Practitioners of the Divine: Greek Priests and Religious Officials from Homer to Heliodorus

  Dignas, Beate, and Kai Trampedach, eds. 2008. Practitioners of the Divine: Greek Priests and Religious Figures from Homer to Heliodorus. Hellenic Studies Series 30. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

8. An Egyptian Priest at Delphi: Calasiris as theios anēr in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica*

Manuel Baumbach

1. The Discovery of the Priest in the Greek Novel

Let us begin with a short summary of the Aethiopica, which narrates the love story of Theagenes and Chariclea, the priestess of Artemis, in ten books. Abandoned by her Ethiopian parents, Chariclea is raised by Charicles, a priest of Apollo at Delphi. When the protagonists first meet at the sacrifices held in honor of Neoptolemus during the Pythian celebration, they fall in love and decide to flee from Delphi, as Chariclea is promised to another man. They are assisted in their plan by Calasiris, the Egyptian priest of Isis, who recognized Chariclea’s true descent by signs of identification and who wants her to return to Egypt, as it has been prophesied that she would. The trio arrive in Egypt, where Theagenes and Chariclea are separated several times and the strength of their love is put to the test. With the assistance of Calasiris and the Athenian Cnemon, whose biography is included in the novel as a kind of novella, they finally come to Memphis, where Calasiris, shortly before his death, decides the quarrel between his two sons as to which of them will succeed him as high priest. Having successfully evaded an intrigue of the Persian governor’s wife, who had fallen in love with Theagenes, the two protagonists are taken prisoner by the Ethiopian king, Hydaspes, who does not recognize Chariclea as his daughter and decides that they are to be sacrificed to Helios and Selene. This rite, however, is prevented by the anagnōrisis of Chariclea and her parents together with the local priests, the gymnosophists, who demand the abolition of human sacrifices. At the end of the novel, Theagenes and Chariclea are made priest and priestess of Helios and Selene.

2. The Poetics of Reading in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica

a) Calasiris as priest: the perception from the outside

The first time we see Calasiris through Cnemon’s eyes, we are offered an important clue to his character as a priest: his outward appearance. Cnemon meets Calasiris on his way to Chemmis, and describes him as follows:

… an old man walking aimlessly along the river bank, pacing to and fro, to and fro, beside the river, like an athlete in a long-distance race running length after length of the track, apparently confiding his cares to the river. His hair was long, like a priest’s, and pure white; his beard grew long and thick, lending him an air of dignity, while his cloak and the rest of his clothes were of a Greekish appearance. (2.21)

Cnemon can immediately identify the stranger as a priest by his long hair. Obviously, his awareness is based on his Greek knowledge of priests. Yet even apart from Cnemon’s Greek knowledge, the appearance of the hair and clothes are frequently mentioned as important characteristics of priests, who thus form a clearly defined and identifiable group, as far as their outward appearance is concerned. Hence, Heliodorus depicts the priest as a type which is easily recognizable in any context and which even surpasses national borders. [
13] Indeed, it is striking that in his first description of Calasiris through Cnemon, Heliodorus does not follow Herodotus’ well-known depiction of Egyptian priests, a near topos which nonetheless occurs frequently elsewhere in the novel, but prefers a strongly un-Herodotean image: while Herodotus writes that “everywhere else, priests of the gods wear their hair long; in Egypt they are shaven” (2.36) because of strict purification rules, [14] Heliodorus amends this representation, ascribing Greek traits to Calasiris, yet intending that he assume a certain universality. Thus, both the Greek Cnemon and Calasiris’ own estranged Egyptian sons at Memphis recognize Calasiris as a priest because of his outward appearance:

But finally the old man realized that it was his shabby appearance that was preventing his sons from recognizing him, whereupon he threw off his disguise of rags, untied his priest’s hair, cast aside the pack from his back and the staff from his hands, and confronted them, revealed in all his sacerdotal dignity. (7.7)

