Heliodorus of Emesa

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A manuscript of the Aethiopica (Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Gr. 410, fol. 94v)

Heliodorus Emesenus or Heliodorus of Emesa (Ancient Greek: Ἡλιόδωρος ὁ Ἐμεσηνός) is the author of the ancient Greek novel called the Aethiopica (Αἰθιοπικά) or Theagenes and Chariclea (Θεαγένης καὶ Χαρίκλεια), which has been dated to the 220s or 370s AD.[1]


He identifies himself at the end of his work as

a Phoenician from Emesa [modern Homs, Syria], of the line of Helios [also translated as: 'from the race of the sun'[2]], Theodosius' son Heliodorus[3]

According to Tim Whitmarsh, 'from the race of the sun' "looks like a claim to hereditary priesthood," though "uncertainties" remain.[2] According to The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, "the personal link here established between the writer and Helios has also a literary purpose, as has Calasiris' flashback narrative"[3] (see Aethiopica § Plot summary). The later tradition maintaining that Heliodorus had become a Christian bishop is likely fictional.[2][a]

Quoting Richard L. Hunter,

The Emesenes were a culturally complex group, including Arab, Phoenician and Greek elements, and, since the third century at any rate, having a connection with the Roman imperial household (the empress Julia Domna was from Emesa, as was the cult of Elagabal which inspired the emperor Heliogabalus).[5]

See also[edit]

Other ancient Greek novelists:


  1. ^ The 5th-century Socrates of Constantinople identifies the author of the Aethiopica with a Heliodorus, bishop of Trikka, but the name Heliodorus was a common one. In the 14th century, Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos expanded this narrative, relating that the work was written in the early years of this bishop before he became a Christian and that, when forced either to disown it or resign his bishopric, he preferred resignation. Most scholars reject this identification.[4]


  1. ^ Lane Fox, Robin (1989). Pagans and Christians. p. 118.
  2. ^ a b c Whitmarsh, Tim (2008). The Cambridge Companion to the Greek and Roman Novel. p. 72.
  3. ^ a b The Cambridge History of Classical Literature. Vol. 1, part 4. 1993 [1985]. p. 136. ISBN 0521359848.
  4. ^ Holzberg, Niklas. The Ancient Novel. 1995. p. 78; Bowersock, Glanwill W. The Aethiopica of Heliodorus and the Historia Augusta. In: Historiae Augustae Colloquia n.s. 2, Colloquium Genevense 1991. p. 43. In Historiae Augustae Colloquium Genevense, 1991; Wright, F.A. Introduction to Aethiopica., n.d.; Glenn Most, "Allegory and narrative in Heliodorus," in Simon Swain, Stephen Harrison, Jas Elsner (eds.), Severan Culture (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  5. ^ Hunter, Richard L. Hunter (1998). Studies in Heliodorus. p. 97.

External links[edit]