Up this week: Chaireas and Kallirhoe by Chariton.
Lifespan: b.c. 1st century BCE (Greece), d.c. 1st century
First published: 1750
Language of First Publication: Latin
Original Title: Peri Chairean kai Kallirhoen
The dates claimed for the origin of this classical novel vary from 50 BCE to 200 BCE. This is the story of “the lives of two young lovers from Syracuse” and takes place during the time of the flowering and withering of the Persian Empire.
The author, Chariton, acting as narrator tells us he is secretary “to a rhetor ((in ancient Greece and Rome) a teacher of rhetoric,
an orator) of Aphrodisias”.
Here are the highpoints - Chaireas and Kallirhoe, our hero and heroine, have fallen in love at first sighting, and are allowed by their families to marry, but (here comes the kicker) “jealous former suitors of the girl destroy Chaireas’ trust in his wife” (foreshadows of Othello).
Chaireas gets angry, kicks her in the stomach, thinks he’s killed her and she is buried in the family tomb.
Apparently the rich family tomb, as no sooner is she settled in than the grave robbers show up, find her alive, and of course sell her to a chap named Dionysos who lives on the coast of Ionia.
He, duh, falls in love with Kallirhoe, who is of course pregnant with the child of Chaireas – didn’t you just see that coming?
Kallirhoe, tasty but devious dish that she is, marries Dionysos but doesn’t tell him the father of the child is other than his own virile self.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, or empire if you must, Chaireas finds out from the grave robbers (and just what was he doing hanging about with grave robbers?) that his wife lives – da da de da!
The two meet again in Persia after the requisite long trying search and journey, there’s a big trial as to just who gets to be “the husband” to our luscious but devious Kallirhoe. Chaireas proves he is a right proper hero type by going out and killing off several hundred Persians, and apparently that’s good enough for Kallirhoe as she leaves the child with Dionysos and sails off into the sunset with Chaireas.
Demented, all of them, if you ask me. I have not actually read this one and I can’t say that I really care to take the time to do so. You make your own choice on this one.
I finished Patterson’s Storm Prey and I can’t really recommend it either – moves very slowly and plods until you are really quite glad when it’s all done. I’ve begun Appetite for Life, The Biography of Julia Child by Noel Fitch and even though I’m not usually one for biographies I’m excited about this one and it’s made a good start. Gideon’s Spies is quite good, almost done there and I recommend it, as well as Lions of Medina – both being what they are – military histories.
998 to go! Let me know what you are reading.