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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

Chapter 7 - Anger and gender in Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe


A genre concerned with love and separation, attachment and loss (however temporary), is likely to have a high emotional content, and the earliest of the five extant Greek novels, Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe, is nothing if not emotional. A central part of the author's aim is to give us an imaginative apprehension of what his characters feel, and to make us feel it ourselves; the depiction of emotion is thus largely descriptive, the goal being the creation of mood, individual or collective. One emotion, however – anger – plays a critical role in the narrative. This fact has perhaps not been fully appreciated; certainly it has not received much prominence in scholarly writing on this novel, and wider implications have not been explored. In this chapter I want to look closely at the presence (and absence) of anger in the text, examining it particularly through the lens of gender and its ancient constructions.

The essential events need first to be described; and I begin with the opening chapter of the novel. On the occasion of a feast of Aphrodite in Syracuse, the god Eros contrives a meeting between the divinely beautiful Callirhoe and the handsome Chaereas, who belong to the two leading families in the city. They fall instantly in love, and popular demand ensures their marriage despite family rivalries. But following the wedding Callirhoe's many disappointed suitors plot revenge against Chaereas, “a hopeless pauper, nobody's superior, competing with kings,” as one of them calls him (1.2.3).