes the development of the Greek novel and credits Chariton for his part in creating the new literary form of the romance.]
Thanks to the recovery of fragments written on papyrus in the second century after Christ, it is now generally believed that Chariton's story of Chaereas and Callirhoe is the earliest of all our extant Greek romances. The nature of the book itself, considered from a literary-historical viewpoint in comparison with the other extant romances, is such as to confirm this belief in a positive way; so much so that the relatively early dating of Chariton which we now accept on the basis of documentary evidence was maintained on grounds of style and content alone by one scholar, Professor Wilhelm Schmid, before the papyri were discovered, and at a time when historians of literature had long been unanimous in supposing that Chariton was the latest of the ancient romancers and that he lived in the fifth or sixth century.1 This misconception about the date of Chariton, which prevailed throughout the nineteenth century, was largely responsible for what we now know to have been an upside-down orientation of...
(The entire section is 25637 words.)
SOURCE: Schmeling, Gareth L. “Analysis of The Adventures of Chaereas and Callirhoe,” “A Happy Ending.” In Chariton, pp. 76-129. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1974.
[In the following excerpt, Schmeling examines Chariton's use of historical materials, his skill in creating plot and interesting characters, and his use of contrast and irony.]
I INTRODUCTION: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
Had Chariton been trying to write a kind of history or historical reflections of the fifth-fourth-century b.c. Greek world, we could fault him for tampering with facts, confusing rulers, and failure to understand the great movements of peoples and events. On the other hand, however, in antiquity even the great Greek historian Herodotus and the eminent Roman historian Livy were most interested in conveying an overall impression or reflection of the period under consideration. Such criticism would hardly be appropriate here, for Chariton places his work within the genre of prose fiction and then gives it an appropriate dramatic and historical setting in time and place; he goes on to name names. It is obvious that he is not writing of his own age, the age of iron Romans, but of the Golden Age of Greece. In our survey of the historical aspect of Chariton's dramatic world, we are not seeking to push back the boundaries of darkness or even to find the earliest date or the latest possible date...
(The entire section is 21656 words.)
SOURCE: Reardon, B. P. “Chariton: Chaereas and Callirhoe.” In Collected Ancient Greek Novels, edited by B. P. Reardon, pp. 17-124. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
[In the following excerpt, Reardon speculates about Chariton's choice of using an historical setting for Chaereas and Callirhoe and explains how the relatively late discovery and editing of the manuscript have damaged Chariton's literary reputation.]
Chaereas and Callirhoe is probably the earliest extant work of Greek prose fiction. It is thus the first European novel, and as such is interesting on literary-historical grounds as well as for itself. Its author, Chariton, tells us at the outset that he is from Aphrodisias and is the secretary of the rhetor Athenagoras. The name Chariton means “man of graces,” and was once thought too good to be true for an inhabitant of the city of Aphrodite; but it can be shown to be authentic. Aphrodisias lay inland in southwestern Turkey, just south of the fertile valley of the Maeander; it has been called the Florence of antiquity, from the flowering of sculpture and other arts there in late Hellenistic and early imperial times.1Rhetor in this context means “lawyer,” and the story shows detailed knowledge of legal processes, as in the “sale” of Callirhoe in Book 1. Chariton's employer may possibly have been a known figure of the...
(The entire section is 2091 words.)
SOURCE: Edwards, Douglas R. “Surviving the Web of Roman Power: Religion and Politics in the Acts of the Apostles, Josephus, and Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe.” In Images of Empire, edited by Loveday Alexander, pp. 179-201. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.
[In the following essay, Edwards analyzes Chariton's use of Aphrodite in Chaereas and Callirhoe, focasing on what it reveals about the relationship between religious and political power in antiquity.]
By the second century ce, the Greek East had dealt with Roman power for at least three hundred years and with imperial power for over one hundred years. Response to Roman power ranged from turbulence and violence to general acquiescence and assimilation. The type of response depended on an array of factors, including an individual or group's status, local and regional history, and location within the empire.1 The Greek East promoted hellenic culture, with local and regional variations, and for the most part the Romans made no attempt to undermine or replace it. Indeed cities that were expanded or built in the Greek East during the Imperial period of Rome generally did so using Hellenic not Roman culture.2 Nevertheless, members of the Greek East, especially the aspiring élite classes or their representatives, had to respond to Roman power if they wished to participate in the ‘web of...
(The entire section is 8966 words.)
SOURCE: Ascough, Richard S. “Narrative Technique and Generic Designation: Crowd Scenes in Luke-Acts and in Chariton.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 58, no. 1 (January 1996): 69-81.
