Daphnis and Chloë

by Longus

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Daphnis and Chloë (Greek: Daphnis kai Chloē) is an ancient Greek novel written by Longus, presumably in the second or third century CE. It is the author’s only known work and is considered to be the first pastoral prose romance, in which rural life (mainly the shepherds community) is usually presented as idyllic, independent, and completely segregated from the city life.

It tells the romantic story of the fifteen-year-old goatherd Daphnis and the thirteen-year-old shepherdess Chloë of Mytilene, who fall in love without even knowing what love is, thanks to the mischievous nature of the God of love, Eros. What follows is a series of comedic and humorous escapades in which Chloë and Daphnis slowly begin to understand love, acceptance, and life itself.

The main themes of the novel are obviously the young and innocent love between Daphnis and Chloë and the exploration of sensuality. Daphnis and Chloë grow up in the countryside, unaware of each other, even though they were both found on the mountain and taken in by a goatherd and a shepherd, separately. Later on, they fall in love and ask for help on how to act and what to feel. They are given different suggestions by different people and mythical beings, which often result in some humorous and funny situations. For instance, when they ask an older woman to help them understand what love is and how to satisfy their feelings, she tells them to sleep with each other. Daphnis and Chloe go into the field, lie down, fall asleep together, and wake up feeling unsatisfied and still confused. Thus, many readers applaud Longus’s masterful use of rhetoric and irony in the narrative.

Another interesting element of the novel is the presence of various mythical creatures such as gods (particularly Eros and Pan) who are said to represent the male sexuality, and nymphs who represent the female sexuality; various abstract notions are present as well, such as destiny, the meaning of dreams, and the importance of prophecies. There are also pirates and slave owners who don’t always have good intentions, which might classify Daphnis and Chloë as an adventure as well. In the end, both teenagers reunite with their real parents, who turn out to be wealthy and influential individuals, but they choose to remain faithful to the rural lifestyle and decide to stay in the village. The novel ends with Daphnis and Chloë finally making love, and then they live happily ever after.

Although it received a bit of criticism (mainly in the Elizabethan era) for its open-minded attitude toward love and sex and was described as morally inappropriate, Daphnis and Chloë was and still is very well-received and, it is often praised for its rhetorical and pastoral style of writing. Deemed by many to be a fun and easy read, the story remains one of the most notable comedic romances in Hellenistic literature and the main inspiration for many composers, musicians, romancers, playwrights, poets, painters, sculptors, and theater workers.

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