The sanctuary of Delphi in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica: Between material culture and intertextuality


  • Cecilia Nobili



Divine and religious elements are an important part of Greek novels. For this reason, my paper aims to investigate the description of the sanctuary of Delphi in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica by comparing it with other literary and material sources, in order to distinguish literary elements from ones more closely related to the historical reality of the Imperial age. The paper argues that Heliodorus’ reconstruction of the sanctuary is in line with contemporary material evidence, except for some aspects based on literary sources. Authors of the Classical era, such as Euripides and Pindar, are fruitfully placed alongside authors closer to Heliodorus’ age, such as Plutarch and Philostratus. This overlap reflects the discrepancy between the dramatic date of the novel (4th century BC), to which Heliodorus consistently tries to keep throughout the novel with the aid of his Classical sources, and the date of composition of the novel (4th century AD), which places it in the context of the ‘hellenization’ and ‘paganization’ promoted by Emperor Julian. The result is a dynamic and realistic reconstruction of Delphi that brings the idealized portrait of Classical Greece and its authors to life.

Author Biography

Cecilia Nobili

Cecilia Nobili is Research Fellow in Greek Literature at the Università degli Studi di Milano. Her research concerns archaic poetry (epic and lyric), agonistic epigrams, local traditions and Greek novel. Her publications include the books L’Inno omerico a Ermes e le tradizioni local (Milano 2011), and Corone di gloria. Epigrammi agonistici ed epinici dal VII al IV sec. a.C. (Alessandria 2016).