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Les Ethiopiques d'Héliodore : document historique sur Méroé ou fiction romanesque

Abstract : The literary and historical reflection in which we take an interest here, concerns the Meroitic Kingdom such as presented in the works of Greek and Roman authors, particularly Heliodorus. Aethiopika of Heliodorus, composed in the third century A.D., constituted a romantic narrative rich in descriptions of the land of the Ethiopians. Its originality lies in the fact that it conserves testimonies likely to establish a field of experience for the modern reader in search of information on the Meroitic Kingdom. Heliodorus does not only take interest in the geography and in the society of Meroe, but also in its language and its writings, in its religion and its economy. During almost all the millennium which separates Homer from Heliodorus, a whole tradition had been shaped, and then perpetuated, on the Ethiopians' ways of life. In order to gauge the value of Heliodorus' data, we appeal to archaeological discoveries and the body of Ethiopian references in ancient literature. Homer, the epic and tragic poets, the philosophers, Herodotus, the Hellenistic authors, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo and Pliny the Elder, constitute the main axes of our investigations. Certainly, the image of the Ethiopian Kingdom in the ancient texts is not always clear, but the contribution of these authors in the reconstruction of Ethiopian history cannot be hidden. Compilers in numerous cases, they recapitulate past and contemporary historical trends. So, the Ethiopian testimonies are reviewed to allow us to picture Aethiopika's outlines and to define the image and the reality of Heliodorus' Ethiopians. In approaching a subject which is not without interest, it is important that we should place this novel in a literary and historical perspective. Our project is not the pursuit of a subject. In its itinerary through the Greek and Latin literary genres, it presents itself as the collection of testimonies that would be the echo of a reality such as it could be perceived by the authors who bequeathed the pages that lie before us today. This study teaches us the mentality, the tastes and the ways of life of the Ethiopians. It develops around three major axes. The first concerns the study of Heliodorus' work and life. The attentive examination, in the novel, of the way that Heliodorus sees things, the way he imagines Ethiopia, brings us round to wondering about the author and the architecture of his novel. For what concerns the second axis, we try to understand the interpretatio of Ethiopia. In other words, what were the characteristics of Meroe? How did the metropolis of the Ethiopians appear before the eyes of the Ancients? And what ideas where they able to make of it? Finally, these questions raise yet one more question, our third axis of study, on the share of construction and imagination as opposed to the real Ethiopia in Aethiopika. Insofar as one of our concerns is to analyze the gap between reality and its representation, it is advisable to wonder if Heliodorus' testimonies raise commonplaces, mental images, stereotypes or reality.
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Joseph Ndione. Les Ethiopiques d'Héliodore : document historique sur Méroé ou fiction romanesque. Archéologie et Préhistoire. Université Nancy 2, 2009. Français. ⟨NNT : 2009NAN21001⟩. ⟨tel-01752980⟩

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