By establishing a type of priest whose phusis is universally recognizable, the novel not only establishes a constant which guides a Greek reader through unfamiliar terrain during the fictional journey from Greece to Egypt, [
15] but it also alerts the reader to the religious dimension: by being reminded of Calasiris’ identity as a priest, the reader is directed towards the larger religious content of the plot, which is shaped by a priest as the representative of the divine will and who therefore seems to be especially sacred. [16]

Closely related to the universal recognizability of priests is their absolute and unquestioned religious authority, which is respected equally by all nations and individuals. This applies to Egyptian robbers, who live outside of society (or the polis) and who honor Calasiris’ son, Thyamis, by inviting him to lead the group precisely because he is a priest (1.19), as well as to the people of Delphi, who allow the Egyptian priest to live on the temple site, grant him a free living at the expense of the community and honor him like one of their own priests (2.27). Likewise, a ruler such as the Ethiopian king, Hydaspes, submits to the advice of the priests; that is, his gymnosophists. In this respect, neither the origin nor the kind of priesthood is relevant. On the contrary: in the persons of the three traveling priests, Chariclea, the Ethiopian priestess of Artemis, Calasiris, the Egyptian priest of Isis, and Chaireas, the Greek priest of Apollo, the novel transgresses borders and nationalities and argues for the universality of the position of priest. Calasiris holds a preeminent position among other priests only insofar as his relationship with the gods seems to be extraordinarily close. [17] Thus, he is able to interpret a prophecy correctly upon his arrival at Delphi, which decisively strengthens his religious authority:

The authority of a priest seems to derive entirely from his religious profession, whereas neither his social nor his political position is taken into account. No political functions are ascribed to either Calasiris or Chariclea, nor are they singled out because of any notable descent—in fact, their background is scarcely mentioned; only their priesthood in the polis is important. [
19] For Heliodorus, it is the profession alone which brings honor to the individual. Thyamis can justify his forthcoming marriage to Chariclea, who is completely unknown to him, thus:

The “objective” depiction of priests serves to remind the reader of the religious dimension of the love story of Chariclea and Theagenes, who, having submitted themselves to a divine will, are constantly accompanied by priests who help to bring the divine telos, that is, the consecration of Chariclea and Theagenes as priest and priestess of Helios and Selene, to its fulfillment. Calasiris seems to be the appropriate person for this task, since he is on good terms with the gods and is able to recognize their will and to realize it. For a listener such as Cnemon, who is primarily interested in the love story of Theagenes and Chariclea, it is conceivable that his understanding of the religious element of the story is confined to the view that Chariclea and Theagenes are loved by the gods because they are priests, and that they are aided by priests who are able to interpret the divine will correctly. Yet as the story progresses, and as the reader distances himself from Cnemon, another aspect of the figure of the priest gradually comes to prevail.

b) Calasiris as philosopher: his self-perception

Let us return briefly to Cnemon’s first impression of Calasiris:

… an old man walking aimlessly along the river bank, pacing to and fro, to and fro, beside the river, like an athlete in a long-distance race running length after length of the track, apparently confiding his cares to the river. His hair was long, like a priest’s, and pure white; his beard grew long and thick, lending him an air of dignity, while his cloak and the rest of his clothes were of a Greekish appearance. (2.21)

Cnemon may not observe anything here which is particularly odd, but this figure will strike the reader as being at least a little ambivalent. The long hair, dignified beard, and Greek attire are strongly suggestive of the type of a Greek philosopher, the more so as Calasiris walks up and down the river bank like a peripatetic, [
21] pondering and lost in thought. The ambivalent significance of his outward appearance will lead the reader immediately to view Calasiris not merely as a priest but also as a philosopher. As the reader steps back from the perspective of Cnemon and more critically evaluates the latter’s account of Calasiris—and if one accepts Calasiris’ self-perception as philosopher, explorer, and wise man—this double identification will appear justified. Although at several points Calasiris mentions the close association of scholarship with the priesthood, it is scholarship in which he and the reader are especially interested. Thus he explains his journey to Delphi:

