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Merchant’s Road Toward the Utopia in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica

  • Juan Pablo Sanchez Hernandez (a1)


Heliodorus’ Aethiopica narrates the adventurous journey of a couple through Egypt to the kingdom of Meroe in Ethiopia where they get married. To increase the plausibility of this story Heliodorus uses his knowledge of Rome’s trade activities in the East and he even introduces some characters involved in trade ventures in those regions (e.g. Nausicles) at crucial moments of its development. On the other hand, Heliodorus’ references to luxurious products of Eastern and African origin, as well as to exotic animals or tribes, are recurring elements (or leitmotifs) that are consciously interspersed throughout the novel. Those references not only serve to unify a carefully planned plot and guide the reader to an intended conclusion, but also to map the idealised Ethiopia and its neighboring subjected regions (inhabited by some fantastic tribes), where the protagonists will eventually live.



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1 Text: Bekker, I. (ed.), Heliodori Aethiopicorum libri decem (Leipzig 1885); Colonna, A. (ed.), Aethiopica (Rome 1938). Translation: Morgan, J. P. in B. Reardon, (ed.), Ancient Greek Novels (Berkeley, CA 2008 2) 349-588 . General overviews: Morgan, J. P., ‘Heliodorus’, in G. Schmeling (ed.), The Novel in the Ancient World (Boston, MA 1996) 417-456 ; Holzberg, N., The Ancient Novel: An Introduction (London 2005 2) 74-79 ; Pinheiro, M. Futre, ‘Heliodorus, the Ethiopian Story’, in E. Cueva and S. Byrne (eds.), A Companion to the Ancient Novel (Malden, MA 2014) 76-94 . See also Hunter, R. (ed.), Studies in Heliodorus (Cambridge 1998).

2 On Heliodorus’ literary sources, see generally Feuillatre, É., Études sur les Éthiopiques d’Héliodore (Paris 1966) and, more specifically, Elmer, D., ‘Heliodoros’s “Sources”: Intertextuality, Paternity, and the Nile River in the Aithiopika ’, TAPhA 138 (2008) 411-450 .

3 Heliod. Aeth. 1.9.1-17.6, 2.8.4-10.4. See Oudot, E., ‘Images d’Athènes dans les romans grecs’, in M.-F. Baslez, P. Hoffmann, and M. Trédé, (eds.), Le monde du roman grec: Actes du colloque international tenue à l’École normale supérieure. Paris 17-19 décembre 1987 (Paris 1992) 101-111 .

4 Heliod. Aeth. 2.33.1-4.21.3. See Pouilloux, J., ‘Delphes dans les Éthiopiques d’Héliodore: la realité dans la fiction’, Journal des Savants 4 (1983) 259-286 ; G. Rougemont ‘Delphes chez Héliodore’, in Le monde du roman grec (n.3) 93-9.

5 Heliod. Aeth. 2.27.3: καὶ συνελόντι τῶν κατ´ Αἴγυπτον ἓν οὐδὲν ἀπελίμπανον ἱστοροῦντες· Αἰγύπτιον γὰρ ἄκουσμα καὶ διήγημα πᾶν Ἑλληνικῆς ἀκοῆς ἐπαγωγότατον. On the symbolic role of Calasiris, see Winkler, J. J., ‘The Mendacity of Kalasiris and the Narrative Strategy of Heliodorus’ Aethiopika’, YCIS 27 (1982) 93-157 ; Futre-Pinheiro, M., ‘Calasiris’ Story and Its Narrative Significance in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica ’, in H. Hofmann (ed.), Groningen Colloquia on the Novel 4 (Groningen 1991) 69-83 ; Baumbach, M., ‘An Egyptian Priest in Delphi: Kalasiris as Theios Aner in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica ’, in B. Dignas and K. Trampedach (eds.), Practitioners of the Divine: Greek Priests and Religious Officials from Homer to Heliodorus (Washington, DC 2008) 167-183 .

