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Love and murder: two textual problems in Xenophon's Ephesiaca.

I offer below two emendations of passages in the third book of Xenophon's Ephesiaca. In the first, scholars have long perceived a difficulty, and various conjectures have been proposed as a remedy. I believe, however, that not only are these proposals wrong, but that they give exactly the opposite sense of that which is required. In the second, the passage as a whole has been suspected of having suffered epitomization, on no adequate grounds, in my view; but the excision of three words makes sense of the narrative and should eliminate any further doubts about its coherence.


Hippothous is narrating to Habrocomes the story of his ill-fated passion for Hyperanthes. He explains that when he was young (neos, 3.2.2), he fell in love with a lad (meirakion) named Hyperanthes, having observed him wrestling. He subsequently approached Hyperanthes at a nighttime festival, and pleaded for pity, which the lad granted. At first they exchanged caresses and kisses, but finally--here our passage begins (3.2.4):


The rest of the story tells how a man (aner) named Aristomachus arrived from Byzantium and fell in love, in turn, with the lad, but, having been rejected by Hyperanthes out of goodwill (eunoia) toward Hippothous, he prevailed upon Hyperanthes' father to entrust the lad to his care for the purpose of instruction (didaskalia) in rhetoric. Aristomachus takes Hyperanthes to Byzantium, whither Hippothous follows, but is prevented from seeing the lad. Finally, Hippothous sells all his property back in Perinthus, slips into Aristomachus' house at night, where he finds him in bed with Hyperanthes, and in a rage kills Aristomachus. Thereupon he takes Hyperanthes to Perinthus and thence to Asia, but on the way the ship is wrecked in a storm, and although Hippothous supports Hyperanthes as they swim, the lad dies in the attempt; Hippothous does manage, nevertheless, to bring his body to shore, where he buries him.

We may now return to the passage in question. With or without emendation, all editors and translators seem to agree that the sense is that the similarity in age between Hippothous and Hyperanthes made their intimate association unsuspicious in the eyes of others. The translation by Graham Anderson in Bryan Reardon's Collected Ancient Greek Novels is characteristic (1989: 147): "we were both the same age, and no one was suspicious" (the interpretation goes back to Salvini and Cocchi, the first editor; see O'Sullivan's apparatus). Now, there seem to me to be several reasons why this interpretation must be incorrect. First, and most generally, the parity of ages between lover and beloved in a pederastic relationship is in itself exceptional, and in conflict with the way this kind of passion is represented in the other novels (e.g., Achilles Tatius 1.7--12, 2.34; Daphnis and Chloe 4.12--19; Chariton 1.3.6, discussed further below). I myself (Konstan 1994: 28) was among the few critics who were worried by this discrepancy, and I sought to explain it as a way of rendering the love between Hippothous and Hyperanthes homologous to that between Habrocomes and Anthia: "the practice of pederasty, in which an older man assumed the role of guide or teacher toward a younger, provided the model of an asymmetric love affair on which Xenophon could rely, even though he specifies that, contrary to custom, the ages of the two men are equal in this case. It is possible, moreover, that he rendered the two coevals not only to facilitate their secret amour, but also to make their relationship parallel to that of the hero and heroine of the novel." But my ingenuity was unnecessary, for as we shall see I was wrestling with a phantom problem.

