My rating: 3 stars
Two young people, who are learning how it feels like to be in love, are the main characters in Daphnis and Chloe, an Ancient Greek novel written by Longus in the distant 2nd century AD. Featuring numerous references to Greek deities, it is a tale full of tenderness, but that feels too rushed during some parts.
Daphnis and Chloe were found as babies, richly dressed, by two different families who decided to take them in. He was being fed by a she-goat and she by a sheep. One day their foster fathers dreamt that they were destined to be goatherds and shepherds. Although they were expecting them to have a different future, they taught them all they needed to know about the animals, since that was the wish of the gods.
While taking care of the animals together, Daphnis and Chloe grew close and ended up falling in love. However, they didn’t fully understand their feelings for one another and, at first, didn’t know what to call them. The effects of their feelings are quite emotionally described.
“What she was feeling she didn’t know, since she was a girl and was raised in the country, and, because no one had told her, she had not even heard about love. But her heart was vexed, she was not able to keep her eyes open and she chattered at length about Daphnis.”
Their relationship is both sweet and funny, especially when they wonder how to make love and feel jealousy.
Ancient Greeks attributed to the Gods phenomena they didn’t know how to explain and that is conveyed throughout the novel, for example, through the tales that the characters tell each other. I would have understood better some of the references to the gods had I more knowledge about Ancient Greek mythology, though.
I became less curious about the book more or less halfway through it, mainly because the writing style is characterised by the prevalence of telling instead of showing, and there are many rushed mentions to what had taken place. Moreover, too many characters never mentioned before started appearing in a fast sequence of events, and the story between Daphnis and Chloe lost some of its initial tenderness.
Daphnis and Chloe is an interesting book to start delving into Ancient Greek novels. However, I couldn’t avoid feeling underwhelmed after finishing it, because the first pages promised a far more compelling read.