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3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  383 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Chariton's Callirhoe, subtitled Love Story in Syracuse, is a fast-paced historical romance of the first century CE and the oldest extant novel.
Hardcover, 425 pages
Published December 15th 1995 by Harvard University Press (first published 50)
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Evan Leach
Which book is the world’s earliest novel? That question will probably never be definitively answered, but Callirhoe may have the best claim of any text out there. Callirhoe is one of seven novels surviving more or less intact from western antiquity: two Roman ones (The Golden Ass and the Satyricon) and five in Greek*. There are other texts hovering around the margins that could be added to this list, most of them very fragmentary, but the seven listed here are the big ones. The brilliant Satyric ...more
Apr 26, 2015 Zadignose added it
Shelves: 01st-century
Old? Yes. A novel? Yes. Good? ... Yes!

This book is, to some extent, a prototype of soap operas, lurid romances, and damsel-in-distress stories. It engages in some hyperbolic absurdities and plot contrivances. Characters often launch into laments in order to summarize the plot development and drive home how incredibly unfortunate they've been. Callirhoe, the heroine, is more admirable than any of the men, including Chaereas, who are enchanted by her. Notably, it's the men who do most of the weepi
Apr 25, 2014 Yann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Yann by: Evan Leach
Encore un excellent roman grec! Je suis bon public pour ce genre de fiction. Tous les éléments qu'on attend s'y trouvent: un couple incroyablement beau, une passion sans limites, du thumos et de l'épithumia, les péripéties et des contretemps fâcheux, des torrents de larmes, des voyages en Asie, en Europe et en Afrique, des pirates cruels et cupides, des dieux jaloux qui jouent avec nos héros mais se laissent fléchir par leurs malheurs, des réductions en esclavages, des félons sans scrupules, des ...more
Jan 09, 2012 Aileen rated it it was amazing
I wonder if Chariton was the Sidney Sheldon of his day. This book had it all and was a great romp through the 1st century Mediterranean and Asia with a large cast of characters, exotic locations, plots, double-crossings, life, love, death, you name it. Buried alive after an accidental blow from Chaereas, our Sicilian heroine Callirhoe is found by pirate tomb-robbers and carried off to Ionia where she is sold into slavery. Dionysus falls in love with her and tries everything to woo her, but she o ...more
John Cairns
Sep 26, 2016 John Cairns rated it liked it
Shelves: library
I like my history straight but made an exception for the first historical fiction, most enjoyable, with lots of literary references to flatter its readership, by no means populist - that would be left to demotic Xianity which appealed to hoi polloi and may still do. That, of course, is a virtue. As usual it's the incidental references I like, like Nero may have taken the idea of kicking Poppaea from this book, Miletus had four harbours and supplied soft woollen garments, Apelles' Aphrodite was t ...more
Sep 10, 2016 Shane rated it really liked it
Although written in the first century, the book takes place sometime in BC Greece, and for this reason gives us a great look at late-Greek life. The author studied his Herodotus and Thucydides, seeing as his references are abundant and his geographical, cultural and historical comments are accurate. The book features the disappearing influence of a waning Athens, a Mediterranean with pirates, a Sicily not yet under the future Roman rule, and a lukewarm Persia enjoying vast treasures and territor ...more
Dec 19, 2011 Shalana rated it liked it
It was very Romeo & Juliet meets The Odyssey. I liked it.
Mar 08, 2014 GaryFrost rated it really liked it
This is probably more like a mini-analysis, as I do not discuss some of the other important ideas in the novel. Copy-pasta'd from my university paper.


Chaereas and Callirhoe is a rewarding novel owing to its strengths in carrying out its themes and strong character development of the multiple casts. One central theme practiced throughout the entire novel is the emotions, and its reliability in guiding one’s situations and behavior. Chaereas undergoes interesting character growth in terms
Emmanuel Wallart
Jun 04, 2016 Emmanuel Wallart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pauvre Callirhoé, victime d'Aphrodite et de son fils, Eros; fille du Syracusain vainqueur des Athéniens, Hermocrate, elle épouse l'homme dont elle est tombée follement amoureuse après un seul regard. Malheureusement pour elle, son mari, Chéréas est jaloux et violent. Après une crise il la frappe si violemment qu'il la laisse pour morte. Ses funérailles sont grandioses, on l'enterre en grande pompe. Chéréas s'accuse et veut mourir. Des pirates de passage décident de piller le tombeau la nuit venu ...more
Sep 19, 2011 Raisu rated it liked it
Not everything was better in the Olden Days. Like dentistry. Or novels. Chariton's Callirhoe: Love Story in Syracuse is one of the oldest novels that has survived almost extant. On one hand, it's quite exciting. There are pirates, love triangles, wars and courtroom scenes aplenty. On the other hand it's deeply silly. Practically every male who crosses paths with the titular character falls desperately in love with her. Everyone runs frantically hither and tither around the Mediterranean and Midd ...more
Jun 13, 2013 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 01, 2014 Martin rated it it was ok
3 down, 998 to go. I actually found this one interesting, and readable. More than the telling of the story, it's circumstance was also an experience for me. This is, allegedly, the first novel ever written, and it's quite a ride to see where and how it all began, and to hold in my hands the first scrabblings and attempts to communicate in this forum. It's quite a thing to see how dialogue was formerly written. The translation is a beholding unto itself as well. I read the version where "f"s stil ...more
LawStudent Reader
Dec 18, 2015 LawStudent Reader rated it really liked it
I surprisingly really enjoyed this! Being one of the first novels ever written, I was so impressed with Chariton's ability to keep my attention for his entire story. Talk about an ego trip for Callirhoe though - a whole war was fought for her! It must be terribly annoying to have every man who looks at you fall in love with you. And yet, she was not really depicted as a character to pity. Instead, she exhibits her strength and kindness, especially at the end after Chaireas wins the battle for th ...more
Nov 03, 2015 Brendan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, greek, novel
Perhaps I am sentimental over this book because it was the subject of my undergraduate senior thesis, but there are few in this age for whom this novel will hold much appeal, they will consider its protagonist unsympathetic, its way of telling a story odd and artificial, and its plot rather fantastic. When reading with the mind of the 1st century Greek cultural elite for whom the novel was originally intended, however, and one will find a rich intertextuality, a self-conscious handling and mould ...more
Kaitlyn Utkewicz
Jun 14, 2014 Kaitlyn Utkewicz rated it really liked it
I surprisingly really enjoyed this! Being one of the first novels ever written, I was so impressed with Chariton's ability to keep my attention for his entire story. Talk about an ego trip for Callirhoe though - a whole war was fought for her! It must be terribly annoying to have every man who looks at you fall in love with you. And yet, she was not really depicted as a character to pity. Instead, she exhibits her strength and kindness, especially at the end after Chaireas wins the battle for th ...more
*** 2.5 stars ***