The context of the passage in Xenophon also suggests strongly that Hippothous is older than Hyperanthes. Note that Hippothous is said to have observed Hyperanthes wrestling in the gymnasium, not to have wrestled with him, as he would presumably have done had he been of the same age cohort. Plato's dialogues, for example the Charmides and the Lysis, illustrate the attractions of watching youths engaged in sport in the gymnasia; indeed, it is said that older men were prohibited from entering the gymnasium while younger boys were exercising precisely to prevent the formation of erotic liaisons (Aeschines Against Timarchus 10, 12). Hippothous then takes the initiative in pursuing Hyperanthes and pleading for his favors; it is Hippothous who is said to be motivated by erotic passion; Hyperanthes, in turn, does no more than feel pity for him and assent to his appeals. This is entirely in line with the asymmetrical character of pederastic love, as it is represented in classical literature. Furthermore, Hippothous is clearly master of his own affairs: he owns property which he freely sells, when he decides to rescue and then run off with Hyperanthes. Although he has parents (3.3.2) whom he can invoke (it is probable, but not certain, that they are alive), he is in no way dependent on them nor need he consult them in making financial or other arrangements. Hyperanthes lives with his father, who can assign him to live with a teacher irrespective of the lad's own wishes (or so we are led to believe: Hippothous is not an entirely reliable narrator in this matter, but his possible misinterpretation of Hyperanthes' preferences does not bear on the question of their relative ages). He is taken away to Byzantium, and passively agrees to sleeping with Aristomachus, who is clearly an adult male (aner). He is weak, moreover, not only in will but also physically, being unable to survive the swim at sea even with the assistance of Hippothous. This does not prove that he is young--he may be simply frail--but it does suggest that he has not the physical maturity of his stronger companion.

What is more, the sense of the sentence under consideration itself tells against the parity of age between Hippothous and Hyperanthes. Hippothous has just explained that it has been exceedingly difficult for him to approach the lad, or to exchange anything more than some kisses, accompanied by floods of tears (polla dakrua). Finally (telos), the two succeed in being alone together--if the similarity in their ages made their intimacy appear innocent, what was the point of keeping them separate previously? Clearly, any contact between the two was likely to be suspect, and the clause in question, so interpreted, makes nonsense of what precedes. Nor does it explain the fact that, subsequent to this encounter, the two "were together for a long time, cherishing one another exceedingly." For one thing, the verb stergein, which most often refers to parental or familial affection, may imply that their fondness for each other did not always result in sex. In any case, once the two had discovered a way to be alone together, it is plausible that they could continue to do so, irrespective of their relative ages.

Finally, the syntax itself of the clause on the ages of the two raises a question. If it had been intended to explain why Hippothous and Hyperanthes were at last able to be alone with each other, one would expect not the connective kai but rather gar. With kai, the two clauses are parallel--we were at last alone AND our ages were unsuspicious--which gives rather a weak and pointless sequence. (2)

Before proposing a solution to the textual problem, let me say a word about the terms neos and meirakion. Had Hyperanthes been described as a pais or paidika, rather than as a meirakion, there would have been no doubt that he was the younger partner in the relationship. We may begin by observing that the next male with whom Hippothous falls in love, Cleisthenes, is also called a meirakion (5.9.3); given that, in the end, Hippothous will adopt him as his son (5.15.4), it is clear that Cleisthenes is the younger of the two. Now, meirakion is applied frequently to Habrocomes as well (1.1.3, 1.1.4, 1.2.1, 1.5.5, etc.), who we know is sixteen years old and an ephebe (1.2.2). Habrocomes is of an age to attract the erotic attentions of one of the pirates who capture him and Anthia as they set out on their honeymoon voyage, and here again he is described as a meirakion (1.14.7). At 2.14.2, however, Hippothous addresses Habrocomes as meirakion, yet he evidently considers him an equal and potential friend rather than an eromenos. Meirakion would appear to designate a borderline age, applicable to a youth still boyish enough to attract lovers but also to one who may, like Habrocomes, himself be in love. There is a comparable case, moreover, in Chariton's novel. At the beginning, Chaereas is described as a meirakion (1.1.3; cf. 1.4.4), although he is soon afterwards designated as a neanias (1.1.8); one of the rival suitors for the hand of Callirhoe, however, is unequivocally called neanias (1.2.2), and it is plausible that the others too are of this age. Again, when Chaereas is wasting away out of love for Callirhoe, we are told that the youths (he neolaia; cf. neoi, 1.1.12) who frequented the gymnasium missed him terribly, and felt pity for the handsome lad (meirakiou kalou, 1.1.10). A short while later, when the suitors conspire to arouse Chaereas' jealousy by planting evidence of a komos at the door of the now married couple, Callirhoe responds to Chaereas' accusations by declaring: "No one has caroused at my father's house; perhaps your door is used to carousals, and your marriage is distressing to your lovers [erastai]" (1.3.6). This unique reference to pederasty in the novel plays on the ambiguous status of Chaereas as a lad old enough to marry but still young enough to be attractive to the neoi at the gymnasium (for a detailed discussion of the terminology for age groups in the novels, see Lalanne 2006: 67--97, who shows that meirakion normally indicates a younger age than neos).