6 Memnon features prominently in the Ethiopian pantheon in Heliodorus’ novel: Heliod. Aeth. 4.8.3 and 10.6.3. The famous statue at Thebes of ‘Memnon’ was actually King Amenophis III: Strab. 17.1.46; Dio Chrys. 31.44; Paus. 1.42.3; Philostr. VA 6.4; Her. 3.4.

7 Heliod. Aeth. 2.29.5: καθ’ ἱστορίαν τῶν καταρρακτῶν τοῦ Νείλου (for further references to the Nile in Heliodorus, see 2.27.3, 2.28.2, 2.29.5, 9.22.2-7). On Egypt as a tourist destination in antiquity (especially in Roman times), see Foertmeyer, V. A., Tourism in Greco-Roman Egypt (Princeton 1989) and Casson, L., Travel in the Ancient World (Baltimore, MD 1994) 115-127 , 163-218.

8 See Vasunia, P., The Gift of the Nile: Hellenizing Egypt from Aeschylus to Alexander (Berkeley, CA 2001).

9 For Egypt in the novel as a place of religious and natural wonders, see D. Bonneau, ‘Les realia du paysage égyptien dans le roman grec: remarques lexicographiques’, in Le monde du roman grec (n.3) 213-19; Plazenet, L., ‘Le Nil et son delta dans les romans grecs’, Phoenix 49 (1995) 5-22 ; Nimis, S., ‘Egypt in Greco-Roman History and Fiction’, Alif 24 (2004) 34-67 ; Holzberg, N., ‘Egypt in the Greek Novel’, A&A 59 (2013) 112-124 . For Heliodorus specifically, see P. Cauderlier, ‘Réalités égyptiennes chez Héliodore’, in Le monde du roman grec (n.3) 221-31; Jones, M., ‘The Wisdom of Egypt: Base and Heavenly Magic in Heliodoros’ Aithiopika ’, AN 4 (2005) 79-98 .

10 Richter, D. S., Imagining Community in Late Classical Athens and the Early Roman Empire (Oxford 2011) 177-206 .

11 Whitmarsh, T., ‘The Birth of a Prodigy: Heliodorus and the Genealogy of Hellenism’, in Studies in Heliodorus (n.1) 93-124 .

12 Schneider, P., L’Ethiopie et l’Inde: interférences et confusion aux extremités du monde antique (Paris 2004).

13 On these trade routes, see Young, G. K., Rome’s Eastern Trade: International Commerce and Imperial Policy 31 bc-ad 305 (London 2001); McLaughlin, R., Rome and the Distant East: Trade Routes to the Ancient Lands of Arabia, India and China (London 2010) and The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean: Rome’s Dealings with the Ancient Kingdoms of India, Africa and Arabia (Barnsley 2014). For land routes in Egypt, see also Jackson, R., At Empire’s Edge: Exploring Rome’s Egyptian Frontier (New Haven, CT 2002) and Adams, C., Land Transport in Roman Egypt: A Study of Economics and Administration in a Roman Province (Oxford 2007). On Berenike Troglodytica and Myos Hormos, some of the most active Red Sea ports, see Peacock, D. and L. Blue (eds.), Myos Hormos-Quseir al-Qadim: Roman and Islamic Ports on the Red Sea (Oxford 2006); Sidebotham, S., Berenike and the Ancient Maritime Spice Route (Berkeley, CA 2011)

14 R. W. Groves, ‘Cross-Language Communication in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica’ (PhD thesis, UCLA 2012). See also generally S. Saïd, ‘Les langues du roman grec’, in Le monde du roman grec (n.3) 169-86.

15 A. M. Scarcella, ‘The Social and Economic Structures of the Ancient Novels’, in The Novel in the Ancient World (n.1) 221-76.

16 Labelled as such by Barthes in his essay, ‘The ‘Reality Effect’: see Barthes, R., The Rustle of Language (New York, NY 1986) 141-148 .

17 Whitmarsh, T., Narrative and Identity in the Ancient Greek Novel: Returning Romance (Cambridge 2011) 119-120 (‘the template for a Conrad-esque sense of journey and destination’).

