Ancient Romance

Elizabeth Archibald free ebook
In the case of ancient romance, the usual difficulties of defining and discussing the literary genre are compounded by the fact that there is no word for it in either Greek or Latin in the classical period (in Byzantine Greek, interestingly, the word for prose
fiction was drama). There is no discussion of romance as a genre by literary critics or rhetoricians in antiquity; indeed there is very little comment of any kind about romance in ancient writers, either approving or disapproving. Until recently there was very little comment on it by modern classical scholars either; the few surviving Greek and Latin texts included under the umbrella term ‘‘romance’’ were thought to be minor works, of limited literary interest to both ancient and modern readers. In theblast 20 years, however, there has been a remarkable surge of interest in ancientmromance.
The main focus of this attention has been a group of five Greek prose narratives by Chariton, Xenophon, Achilles Tatius, Longus, and Heliodorus, which are all concerned with love, travel, and adventure, in various combinations. In these five stories, obstacles of various kinds divide the protagonists, but eventually love triumphs: enemies are overcome, ordeals are endured, identities are established, and the young lovers settle down to happy married life (in the complete texts, at least). A number of tantalizing fragments of what seem to be romances predate the five complete romances; though not all conform to the description above, they do all involve some combination of the same basic ingredients, love, travel, and adventure. These three ingredients could also be said to be the main components of the Odyssey, which is sometimes described as a romance. Although it is set in the context of epic (the Trojan
War), it concerns the travels and tribulations of an individual hero trying to get home to his faithful wife, a hero who is tested not so much for martial prowess and courage as for resourcefulness and marital commitment. The same three themes, love, travel,
and adventure, are central to The Ass, attributed to an anonymous Greek writer known as Pseudo-Lucian, and its better-known Latin analogue, Apuleius’ Golden Ass (both written in the second century AD), free ebook