As for neos, the term is used of Aegialeus (5.1.5), the Spartan who as a youth and enrolled among the ephebes (cf. 5.1.6) fell in love with a young woman (kore), who--unlike Hyperanthes--is said to have loved him in return (anterai). This episode contains several echoes of that of Hippothous and Hyperanthes: both Aegialeus and Hippothous were from prominent families ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), both fell in love as youths ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), they encountered their beloveds at a nighttime festival ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), and, finally, in almost identical language (5.1.6), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] ('For some time our relationship was a secret ... But one of the gods, I suppose, was envious'). The addition of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] makes it clear that, although they found ways of being with each other, they still had to be secretive about their meetings (on parallel passages as a compositional technique in Xenophon, see O'Sullivan 1995: 30--68).

On the basis of the preceding considerations, it seems to me that what the sense requires in the passage under discussion is not that the ages of Hippothous and Hyperanthes were unsuspicious because they were equal, but precisely the opposite: they differed by just enough to rouse the misgivings of others. The question is how to emend the phrase, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], already corrected by editors, in order to produce the appropriate meaning.

One possibility is to leave the wording more or less as is (perhaps emending [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), but take [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] in the sense of "unsuspected" rather than "unsuspicious": the phrase would thus be rendered, "and the matter of our [sc. young but unequal] age was not suspected" (I owe this suggestion to Tim Whitmarsh). Here, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] refers precisely to the disparity in ages between the two youths. Parallels in other novels perhaps lend some support to this interpretation. Thus, in Chariton (6.3.3), the Persian King's passion for Callirhoe did not go unsuspected by his advisor, Artaxates: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] In Heliodorus, Chariclea does not entertain doubts concerning Cnemon's determination to share her journey (6.7.8): [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] ('In any case she thought that Knemon was no longer a seemly or wholly trustworthy traveling companion'--transl. John Morgan in Bryan Reardon, ed., 1989).

In many instances, however, the sense is rather "liable to be suspected." Thus, in Daphnis and Chloe, Daphnis is pondering ways to enter the house of Dryas, the foster-father of Chloe (3.6.4): [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] ('Stumbling against obstacles on every side, he said to himself: "All of these remarks sound suspicious. It'll be better to say nothing"'--transl. Christopher Gill in Bryan Reardon, ed., 1989). The point is clearly that any excuse he comes up with will rouse suspicion. In Chariton, Mithridates deceives his slaves about the purpose of his gifts in order not to make them suspicious (4.5.2): [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] ('He sent three attendants with Hyginus, and expensive gifts and a large amount of gold; to avoid suspicion, the other servants were told that they were destined for Dionysius'--transl. Bryan Reardon in Bryan Reardon, ed., 1989). Clitopho, in Achilles Tatius, finds himself suspecting everything he hears about Leucippe (6.5.5): [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] ('My thoughts then for Leukippe were all morose; everything seemed to me suspicious and fraught with terror'--transl. John Winkler in Bryan Reardon, ed., 1989); here, the force of the term is not entirely unambiguous, as again in Heliodorus, where Thermouthis suspects that Cnemon may have killed Thisbe (2.20.1): [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] ('there still lingered in his mind the suspicion that it was Knemon who had killed Thisbe'--transl. John Morgan in Bryan Reardon, ed., 1989). Shortly afterwards (2.20.5), however, Cnemon adjusts his appearance so as not to seem hupoptos to the bandits among whom he finds himself (cf. 5.27.6), and here, potentially "suspect" rather than actually "suspected" must be the sense. Again, Arsace sets up a combat between Thyamis and his brother in order to do away with Petosiris without suspicion attaching to herself (7.5.2, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]). At Arsace's command that he visit her alone, Theagenes finds the matter neither reputable nor unsuspicious (7.18.3): [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. Later, Heliodorus observes that everything seems suspicious when one is in extreme danger (9.5.6): [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] Finally, the Syenians, in terror of Hydaspes' wrath, place their babies on the ground before them, since they are unsuspicious and guiltless (9.11.5): [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]

