Aristides of Miletus Analysis

Life

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Nothing is known about Aristides of Miletus’s (ar-uh-STID-eez of mi-LEE-tuhs) life except that his name is associated with the Milesian Tales, a collection of Greek short stories, often erotic or obscene in nature. Whether he is the actual author or only the compiler of these tales, of which only a single fragment remains, is uncertain. The historian Plutarch reports that a copy of Aristides’ book was found among the effects of a Roman officer following the Battle of Carrhae in 53 b.c.e. The Milesian Tales was translated into Latin by Cornelius Sisenna. Ten fragments of this Latin translation survive. Some of these tales may include the story of “The Widow of Ephesus” told in Petronius’s Satyricon (c. 60 c.e.; The Satyricon, 1694) and the story of the ass, which is the main plot of Lucius Apuleius’s Metamorphoses (second century c.e.; The Golden Ass, 1566).

Influence

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Aristides’ Milesian Tales may represent the beginning of the Greco-Roman short story genre and had a significant effect on the development of the ancient novel, especially in Rome, where the term “Milesian tale” came to mean any erotic story. Aristides’ work influenced not only Latin novels such as Petronius Aribiter’s Satyricon and Lucius Apuleius’s Metamorphoses but also later works such as Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron: Precipe Galetto (1349-1351 c.e.; The Decameron, 1620).

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Trenkner, Sophie. The Greek Novella in the Classical Period. New York: Garland, 1987.

Walsh, P. G. The Roman Novel. London: Bristol Classical, 1995.