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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 498

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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.

Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 568


*Lesbos (LEHS-bohs). Greek island in the Aegean Sea on which actions centers on two cities: Methymna and Mytilene. Methymna is a city believed to be named after a daughter of King Makara, who was married to Lesbos of Thessaly, the namesake of the island. Within a century of the time when Daphnis and Chloë was written, Methymna suffered from a series of raids. The individuals from this place seem different from Daphnis and Chloë and the rest of the people in their environment; they are outsiders.

The other important city on Lesbos is Mytilene, which is named after another of King Makara’s daughters. Daphne and Chloë opens here, describing the city as beautiful and idyllic. Like the people in Methymna, Mytilene’s people are seen as outsiders and are quite different from the book’s main characters.

Philetas’s garden

Philetas’s garden (fih-leh-TAHZ). Place described by the old man, Philetas, as the setting in which he sees “Love” in the form of a child. The boy has wings, is handsome, carries a bow, and appears much like the image readers would have of Cupid on Valentine’s Day. The old man speaks with the god called Love and is told he is lucky to have envisioned him, because he is the only old man in the world who has seen Love, the protector and guardian of those youths in love whom he seeks.

Cave dedicated to the nymphs

Cave dedicated to the nymphs. Sanctuary where Chloë is discovered as a baby being suckled by a ewe with her own golden tokens: a girdle, sandals, and anklets. The cave is an important locale because Daphnis and Chloë spend time there talking, bathing, and sacrificing to the nymphs who protect them in times of need. The cave’s spring symbolizes new life, rebirth, paradise, and the beauty of nature, as well as Chloë’s true origin.


Woods. Place where Daphnis is originally found, as he is being suckled by a goat; and beside him are a little purple cloak, a gilded brooch, and a dagger with an ivory hilt. The location is as vague and uncertain as the origin of Daphnis himself until the end of the work. When Daphnis is finally taught his lesson of love in the woods, the setting seems much deeper and in a thicker area of the woods where Chloë has never been. Through this second description, the reader is made aware that the “deeper” woods and Lycaenion represent the loss of innocence for Daphnis. Since Chloë is still a maiden, this location remains unknown to her.

Dionysophanes’s estate

Dionysophanes’s estate (di-oh-nih-SO-fuh-neez). Ground in which Lamon and Myrtale live in a cottage and tend to a farm. Daphnis grows up and reaches maturity here as well. This place is significant because it depicts the true nature of Daphnis’s existence. Within the grounds are the temple of Dionysus and a spring named after Daphnis.

*Aegean Sea

*Aegean Sea. The sea surrounding Lesbos signifies all that is tumultuous, violent, and disruptive of a peaceful existence: Pirates invade, and Daphnis is beaten; Chloë is kidnapped; and a boat is lost to sea for which the herdsmen are blamed. This setting simultaneously represents the happiness that Daphnis is to have with Chloë as a result of the treasure he is to find there under the direction of the nymphs in a dream.


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Barber, Giles. Daphnis and Chloë: The Markets and Metamorphoses of an Unknown Bestseller. London: The British Library, 1989. The text of the 1988 Panizzi Lectures. A fascinating study of the bibliographic history of the work and its reception by various audiences.

Longus. Daphnis and Chloë. Translated by Jack Lindsay. London: Daimon Press, 1948. Lindsay discusses in an essay the mythological background of the story, comparing Greek nature myths to Babylonian and Celtic ones, and analyzing the significance of the names contained in the narrative.

Longus. Daphnis and Chloë. Translated by George Thornley and with an introduction by J. M. Edwards. New York: Putnam, 1924. The Thornley translation is revised and augmented by J. M. Edwards, whose introduction details the various manuscript sources. There is a useful appendix on the origins of the work.

Longus. The Pastoral Loves of Daphnis and Chloë. Translated and with an introduction by George Moore. London: Heinemann, 1924. Moore’s introduction is cast as a dialogue between himself and Thomas Whittaker, in which the merits of the text and the need for a new translation are considered at length.

Longus. The Story of Daphnis and Chloë. Translated, annotated, and edited by W. D. Lowe. Cambridge, England: Deighton Bell, 1908. Perhaps the most useful edition for academic purposes, by courtesy of the elaborate annotations.


Critical Essays