I had to read this book for my Greek class several years ago, of course in ancient Greek. Although it was sometimes hard to understand because of language and expression and not easy to follow because of its complex plot line, it was very interesting to read a novel written about 2000 years ago. It's about a man and a beautiful woman who fall in love but get separated by some dramatic misunderstandings and have a hard time trying to get back to each other. It's a nice read, but
This story from ancient Greek literature follows the complicated romance and marriage of popular Chareas and beautiful Callirhoe. It is a tale full of action, adventure, near death, and true love.

It took a few pages to get into it because I was reading too fast. Once I slowed down and started to savor the story, I really couldn't put the book down.

It had a happy, satisfying ending that made me smile and cheer for the heros!
The novel as a genre being still in its infancy, this very early one offers adventures in abundance, rivalry & chivalry and, of course, a love story. A lot is happening, and narrated without wondering about the reality factor. Well, folks, it is fiction. Anything that can happen and cannot happen, will happen. For me, it was a fast forward moving, very pleasant and ‘wonderful’ read, read on Crete. JM
Nov 23, 2011 Leslie rated it liked it
An early romance novel, with all sorts of complications and people who kept the young lovers apart. Either the translation I read or the story itself seemed very much in the historical romance genre, with the Greek gods added as minor characters. An ok selection for 1001 Books, not difficult to read or heavy in theme.
Daniel Abboud
Feb 05, 2015 Daniel Abboud rated it really liked it
Oh man. Callirhoe gets kicked in the diaphragm, buried alive, revived, kidnapped, sold, finds out she's pregnant with her supposedly dead lover's child etc etc... and all because she's the most beautiful girl in the world. Great story.
Norman Howe
Jun 28, 2016 Norman Howe rated it liked it
This was fun. It's a romance novel, and what passed for historical fiction in ancient times. It was shorter than I expected, as it turned out to be a simultaneous translation from the Greek, so I only had to read the right-hand pages. There's some domestic violence, which bothered me.
Rakkautta, sotaa, mustasukkaisuutta ja juonioa antiikin tyyliin. Hieman pitkäveteinen stoori kertoo kuvankauniista Kallirhoesta ja siitä, mitä tapahtuu, kun nainen on niin kaunis, että lähes kaikki hänet kohtaavat miehet menevät päästänsä sekaisin.
Jul 08, 2011 Marcy rated it it was ok
I am not really in to these ancient books. I have a hard time understanding them..........gotta read the footnotes to find out what's going on. Book number 3 in the "1001 books you must read before you die".
Apr 15, 2013 Nathan rated it liked it
The Greeks gave us philosophy, political science, literary theory, mathematics . . .

and high camp.
Feb 10, 2013 Taryn rated it really liked it
So many things to love. Sex gods, pirates, need I say more?
Jul 24, 2011 David rated it liked it
Shelves: greek-roman
A good story that does get a little confusing and hard to believe. However, having said that its one of the earliest Greek romance novels so can you blame the author for his twists and turns?
Jan 29, 2016 Janeh227 rated it it was ok
Long complicated love story - almost Romeo & Juliet, but lovers manage to live and be reunited
Jul 27, 2016 Antti rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It is very boring like Danielle Steele. I have nothing against Danielle, but still...

A step down from tragedies and comedies of past 600 years before it
Mar 29, 2011 Deanne rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone reading the 1001 books you must read before you die
Greek romance written in the first century, enjoyable and fascinating to think that it' about 2000 years old.
Kristina Campanelli
May 31, 2011 Kristina Campanelli rated it liked it
Back in the 1700's, it was quite clear that men are the weaker sex!!
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Chariton, (flourished 1st century ad, Aphrodisias, Caria, Asia Minor), Greek novelist, author of Chaereas and Callirhoë, probably the earliest fully extant romantic novel in Western literature. The romances of Chariton and of Achilles Tatius are the only ones preserved in a number of ancient papyri.
More about Chariton...

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