18 See Whitmarsh, T., ‘The Writes of Passage: Cultural Initiation in Heliodorus’, in R. Miles (ed.), Constructing Identities in Late Antiquity (London 1999) 16-40 .

19 On this so-called ‘rhetoric of excess’, see the recent discussion in M. Cobb, ‘The Reception and Consumption of Eastern Goods in Roman Society’, G&R 60 (2013) 136-52.

20 The informants Septimius Flaccus and Maternus in Ethiopia: Ptol. Geog. 1.8, 10-11. See Berggren, L. J. and A. Jones, Ptolemy’s Geography: An Annotated Translation of the Theoretical Chapters (Princeton, NJ 2000) 67-72 , 145-7.

21 L. Casson, The Periplus Maris Erythraei (Princeton, NJ 1989).

22 See Strab. 15.1.2 and Ptol. Geog. 1. 11.7-8.

23 As claimed by Pliny (HN 12.42).

24 Tac. Ann. 6.28; Plin. HN 10.2.5 (= Hdt. 2.73). We also have records of the capture of a ‘hippocentaur’ on a high mountain in Arabia which was embalmed in Egypt and put on display in the imperial palace at Rome: Plin. HN 7.3.35.

25 Heliod. Aeth. 2.30.2: φύλλα τινά σε καὶ ῥίζας … τῶν Ἰνδικῶν καὶ Αἰθιοπικῶν καὶ Αἰγυπτίων.

26 Heliod. Aeth. 2.30.2: ὄψει μὲν… ὅπως δὲ μὴ μικρόλογος ἔσῃ περὶ τὴν ἀγοράν.

27 Heliod. Aeth. 2.30.2: μὴ βαρύτιμον εἶναι περὶ τὴν διάπρασιν.

28 Heliod. Aeth. 2.30.4: ἕτερον δῶρον … πολὺ τούτων ἐριτιμότερον.

29 Coptus as a common emporium (πόλιν κοινὴν) shared by Egyptians and Arabs: Strab. 17.1.44-45; Plin. HN 5.60; Ael. Arist. 36.115. For the central role of Coptus in the Egyptian transport network, even in the 4th century CE (see Amm. Marc. 22.16.2), see Ballet, P. (ed.), Coptos l’Egypte Antique aux Portes du Desert (Paris-Lyon 2000); Boussac, M.-F. et al. (eds.), Autour de Coptos: Actes du Colloque Organisé au Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon (Lyon 2002).

30 Philostr. VA 6.2: χρυσῷ τε ἀσήμῳ … καὶ λίνῳ καὶ ἐλέφαντι καὶ ῥίζαις καὶ μύρῳ καὶ ἀρώμασιν. For Hiera-Sykaminos, see Török, L., The Kingdom of Kush: Handbook of the Napatan-Meroitic Civilization (Leiden 1997) 409-531 and especially Török, L., Between Two Worlds: The Frontier Region Between Ancient Nubia and Egypt, 3700 bc-ad 500 (Leiden 2009) 7-22, 377-513 .

31 Heliod. Aeth. 4.16.6: … πλεῖν δὲ ἐπὶ Καρχηδόνα τὴν Λιβύων, ὁλκάδα μυριοφόρον Ἰνδικῶν τε καὶ Αἰθιοπικῶν καὶ τῶν ἐκ Φοινίκης ἀγωγίμων φέροντες. Phoenicians and Phoenician items in Heliodorus: Heliod. Aeth. 4.16.3-10, 17.1, 5.17.1, 18.2-3, 19.1-3, 27.9, 29.2, 7.19.5, 10.41.3. For the image of the Phoenicians in the novel, see also F. Briquel-Chatonnet, ‘L’image des Phéniciens dans les romans grecs’, in Le monde du roman grec (n.3) 189-97.

32 Heliod. Aeth. 5.18.2: Φοινίκιον τὸ φιλοτέχνημα.

33 Heliod. Aeth. 5.19.1-2: ὡς τοῦ πλείονος φόρτου τῶν ἀγωγίμων δεσπόζοι, χρυσοῦ τε ὄντων καὶ λίθων πολυταλάντων καὶ σηρικῆς ἐσθῆτος.

