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Notes on the Online Edition
of the Æthiopica by Heliodorus

This tale, The Æthiopica, is considered by some, to be the world's first full length adventure novel in prose that has been preserved in its entirety. It was written by Heliodorus about the third century A. D.

Happily, it was translated into English. Thomas Underdowne translated it in 1587 and F. A. Wright revised and partly rewrote it, correcting the larger errors in translation in the 19th century.

Underdowne added titles to the books, which are listed in the contents and, as was typical when he wrote, gave the details of that portion of the plot, which nowadays we would call spoilers. So ignore the Contents and go straight to Chapter I after reading the Introduction, if suspense and surprise are an important part of your reading experience.

This text, although revised, still contains numerous typographical errors, especially in consistent punctuation usage. So some further revision has now been done in these areas alone: obvious misspellings, consistent use of commas, quotes, and apostrophes.

In two instances only, because it seemed to make far better sense, 'turns' was replaced by 'horns,' and 'instant' by insistent.' Other than that there has been no change in the language, or order of words, or the British spelling from the text. All such emendations, except for commas before and after conversational quotes when missing (a frequent omission), are noted in the source code.

This is a worthy tale, it would make a great adventure movie, and the details of the period shed a lot of light on the customs and manners of the first centuries of the Christian era. Of especial interest are:

1. A very early description of knights in shining armor (!!), lances and all, as a then current style of combat 1000 years earlier than might be expected by many of us,

2. A description of a giraffe, which apparently was unknown to many people of that time in Egypt. Heliodorus gives a detailed description of this 'beast of wonderful and rare nature,' and

3. A heroine that is admirably assertive and fully equal in talents, both mental and physical, to those of the hero. This strong, likeable heroine is presented without any hint that this was a rare description of a female, or that her talents were unexpected. The more old pre-Elizabethan literature I read, the more obvious it becomes that women were held in higher esteem and were often more liberated then than they were, and are, in 'Modern Times.'

It was a delight to add this text to Elfinspell, and I hope that you enjoy this rousing tale as well.

To read a review, of Heliodorus’ work by an important churchman of the 9th century, along with a detailed description of the plot, see Roger Pearse’s online transcription of the Bibliotheca or Myriobiblion by Photius of Constantinople here.

Because this is not an exact reproduction of the written text, and has had numerous emendations, it is not in the public domain as such. Feel free to quote small portions, with due credit, otherwise please ask permission for other purposes.

To begin, click HERE or on the NEXT button below.

S. R.


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