Historia Aethiopica […] Basel 1534
Ἡηλιόδορου Αἰθιοπικῆς ἱστορίας βίβλαια δέκα․ Heliodori Historiae Aethiopicae libri decem, nunquam antea in lucem editi. — Basel, ex Officina Hervagiana, February 1534.
Sm.-4to (190 x 140 mm). (4) leaves, 242 p., (1) Leaf printer’s mark. Some light marginal foxing to first and last leaves. Old marginalia in brown ink: corrections of the text. 18th century russia, flat spine richly gilt, both covers gilt; bottom corner of lower cover chipped, slightly rubbed along edges. – Adams H-174; Hoffmann II, 197.
¶ „…Greek writer of romance. He was the author of Aethiopica, the oldest and best of the Greek romances that have come down to us … [written in the 3rd century after Christ]. It was first brought into light in modern times in a MS. from the library of Matthias Corvinus, found at the sack of Buda (Ofen) in 1526 [now codex graecus 157 of Bayerische Staatsbibl.], and printed at Basel in 1534 … The title is taken from the fact that the action of the beginning and end of the story takes place in Aethiopia. The daughter of Persine, wife of Hydaspes, king of Aethiopia, was born white through the effect of the sight of a marble statue upon the queen during pregnancy. Fearing an accusation of adultery, the mother gives the babe to the care of Sisimithras, a gymnosophist, who carries her to Egypt and places her in charge of Charicles, a Pythian priest. The child is taken to Delphi, and made a priestess of Apollo under the name of Chariclea. Theagenes, a noble Thessalian, comes to Delphi and the two fall in love with each other. He carries off the priestess with the help of Calasiris, an Egyptian, employed by Persine to seek for her daughter. Then follow many perils from sea-rovers and others, but the chief personages ultimately meet at Meroe at the very moment when Chariclea is about to be sacrificed to the gods by her own father. Her birth is made known, and the lovers are happily married. The rapid succession of events, the variety of characters, the graphic descriptions of manners and natural scenery, the simplicity and elegance of style, give the Aethiopica great charm.“ (Enc. Brit. 11th ed.)
In the 5th century a neoplatonic commentary was published by Phillipos from Alexandria suggesting that the journey of the romance is an allegory of the soul’s path from darkness to light. The romance was translated into nearly all European languages – Hoffmann counts more then 70 editions up to 1820 -, Racine had it memorized, and Verdi has adopted parts of it for his opera Aida.