But I learned that in Greece there was a city called Delphi, sacred to Apollo but a holy place for the other gods too, a retreat where philosophers could work far from the madding crowd. Here I made my way, for it seemed to me that a town devoted to holy rites and ceremonies was a place of refuge well suited to a member of the priestly caste. (2.26)

Here, Calasiris is partly motivated by religion, but contact with philosophers proves to be the more important interest. His position in Delphi is assured by an oracle from Apollo, but he devotes only part of his time to religious activities:

In short, my happiness was complete, for I spent my time either performing holy rituals or taking part in sacrifices, which a host of people, both native and foreign, perform each and every day in great numbers and in many forms to win the god’s favour; or else in discussions with philosophers, for that type of person congregates in great numbers around the temple of the Pythian Apollo; the whole city is literally a palace of the Muses, permeated by the Apolline spirit of the god who leads them. (2.27)

In what then follows, Calasiris’ account of Delphi becomes a speech in praise of his own achievements in the fields of science, art, and philosophy. His report is revealing: after making a general statement about the Greek thirst for knowledge, [22] Calasiris claims that many people came in order to learn something about unfamiliar, Egyptian religious customs; he apparently declines, however, to elaborate further on this subject. Instead, he gives Cnemon and the reader but a hint of his learning. Thus, through the medium of Calasiris’ audience within the novel, the reader’s curiosity to learn more about Egyptian religion is aroused—only to be disappointed. Calasiris tells us something about the flooding of the Nile (whereby, for the Greek reader, the Herodotean question about the true reasons for the flooding is finally answered by an Egyptian priest), [23] and we learn that Homer was actually of Egyptian descent (3.14). However, even if the religious customs of Egypt are of interest to the Delphian audience which is ostensibly questioning Calasiris, for Heliodorus’ reader, they cannot be. The focus on religion deliberately fades, since the only religious festival that Calasiris tells Cnemon and his (Greek) readers about is not an Egyptian but a Greek rite, namely, the popular and well-known Pythian ceremony. In this way, Calasiris directs attention away from himself as priest, and towards the scholar and philosopher that he desires to be regarded as. It could almost be said that Calasiris, the priest, is merely a facade for Calasiris, the scholar, who, moreover, seems to dissociate himself verbally from the circle of Egyptian priests by betraying their secret knowledge:

And so the days passed, until one day one of the more sophisticated ones started to question me about the Nile: what are its sources, what unique power does it have that makes it so different from other rivers, and how is it that, unlike all others, it floods in the summer? I told him everything I knew, all that is recorded about this river in sacred texts, things of which none but members of the priestly caste may read and learn. (2.28)

Emphasizing the close—and for an Egyptian priest, typical—connection between priesthood and scholarship, Calasiris at the same time undermines this relation by revealing fragments of secret knowledge known only to priests, thereby violating their group identity. The longer we listen to Calasiris, the weaker becomes the religious aura that surrounded the priest of Isis at the beginning of the novel and in the portrayal of him by Cnemon. Moreover, in the course of his story (and his transformation into a scholar), Calasiris does not merely qualify his earlier claim to priestly divine inspiration by classifying science as an art of prognostication; [
24] in fact, the strongest proof of his own divinity, the correct interpretation of the oracle for Theagenes and Chariclea (a riddle that nobody in Delphi, not even the local oracle priest, could solve), turns out to be nothing more than the crafty invention of a clever man with sufficient experience in life to unravel the prediction without the aid of the gods. [25]

In short, it proves misleading to look at the Egyptian priest through Cnemon’s Greek spectacles, so to speak, and to regard Calasiris as if he were a Greek priest, who would perform cult rituals for a certain deity and thus might have a particularly close relationship to the god he represents. On the contrary, Calasiris is not to be associated with any single divinity. He is a universal priest who can be called in anywhere, and who can therefore also participate in sacrificial ceremonies for Apollo in Delphi:

