Stephen A. Nimis
The novel flourished at a time when Greek identity was above all a matter of cultural affiliation. This article argues that the characters in the novels are fundamentally concerned with issues of gender, ethnicity, culture, and identity – and that their readers must have been too. However, the relationship between the world depicted in the novels and that in which they were written and read remains difficult to characterize: it is remarkable, for example, that Rome, the great imperial power of the time, is never so much as mentioned in the extant Greek novels.
The field once known as that of the ‘ancient novel’ evolved into that of ‘prose fiction’ and thence of ‘ancient narrative’, in part as a step towards inclusiveness, but also as a retreat from the anachronism of the term ‘novel’. The extant Latin novels spend more time in the world of ‘slum-realism’ than do the extant Greek novels/romances, and feature an inverted world in which libidinous women, slaves, freedmen, eunuchs, and robbers wield power. Where the ethos of the typical Greek novel/romance is essentially bourgeois, with a return after perilous adventures to a quiet married life amid the elite of one of the cities of the Roman Empire (though without explicit mention of Rome), scandalous adventures in Roman novels either do not lead to a spiritual life outside society. Reading Petronius and Apuleius, one can move imperceptibly from an epic intertext to a scene of sub-literary mime, both of which have contributed to the genre's making. This article looks at ‘Menippean satire’, the Satyricon, narrators, Cupid and Psyche, the History of Apollonius King of Tyre, and ‘novel-like narratives’.
There are countless available angles for viewing the cultural phenomenon that is Roman philosophy. Was it a regular part of the broad Roman negotiation with Greek culture, or did it emerge under its own peculiar dynamic and play by its own rules? To what extent do its literary manifestations, above all in the surviving masterpieces of Lucretius, Cicero, and Seneca, form a seamless whole with contemporary developments in the Greek philosophical world? Did Roman philosophy aspire to become independent of its Greek origins, and, if so, how far did it succeed? All these questions will be relevant to the present article, which, at the same time, looks at the process of philosophy's gradual Latinisation.