Discussion Notes for The Ancient Greek and Roman Novel (HUMA 4107)

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Placing the Ancient Greek Love Novel in Context: The Case of Xenophon’s Ephesian Tale

1.  The Literary World of Ancient Greek Novels

  • Looking back at the Babylonian Tale
  • Defining the ancient Greek love novel: A new genre (discussion of Holzberg and An Ephesian Tale)
  • Literacy in an oral culture: Implications for the novel and its readership / listenership
    • Problems with traditional scholarly disparagement of the novel and the notion of popular literature
  • Affinities with (and differences from) other literature: epic (from 8th c. BCE), tragedies and comedies, philosophical dialogues, historiography / ethnography (from 5th c. BCE), biography (Roman imperial era)
    • Origins of the novel in western Asia Minor?: Xenophon and Chariton as the earliest novels

2. The Real World of Ancient Greek Novels

  • Lightning-speed introduction to the Hellenistic and Roman imperial eras: From Alexander to Augustus and beyond
    • Problematizing theories of decline, the rise of “individualism”, and the notion of “escapist literature” (vs. Holzberg, p. 23)
    • The question of the novel’s origins difficult to solve
  • Images of cultural life in the ancient Greek cities of Asia Minor

3. Xenophon’s Ephesian Tale, a.k.a. Anthia and Habrocomes

  • (1) Introduction and literary questions (group discussions)
    • Tammerman (leader’s article) on characterization in the novels: Action as primary, speech; “invisibility of the narrator” in Xenophon
  • (2) The lines between history and fiction
  • (3) Glimpses into the social and cultural world of Xenophon and his audience
    • Socio-economic hiearchies; cultural practices (marriage, honours and monumentalizing, notions about the gods); gender assumptions and expectations; ethnic identities and conflicts (the “superstitious barbarian: 2.3; 3.11); travel in the ancient world

Brief Outline of Xenophon’s Ephesian Tale

  • 1.1-1.12 (in Ephesus): Protagonists introduced, married and begin journey
  • 1.13-2.11 (in Phoenicia): Prophecies fulfilled – Phoenician pirates, enslavement, and separation
  • 2.12-3.3 (in Cilicia): Hippothous (novella), the Cilician pirates, and Habrocomes
  • 3.3 (end)-3.8 (in Tarsus, Cilicia): Perilaus and Anthia’s impending marriage / pirates again
  • 3.9-4.6 (in Egypt): Alexandrian incidents (alternating Anthia and Habrocomes)
  • 5.1-5.2 (in Sicily / Italy): Aigialeus (novella) and Habrocomes
  • 5.2-5.5 (from Egypt to Italy): Polyidus and Anthia
  • 5.7-5.15: From Italy to Rhodes to Ephesos and the reunion / recognitions


An Early “Ideal” Novel: Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe


Developments of the Novel: Achilles Tatius’ Leukippe and Kleitophon

1.  Introductory matters and literary approaches

  • Achilles Tatius and Longus as developments in the novel (shift from the Greek city-state to other settings, more sophistication in structure and approach)
  • Date of Achilles’ novel (150-175 CE) and “popularity”
  • Character of the novel: What stands out to you regarding the nature of Achilles’ novel?
  • Achilles and his predecessors: Similarities and differences in plot, approach and themes (discussion of Xenophon and Chariton in relation to Achilles Tatius)
  • Emotional dissections (1.6; 2.29; 3.11; 3.14 // 6.19*)
  • Narrator and narrative techniques:
    • Week 1: Discussion of Reardon’s article on “Ego-narrative” / “I-narrative”
      • Who is (are) the narrators? (opening)
      • The functions and effects of I-narrative: Sensational sacrificial scenes (3.15-3.16; cf. 5.7 + 5.20 + 8.15-16); joking about non-omniscience (2.8)
      • From “I-narrative” to near-omniscient narrator (5.23 on): e.g. Thersander (6.11; 6.18; 8.15)
      • “How serious is Achilles?”: Comedic elements and playing on the conventions of the novel (e.g. love, chastity)
  • Plot and characters:
    • Discussion
    • Week 1: Elizabeth Mitchell’s argument concerning the centrality of male friendship in this novel
    • Week 2: Chew’s articles on the role of Fortune (Tyche) and Eros and on Achilles novel as parody of sexual morality (chastity)
      • Chastity parody (e.g. 8.4-7*; 8.11-13)