In short, my happiness was complete, for I spent my time either performing holy rituals or taking part in sacrifices. (2.27)

In this respect, the comparison between Calasiris and Charicles is illuminating, since Charicles is expressly presented as a Greek priest. He is associated with only one deity (Apollo) and one sanctuary (Delphi), performing the rituals there as they are prescribed. He has not received any special education, which was neither characteristic of nor a precondition for a Greek priesthood. [
26] Schooling, however, becomes the most important criterion of a priest, especially in a novel which abandons all other features which would distinguish a priest. Hence, apart from providing the opportunity to witness the activity of an Egyptian priest in Greece, the confrontation between Charicles, the typical priest, and Calasiris, who is independent of both place and cult, encourages the reader to question familiar notions of the Greek priest and to look at him through Egyptian spectacles, from the point of view of Calasiris, for whom education is the main criterion even for priests. In this respect, two points are particularly interesting.

c) Calasiris as theios anēr: the reader’s perception

When we compare this figure with Heliodorus’ representation of Calasiris, there are several points of contact. In its content, Calasiris’ story displays an impressive number of references to Plato, [35] by means of which he is made to resemble Plato. [36] Calasiris is also directly associated with the prototypes of the divine man. Charicles, for example, notices at a festival that Calasiris does not drink wine, which is explained as follows: “He does not drink wine nor eat any creature that is endowed with a soul” (3.11). When Theagenes asks for the reason, Charicles answers: “He comes from Memphis, in Egypt, where he is a high priest of Isis” (3.11). The refusal to eat meat because of its origin is a characteristic feature of a Pythagorean, whose way of life forms a model for the divine man of the third century AD. [37] In spite of the frequent use of Herodotus in the novel, Charicles, in his ignorance, supposes Calasiris’ practice to be an Egyptian peculiarity. [38] Calasiris’ strict rejection of magic is emphasized repeatedly, and is articulated in his distinction between true wisdom (alēthos sophia) and common wisdom (dēmodēs sophia), [39] a distinction which is typical of a theios anēr . As Charicles urges him to bewitch Chariclea, he puts him, as it were, to the test, while in book 7, Calasiris’ attitude towards black magic becomes apparent when he witnesses a séance:

The type of the theios anēr, then, does not find its perfection in the figure of Calasiris, who is himself still seeking perfection. Yet he serves as a forerunner and signpost in the novel: he brings Chariclea and Theagenes to Ethiopia, the symbol of true wisdom, where alone the two are recognized as divine people, and where they will realize in themselves what is merely pointed to in Calasiris.

3. The Aethiopica as a Program of Education for a theios anēr

In Heliodorus’ Aethiopica, the destination of the journey of Chariclea and Theagenes is Ethiopia, a country which must be the destination of everyone seeking to “bring about the apotheosis of the wisdom of Egypt by supplementing it with the wisdom of Ethiopia” (4.12), as Calasiris puts it. In the tenth and final book of the Aethiopica, we encounter truly divine men such as the Ethiopian gymnosophists and especially their leader, Sisimithres. They are depicted with all the attributes of the theios anēr and, as it were, as a final proof of their divinity, they reform the Ethiopian cult in an important way, by eliminating human sacrifice. [46] The novel therefore leads the reader as well as the protagonists to the inner circle of divine people. For Chariclea and Theagenes, the way to this telos was paved by Calasiris, who picks them up in Delphi and takes them to Egypt. This journey is marked out by three priests, each of whom is characterized by a greater degree of perfection. First, there is the ordinary Greek priest (Charicles), then Calasiris, and finally, a truly divine man (Sisimithres). With all three men, Chariclea has a father-daughter relationship, [47] which becomes clear at the end of the story. As an abandoned child, she was raised by Sisimithres until she was seven, before he gave her to Charicles, from whom she went to Calasiris, who brought her back to Ethiopia. Like the reader, she got to know all three figures of priests and stages of knowledge. She was taught by them, and finally together with Theagenes she returns to her homeland to receive the highest consecration of a priestess, that of Selene, while Theagenes becomes the priest of Helios.

