The prose fiction of the ancient world is the oldest that we possess, and historically marks the founding of the literary genre which, by some indicators at least, has outstripped all others in the European-derived ‘Western’ culture of the last two centuries. Yet even the recent upsurge of interest in the subject, and corresponding upwardly mobile evaluations of it on the part of classical scholars, has focussed on the ancient novel not as a beginning but as an end. In the eyes of the dwindling number of specialists who can read and evaluate these texts in the original languages, the novel makes a very late appearance on the scene. In aesthetic terms it frequently demands some degree of apology; its greatest and most productive feature of interest in recent years has been its very self-conscious belatedness, inscribed on every page of its texts in the blatant, comic, and often extremely subtle, re-use of older, culturally sanctioned material. The ancient novel is like those buildings of the late antique city in which the spolia of an earlier epoch are artfully put to new use. The ancient novel, precursor of so much that came later, has by its very nature little that is conspicuously originary about it. It wears its borrowings on its sleeve, proudly; and enough survives of the culture from which it borrowed that the classicist, exactly like his late antique and Byzantine predecessors, can have fun identifying them.