34 Hall, L. J., Roman Berytus: Beirut in Late Antiquity (London 2004) 21-44 , 218-36. On Tyre, see Jidejian, N., Tyre through the Ages (Beirut 1969); Joukowsky, M. S. (ed.), The Heritage of Tyre: Essays in the History, Archaeology, and Preservation of Tyre (Dubuque, IA 1992).

35 Heliod. Aeth. 10.41.8: ἀνὴρ Φοῖνιξ Ἐμισηνός. See E. Bowie, ‘Phoenician Games in Heliodorus’ Aithiopika’, in Studies in Heliodorus (n.1) 1-18, esp. 9-10.

36 See Möller, A., Naukratis: Archaic Trade in Egypt (Oxford 2001).

37 Heliod. Aeth. 2.24: ὅτι αὐτὴν καὶ βασιλεῖ τῶν Αἰθιόπων ἀπάξειν ἔμελλεν ὡς αὐτὸς ἔφασκε γαμετῇ τῇ ἐκείνου συμπαιστρίαν καὶ συνόμιλον τὰ Ἑλλήνων ἐσομένην. For Nausicles see Heliod. Aeth. 2.8.5, 2.12.2, 2.23.8-24.3, 5.1.5-7, 5.2.4, 5.8.2-13.2, 5.15.1-16.5, 5.33.3-5, 6.1.1-11.2.

38 Plin. HN 6.34. PME 13 also mentions slaves in the markets of Opone being sent to Egypt.

39 The Coptos Tariff (OGIS 674.16-17) records the hefty fees that were levied on prostitutes bound for the Red Sea ports. Females slaves, concubines, and slave musicians were sold in Indian and African ports in Roman times: PME 24, 31, 49.

40 Several centuries earlier, the Greek explorer Eudoxus of Cyzicus, on his third trip to India, also took along a supply of young slave musicians: Strab. 2.99.

41 Heliod. Aeth. 5.14.1: τοιαύτη μὲν καὶ πᾶσα ἐξ Ἰνδῶν τε καὶ Αἰθιόπων ἀμέθυσος.

42 V. E. Ciocani, ‘Virginity and Representation in the Greek Novel and Early Greek Poetry’ (PhD thesis, Toronto 2013) 228-37.

43 On this amethyst and the scene engraved on it as a reference to Longus, see Bowie, E., ‘Names and a Gem: Aspects of Allusion in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica ’, in D. Innes (ed.), Ethics and Rhetoric: Classical Essays for Donald Russell on his Seventy-Fifth Birthday (Oxford 1995) 269-280 ; E. M. Rush, ‘Writing Gems: Ekphrastic Description and Precious Stones in Hellenistic Epigrams and Later Greek Prose’ (PhD thesis, UCLA 2012) 88-96.

44 Heliod. Aeth. 1.3.2: χρυσοῦ δὲ καὶ ἀργύρου καὶ λίθων πολυτίμων καὶ σηρικῆς ἐσθῆτος.

45 The βούκολοι, who feature at the beginning of the Aethiopica, actually revolted against Rome in 172 ce: Heliod. Aeth. 1.5-6, 2.2.1; Ach. Tat. 3.9 and 4.7-18 = Dio Cass. 72.4.1-2; SHA Marc. 21.2; Avid. Cass. 6.7. See G. Bowersock, Fiction and History (Berkeley, CA 1997) 51-3. For the βούκολοι, see also Alston, R., ‘The Revolt of the Boukoloi: Geography, History and Myth’, in K. Hopwood (ed.), Organized Crime in Antiquity (London 1999) 129-153 ; Rutherford, I., ‘The Genealogy of the “Boukoloi”: How Greek Literature Appropriated an Egyptian Narrative-Motif’, JHS 120 (2000) 106-121 . See also Dowden, K., ‘“But There Is a Difference in the End...”: Brigands and Teleology in the Ancient Novel’, in M. Paschalis and S. Panayiotakis (eds.), The Construction of the Real and the Ideal in the Ancient Novel (Groningen 2013) 41-59 .