In mentioning these deities, Heliodorus not only alludes to their symbolism of light, which provides the protagonists as well as the reader with an all-embracing illumination, but he completes the religious syncretism which is presented in the figure of the priest. With Selene and Helios, he makes the Ethiopians worship the same deities who were worshipped in Delphi right at the beginning of the novel and whose cult can also be represented by an Egyptian priest (Calasiris). Thus, for his Greek readers, Heliodorus creates a syncretistic kosmos in which religious differences are marginalized or do not exist, and which extends from the omphalos in Delphi to the edge of the civilized (because Greek-speaking) world in Ethiopia. [48] From this point of view, it is only consistent that the priests as representatives of this syncretistic religion also have syncretistic characteristics: like Calasiris, they become universalists who can be employed everywhere and who serve the one religion in an exemplary fashion. They become role models with whom all Greeks can identify without any difficulty. At the same time, the leveling of differences in cult and religion in the persons of Heliodorus’ priests releases a potential which in turn makes a more far-reaching equality ultimately possible: education. The more the priest loses his specific identity through his association with a cult and a nation, the more important his education—as an identity-creating element—becomes. Like Calasiris, who recognizes the omnipotence of Apollo (Helios) earlier than the other characters in the novel, the reader is intended to recognize education as being the only means of establishing a religious syncretism, and his own education leads him to this recognition.

Heliodorus’ story, which began as a typical romantic novel, written for Cnemon, a romantic listener, has become a discourse about the (new) role of the priest in a syncretistic religion and about his transformation into a divine man. [49] Thus, the love story becomes a superstructure for reflection about the perception, the self-image, and the cultural importance of divine men, who alone succeed in doing their job regardless of national and cultural differences, and in solving worldly and religious problems (concerning, for example, issues such as love and human sacrifice) as role models in Egyptian, Greek, and Ethiopian society. Accordingly, for Heliodorus, crossing religious boundaries does not mean that an Egyptian priest comes to Greece to comment on Greek conditions, or to criticize or abolish them. Instead, Heliodorus deliberately eliminates all religious differences, whether they exist in the cult, in the clothes, or in the mentality of the people involved, so that he can propagate a new type of priest, the theios anēr. For such a man, religious and cultural boundaries do not exist, and priests’ identities are not tied to particular, local cults; instead, such a man can become a role model for readers of all religious persuasions and beliefs in the entire Roman Empire, [50] even for the Christians, who, as it happens, made Heliodorus a bishop. [51] The question as to what extent this concept of a divine man originates from a search for role models in a society which in the third and fourth centuries AD was inundated with cults and religions must remain unanswered. The story was told in fiction by a direct descendent of Helios: Heliodorus, who eventually numbered himself among the priests. Thus, he wants to provide his work with particular authority, and he tries to surpass other works of literature about divine men, like Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius. As author, he has the authority of a theios anēr:


[ back ] * I would like to thank the editors for their critical suggestions, and I am very grateful to Stephen Lake for helping me with the translation.

[ back ] 1. For the dating of the Greek novels, cf. Bowie 1999:40–41: Chariton’s Kallirhoe (ca. 50 BC–AD 50); Xenophon of Ephesus’ Ephesiaca (early second century AD); Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe (late second century AD); Achilles Tatius’ Leucippe and Clitophon (late second century AD); Heliodorus’ Aethiopica (third/fourth century AD). For the dating of Heliodorus, cf. also Bowersock 1997:149–160. Chariton: 3.9.1 and 3.9.4 (priestess), 8.2.9 (priest); Xenophon: 1.5.6 (priest), 1.10.6 (priestess).

