Virtue Obscured: Theagenes' Sōphrosynē in Heliodorus' Aethiopica


  • Rachel Bird


This article explores the way in which Heliodorus represents the sōphrosynē of Theagenes in the Aethiopica. This traditionally masculine virtue is obscured in the hero, whereas the heroine, Charicleia's sōphrosynē is consistently emphasised and upheld in the novel. Theagenes' indirect speech is a repeated feature when he expresses his sōphrosynē and this contrasts strongly with the direct speech usually given to Charicleia. Heliodorus' represents sōphrosynē with subtlety in Theagenes characterisation, and the virtue is subordinate to the hero's desire for the heroine. This representation allows for a balance to the extreme adherence to that virtue which Charicleia demonstrates.

Rachel Bird gained her PhD from Swansea University in March 2016. Her thesis examined Sophrosyne in the Greek Novels, considering the role of this cardinal virtue in the representation of characters within the novels, and investigating how the virtue is important as a part of reader response. Her research is grounded in imperial Greek literature, and she is particularly interested in the reception of earlier literature in this period. She is currently a Language Tutor for Swansea University’s Department of Classics, Ancient History, and Egyptology.