If, alternatively, we take [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] as "not suspect," it is necessary either that the disparity in ages between the two characters be [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] or, alternatively, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. The simplest option is to introduce a concessive sense: <[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]> [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] Denniston 300, 303; Smyth 2375), or, less probably, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], i.e. "even though our relative ages were suspicious" (or "not unsuspicious"); alternatively, read [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] etc.: "and yet, our relative ages were suspicious" (for the particle with genitive absolute, cf. cf. 1.2.8; more generally, see Denniston 556--59). This works better still if [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] is emended to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] (again, Tim Whitmarsh suggested this): "even though our ages were otherwise suspicious." Perhaps, however, we may retain [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] not as a prefix but as a particle: <[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]> [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], "even though [or and yet] our ages would otherwise have been suspicious."


After Habrocomes suffers yet another shipwreck, he is sold into slavery. His new master, a retired soldier named Araxus, takes a liking to him ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) and adopts him as his son ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]). Araxus' wife, however, the dreadful Kyno, falls in love with Habrocomes. Here is the passage in question (3.12.4--5):


At this, Kyno denounces Habrocomes as the murderer of Araxus.

The problem with this passage, which has, as I have said, led to suspicions of abridgement, is this: (5) Kyno demands that Habrocomes have sex with her, undertaking in turn to "make him her husband" and to kill Araxus. Habrocomes is torn between respecting his oaths to Anthia and the recognition that his chastity has done him considerable harm in the past (above all in the affair with Manto, who was likewise in love with him). Finally, under pressure from Kyno, he agrees to her proposition. Since she will be taking Habrocomes as her husband, Kyno, faithful to her part of the bargain, kills Araxus, and reports the deed to Habrocomes. He, unable to endure such licence, affirms that he could never sleep with a murderess, and flees. Why on earth, then, did he agree to the arrangement in the first place? His consent has led directly to the murder of the man who had adopted him as his own son. Had he refused Kyno's proposition, of course, there is no knowing what she might have done; but this does not deter him from leaving her after the murder--why should it have done so before?

We may speculate that Habrocomes did not believe that Kyno would carry out the act, although there is no suggestion of any doubt on his part in the text. I have suggested that Habrocomes' "original motive for agreeing to her demands may well have been to forestall her plan of doing away with Araxus" (Konstan 1994: 49), but there is still less evidence for this interpretation than the preceding. Finally, we may suppose that Habrocomes simply did not give the threat much thought beforehand, and only when the murder was accomplished did he realize that he could not bring himself to sleep with such a woman. This makes Habrocomes into a bit of a fool, and in a context that seriously compromises his elementary decency.

There is another difficulty in the passage, this time in the language. Kyno first promises to marry Habrocomes and kill Araxus. After Habrocomes gives his consent, we are told that, "since she was going to take Habrocomes as her husband, she killed Araxus" (). The murder of Araxus is presented here, but not earlier, as a consequence of Kyno's decision to marry Habrocomes: she must get rid of her previous husband. Given that she had already declared her intention both to marry the one and slay the other, it would have been enough for Xenophon to state that she now made good on her two promises: she murdered Araxus and offered herself to Habrocomes. It seems late to be entering here upon an explanation of the logical connection between the two actions. (6)

