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46 - Silence in Chariton, Xenophon, Achilles Tatius and Longus (2020)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 October 2023

Ewen Bowie
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

This chapter analyses several roles of silence in Greek novels before Heliodorus. On a macro-level, it suggests that the writing of the text was itself a breaking of silence, manifested in narrators’ openings in Achilles Tatius and Longus. Moving to characters, it reviews situations where the choice of silence is crucial to plot development – most far-reaching in Longus, where the couple’s origins must be concealed for four fifths of the narrative to allow them to grow up as simple herdsfolk. In Chariton too the choice between speech and silence repeatedly affects plot development. Silence is often allied with deception, twice with fear. In three novels a protagonist’s romantic involvement with a third party is crucially suppressed in communications between the couple. Next addressed are types of silence closely related to the novels’ central theme of eros, whether as a symptom, or the silent kissing Cleinias suggests to Cleitophon. Different is the silent awe a protagonist’s dazzling beauty triggers. Finally some topoi shared with other genres are examined: ‘everybody else was silent, but X began to speak’; and ‘for a long time X was silent, but eventually began to speak’. It is concluded that silence’s uses reveal it as an important element in constructing an engaging narrative, noting that of these writers only Longus has an ‘unmarked’ use of σιωπ- to mean little more than ‘he/she stopped speaking’.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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