46 Heliod. Aeth. 1.22.3: Ὁλκὰς οὖν ἐπληροῦτο χρυσοῦ τε καὶ ἀργύρου καὶ ἐσθήτων.

47 Heliod. Aeth. 2.17.2: χρυσοῦ μὲν καὶ ἀργύρου καὶ ἐσθῆτος ἀφθονία.

48 Heliod. Aeth. 5.31.2: δάφνης τε φέρουσαν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς στέφανον καὶ χρυσοϋφεῖ στολῇ καταυγάζουσαν.

49 Heliod. Aeth. 7.3.2: … ὑπὸ ἁλουργοῖς καὶ χρυσοϋφέσι παραπετάσμασιν.

50 Heliod. Aeth. 7.2.1: ἡδονῆς παρανόμου καὶ ἀκρατοῦς ἐλάττων. Her husband, the satrap Oroöndates, can also be proud (Heliod. Aeth. 8.2.1, 8.3.1) and inwardly evil (Heliod. Aeth. 9.10.2).

51 Heliod. Aeth. 7.27.1: … στρεπτοῖς τε χρυσοῖς καὶ περιαυχενίοις λιθοκολλήτοις. See also Heliod. Aeth. 7.8.6, 18.1, 19.1, 19.4. The eunuch of Artaxerxes tries to impress Callirhoe with the king’s wealth in Charito 6.5. See. M.-F. Baslez, ‘De l’histoire au roman: la Perse du Chariton’, in Le monde du roman grec (n.3) 199-212. The Persian king Cambyses brings the same presents to the Ethiopians through the agency of the tribe of the Ichthyophagi (‘fish-eaters’): Hdt. 3.20.

52 On the significance of this episode, as counterbalancing Cnemon’s story in Athens, see Morgan, J. R., ‘The Story of Knemon in Heliodoros’ Aithiopika ’, JHS 109 (1989) 99-113 and especially Papadimitripoulos, L., ‘Love and Reinstatement of the Self in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica ’, G&R 60 (2013) 101-113 .

53 Heliod. Aeth. 9.24.1: ἡμῶν δὲ οὐ χρυσὸς οὐ λίθοι τὰ λάφυρα, πρᾶγμα κατ’ Αἰθιοπίαν εὔωνον καὶ σωρηδὸν ἐν τοῖς βασιλείοις ἀποκείμενον.

54 As described in Heliod. Aeth. 10.5.2.

55 For a general introduction to the genre, see N. Holzberg, ‘Utopias and Fantastic Travel: Euhemerus and Iambulus’, in The Novel in the Ancient World (n.1) 621-8. Specifically on utopian novels as models for Heliodorus’ Meroe, see Alvarès, J., ‘Utopian Themes in Three Novels’, AN 2 (2002) 1-29 , esp. 16-21; Futre Pinheiro, M., ‘Utopia and Utopias: A Study on a Literary Genre in Antiquity’, in G. L. Schmeling et al. (eds.), Authors, Authority, and Interpreters in the Ancient Novel (Groningen 2006) 147-171 , esp. 159-64. See also generally Ferguson, J., Utopias of the Classical World (London 1975) and Romm, J., The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought (Princeton, NJ 1994).

56 See Török, L., Herodotus in Nubia (Leiden 2014).

57 Cf. the case of the gymnosophists depicted after the philosophers who inhabited India and Ethiopia. See Robiano, P., ‘Les gymnosophistes éthiopiens chez Philostrate et Héliodore’, REA 94 (1992) 413-428 ; Morgan, J. R., ‘The Emesan Connection’, in K. Demoen and D. Praet (eds.), Theios Sophistes: Essays on Flavius Philostratus’ Vita Apollonii (Leiden 2009) 263-282 .