My solution this time is simple: delete [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]in the first sentence. What Kyno promises is to make Habrocomes her man. Whether he understands "husband" here is moot; even if he does, he might have supposed Kyno to mean that she would do so after the natural death of Araxus, who we know is old (presbutes). Yielding to her sexual demands is a violation, to be sure, of his commitment to Anthia, but he has just stated that he has paid dearly for his chastity, and, for what it is worth, under sufficient pressure characters in other novels will consent to sex with someone they do not love (Callirhoe in Chariton, Clitopho in Achilles Tatius, Daphnis in Longus, although this last is a rather different case). Habrocomes' hesitation prepares the reader for his compliance in the matter of sleeping with Kyno. But Kyno, recognizing that if she is really to have Habrocomes she must dispose of Araxus, goes ahead and kills him into the bargain. When he learns of this deed, Habrocomes is revolted and takes to his heels. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] How did the words [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] work their way into the text at this point? A scribe saw that Kyno ended up performing two distinct acts, and felt that both must be in fulfillment of the promise she had made (perhaps he merely wrote it in the margin, and it was inserted into the text by a later copyist). Such a desire to give away a detail in advance is not atypical as a cause of interpolations. In the passage concerning Aegialeus discussed above, the manuscript reads (5.1.5): [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] Herscher, followed by Dalmeyda, proposed deleting [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], on the grounds that it was brought forward from 5.1.6: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], etc. Papanikolaou and O'Sullivan retain the phrase in 5.1.5, probably rightly, since it is answered by [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] in 5.1.6. But it is the kind of conscientious completion of sense, even where it is not wanted, that a scribe might have performed. Whatever the case in this passage, I am certain that Kyno did not explicitly tell Habrocomes that she would slay her husband as a way of luring him into her bed.


Burger, Karl. 1892. "Zu Xenophon von Ephesus." Hermes 27: 36--67.

Hagg, Tomas. 2004. Parthenope: Studies in Greek Fiction. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculum Press.

Konstan, David. 1994. Sexual Symmetry: Love in the Ancient Novel and Related Genres. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Lalanne, Sophie. 2006. Une education grecque: Rites de passage et construction des genres dans le roman grec ancien. Paris: editions la Decouverte.

O'Sullivan, James N. 1995. Xenophon of Ephesus: His Compositional Technique and the Birth of the Novel. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Reardon, Bryan P. (ed.). 1989. Collected Ancient Greek Novels. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ruiz-Montero, Consuelo. 1982. "Una interpretacion del 'estilo kai' de Jenofonte de Efeso." Emerita 50: 306--23.

(1) 'And at last we were able to take our opportunity to be alone with each other; we were both the same age, and no one was suspicious. For a long time we were together, passionately in love, until some evil spirit envied us.' (transl. G. Anderson in Reardon 1989)

(2) Xenophon employs a paratactic style with cumulative kai's (cf. Ruiz-Montero 1982), but there are no cases, I believe, where kai is clearly employed as a substitute for gar.

(3) 'But despite his silence Artaxates knew at once the source of his wound. Even before this he had had his suspicions and had seen the fire smouldering; besides, it was clear beyond any shadow of doubt that with Callirhoe there he would not have fallen in love with anyone else' (Transl. Reardon in Reardon 1989).

(4) 'but Kyno made suggestions and tried to win him over, promising to kill Araxus and make him her husband. This proposal horrified Habrocomes, and he thought hard about a number of things at once: Anthia, his oath, and the chastity that had done him so much harm in the past. Kyno kept pressing him, and at last he agreed. When night came she killed Araxus, intending to have Habrocomes as her husband, and told Habrocomes what she had done. But he could not tolerate the woman's shameless act and left the house, leaving her behind, saying that he would never sleep with a vile murderess.' (Transl. G. Anderson in Reardon 1989)

(5) O'Sullivan 1995: 102--07 indicates clearly the weaknesses of Burger's (1892) abridgement thesis in respect to the Kyno episode; see also Hagg 2004: 159--98.

(6) There are occasional inconsistencies in Xenophon's text, as O'Sullivan 1995: 90--92 points out (whether they are to be attributed to an oral style is a separate matter); but there is nothing comparable to this incoherence within the space of a few lines of text.


Brown University

David Konstan is the John Rowe Workman Distinguished Professor of Classics and the Humanisitic Tradition, and Professor of Comparative Literature, at Brown University. Among his publications are Sexual Symmetry: Love in the Ancient Novel and Related Genres (1994), and The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature (2006).
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Author:Konstan, David
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Date:Jan 1, 2007
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