Emeralds and embassies in The Ethiopian story of Heliodorus

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Author: J.L. Hilton
Date: Annual 2016
From: Akroterion(Vol. 61)
Publisher: University of Stellenbosch, Department of Ancient Studies
Document Type: Report
Length: 7,061 words
Lexile Measure: 1660L

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Abstract :

In The Ethiopian story of Heliodorus reference is made to a dispute between the Persians and the Ethiopians over control of the emerald mines to the south of Egypt. This disagreement leads to war between these two nations and sets the action of the plot of the novel in motion. When taken together with the similar manner in which precious stones are viewed in The Ethiopian story and in the pseudo-Orphic Lithica--a poem about the magical properties of stones dated to the fourth century of our era--the argument over possession of the mines can convincingly be placed in the context of the political and religious changes taking place at this time in Ethiopia, as documented by Epiphanius of Cyprus in his sermon On the gems. Under Constantine and his successor Constantius II embassies were exchanged with the Ethiopians, specifically with the people of Axum (who appear to have displaced the people of Meroe from power at about 350), the Blemmyes, and the Indians. The fact that embassies involving these peoples feature prominently in The Ethiopian story also provides yet more circumstantial evidence to suggest that the novel belongs to a similar fourth-century milieu to other texts from the same period, especially the anonymous Lithica and the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (On Beginnings) of Maximus of Ephesus.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A499654272