58 See Morgan, J. R., ‘History, Romance, and Realism in the Aithiopika of Heliodorus’, ClAnt 1 (1982) 221-265 . On Heliodorus as a source to illuminate Ethiopian history and society, see also Marengo, S. M., ‘L’Etiopia nel romanzo di Eliodoro’, in P. Janni and E. Lanzilotta (eds.), ΓΕΩΓΡΑΦΙΑ: Atti del secondo convengno maceratese du Geographia e cartografia antica. Macerata, 16-17 aprile 1985 (Rome 1988) 105-120 ; R. Lonis, ‘Les Éthiopiens sous le regard d’Héliodore’, in Le monde du roman grec (n.3) 233-41; Hägg, T., ‘The Black Land of the Sun: Meroe in Heliodorus’ Romantic Fiction’, in L. B. Mortersen and E. Tormod (eds.), Parthenope: Selected Studies in Ancient Greek Fiction (Copenhagen 2004) 345-375 ; Morgan, J. R., ‘Le blanc et le noir: perspectives païennes et chrétiennes sur l’Éthiopie d’Héliodore’, in B. Pouderon (ed.), Lieux, décors et paysages de l’ancien roman des origines à Byzance: actes du 2 e colloque de Tours, 24-26 octobre 2002 (Lyon 2005) 309-318 ; J. Ndione, Les Éthiopiques d’Héliodore: document historiques ou fiction romanesque (PhD thesis, Nancy 2008).

59 We can recall the example of the first great Ethiopian king, Ergamenes, a contemporary of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who received a Greek education (Diod. 3.6.3). Zoskales, ruler of Axum during the 1st century ce, was also well versed in Greek and even had some command of Latin (PME 5-6). On the Hellenisation of Meroe, see Desanges, J., ‘L’Hellenisme dans le royaume de Méroë’, Graeco-Arabica 2 (1983) 275-296 ; Burstein, S. M., ‘The Hellenistic Fringe: The Case of Meroë’, in P. Green (ed.), Hellenistic History and Culture (Berkeley 1993) 38-54 ; Wildung, D., ‘Meroe and Hellenism’, in D. Wildung (ed.), Sudan: Ancient Kingdom of the Nile (Paris 1997), 370-380 ; Burstein, S. M., ‘When Greek Was an African Language: The Role of Greek Culture in Ancient and Medieval Nubia’, Journal of World History 19 (2008) 41-61 , esp. 41-9. For the material culture, see L. Török, Hellenizing Art in Ancient Nubia 300 bc-ad 250 and Its Egyptian Models: A Study of ‘Acculturation’ (Leiden 2011).

60 See Desanges, J., Recherches sur l’activité des mediterranéens aux confins de l’Afrique (Rome 1978) and Haaland, R., ‘The Meroitic Empire: Trade and Cultural Influences in an Indian Ocean Context’, African Archaeological Review 31 (2014) 649-673 .

61 See further Hansen, W., ‘Strategies of Authentication in Ancient Popular Literature’, in S. Panayiotakis, M. Zimmerman, and W. Keulen (eds.), The Ancient Novel and Beyond (Leiden 2003) 301-314 .

62 Chinese silk: ταινία τις ἀπὸ σηρικοῦ νήματος… (Heliod. Aeth. 2.31.2).

63 Ethiopian letters: γράμμασιν Αἰθιοπικοῖς (Heliod. Aeth. 4.8.1).

64 For references to the silk waistband, see Heliod. Aeth. 2.31.2-4, 4.8.1-8, 4.11.3-4, 8.11.9, 10.13.1-14.7.

65 Secret virtues: ἀπορρήτῳ δυνάμει… καθιερωμένον (Heliod. Aeth. 4.8.7).

66 Holy letters: γράμμασι δὲ ἱεροῖς τισιν ἀνάγραπτος (Heliod. Aeth. 8.11.8).

67 The pantarba in action: Heliod. Aeth. 8.9.6-16 and 8.11.2-8.

68 Heliod. Aeth. 2.32.2: … ἐπέταττεν ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν σμαραγδείων μετάλλων ὡς Αἰθιοπίᾳ προσηκόντων. We know that Ethiopian representatives came to Egypt (Diod. Sic. 3.11.3; Aristid. Or. 36.35) and were also among the learned audiences of the lecture halls of Alexandria (Dio Chrys. 32.3). From the inscriptions of the Isis temple at Philae, we also know of another Ethiopian embassy. See B.G. Haycock, ‘The Foreign Relations of the Napatan-Meroitic Kingdom in the Sudan from the 8th Century b.c. to the 4th Century a.d’. (PhD thesis, Durham 1965) 112-34.

