Heliodorus of Emesa

From Academic Kids

Heliodorus of Emesa, from Emesa, Syria, was a Greek writer generally dated in the 3rd century of the Common Era, and is known for his novel Aethiopica (the Ethiopian Story).

According to his own statement, his father's name was Theodosius and he belonged to a family of priests of the sun.

The Aethiopica was first brought to light during Renaissance times in a manuscript from the library of Matthias Corvinus, found at the sack of Buda (today the western part of Budapest) in 1526, and printed at Basel in 1534. Other codices have since been discovered. It was first translated into English in 1569 by Thomas Underdowne, who used the 1551 Latin translation of Stanislaus Warschewiczki to create his Aethiopian Historie.

The title is taken from the fact that the action of the beginning and end of the story takes place in Ethiopia. The daughter of Porsine, wife of Hydaspes, king of Ethiopia, was born white through the effect of the sight of a marble statue upon the queen during pregnancy. Fearing an accusation of adultery, the mother gives the babe to the care of Sisimithras, a gymnosophist, who carries her to Egypt and places her in charge of Charicles, a Pythian priest. The child is taken to Delphi, and made a priestess of Apollo under the name of Chariclea. Theagenes, a noble Thessalian, comes to Delphi and the two fall in love with each other. He carries off the priestess with the help of Calasiris, an Egyptian, employed by Persine to seek for her daughter. Then follow many perils from pirates, bandits, and others—but the chief personages ultimately meet at Meroe at the very moment when Chariclea is about to be sacrificed to the gods by her own father. Her birth is made known, and the lovers are happily married.

The rapid succession of events, the variety of the characters, the graphic descriptions of manners and of natural scenery, and the simplicity and elegance of the style give the Aethiopica great charm. But what has been regarded as most remarkable is that the novel opens in the middle of the story with a mystery that is solved for the reader only through a complex thread of flashbacks given by various characters in dialogue. This feature makes the Aethiopica stand out from all the other ancient Greek romances.

Homer and Euripides were the favorite authors of Heliodorus, who in his turn was imitated by Byzantine Greek, French, Italian, and Spanish writers. The early life of Clorinda in Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered (canto xii. 21 sqq.) is almost identical with that of Chariclea; Racine meditated a drama on the same subject; and it formed the model of the Persiles y Sigismunda of Cervantes.

According to the ecclesiastical historian Socrates Scholasticus (Hist. eccles. V. 22), the author of the Aethiopica was a certain Heliodorus, bishop of Tricca in Thessaly. It is supposed that the work was written in his early years before he became a Christian and that, when confronted with the alternative of disowning it or resigning his bishopric, he preferred resignation. But it is now generally agreed that the real author was a sophist of the 3rd century of the Common Era.nl:Heliodorus van Emessa uk:Геліодор з Емеси

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