Heliodorus of Emesa

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A manuscript of the Aethiopica (Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Gr. 410, fol. 94v) Heliodorus of Emesa, Aethiopica, Venice, Gr. 410.jpg
A manuscript of the Aethiopica (Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Gr. 410, fol. 94v)

Heliodorus Emesenus or Heliodorus of Emesa (Ancient Greek : Ἡλιόδωρος ὁ Ἐμεσηνός) is the author of the ancient Greek novel called the Aethiopica (Αἰθιοπικά) or Theagenes and Chariclea (Θεαγένης καὶ Χαρίκλεια), which has been dated to the 220s or 370s AD. [1]



He identifies himself at the end of his work as

a Phoenician from Emesa [modern Homs, Syria], of the line of Helios [also translated as: 'from the race of the sun' [2] ], Theodosius' son Heliodorus [3]

According to Tim Whitmarsh, 'from the race of the sun' "looks like a claim to hereditary priesthood," though "uncertainties" remain. [2] According to The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, "the personal link here established between the writer and Helios has also a literary purpose, as has Calasiris' flashback narrative" [3] (see Aethiopica § Plot summary). The later tradition maintaining that Heliodorus had become a Christian bishop is likely fictional. [2] [lower-alpha 1]

Quoting Richard L. Hunter,

The Emesenes were a culturally complex group, including Arab, Phoenician and Greek elements, and, since the third century at any rate, having a connection with the Roman imperial household (the empress Julia Domna was from Emesa, as was the cult of Elagabal which inspired the emperor Heliogabalus). [5]

See also

Other ancient Greek novelists:


  1. The 5th-century Socrates of Constantinople identifies the author of the Aethiopica with a Heliodorus, bishop of Trikka, but the name Heliodorus was a common one. In the 14th century, Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos expanded this narrative, relating that the work was written in the early years of this bishop before he became a Christian and that, when forced either to disown it or resign his bishopric, he preferred resignation. Most scholars reject this identification. [4]

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  1. Lane Fox, Robin (1989). Pagans and Christians. p. 118.
  2. 1 2 3 Whitmarsh, Tim (2008). The Cambridge Companion to the Greek and Roman Novel. p. 72.
  3. 1 2 The Cambridge History of Classical Literature. 1, part 4. 1993 [1985]. p. 136. ISBN   0521359848.
  4. Holzberg, Niklas. The Ancient Novel. 1995. p. 78; Bowersock, Glanwill W. The Aethiopica of Heliodorus and the Historia Augusta. In: Historiae Augustae Colloquia n.s. 2, Colloquium Genevense 1991. p. 43. In Historiae Augustae Colloquium Genevense, 1991; Wright, F.A. Introduction to Aethiopica., n.d.; Glenn Most, "Allegory and narrative in Heliodorus," in Simon Swain, Stephen Harrison, Jas Elsner (eds.), Severan Culture (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  5. Hunter, Richard L. Hunter (1998). Studies in Heliodorus. p. 97.