[In the following essay, Ascough argues that the crowd scenes in Chaereas and Callirhoe served as models for the author of the biblical books of Luke and Acts.]
The question of the genre of Luke-Acts has long intrigued biblical scholars, and the debate continues to rage with no sign of subsiding.1 The aim of this paper is not to referee this complex debate. Rather, it will use some of the suggestions this debate has generated to assist the investigation into Luke's presentation of crowds. In particular, it will show that Luke's presentation of crowds has a close affinity with crowd scenes in the ancient Greek novels. In doing so, special attention will be given to Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe. The similarities suggest that, since novels were a popular genre in the ancient world, Luke is employing a narrative technique with which his audience was familiar in order to present his picture of the crowds.2
I. LUKE-ACTS AS ANCIENT NOVEL
In the current debate on the genre of Luke-Acts most of the focus is on two possible genres, that of ancient biography,3 and that of ancient history.4 However, a third genre with which Luke-Acts...
(The entire section is 6211 words.)
SOURCE: Reardon, B. P. “Chariton.” In The Novel in the Ancient World, edited by Gareth Schmeling, pp. 309-35. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1996.
[In the following essay, Reardon provides an overview of Chariton's novel, including discussions of its date, context, intended effect, structure, the significance of its historical setting, and its frequent use of recapitulation.]
The divinely beautiful Callirhoe is the daughter of Hermocrates, the leader of Syracuse who was victorious against the Athenian expedition of 415 b.c. Eros makes her fall in love at first sight with the handsome Chaereas after a festival Aphrodite; he returns her love. Despite the bitter rivalry of their families, and at the urgent instigation of the assembled people of Syracuse, the pair are married. Disappointed rival suitors for Callirhoe's hand mount a plot to make Chaereas think that his wife is unfaithful; he kicks her in the stomach, and she falls down apparently dead. Chaereas, suicidal with remorse, condemns himself, but is acquitted of guilt, and Callirhoe is entombed in a funeral vault. The wealth displayed at her sumptuous funeral attracts tomb-robbers; but on entering the vault they find Callirhoe alive after all and awaking from what was really a deep coma—lack of food, Chariton tells us, restored her suspended respiration. Their leader Theron decides to carry her off; their ship...
(The entire section is 11192 words.)
SOURCE: Alvares, Jean. “Chariton's Erotic History.” American Journal of Philology 118, no. 4 (winter 1997): 613-29.
[In the following essay, Alvares interprets Chariton's novel as an alternative history which emphasizes romantic values.]
It is clear that numerous personages and events of Chaireas and Callirhoe are either taken directly from history or are in some way based on historiographical materials.1 The work has been considered a historical romance,2 yet its mixture of genuine historical fact, gross inaccuracies, anachronisms of Chariton's period,3 and reflections of drama, oratory, and epic4 suggests to some that Chariton merely aims to provide a “general colouring of Greek history, to titillate the readers” (Reardon 1996, 327). I believe Chariton had larger aims. Building upon the insights of Edwards (1987, 29-51) into how Chariton depicts Aphrodite's influence upon politics and society, I consider here how Chariton adapts familiar elements from history in order to provide a contrast to history, as those elements' usual political and social significances are attenuated or ignored and as they in turn become evidence for the operations of Aphrodite. Thus a Greek assembly pleads for the marriage of teenagers, an eros-obsessed satrap contemplates revolt, and the hero, seeking vengeance against his erotic rival, mimics the deeds of...
(The entire section is 6378 words.)
Balot, Ryan K. “Foucault, Chariton, and the Masculine Self.” Helios 25, no. 2 (1998): 139-62.
Analyzes Chariton's presentation of male characters and masculine virtue.
Blake, Warren E. “Modal Uses in Chariton.” American Journal of Philology 57, no. 1 (January 1936): 10-23.
Grammatical analysis of Chariton's use of four verb forms: the subjunctive, the optative, the imperative, and the infinitive.
Hägg, Tomas. “Chariton.” In Narrative Technique in Ancient Greek Romances: Studies of Chariton, Xenophon Ephesius, and Achilles Tatius, pp. 26-49. Stockholm, Sweden: Svenska Institutet i Athen, 1971.
Examines Chariton's uses of fictional and narrative time in his novel and the impact of these on its tempo.
———. “The Ideal Greek Novel.” In the Novel in Antiquity, pp. 5–17. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983.
Examines Chariton's interests in classicism; in the psychology of his characters; and in speech-making, monologues, and dialogues.
Helms, J. “Consistency under External Forces.” In Character Portrayal in the Romance of Chariton, pp. 134-62. The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton & Co., 1966.
Contends that Chariton attributed the behavior of his characters not simply to the...
(The entire section is 400 words.)