The Boy's Own love story: The romantic adventures of Leukippe, Kleitophon, and Kleitophon’s friends


  • Elizabeth Mitchell


Achilles Tatius' novel Leukippe and Kleitophon is not just a story of two lovers
pitted against a hostile world. Rather, both love affair and love story are tied
into wider social networks, becoming almost as much of a concern to Kleitophon's
friends and interlocutors as they are to the hero-narrator himself. From
the very beginning, when Kleitophon sits down with a stranger in a garden in
the port town of Sidon, the story is framed by male exchange of ideas, desires,
and experience. Its reading audience is invited to engage not in the retelling
of a public event, but in the sharing of a private experience between sympathetic
individuals. Such a narrative atmosphere, and the (carefully circumscribed)
plurality of listening viewpoints which are admitted for consideration
in the course of the novel, profoundly shape our readerly engagement with the
love affair of Leukippe and Kleitophon. The argument for male cameraderie as
a fundamental feature of story and narrative is a straightforward one, but runs
counter to the main currents of scholarly focus on Achilles Tatius' novel.

Elizabeth Mitchell is a graduate student of classical archaeology at Harvard
University, currently writing a PhD on the visual strategies of fantastic spaces
in Roman art. Whether writing about texts or imagery, she is interested in the
ways in which marginal characters modulate our approach to the “centre” of
a narrative.