"Heliodorus: 'An Ethiopian Romance'"


Bookcover.jpegTranslated by Moses Hadas
$17.95 paper, 288 pages

The romance novel didn't begin with Kathleen Woodiwiss or even with the Bronte sisters. By the time Heliodorus wrote his "Aethiopica"-or "Ethiopian Romance"-in the third century, the genre was already impressively developed. Heliodorus launches his tale of love and the quirks of fate with a bizarre scene of blood, bodies, and booty on an Egyptian beach viewed through the eyes of a band of mystified pirates.

The central love-struck characters are Charicles, the beautiful daughter of the Ethiopian queen, and Theagenes, a Thessalian aristocrat. The story unfolds with all the twists and devices any writer would employ today, with the added attractions of dreams, oracles and exotic locales in the ancient Mediterranean and Africa. It is believed that the author, Heliodorus, was black.

Hadas' was the first modern English-language translation of this first truly full-length romance novel that has come down to us. His version remains highly accessible and appealing. The novel was first translated from the Greek into English in 1587 and became a favorite among the Elizabethans.

Moses Hadas (1900-1966) was Jay Professor of Greek at Columbia University. Well known for his translations of and interpretive works about classical literature, he was also the author of general histories of Greek and Latin literatures and editor of the Modern Library editions of Tacitus, Cicero, the Greek poets, and Caesar.

- University of Pennsylvania Press

Front page for this issue | Pennsylvania Current home page

Originally published on March 18, 1999