2. Blurry lines between history and fiction

  • Achilles’ artistic (cf. 1.1-1.2), naturalistic (1.15; 1.17; 2.11; 2.15; 3.25; 4.2; 4.19), ethnographic (2.2 [p.192]; 5.11-12), and other digressions: E.g. Description of the Artemis sanctuary (7.13ff*)
    • Affinities with natural histories (e.g. Pliny the Elder), geographies, and ethnographies (e.g. Strabo)
  • History meets fiction: The case of the “rangers” (boukoloi) (Dio Cassius, Roman History 72.4.1-2; cf. Strabo, Geography 17.1.6, 19; PThmouis 1.1, on the “impious Neikoketai”)

3.  Glimpses into the social and cultural world of the novels

  • What glimpses are there into real life in antiquity?
  • Gender, sexuality, and marriage: e.g. diatribes against women (2.8; 2.35-2.38); arrangement of weddings (2.11); womanly modesty (4.9); virginity (6.21*)
  • The gods and everyday life in the novels: e.g. sacrifice (2.12; 2.15; 3.12-3.15); festivals and myths about deities (2.2 on p. 192); hymns / prayer (2.1; 3.5; 3.10); mysteries (analogy) (1.9; 2.19; 3.22); divination (1.2; 2.12; 2.14; 3.6; 4.15 // 5.3-5.5*); epiphanies (4.1); Artemis sanctuary and cult at Ephesos (7.12-16*)
    • How do the authors (and audiences) of the novels conceive of the involvement of gods in human affairs (e.g. 3.20)?  How do the novels portray the human response to the gods?  What do humans do in relation to the gods?

Brief Outline of Achilles Tatius’ Leukippe and Kleitophon

  • 1.1-1.2 (Sidon in Phoenicia): A painting involving Eros (Love)
  • 1.2-1.6 (Tyre in Phoenicia): Kleitophon’s story — Meeting and falling for Leukippe
  • 1.7-1.14: Kleinias’ advice to Kleitophon and the tragedy of Charikles
  • 1.14-2.10: Satyros and Kleitophon’s discussion of love and schemes to get Leukippe (partially successful)
  • 2.11-2.18: Impending wedding, Dionysos’ festival, and Kallisthenes’ mistaken kidnapping of Kalligone (solving Kleitophon’s dilemma)
  • 2.19-2.31: Satyros and Kleitophon’s continuing schemes and the plan to run away with Leukippe (after a failed scheme).
  • 2.32-2.38 (to Egypt): Sailing to Alexandria and friendly dialogue with Menelaos about whether men or women are better lovers
  • 3.1-3.25: Shipwreck, rangers and apparent sacrifice of Leukippe
  • 4.1-4.19: Charmides (general) pursues Leukippe, Leukippe goes insane (from poison), rangers / shepherds defeated
  • 5.1-5.7 (in Alexandria): Ill omens and a painting involving the rape of Philomena** – Leukippe kidnapped and beheaded
  • 5.8-5.27 (to Ephesos): Kleinias’ return, Kleitophon’s marriage to Melite (moments after Leukippe’s “death”), Lakaina / Leukippe returns, Kleitophon’s one night with Melite
  • 6.1-6.22: Thersandros’ pursuit of Leukippe and her rebuttal and affirmation of virginity
  • 7.1-7.12: Thersandros new scheme and the two trials of Kleitophon with Melite
  • 7.13-8.19: Refuge in the Artemis sanctuary at Ephesos and the protection of the priest, final trial, and reuniting stories


Further Developments in the Novel: The Pastoral World of Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe

1. Introduction and literary features

  • Date, authorship and other introductory matters
  • Social settings of previous novels: What were the principal settings of Xenophon’s, Chariton’s and Achilles Tatius’ novels?  How does this differ from Longus?
  • Distinctive literary features of Longus: What are some of the key distinguishing features of this novel?  How does this novel differ from its predecessors?  How does Longus relate to the imaginary world of Theocritus’ bucolic / pastoral poems (discussion of Theocritus Idyll 6 and intro to bucolic)?
  • What is the function of Longus novel?: Discussion of Effe’s article and some example passages – the interplay of urban and pastoral – the city’s ongoing threat to pastoral bliss
  • What does Effe argue?  What theory does he propose for the relation of urban and rustic?  What evidence does he adduce to support the argument?
  • Literary features: Key themes and the plot of the novel (group discussion)
  • Epstein’s article: Daphnis as animal (goat), god (goat-god Pan), and human (marriage and the taming of erotic energy)
    • Daphnis as animal: 1.2 (raised by goat); 1.12 (goat battle); 3.13-14 (sex education from the animals); 3.19 (from “kid” to man with Lycaenion)
    • Daphnis as god: 1.16 (Zeus, Pan, Dionysos); 2.2 (Dionysos); 2.34-37 (acting out Pan and Syrinx’s story – ambiguity in identification with Pan, who is never fulfilled in love)
    • Daphnis as human in marriage: Contrast Daphnis’ fulfillment and marriage to Pan’s ongoing attempts at fulfillment

2. Lines between fiction and reality (Make-believe and make believe)

  • Make-believe: the idealistic image of pastoral bliss; conscious allusion to pastoral poetry and hints of the fiction (2.27)
  • Make believe?

