The Silence of Semiramis: Shame and Desire in the Ninus Romance and Other Greek Novels


  • Michael Anderson


By exploring the contrast between the silent heroine and the eloquent hero of the Ninus Romance, this paper argues that the Greek novels impose noticeably tighter erotic restrictions on the virgin protagonist than on her male counterpart. Shame prohibits her from actively pursuing or verbally expressing desire. The conflict between desire and shame within her, however, lends the heroine an emotional depth and an audience appeal not matched by the hero. Moreover, while strictly enforcing the patriarchal prohibition and maintaining her decorous silence, the novel casts itself as a legitimate voice for the heroine's desire, proclaiming her desire where she herself cannot.

Michael Anderson is the author of "The Sophrosyne of Persinna and the Narrative Strategy of Heliodorus' Aethiopica" (Classical Philology 92, 1997, 303-322), and he is currently writing a book on love and sentimentality in the Greek novels. He is a Visiting Associate Professor of Classics at Trinity College, Hartford.