1st Edition

The Representation of Slavery in the Greek Novel Resistance and Appropriation

By William M. Owens Copyright 2020
    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    254 Pages
    by Routledge

    This volume offers the first comprehensive treatment of how the five canonical Greek novels represent slaves and slavery. In each novel, one or both elite protagonists are enslaved, and Owens explores the significance of the genre’s regular social degradation of these members of the elite.

    Reading the novels in the context of social attitudes and stereotypes about slaves, Owens argues for an ideological division within the genre: the earlier novelists, Xenophon of Ephesus and Chariton, challenge and undermine elite stereotypes; the three later novelists, Longus, Achilles Tatius, and Heliodorus, affirm them. The critique of elite thinking about slavery in Xenophon and Chariton opens the possibility that these earlier authors and their readers included literate ex-slaves. The interests and needs of these authors and their readers shaped the emerging genre and not only made the protagonists’ slavery a key motif but also made slavery itself a theme that helped define the genre.

    The Representation of Slavery in the Greek Novel will be of interest not only to students of the ancient novel but also to anyone working on slavery in the ancient world.

    Introduction: Degradation and Resistance

    1. Ephesiaca: Enslavement and Folktale

    2. Callirhoe: Narratives of Slavery Explicit and Implied, Told and Retold

    3. Two Novels About Slavery

    4. Daphnis and Chloe: Slavery as Nature and Art

    5. Slavery and Literary Play in Leucippe and Clitophon

    6. Aethiopica: Love and Slavery, Philosophy and the Novel

    Afterward: Conclusions Summarized and Two Points of Speculation


    William M. Owens is Associate Professor of Classics at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. His research focuses on the representation of social institutions, practices, and ideologies in ancient literature, in particular comedy and the novel.

    "This is not the first book one should read on the Greek novel, but it is a necessary one... Altogether, the book well illustrates the centrality of slavery to the Greek novel, and shows how the ancient Greek novel became a cultural entrepot through which new comedy, Roman comedy, and other genres came to be appreciated in the Greek-speaking world under Roman rule." - Phoenix

    "In The Repre­senta­tion of Slavery in the Greek Novel Owens presents a thorough investig­ation by an experienced scholar into an aspect of the Greek novels that has previously been taken for granted as merely one of the standard elements of ancient fiction. Instead, Owens presents a refreshing argu­ment that slavery was an impor­tant theme in these novels... [T]his in-depth investigation of forced labour in ancient fiction contains many useful insights and will make a significant impact." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    "In The Representation of Slavery in the Greek Novel: Resistance and Appropriation, Owens sets himself the ambitious aim of providing a comprehensive treatment of slavery in the five canonical Greek novels, and does not disappoint... [Owens] places slavery in the novelistic context by taking into account the social, juridical, and economic realia of this institution, showing how these are an integral part of the literary construction of slavery... [T]he book is successful in illustrating that slavery cannot be dismissed or relegated to a purely ancillary function in any meaningful exploration of the Greek novel." - Ancient Narrative

    "This study on the representation of slavery in the ancient novelis well worth reading... What is most useful and valuable in O.'s approach is that he introduces a theoretical framework borrowed from the social sciences... using reader response theory, to extract 'hidden transcripts' of putative real-life experience informing the narrative. This methodology allows him to read each ancient novel from multiple perspectives: from that of the experience of ex-slaves refelcted in the trials of the novel's protagonists, to ex-slaves reading the novel, and to elite readers." - The Classical Review