3. Glimpses into the real world

  • Less of this in Longus due to the make-believe world of the countryside / bucolic poetry as the primary setting
  • Gods: The gods’ protection and honours for the gods (exchange): 2.2; 2.23-31
  • Slavery: Conditions of slavery and punishment (4.6-10)


Brief Outline of Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe

  • 1.1-1.27: Pastoral origins and bliss, Daphnis and Chloe’s growing love in Spring and Summer, and Dorcon as rival
  • 1.28-32: Pirates from the city threaten the pastoral bliss in the Fall (death of Dorcon)
  • 2.1-2.11: Dionysos’ festival and Philetas’ education of Daphnis and Chloe about Love (Eros) and “naked bodies”
  • 2.12-2.22: Rich people from the city threaten pastoral bliss and spark a war between Methymna and Mytilene (both on Lesbos) in Winter; Chloe taken, potentially, to the city
  • 2.22-3.2: Nymphs and Pan (through “panic”) restore the pastoral bliss and those saved finish with a banquet, piping, and singing in their honour
  • 3.3-3.23: Waiting through winter; Spring arrives and Daphnis gets lessons in love from Lycaenion (from a “kid” to a man)
  • 3.24-3.34: Chloe’s suitors, Daphnis’ treasure, and Daphnis’ offer accepted (marriage plans)
  • 4.1-4.17: The city threatens pastoral bliss in the form of Gnathon
  • 4.18-40: The tokens / secrets revealed and recognitions of family-members; Daphnis’ new city family as threat to pastoral bliss; pastoral bliss restored forever


Parody, Comedy, and Realism in the Latin Novels: Apuleius’ Golden Ass

1. Introductory matters and literary questions

  • Apuleius the sophist (Platonic philosopher-orator) and compiler; Apuleius’ defence (Apology) on charges of “magic” (158 CE)
  • Apuleius’ sources for his story: A creative adaptation of the Ass story – partially preserved Greek version attributed to Lucian of Samosata and Photius’ summary of a full Greek version (see Reardon; esp. book 2)
  • Developments in the novel: What did we mean by the ideal Greek lovel novel?  What developments did we see with Achilles and Longus?  What overall similarities and differences do you see in Apuleius’ story compared to other “ideal” novels?  In what ways would you describe Apuleius’ story as parody or comedy (discussion of Holzberg)?  How does Apuleius play on and contort the typical features of Greek love novels?
    • Twists on the ideal love story: Photis and Lucius, Charite and Tlepolemus
  • Genre: “Milesian” (cf. Aristides of Miletus) and “Grecian” tale (1.1) – realism, comedy, and parody
  • Key themes in the narrative: Twisting idealistic love stories; Thessalian “magic” (including metamorphosis) and Lucius’ dangerous curiosity; Salvation from the goddess

2. Lines between fiction and reality (Make-believe and make believe)

  • In what ways does Apuleius make you believe the story (e.g. realism)?  In what ways is Apuleius’ story even more make-believe than what we are used to with other Greek novels?
  • Narrator, conscious of his fiction, addressing the “reader” (9.30; 10.33; 11.23)
  • Apuleius telling his own, “true” story? (cf. 11.27)

3.  Glimpses into the real world

  • The Greco-Roman family as reflected in the narrative (presentation based on Bradley’s article)?
  • Common legends of Thessaly and magic
  • Greek / Roman ethnic stereotypes and perceptions of foreigners and foreign gods: Devotees of the Great Mother goddess (8.24-9.9)
  • Initiation in the “mysteries” and honours for Egyptian deities in the Greco-Roman world (book 11):  Benefits of the mysteries