[ back ] 2. Despite the fact that a priest always had an important function in both the political and the religious life of a polis, in literary fiction the emphasis can be placed upon one or the other of these spheres alone. Thus, for example, in his description of the events in Memphis, Heliodorus (books 7 and 8) creates a distinction between the religious and the political (i.e. nonreligious) influence of a priest.

[ back ] 3. A similar focus on the priest can be found in Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana and the two satires of Lucian, Peregrinus and Alexandros. Although these works do not belong to the genre of the novel, a direct influence on the authors of Greek novels in the third century AD cannot be ruled out. For possible connections between the Apollonius and Heliodorus’ Calasiris figure, see n37 below. For the historical dimension of the Apollonius with emphasis on the religious and cultural changes in Greek culture in the third century, cf. Swain 1999a; Elsner 1997.

[ back ] 4. Cf. Bowie 1999:55.

[ back ] 5. The sphragis at the end of the novel—“So concludes the Aithiopika, the story of Theagenes and Charikleia, the work of a Phoenician from the city of Emesa, one of the clan of the Descendants of the Sun, Theodosios’s son, Heliodoros” (10.41; all translations from Heliodorus are taken from Morgan 1989)—and Photius’ note that Heliodorus “later became a bishop” (Bibl. Cod. 73) have given rise to the scarcely verifiable assumption that a personal religious belief of Heliodorus is reflected in the novel; see e.g. Weinreich 1962:239, who writes that Heliodorus, “a religious man and a priest of Helios of Emesa, who had a serious moral attitude in a time of religious syncretism, found his way from Helios to Christ as the Sol salutis and converted to Christianity” (my translation).

[ back ] 6. For Bakhtin’s concept of polyglossia, cf. Whitmarsh 1998:95.

[ back ] 7. For an analysis of the narrative structure, cf. Morgan 1999; Winkler 1999.

[ back ] 8. So e.g. Rohde 1914:IX, who excuses himself in the preface of his Der Griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer for having dealt with an unliterary subject written by “many bad and mediocre authors” (“Die vielen schlechten und mittelmäßigen Autoren”). Cf. also Hägg 1983:90, who defines the readership of Greek novels as “the population outside the big cities, women, people looking for romanticism and idealism.”

[ back ] 9. For the readership, cf. Stephens 1994, who rules out a widespread circulation of the novels in Greco-Roman Egypt on the grounds of comparatively small papyrological evidence, and Bowie 1994, who argues for an educated readership after analyzing the literary quotations in the novels and their dialogue with other works of literature.

[ back ] 10. Cf. Winkler 1999:350: “There are many ways to play the game of literature, and a sophisticated player is now and then caught alluding to his private sense of being an author … and to the ironies of communication … Heliodorus is such an author, and the Aithiopika is an act of pure play, yet a play which rehearses vital processes by which we must live in reality—interpretation, reading, and making a provisional sense of things.”

[ back ] 11. Winkler 1999:313 stresses the way in which the reader’s reception is controlled by means of oracles: “Poised somewhere between the perfect interpreter (Kalasiris) and the inadequate interpreter (Thyamis, the Delphians, et alii) stands the actual reader, who must be taught how to read the Aithiopika.”

[ back ] 12. For Cnemon as a reader, cf. Morgan 1991:95–100.

[ back ] 13. For a discussion of Herodotus’ account of Egypt and his reliability, cf. Hartog 1988:297–300. The presentation of Egyptian religion in the Greek novel is analyzed by Várhelyi 1997.

[ back ] 14. All translations from Herodotus are taken from Godley 1920.

[ back ] 15. This also applies to Chariclea, who is perceived as a priestess by the Egyptian Thyamis because of her clothes (1.20): “But, most important, she seems to me to be the priestess of some god. Even in dire adversity she thinks it altogether wrong to remove her sacred crown and robe.”

