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A Letter in a Land without Letters: Longus’ Intrageneric Interlocutors

T. Joseph MacDonald

Washington University in St. Louis

This paper examines a dialogue of the titular characters in Longus’ Daphnis & Chloe as a case study in intertextuality within the genre of the Greek novel.  In Book 3, Daphnis, unable to endure the separation from his beloved imposed by winter, journeys to visit Chloe and the two have a short conversation. This exchange, I argue, reworks a scene from Chariton’s novel Callirhoe in which the hero Chaereas first bemoans the difficulties he has endured for the heroine Callirhoe and then sends her a letter detailing his sufferings. While Hunter 1994 and Whitmarsh 2011 have shown that Achilles Tatius’ novel Leucippe & Clitophon reshapes this sequence from Chariton, Achilles Tatius is not the only reader of Chaereas’ letter. Longus too adapts certain themes and even identical phrasing from his predecessor Chariton. This intertextual relationship not only marks a generic affinity with Chariton but also underscores Longus’ two key innovations within the genre: his engagement with the pastoral tradition and his protagonists’ innocence.

In Callirhoe, when Chaereas learns that his beloved has remarried, he laments the sufferings undertaken for her (διὰ σέ, 4.3.10) and her new identities as wife and mother (γυνὴ γέγονας ἄλλου… γέγονας δὲ καὶ μήτηρ 4.3.10). In a letter to Callirhoe, Chaereas likewise details the hardships endured for her (διὰ σέ, 4.4.10) and beseeches her to recall their marriage chamber (μνήσθητι τοῦ θαλάμου, 4.4.10). Hunter 1994 and Whitmarsh 2013 have demonstrated that Chariton here reworks a letter from Ctesias’ Persica in which a man complains that, despite saving his former lover, he has perished on her account (ἐγὼ δὲ διὰ σὲ ἀπωλόμην, P.Oxy. 2330). While Chariton retains the sense of betrayal and rhetorical prominence of διὰ σέ from Ctesias, identity and memory become central to Chaereas’ lamentations.

In Daphnis & Chloe, Longus looks to Chariton, but with some significant differences that mark his generic innovations. Longus’ lovers, Daphnis and Chloe, are likewise separated- but by the natural cycle of the seasons, not unexpected circumstances. Moreover, while Chaereas uses letter-writing to bridge this separation, the rusticity of Longus’ Lesbos affords no space for letters and Daphnis’ words must be recited face-to-face. Daphnis tells Chloe that both his hibernal trek and the hunting of blackbirds that served as a pretense for that trek were on account of her (διὰ σὲ ἦλθον, Χλόη … διὰ σὲ ἀπολλύω τοὺς ἀθλίους κοψίχους, 3.10.3; note too intertext with Ctesias’ διὰ σὲ ἀπωλόμην not found in Chariton). The anaphora of διὰ σέ highlights not the hardships endured during separation but the obstacles overcome in bridging that separation. These differences showcase Longus’ incorporation of pastoral qualities into his narrative, a notable generic innovation (cf. Bowie 2019).

Furthermore, Longus’ emphasis on the protagonists’ innocence represents another generic innovation (cf. Alvarez 2014). Daphnis and Chloe, virgins who have only just learned the name for Ἔρως, lack even the vocabulary to describe their relationship. While Chaereas bemoans Callirhoe becoming a wife and mother, Daphnis cannot answer Chloe’s questions about their relation to one another (τίς οὖν σοι γένωμαι; 3.10.3). Though Chaereas urges Callirhoe to recall their marriage chamber, Daphnis cannot make a similar appeal when asking Chloe to remember him (μέμνησό μου, 3.10.3). Since Longus has departed from Chariton by postponing marriage until the end of his novel, Chloe’s response to his request is limited to an allusion to pledges made at the nymph’s cave (μνημονεύω νὴ τὰς Νύμφας, 3.10.3).

Whitmarsh 2013, building on critiques of a formalist conception of the Greek novel genre (cf. Morales 2009), has argued for an approach to genre “that respects the diachronic fluctuations and the way in which each new novel both projects its predecessors as paradigmatic and signals its own generic innovations.” This study furthers Whitmarsh’s argument by demonstrating how intertextuality might establish both continuity and innovation within the genre. This paper therefore contributes not only to studies of Longus but also broader debates concerning genre and the ancient novel.

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Greek and Roman Novel

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