Brief Outline of Apuleius’ Golden Ass

  • 1.1: A “Milesian” and “Graecian” tale
  • 1.2-1.20: Stories among three travellers (on route to Thessaly) about the “twists and turns of Fortune” – Aristomenes’ sub-story of Socrates, warning of the dangers of magic and witchcraft (Meroe the witch)
  • 1.21-2.18 (in Thessaly): Falling in “love” at Milo’s place – Lucius and Photis (parody of the typical “chaste” love story; cf. Lucius’ “virginal modesty” in 1.23)
  • 2.19-2.31 : Banquet at Byrrhena’s (foster-mother) and Thelyphron’s story of Thessalian witches and magic
  • 2.32-3.12: A triple murder (of wineskins) and the festival for the god of laughter
  • 3.13-3.27: Lucius’ “habitual curiosity” and Photis’ explanation of Pamphile’s magic, leading to the metamorphosis into an ass
  • 3.28-4.22 : The ass (Lucius) separated from Photis (parody of the ideal love novel) and taken by bandits, who go into details about their “virtues” at a symposium
  • 4.22-8.14: Charite and Tlepolemus’s sub-story – Ideal romance turns to bloody tragedy (parody of the ideal love novel from a different angle)
    • 4.22-4.27: Charite taken by bandits
    • 4.28-6.24:  The old woman’s tale (love-story) about Cupid and Psyche in order to comfort the girl prisoner
    • 6.25-7.14 : Attempted escape of Charite and Lucius followed by rescue by Haemus / Tlepolemus with reuniting of the two lovers
    • 7.15-7.28: Reward fail – Lucius working for the herdsmen and the boy, who threaten to castrate and kill the ass
    • 8.1-8.14: Love story turns to tragedy  – the death of Tlepolemus and Charite (parody)
    • 8.15-8.23: Herdsmen leaves with Lucius the ass and sells him
  • 8.24-9.10: New owner – Devotees of the Syrian Mother goddess = Atargatis
  • 9.11-9.31: New owner – Miller and his adulterous wife with other adulterous sub-stories  – **Narrator’s address to the reader about lack of believability (9.30)
  • 9.32-9.42 New owner – Gardener and the run-in with the Roman soldier
  • 10.1-10.12 : New owner – Soldier
  • 10.13-10.35: New owners (at Corinth) – Two brothers / slaves, and the stories of their master’s house and donkey-tricks – a noble lady into bestiality and the threat of a public show – escape to Cenchreae
  • 11.1-11.30: Salvation from the goddess Isis and Lucius’ three-fold initiation into the mysteries at Cenchreae and at Rome


Picaresque Comedy and the Greek Love Novel?: Petronius’ Satyrica

1. Introductory matters and literary questions

  • Authorship and date debates: Nero and Gaius Petronius in Tacitus, Annals 16.18-19 (link)
  • Genre debates: Bricolage of genres; picaresque comedy as parody of the novel (?), prosimetric
  • Serious purposes: Critique of pretension among freedmen and other lower class people, behaving like the elites and educated (e.g. Trimalchio and his buddies, Diogenes the freedman in 38, Echion the rag-man in 46, Hermeros the freedman’s attempt at defence in 57-58, Habinnas in 65)
  • First person narrator: Participant (Quartilla scene) and observer (Trimalchio scene)
  • Encolpius and Agamemnon the “scholars”: Humorous emphasis on rhetoric and education
  • The love triangle as a source of comedy
  • Quartilla scene as illustration of the picaresque (rogueish) nature of the work (cf. Apuleius’ devotees of the Syrian Mother goddess)

2. Lines between fiction and reality (Make-believe and make believe)

  • Picaresque and exaggeration
  • Debates about the verisimilitude of Trimalchio’s dinner

3. Glimpses into the real world

  • Gods and honours for them
    • The god Priapus
    • Mysteries again: Use of mysteries analogy in Quartilla scene
    • Augustales
  • Banqueting in the Greco-Roman world
  • Inscriptions and monumentalization
  • Slaves and slavery in Petronius and the novels

Brief Outline of Petronius’ Satyrica

  • Debate in Puteoli on the Decline of Rhetoric and Education (1-6)
  • Quarrels of a Love Triangle (partially preserved; 7-11)
  • Stolen Cloaks and Gold Coins (12-15)
  • Episode with Quartilla the Priestess of the God Priapus (16-26)
  • Dinner with Trimalchio, including several novellas (27-78)
  • Eumolpos the Poet Replaces Ascyltus in the Long Triangle (79-98)
  • Encolpius, Giton and Eumolpus at Sea and Shipwreck in South Italy (99-115)
  • Pretending to be Rich While Avoiding Inheritance-Seekers (125-141)


Wondrous Journeys to the Edge of the Earth and Some Greek Picaresque Stories

1.  Antonius Diogenes’ Wonders Beyond Thule

  • Introductory matters: Photius’ summary, date
  • Narrative complexity: What are the different narrative levels and supposed “sources” of the story?
  • What elements of make-believe and making-you-believe do we find in this fictional story?
  • Comparison with Greek love novels: In what ways is this story similar to and different from those we have encountered in the ideal Greek love novels?

