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The Role of the Gods in Daphnis and Chloe

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Submitted By kirstenllc
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In his prologue to Daphnis and Chloe, Longus refers to his four books as “a0na/qhma me\n7!Eroti kai\ Nu/mfaij kai\ Pani/” (Pr 2.3-4). Coming before any of the action of the novel, the reader asks, and for good reason, why these three gods or sets of gods? Then in the final book, Daphnis gives “a0naqh/mata…tw~| Dionu/sw|…tw~| Pani\...tai~j Nu/mfaij” (4.26.6-8). Here Dionysus has filled the place of Eros, or, as I shall argue, Dionysus represents the same universal force as Eros in the earlier books. These divinities, Eros/Dionysus, Pan, and the Nymphs, directly influence the lives of the titular protagonists. Their influence serves different purposes depending on what the situation calls for, but, overall, the influences could be labeled as such: Eros/Dionysus controls their lives, the Nymphs nurture the youths, and Pan enflames their passion.
In many Greek novels, Eros functions as a stock figure, “not much more than a convenient method of setting [the] plot in motion” (Turner 119). Critics have heavily studied the role of Eros in this novel, and many find that the text of Daphnis and Chloe can be seen as an introductory text for syncretic monotheistic religions, specifically that of Orphic Dionysus. This argument holds valid, yet, I think, over reads the text, and Chalk admits as an introductory text, it is merely “allusive” and not clearly instructive (36). Philetas certainly describes the “cosmic Eros” found in Hesiod’s Theognis in his interaction with Eros in his garden, but overall that Eros functions better for the book’s aim than the Eros subordinated to Aphrodite (Chalk 35). Epstein argues, and I agree, that Longus uses this Eros because he represents the link between animals, humans, and the divine, which is, in fact, the Platonic Eros (37 n.36). In light of this, the pastoral setting becomes a reflection of Eros himself and his power.
The nature god Eros…...

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