King's College London

Research portal

Sicily and Roman Republican History in Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-149
Early online date28 Nov 2018
Accepted/In press28 Nov 2018
E-pub ahead of print28 Nov 2018
Published28 Nov 2018

King's Authors


Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe is a Greek novel that is extremely rich in historical and historiographical allusions. Virtually all of those so far detected derive from Greek texts and events in Greek history. In this article I shift the focus to Roman history, and suggest that Rome is not as absent as it is usually supposed to be in the Greek novels. In support of this claim, I propose that Chariton's choice of Sicily as a topographical setting can be related to three episodes from the Republican period that all involve Roman interventions in Sicily. Section I: the removal of Callirhoe (described at the beginning of the novel as an ἄγαλμα) from Syracuse recalls Verres’ provincial mismanagement of Sicily (73–71 BC), specifically his removal from Syracuse of Sappho's statue. Section II: the character of the pirate Theron is freighted with markers that point to the ‘pirate’ Sextus Pompey and his conflict with Octavian from 42–36 BC. Section III: Chaereas’ triumphant return to Syracuse at the end of the novel, loaded with spoils from the Persian king, symbolically reverses and redresses Marcellus’ sack of Syracuse in 211 BC. These all have significant ramifications for how readers (ancient and modern) approach the Greek novels.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454