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Chariton’s Callirhoe, subtitled “Love Story in Syracuse,” is the oldest extant novel. It is a fast-paced historical romance with ageless charm.
Chariton narrates the adventures of an exceptionally beautiful young bride named Callirhoe, beginning with her abduction by pirates—adventures that take her as far as the court of the Persian king Artaxerxes and involve shipwrecks, several ardent suitors, an embarrassing pregnancy, the hazards of war, and a happy ending. Animated dialogue captures dramatic situations, and the novelist takes us on picturesque travels. His skill makes us enthralled spectators of plots and counterplots, at trials and a crucifixion, inside a harem, among the admiring crowd at weddings, and at battles on land and sea.
This enchanting tale is here made available for the first time in an English translation facing the Greek text. In his Introduction, G. P. Goold establishes the book’s date in the first century CE and relates it to other ancient fiction.