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A commentary on books 3 and 4 of the Ethiopian story of Heliodorus.

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The thesis consists of an introduction to and commentary on books 3 and 4 of the Ethiopian Story of Heliodorus. The introduction explores the meagre evidence for the life of the author, and concludes that he was probably a Phoenician living in the Syrian city of Emesa. The nature of the personal relationship between Heliodorus and the cult of the sun, mentioned explicitly in the final sentence of the romance, is discussed but must remain inconclusive. References to Helios in the romance are shown to be largely literary rather than programmatically religious. The narrative context surrounding the encounter between the hero and heroine of the story and the latter's strange birth, which constitutes the true opening of the romance, are investigated particularly closely. The possibility that the author represented his heroine, paradoxically born white to the black king and queen of Ethiopia, as what would today be termed an albino, is analysed, and the literary and cultural implications of this evaluated. Comparative anthropological studies of this hereditary condition in a variety of cultures show a strong connection with religious cults of the sun, while the internal evidence in the romance (particularly the heroine 's miraculous birth, the constrained sexuality of the hero and heroine, and the high degree of cultural alienation in the work) further corroborate this argument. The introduction also reviews the evidence for the date of the romance, such as the extent of the author's knowledge of the contemporary kingdoms of Axum and Meroe, his use of words and linguistic forms that were prevalent in the fourth century, the traces of Christian doctrines in the romance, the comparison between the sieges of Syene and Nisibis, and the similarity between the account of the triumphal procession of Aurelian in Vopiscus' biography of the emperor and the presentation of ambassadors to Hydaspes. This survey shows that there are strong arguments for the fourth century date for the romance. The introduction concludes with a brief survey of the language and style of Heliodorus. The commentary provides detailed discussion of key passages for the interpretation of the author's narratological strategy, with particular regard to the role of Kalasiris in the plot. Other substantial notes look at the author's treatment of the conventions of romance , his ironical use of the superstition of the 'evil eye', his subtle characterisation, and his use of literary topoi. The thesis concludes with appendices on the intertextual relationship between the Homeric epics and the Ethiopian Story, the significance of the word uvn6Eoc;, and the 'amphibolies', or double explanations for events in the narrative.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1998.


Heliodorus, of Emesa. Aethiopica historia., Theses--Classics.