69 The conflict over the emerald mines: Heliod. Aeth. 2.32.2, 8.1.1-3, 9.6.5, 9.26.2-3, 10.11.1.

70 The Σμάραγδος ὄρος / Smaragdus mons (‘Emerald Mountain’) was at a distance of a 25-day journey from Coptos and not far from Berenike: Plin. HN 37.69; Ptol. Geog. 4.5.15; OGIS 717 (Inscription at Edfou-Apollonopolis Magna). See further A. V Maxfield and D. P. S. Peacock (eds.), Mons Claudianus 1987-1993, Survey and Excavations, vol. 2: Excavations, Part I (Cairo 2001); Peacock, D. P. S. and A. V. Maxfield (eds.), The Roman Imperial Quarries: Survey and Excavation at Mons Porphyrites 1994-1998 , vol. 2: The Excavations (London 2007).

71 See specifically J. R. Morgan (n.58) 246 and n.105.

72 In spite of the Roman forts constructed in this region and the troops stationed there. See S. E. Sidebotham, A. M. Hense, and H. M. Nouwens, The Red Land: The Illustrated Archaeology of Egypt’s Eastern Desert (Cairo 2008).

73 The emperors Aurelian (ad 270-275) and Probus (ad 276-282), after their campaigns in Egypt, exhibited the Blemmyes (or Beja) in their triumphal processions in Rome in 274 and 280 ce respectively: SHA Aurel. 33.4 and 41.10; Prob. 17.2-3 and 19.2. See Török, R. L., (1984) ‘A Contribution to Post-Meroitic Chronology: The Blemmyes in Lower Nubia’, RSO 58 (1984) 201-243 ; T. Updegraff, ‘The Blemmyes I: The Rise of the Blemmyes and the Roman Withdrawal from Nubia under Diocletian’, ANRW 2.10.1 (Berlin 1988) 44-106; Browne, G. M., ‘Blemmyes and Beja’, CR 54 (2004) 226-228 .

74 For the Troglodytes, see Strab. 16.4.4-5 and Plin. HN 6.33.163-6.34.176. On the problems posed by them in Roman times, see H. Cuvigny, Ostraca de Krokodilô: La correspondance militaire et sa circulation (O. Krok. 1-151). Praesidia du désert de Bérénice II (Cairo 2005).

75 See Heliod. Aeth. 10.5.2 (elephant training grounds), 9.16.2, 17.1-2, 18.3-7, 22.2-3 (elephants in battle formation), 10.25.2 (an old elephant, gift of Hydaspes). The Trogodytic country and the border area with Ethiopia were first explored in search of elephants during the Ptolemaic period. See Casson, L., ‘Ptolemy II and the Hunting of African Elephants’, TAPhA 123 (1993), 247-260 ; Burstein, S. M., ‘Elephants for Ptolemy II: Ptolemaic Policy in Nubia in the Third Century bc ’, in P. McKechnie and P. Guillaume (eds.), Ptolemy II Philadelphus and His World (Leiden 2008) 135-148 ; Nadig, P., ‘Hunting for Elephants: How the Ptolemies Kept Up with the Seleucids’, Archaiognosia 16 (2010-2012) 71-84 ; Cobb, M., ‘The Decline of Ptolemaic Elephant Hunting: Analysis of the Contributory Factors’, G&R 63 (2016) 192-204 .

76 Heliodorus may also rely here on Herodotus: Heliod. Aeth. 10.26.2 = Hdt. 3.102-105 (ant-gold from India and Ethiopia); Heliod. Aeth. 10.26.2 = Hdt. 3.116.1, 4.13.1, 4.27.1 (Griffin). On the legend of the gold-digging ants, see P. Li Causi and R. Pomelli, ‘L’India, l’oro, le formiche: storia di una rappresentazione culturale da Erodoto a Dione di Prusa’, Hormos 3-4 (2001-2002) 177-246.