2. Iolaos and A Phoenician Story : Greek picaresque (low life) fictional stories

  • Introductory matters: Date and preservation of the fragments
  • What similarities do you see between the sort of stories recounted in Petronius’ Satyrica and in Apuleius’ Golden Ass and these fragments of Greek fictional stories?  What might the purpose of such stories be?
  • Iolaos and the initiation scene (cf. Apuleius’ devotees of the Syrian Goddess)
  • A Phoenician Story and human sacrifice:  The background and function of discourses of human sacrifice (ethnography, history, and fiction) – Dio Cassius, Roman History 68.32 (link) and 72.4 (link); Josephus, Against Apion 2.91-96 (link); Wisdom of Solomon 14:12-31 (link); Minucius Felix, Octavius, chapter IX (link); Gospel of Judas 36-43 (link)


Blurry Lines Between History and Fiction: Livy’s Account of the Bacchanalia

1. Introducing Livy and ancient historiography

  • Ancient historiography (history-writing) and its characteristics: Origins a Greek context (e.g. Herodotos as “father of history”; Thucydides); Structure of ancient histories; Purpose of ancient history-writing (moralizing and entertainment); Rhetoric (affinity with speech writing)
  • Livy and his world
    • Rome in the age of Augustus; Augustan reform and renewal of (supposed) ancient Roman values
    • Livy (ca. 59 BCE-17 CE): Educated man from Padua (northeastern Italy) who moved to Rome; not a politician, unlike other historians
    • Surviving work (25% = 35 books of the 142 survive): From the Founding of the City = Roman History  (covering over 700 years).  Most extensive Latin work of prose that survives (pre-Christian).
      • Purpose in writing: History as moral guide; entertainment
      • Traditional Roman values as superior to the declining “luxury” of later years (read preface, 10-11)

2.  The narrative account of the Bacchic rites and mysteries (Bacchanalia)

  • What is Livy’s main point in telling the story?  What is most significant for him? (e.g. decline of Roman values)
  • How does Livy categorize or label the entire incident?
  • Who are the main characters and what is the plot?
  • What signs of fictionality do you see?
  • What similarities do you see between Livy’s story and the novels?
  • Protagonists who are lovers faced with deadly danger
  • Rogueish themes and criminal behaviour (e.g. groups of bandits and low-lifes, cf. Dionysiac groups, etc.)

3.  Blurred lines between history and fiction

  • Scholars on fictional or semi-fictional elements in Livy’s history
    • Speeches in ancient historiography (e.g. Thucydides link).   Speeches as a means to portray a character and to further the aims of the author.  What is the purpose or function of the consul’s speech (39.15-16)?
    • Conspiracy (coniuratio) theories
    • New Comedy (plays) and stereotyped characters
      • Greek new comedy and Plautus
      • Stereotyped characters of new comedy: youthful lover, beloved virgin, stern parent, aged lover, helpful friend, trickster slave, faithful servant, nurse, matron, virtuous courtesan
      • Influence of comedy on Livy (discussion of Walsh article)
      • Influence of comedy on the Greek and Roman novels
    • Bacchanalia as an eastern import: Ethnographic stereotypes about foreigners and their dangerous lifestyles: Human sacrifice, sexual misconduct, etc

4. Glimpses into the real world

  • Assessing authentic historical elements in Livy’s account of 186 BCE
    • Historical anchor: Bronze inscription containing the Senate’s decision
      • Comparing Livy on the decision of the Senate
  • The mysteries of Bacchus / Dionysos in the Greek and Roman world
    • Introducing mysteries of Dionysos: Euripides’ Bacchae, inscriptions
    • Dionysos in Italy: Frescoes of the Villa Item (or Villa of the Mysteries) in Pompeii (link); Reliefs; Agrippinilla inscription; Grave inscriptions

Brief outline of the narrative in Livy, book 39

  • Seeds of luxury from “Asia” / Galatia (6)
  • A Greek foreigner in Etruria and the introduction of “secret rites,” “corruption” and crimes (8)
  • The contagion comes to Rome and is exposed (9-11): The plan to initiate Aebutius (instigated by the vow of Duronia and by Rutilus) and Hispala’s horror; Aebutius’ refusal; aunt Aebutia meets with Sulpicia (mother-in-law of consul) and with consul Postumius
    • Hispala’s testimony to the consul on the origin of the mysteries and the “crimes” (12-13)
  • Consul Postumius brings the matter to the Senate, which orders an investigation and passes a decree with edicts (no. 1) (14)
    • Consul’s speech before the Senate (15-16)
    • Decrees (no. 2) of the senate, implementation, and thirty-day investigation  (17-18)
  • Main protagonists (Aebutius and Hispala) rewarded by a decree (19)


