Apparently, the fabula Milesiae, "story of Miletus", was a Greek genre. Apuleius calls himself "the author of this Milesian tale" in his Metamorphoses (IV.32, below). From what I remember of the (late) Antique genre of roman or "novel", the type of story of a roman seems very similar to Apuleius's Milesiae.

What is the difference, exactly? Or did the Romans (and Greeks) have no (other) word for the genre of roman and was this the term they used? If so, that would surprise me, because I don't recall the term described as such when reading about the genre, but perhaps I wasn't paying attention...

Sed Apollo, quamquam Graecus et Ionicus, propter Milesiae conditorem sic Latina sorte respondit... — Apuleius, Metamorphoses IV.32.

1 Answer 1


(A partial answer, on which I hope others will expand:)

There was an original collection of Milesian Tales (Μιλησικά), written in Greek by Aristides of Miletus in the second century BC. These have not survived; they were known to the Romans in a Latin translation, of which we only have a few short fragments.

These Milesian tales seem to have been comic stories about lovers' misfortunes, sexual escapades, and the like, narrated in a ribald and humorous style. As such they do seem to have been similar in tone to (though much shorter than) the Latin novels of Apuleius and Petronius. They don't seem to have been quite as similar to the extant Greek novels, though: these do deal with love and adventure and feature lots of astounding plot twists, but their tone tends to be less salacious than that of the Latin novelists and presumably of Aristides. Though I don't have any evidence, I don't think Daphnis and Chloe, for example, would likely have been thought of as a "Milesian tale".

There doesn't seem to have a concept of the "novel" in antiquity, exactly -- at least, to my knowledge there was no specific term distinguishing what we would call a novel from other types of narrative. What we now call novels would simply have been described with the general words for "story" (fabula, λόγος, etc.).

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    I think you're quite a ways towards a full answer! Especially the part about how what we call novels of Antiquity are (somewhat) less salacious than the Milesiae. I do seem to remember that the novel was among the first (and few) Antique genres that were (or began to be) read in silence. But I'm not even sure whether this applied to Latin or Greek or both.
    – Cerberus
    Sep 1, 2017 at 4:09

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