Rhetoric and Irony in Chariton: a case-study from Callirhoe


  • Konstantin Doulamis


In the Greek novels there seem to be some straightforward connections between the style of the novels and contemporary rhetorical teaching, which have not yet been explored. The aim of this paper is to show how a comparison between examples of amatory rhetoric from the Greek novels and contemporary rhetorical treatises can help modern readers in their interpretation, by determining the style and tone of erotic discourse in the novels in a way that does not just rely on modern, subjective responses. The analysis focuses on a monologue from Chariton (namely Callirhoe’s lament, 3,10,4–8). By correlating the style-markers of the passage with those in rhetorical treatises of the period (mainly Demetrius, On Style, and also Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Demosthenes), the article aims to address the question of whether this passage was intended to be taken seriously or ironically, thus seeking to provide a contemporary basis for determining the tone of the erotic speech-making in Chariton. The paper concludes by discussing the likely readership and reception of Callirhoe.