Satirical Pastiche of Ancient Ethnographies: Lucian’s A True Story

1. Introductory matters

  • Lucian (ca. 120-180 CE) as author and satirist
  • Ancient ethnographic asides in history-writing and paradoxography
  • Accounts of journeys, autobiography, and the novel

2. Literary analysis of A True Story

  • What genre of literature is this and how would you explain its relation to the novels (satiric pastiche)?  Which novels come closest to the sort of material we find in Lucian’s work?
  • How does the narrator function in this story?  What is the function and importance of eyewitness experience here?
  • What recurring techniques does Lucian use to strain believability (i.e. make-believe / fiction)?  What kinds of humour does he employ?  Where do we see the narrator joking about the fictionality?
  • In what ways is this story “realistic” or modelled on real things (make you believe)?
  • Massimo Fusillo’s article: Further techniques used by Lucian
    • Amplification of ethnographic topics
    • Menippean satire: Gross and bodily themes (e.g. food in 1.13ff; genitalia in 1.16 and 2.45)
    • Menippean hyperbole and relativism of reality: e.g. gigantism in 1.16 on horse-ants; 1.18 on cloud-centaurs; 1.26 on the mirror; 1.30 on the whale; 2.40 on the bird
    • Concretization of metaphors and myths (Euhemerism): e.g. Island of the Blessed characterization
    • Consequence of these combined techniques: materialist or rationalist ideology
      • Lucian’s affinities with Epicurean thought and critique of other philosophical positions (e.g. 2.17-23)


Brief outline of Lucian’s A True Story

  • Introduction and purpose (1.1-1.4)
  • Sailing near the pillar of Hercules (1.5-1.8)
  • Moon island and war (1.10-1.27)
    • Paradoxography and ethnography of the Moonites (1.21-1.27)
  • Lamptown (1.28-29)
  • Giant Whale (1.30-2.2)
  • Cheese island (2.3-2.4)
  • Island of the Blest (2.5-2.29)
    • Description and ethnography of the city (2.11-2.16)
    • Inhabitants / philosophers
  • Islands of the Wicked (2.30-2.31)
  • Island of Dreams (2.32-2.37)
  • Encountering pirates (2.37-2.39)
  • Giant bird (2.39-2.43)
  • Oxhead island, Sailors, and Assleg island (2.44-2.47)
    • Cannibalistic lifestyle of the Asslegs
  • “Such were my experiences”


Li(v)es?: Assessing Biographies and Autobiographical Narratives

1. Introductory matters

  • Biography as a genre (e.g. Plutarch): What is an ancient “life” (bios)?  How is the “life” similar to but distinguished from history-writing (historiography)?
  • Prefaces, autobiographical narratives, and claims of autopsy (seeing things for yourself; cf. the focus on experience in Lucian’s A True Story)
  • Novelistic or fictional features of biography / autobiography: Hodkinson’s method of detecting intentional fictionality in biographies – internal focalization, the omniscient narrator and psychic omniscience (Plutarch, Apollonios, Alexander Romance, and others)

2.  Journeys in pursuit of divine wisdom: Thessalos’ preface in literary context

  • How would you describe the story of Thessalos?  How does the story progress?  What signs of fictionality do you detect? What is the purpose of telling this story this way?  What is the function of the preface to this work?
  • What is the image of Egypt that this story presumes?  What is Egypt associated with?
  • What common patterns do you see in the journey stories of Thessalos and the characters in Lucian and Plutarch (discussion of Harland article)?  What does this reveal regarding the relation between these stories and fictionality or reality?

3.  Glimpses into the real world

  • Medicine, herbals, astrology, and natural history in antiquity
  • Egyptomania


More li(v)es?: Philostratus’ Life of Apollonios of Tyana

1. Introductory matters

  • Characteristics of the genre of the “Life” (bios):  Plutarch’s explanation of what is a bios (see Francis, p. 428)
  • Philostratus and his context in the third century and Apollonius’ context in the first
  • Scholarly approaches to the Life of Apollonius: 1) biography; 2) holy man in antiquity; 3) Fictionality / historicity and surrounding debates (see Francis)

2. Literary questions and assessing “truth” and “fiction” in the biography

  • Discussion of Francis’ article
  • Questions:
    • Intentionality and purpose: What does Philostratus reveal about his work in the preface?  What are Philostratus’ intentions in writing this story of Apollonius?  What are his purposes?  Does he aim to entertain or to educate?  To what degree are his purposes “serious”?   In what ways are the answers to these questions similar to those you would put forward regarding the novels, regarding history-writing, regarding autobiographical narratives?
    • Narrative:  Who is the narrator and what are the narrative levels within the work? What is the overall plot of this biography?  How does the plot develop?  What are some of the key elements in the first three books?  What is this purpose of the first three books?  What types of digressions are there?  What are the purposes of some ethnographic digressions?
    • Sources: How does Damis function here (e.g. 1.3; 1.19)?  How does Philostratus describe Damis’ memoirs and what might this reveal about Philostratus’ aims?  What distancing techniques does Philostratus use in relation to his supposed sources and why?
    • “Novelistic” or “fictional”?: What indications of fictionality do you find within the narrative?  Are these intentional or accidental?  How would you explain the relationship between this biography and other genres including the novel and historiography?  What similarities or differences do you see between this Life and the writings of Thessalos and Lucian’s A True Story?   What similarities are there between Achilles Tatius and Philostratus?