77 The Axumites were also paraded in the triumphs of Aurelian and Probus. See G. Bowersock, ‘The Aethiopica of Heliodorus and the Historia Augusta’, in G. Bonamente and F. Paschoud (eds.), Historiae Augustae Colloquia n.s. 2: Colloquium Genevense 1991 (Bari 1994) 42-52.

78 Heliod. Aeth. 10.27.1: φόρου μὲν οὐκ ὄντες ὑποτελεῖς, φίλιοι δὲ ἄλλως καὶ ὑπόσπονδοι. For the rise of the kingdom of Aksum, see Bowersock, G., The Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars on the Eve of Islam (Oxford 2013). For the commercial relations and military conflicts between Axum and Meroe, see Hatke, G., Aksum and Nubia: Warfare, Commerce, and Political Fictions in Ancient Northeast Africa (New York, NY 2013).

79 Pliny (HN 8.27.69) reports that the giraffe was first seen in Rome on the occasion of the games offered by Caesar in 46 bce. Giraffes also featured in Aurelian’s triumph of 273 ce: SHA Aurel. 33.4. See P. L. Gatier, ‘Des girafes pour l’empereur’, Topoi 6 (1996) 903-41.

80 Heliod. Aeth. 9.16.2, 9.19.2, 9.19.3 (οἱ τῆς κινναμωμοφόρου).

81 Heliod. Aeth. 10.26.1: οἱ Ἀράβων τῶν εὐδαιμόνων (Arabia Felix).

82 Heliod. Aeth. 10.26.1: … φύλλου τε τοῦ θυώδους καὶ κασίας καὶ κινναμώμου καὶ τῶν ἄλλων οἷς ἡ Ἀραβία γῆ μυρίζεται.

83 See G. Bowersock, Roman Arabia (Cambridge, MA 19942); A. De Maigret, Arabia Felix: An Exploration of the Archaeological History of Yemen (London 2002). On the spice trade, see J. I. Miller, The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire 29 b.c. to a.d. 641 (Oxford 1969); F. De Romanis, Cassia, Cardamomo, Ossidiana (Rome 1996).

84 Heliod. Aeth. 10.25.8: οἱ Σηρῶν… πρεσβευταί. Silk was usually dyed in bright colours: Plin. HN 21.11. For the word φοινικοβάφης (‘dyed in purple’), see also Heliod. Aeth. 3.3.5 and Philostr. Ep. 3.36.

85 Verg. G. 2.121; Plin. HN 6.54; Sen. Her. O. 667.

86 Heliod. Aeth. 10.25.8: τῶν παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς ἀραχνίων νήματα … = Paus. 6.26.6-7 and Philostr. Imag. 2.28. For the use of oral sources in the discussion on the origin of silk, see J. P. Sánchez Hernández, ‘Pausanias and Rome’s Eastern Trade’, Mnemosyne 69 (2016) 955-77.

87 For ‘Ethiopian’ or dark-skinned Chinese, see Ov. Am. 1.14.6; Luc. 10.291-2; Paus. 6.26.9. Other ancient travellers described the Chinese merchants as having blue eyes and red hair (Plin. HN 6.23), but these accounts probably referred to Tocharian merchants coming to India via Xinjiang: cf. B. Sergents, ‘Les Seres sont les soi-disant “Tokhariens”, c’est à dire les authentiques Arsi’Kuchi’, DHA 24 (1998) 7-40. On the idealisation of the Chinese and their vague geographic location, see Poinsotte, J. M., ‘Les Romains et la Chine : Réalités et Mythes’, MEFRA 91 (1979) 431-479 .

88 Pausanias (6.26.9), e.g., records that some claimed that the Chinese lived on an island called Seria (ἡ Σηρία νῆσος), located next to the islands of Abasa (Ἄβασα) and Sacaea (Σακαία) in a recess of the Red Sea. A Red Sea town by the name of Sacaea is also mentioned by Pliny the Elder (HN 6.52) and in the Periplus Maris Erythraei (PME 4.1.20-1).


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