[ back ] 16. Calasiris justifies his proposal to flee from Delphi together with Chariclea and Theagenes by stressing that this was the wish of the gods, who were guiding and instructing him by way of prophecies and signs (4.16). Cf. also 3.11: “Apollo and Artemis appeared to me, so I imagined—if indeed I did imagine it and not see them for real … They called me by name and said: ‘It is time now for you to return to the land of your birth, for thus the ordinance of destiny demands. Go then and take these whom we deliver to you; make them the companions of your journey; consider them as your own children. From Egypt conduct them onwards wherever and however it please the gods’.”

[ back ] 17. Calasiris frequently emphasizes this special relationship; for example, at his arrival in Delphi, when “the place’s own oracular voice sang in my ears in tones that truly were heaven-sent” (2.26), or at 2.25, where he mentions “the god-sent wisdom of which I may not speak.”

[ back ] 18. Heliodorus is referring to the Spartan lawgiver, whose visit to Delphi is narrated by Herodotus (1.65) in a way which is similar to the portrayal of Calasiris’ reception by the priestess: “Lycurgus, a notable Spartan, visited the oracle at Delphi, and when he entered the temple hall, straightway the priestess gave him this response … Some say that the priestess moreover declared to him the whole governance of Sparta which is now established.”

[ back ] 19. The information that Calasiris’ elder son would follow him as high priests of Isis in Memphis (7.2) hints at the traditional inheriting of priesthoods in Egypt, where it remained the privilege of certain upper class families for generations; cf. Thompson 1990:101.

[ back ] 20. Of course, Thyamis (and the Greek reader) correctly assumes that a beautiful woman is freeborn (cf. Menander, Heros fr. 2 K-T), and that a priestess cannot have come from the lower classes.

[ back ] 21. Another possible association could be that of an orator, which, as a figure in the Second Sophistic, was also a familiar sight and whose outward appearance corresponded to that of a philosopher.

[ back ] 22. “In short, their questions covered everything there is in Egypt, for Greeks find all Egyptian lore and legend irresistibly attractive” (2.27).

[ back ] 23. This evident intertextual dialogue with Herodotus solves a Herodotean aporia: whereas Herodotus cannot offer his readers an explanation which a priest cannot reveal to him (2.19: “Concerning its [the Nile’s] nature, neither from the priests nor from any others could I learn anything yet I was zealous to hear from them why it is that the Nile comes down with a rising flood … Concerning this matter none of the Egyptians could tell me anything”), it is Calasiris who willingly answers the reader’s Herodotean question.

[ back ] 24. Science “studies the movements of the stars and thus gains knowledge of the future” (3.16).

[ back ] 25. Cf. Baumbach 1997.

[ back ] 26. For the Greek priest, cf. Beard 1990:45: “the Greek term hiereus (priest) at least evoked one well-defined category of religious official, within a standard cult framework. The hiereus was the functionary of one particular deity (the ‘priest of Apollo’) and was traditionally attached to one particular sanctuary of that deity.”

[ back ] 27. For example in 2.33: “Be with me, Calasiris, my dear friend. Use your magic and cast an Egyptian spell on her.”

[ back ] 28. Cf. Calasiris’ performance in 4.5: “Having secured our privacy, I launched into a sort of stage performance, producing clouds of incense smoke, pursing my lips and muttering some sounds that passed for prayers, waving the laurel up and down, up and down, from Chariclea’s head to her toes, and yawning blearily, for all the world like some old beldam.”

[ back ] 29. So, in 3.11 ō sophōtate (Theagenes), 3.93, and 4.10 ō sophe Kalasiri (Chariclea).

[ back ] 30. For the appearance of the theios anēr, cf. Bieler 1935; Du Toit 1997; and Fowden 1982.

[ back ] 31. See Tloka 2003.

[ back ] 32. In the case of Christian divine men, orthodox religious belief combined with a sound knowledge of the Scriptures is a further characteristic, as their reliability as mediators between God and men must be ensured.

[ back ] 33. See Hahn 2003:91.