  • Discussion of John Elsner’s “Hagiographic Geography” article

3.  Glimpses into the real world

  • Lifestyles of the Pythagorean philosophers
  • Wonder-workers and miracle belief in the Greco-Roman world
  • The gods within intellectual life and debates among philosophers about the gods

Brief Outline of books 1-3 of The Life of Apollonius of Tyana

Book 1

  • Introduction and purpose (1-3):
    • Pythagoras’ wisdom comes from the gods (implying same for Apollonius); Apollonius was not a wizard / magician (magos); Apollonius story shows he came to be considered nearly a divine being; Damis and other sources; educational purposes
  • Apollonius birth, youth and education in Aegae and Tyana; closeness to the gods (living in a temple of Asklepios); advice for other cities (4-17)
  • Journey to Mesopotamia (1.18-1.40) – “it was a young man’s duty to go abroad and to embark upon foreign travel” (cf. Thessalos)
    • Assyria: Damis joins Apollonius at Ninevah (19) – memoirs of Damis as the core source
    • Apollonius’ claim: “All the earth is mine, and I have a right to go all over it and through it” (21; see Elsner)
    • Brief time with magi (“magicians”) and with the Babylonian king, critiquing the wealthy lifestyle (26-40)
      • Apollonius explains his Pythagorean lifestyle (32)

Book 2

  • Journey to India (1-43)
    • Naturalistic, ethnographic, and other digressions
    • Examples of Apollonius’ teaching style with Damis
    • Time with the wise king-philosopher Phraotes (26-43) – beginnings of the reverse ethnocentrism (e.g. 29 on Greek philosophy as piracy)
    • Phraotes’ autobiography (31-32)
    • Apollonius on dreams and divination (37)
    • Apollonius on philosophy and the gods (39)

Book 3

  • Arrival in deepest India (further than any Greek before) and 4 month visit with the extremely wise brahmans (and an ignorant king)
    • More naturalistic, ethnographic, and paradoxographic digressions
    • Sages as levitating near gods with true knowledge of the self and the gods (15-58) – reverse ethnocentrism
      • Discussion topics in first session: knowing the self (18); the nature of the soul and reincarnation (19-24); true justice and Greeks’ lack of it (25)
      • Ignorant king’s interjections nonetheless show that not all Indians are on track and that some Greeks are more advanced (balancing the reverse ethnocentrism) (31-32)
      • Discussion topics in second session with sages: nature of the cosmos as a living organism / ship
  • Apollonius as miracle-worker (38-43)
  • Apollonius on divination again, thereby explaining the art of healing originating with Asklepios (41-44; cf. Thessalos)
  • Some more marvels – paradoxography


Folklore, Biography and History: The Alexander Romance


Even More Li(v)es: Lucian’s Satirical Life of Alexander of Abonouteichos

1. Introductory matters

  • Lucian’s life and works
  • A reminder about the genre of the biography (bios) and the focus on character
  • Rhetorical issues: Epideictic rhetoric – praise or blame

2. Assessing Lucian’s satirical biography of Alexander: Truth and Fiction

– The progression of the story:

  • Biographical intro, Alexander’s character and upbringing (1-5)
  • Founding a cult for a snake god at Abonoteichos (6-18)
    • Popularity and dissemination into Bithynia, Galatia and Thrace
  • Procedures and techniques at the oracle (19-29)
    • Opposition to the cult by followers of Epicurus at Amastris (25)
    • Authophones (talking snake) (26)
    • Diplomatic relations with other well-known oracles at Claros, Didyma and Mallos (29)
  • Dissemination as far as Italy and the connection with Rutilianus (30-37)
  • Mysteries (38-40)
  • Fraudulent activities and exposure by critics (41-61)
    • Introduction of nocturnal oracles (49)
    • Lucian’s personal attacks and Alexander’s retaliation (53-61)
  • How should we approach this source?  What is Lucian’s purpose? What is Lucian’s overall portrait of the character of Alexander?  What are Lucian’s interests or biases and how do they affect the telling of this life?  Why does he (and some others) approach things this way?  Is there evidence of other perspectives on Alexander beyond Lucian’s?
  • What elements of the biography are likely based on Lucian’s animosity and, therefore, “lies” or fictional (make-believe)?  What techniques does Lucian use to “make you believe” his views?  What elements are firmly linked to reality?   What connections do you see with any of the other biographical works we’ve read, including Philostratus’ biography of Apollonios and the Alexander Romance or with the novels?
  • Links to reality: Archeological and numismatic evidence for the Glykon cult (discussion of C.P. Jones – see p. 138)
    • Statues of Glykon and their distribution: marble statue from Tomi, now in Romanian museum (link); bronze statuette at Ankara museum (link); bronze statuette at Athens Agora museum (link); Asklepios as a snake at Leiden museum (link)
    • Coins depicting Glykon (photos on Roman Provincial Coinage Online)

