In this review article, I first offer a critical discussion of S.D. Smith’s Greek Identity and the Athenian Past in Chariton: The Romance of Empire (Groningen 2007). Subsequently, I analyze in detail what I consider to be one of the most important contributions of the book; this is Smith’s identification of what I would call ‘epistemological relativism’ as a pattern underlying Chariton’s narrative technique. I single out two thematic areas in which this pattern is particularly relevant and make some additions of my own regarding specific readings by Smith in each area. I argue that these two thematic strands challenge the widely-held view that Chariton is one of the most prototypical representatives of the genre of the ideal Greek novel.
Characterization in Ancient Greek Literature is the fourth volume in the series Studies in Ancient Greek Narrative. The book deals with the narratological concepts of character and characterization and explores the textual devices used for purposes of characterization by ancient Greek authors spanning a large historical period (from Homer to Heliodorus) and a variety of literary genres (epic, elegy, historiography, choral lyric, drama, oratory, philosophy, biography, and novel). The book’s aim is not only to describe these devices, but also to investigate their effects and the implications of their use for our interpretation of the texts.
This article provides a detailed analysis of character construction in the fifth century passio Caeciliae (Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina 1495 – 1495a – 1496). Our analysis sets out to challenge the general assumption that character construction in the late antique passions can correctly be described in terms of stereotypes. The passio Caeciliae appeals to and inverts reader expectations based upon traditional patterns in erotic narrative. We also argue that it individuates the different characters (Caecilia and her fellow martyrs) by documenting one specific area of their representation, namely rhetorical ability. In this thematic area, Caecilia is set apart from her husband Valerianus: unlike him, she displays elaborate rhetorical aptitude which allows her to obtain the dominant position in the marriage and to achieve her aims. But the art of rhetoric is also a skill that can be learned as is shown by the character of Valerianus whose rhetorical approach changes in the course of the passion. Our analysis suggests that this passion from a literary point of view constitutes a more interesting text than is generally assumed.