[ back ] 34. Cf. Fowden 1982:34, 36.

[ back ] 35. Cf. Hilton 1996:192–193.

[ back ] 36. The allegorical interpretation of the novel by the Neoplatonist Philip also indicates that Heliodorus was already associated with Plato in Antiquity.

[ back ] 37. Cf. also the parallel with Apollonius, whose presentation in Philostratus is analyzed by Hahn 2003:92: “To the popular and at the same time strongly attacked tradition and admiration of Apollonius Philostratus opposed a totally different Apollonius, a Pythagorean philosopher … whose divine nature and whose extraordinary ability to perform miracles and to forsee the future are based on an unprecedented wisdom which was gained not least by a strict Pythagorean lifestyle” (my translation).

[ back ] 38. Herodotus 2.37: “they [the Egyptian priests] neither consume nor spend aught of their own; sacred food is cooked for them, to each man is brought every day flesh of beeves and geese in great abundance, and wine of grapes too is given to them.”

[ back ] 39. See Bieler 1935:75.

[ back ] 40. Heliodorus seems to share Calasiris’ attitude towards black magic, to judge by the course of the events (the old woman dies shortly after), as well as by an accompanying authorial statement: “So she died, bringing instant and fitting fulfillment to the prophecy that her son had given her” (6.15).

[ back ] 41. This criterion is frequently mentioned and regarded as proof of a holy man: cf. Bieler 1935:51; and Philostratus, VA 1.7; Porphyry, Vita Plotini 10; Iamblichus, VP 5.20.

[ back ] 42. Cf. 4.12: “my travels took me as far as the land of the Ethiopians, whose wisdom I was eager to learn.”

[ back ] 43. See Fowden 1982:38: “The pagan holy man’s primary social function was that of a teacher of philosophy; and his primary social milieu was provided by his own disciples.”

[ back ] 44. Fowden 1982:52: “But it was the pagan holy man’s direct involvement with pagan cults that most deeply compromised his social position. The centrality of this development to the holy man’s self-image should not be underestimated … Apollonius of Tyana never missed an opportunity to reform and purify the temple rites wherever he went.”

[ back ] 45. Cf. Baumbach 1997.

[ back ] 46. Cf. 10.7–9. Sisimithres rejects the sacrifice as sacrilegious: “Now we [the Gymnosophists] shall withdraw into the temple, for neither can we ourselves approve of anything as barbaric as human sacrifice nor do we believe that it is pleasing to the divinity. I only wish it were possible to put an end to all animal sacrifices as well and be satisfied with offerings of prayers and incense such as we make” (10.9).

[ back ] 47. Chariclea emphasizes her close relation with the priests by calling both, Calasiris and Charicles, father; cf. for example, 4.5 and 7.14 (after the death of Calasiris): “No more may I call anyone Father, the best of names, for heaven has made it its sport at every turn to deny me the right to address anyone as my father. My natural father I have never seen; my adoptive father, Charicles, alas, I have betrayed; now I have lost the man who took me into his care, cherished me, and saved my life.”

[ back ] 48. Cf. also Merkelbach 1962:235, who states that Heliodorus wrote his novel—which he interprets as a novel about the Mysteries (Mysterienroman)—“not for Syria alone but for the Roman empire as a whole.”

[ back ] 49. There is also epigraphic evidence for a new type of priest from the second century AD onward, which suggests that education became a more important criterion for the election of priests, who were likewise described as philosophers; cf. Haake in this volume.

[ back ] 50. For the tendency in the literature of imperial Rome to construct universal, polytheistic figures, see Elsner 1997:34–37.

[ back ] 51. Cf. Socrates Scholasticus, V 22; and Photius, Bibl. Cod. 73: “later he [Heliodorus] became a bishop.”

[ back ] 52. For the dynasty of priests in Emesa and the link between the Emesian god and Helios, cf. Fick 2002; Altheim 1942.