3. Glimpses into real life: Cults and Philosophical debates in the Greco-Roman world

  • Divination, oracles, and mysteries in the Greco-Roman world
  • Lucian’s Epicurean sympathies (esp. 5, 25, 43, 47, 61)
    • Epicureans on the gods
      • Views attributed to Epicurus (ca. 341-270 BCE): Gods exist but have no concern for what happens in this world
      • Epicurean critique of traditional cults and especially divination
    • Celsus the Epicurean addressee of the biography
      • Celsus’ attack on magicians (21)
    • Philosophers at Amastris as Lucian’s allies against Alexander (25) – civic rivalry involved
    • Pythagoreans as magicians and quacks from the Epicurean perspective
    • Lucian on the value of Epicurean books/teachings (cf. 47, 61; but do see Philosophies for Sale 19, where an Epicurean sells for less than a Stoic or a Pythagorean but more than a Cynic)
  • Alexander’s Pythagorean connections
    • Pythagoras of Samos (ca. 570-490 BCE): Little known of his own teachings but many looked back to him as the origins of many philosophical ideas (including those of Plato and Aristotle)
    • Pythagoreanism as a diverse movement: Transmigration of souls as a common tenet; ascetic practices such as vegetarianism
    • Alexander as a student of a physician in Tyana (Cilicia) who was a student of Apollonios of Tyana, the Pythagorean philosopher in the first century CE (5)
      • Philostratos’ defence of Apollonios against common accusations in the Life of Apollonios
        • Apollonios modeling himself after Pythagoras with regard to honouring the gods and living life properly
        • Apollonios’ rejection of some traditional rituals: refraining from eating flesh of animals or offering blood sacrifices – true worship is interior spiritual worship (prayer)
      • Lucian’s claims that Alexander modeled himself after Pythagoras or held Pythagorean teachings (e.g. 4, 34, 40).
    • Alexander’s anti-Epicureanism: “Away atheists!” and burning of Epicurean books (25, 47)
  • Other critiques of oracles and divination among some intellectuals
    • Oenomaus of Gadara (link to his text)


Judean Fictional Narratives and Female Protagonists: Judith

1. Introductory matters

  • Lightning speed survey of Israelite and Judean history and culture (key events: northern kingdom falls to Assyrians in 721 BCE; temple destroyed by Babylonians in 586 BCE; Second temple built under Persians ca. 500 BCE; Hellenistic kings from 323 BCE and the Hasmoneans from 160s BCE)
  • Date and author: Story in Greek (perhaps based on earlier Aramaic versions of story) from the second temple period (before the first century CE) – likely Hasmonean era (after 160s BCE)

2. Literary features, plot and fictionality

  • Analyzing the structure, characters, plot and purpose
  • Narrator
  • Interplay of fiction and history:
    • Fictional characteristics of the story: e.g. Nebuchadnezzar king of Assyria as a conglomeration of evil kings (Babylonian, Assyrian, and Hellenistic?)
    • Biblical models for Judith and typological thinking: e.g. Jael and Deborah in Judges 4-5 (White’s article)
    • Judith and the Greek novel?: Discussion of Johnson article (“Jews at Court”)
  • Themes:
    • Portrayal of women in Judith and in the novels
    • The role of God in the story (cf. novels)

3.  Glimpses into the real world

  • Gender expectations in the Judean and Greco-Roman world
  • Glimpses into the common denominators of Judean culture in the second Temple period: 1) Yahweh alone; 2) election of a people; 3) covenant and torah (obedience and punishment); 4) temple


Brief Outline of Judith

  • The deadly threat of Nebuchadnezzar king of Assyria and his general Holofernes (chs. 1-7)
  • Judith (with God’s help) saves the day for the Judeans by decapitating Holofernes (chs. 8-16)




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