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Le bouvier dans la poésie hellénistique et le roman grec

The Demotion of the Literary Cowherd

La rétrogradation du bouvier littéraire
La retrocessione del bovaro letterario
Ewen Bowie


Longus fait porter à un αἰπόλος (« chevrier ») le nom privilégié de Daphnis, en transférant son rôle canonique de βουκόλος (« bouvier ») à d’autres pâtres, ce qui est facile à faire, puisque tous jouent de la syrinx. Mais le Daphnis de Longus n’hérite pas du don de l’αἰπόλος théocritéen à produire une mélodieuse chanson : alors que Chloé chante seule, les personnages masculin de Longus, y compris Daphnis, ne le font pas, à l’exception du bouvier dans le μῦθος de I, 27 et de Philétas en II, 3, 2 ; au lieu de cela, ils disent des μῦθοι. Peut-être que Longus envisage sa propre prose, souvent poétique, comme réalisant ce que la chanson avait accompli pour Polyphème, et élimine la chanson masculine en solo dans le cadre de son programme de refonte de la poésie de Sappho et de Théocrite en prose. Parmi les trois personnages auxquels le statut de βουκόλος est transféré (à partir d’un Daphnis), Dorcon sauve deux fois Daphnis, mais sa compréhension de l’éros ne fait pas progresser celle du couple ; Philétas le fait, et ses interventions sages sont importantes ; l’impact de Lampis, comme celui de Dorcon, est éphémère, et sa personne est déplaisante. Malgré le rôle positif joué par Philétas, les actions de Dorcon et de Lampis suggèrent que Théocrite avait tort d’avoir tant de sympathie pour les βουκόλοι, qui, chez Longus, peuvent être turbulents et sûrs d’eux-mêmes, et de considérer qu’une société dans laquelle les bouviers auraient plus de liberté serait plus solide qu’une société où les normes comportementales ont été établies par des bergers et des chevriers.

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  • 1 For the notion of a hierarchy of pastoral characters implied by my terms ‘demotion’ and ‘promoting’ (...)

1Much of Longus’ refashioning of his principal model, the imaginary world of Theocritus’ pastoral poems, hinges on his decision to give to the child reared by a goatherd the pastoral name ‘Daphnis’. That this is to be read as a significantly pastoral name is flagged for the reader by his authorial comment ὡς δ’ ἂν καὶ τοὔνομα τοῦ παιδίου ποιμενικὸν δοκοίη, Δάφνιν αὐτὸν ἔγνωσαν καλεῖν (‘and so that the baby’s name should also seem pastoral they decided to call him Daphnis,’ Longus II.3.2). But although Daphnis had been sung about by the ποιμήν (‘shepherd’) Thyrsis in Theocritus I, and by Tityrus within the song of the αἰπόλος (‘goatherd’) Lycidas in Theocritus VII, in both Theocritus I and VII Daphnis is himself a βουκόλος or βούτας (‘cowherd’), and Longus’ change involves promoting an αἰπόλος (‘goatherd’) to be the bearer of the privileged name Daphnis and transferring his canonical role of βουκόλος (‘cowherd’) to other pastoral characters.1 This promotion is not difficult, since one of the Theocritean Daphnis’ accomplishments is excellence in playing the syrinx (Theocritus I.128–30), an instrument also regularly played by an αἰπόλος (‘goatherd’), for example the unnamed αἰπόλος of Theocritus I (Theocritus I.1–6). But one Theocritean characteristic of a goatherd or a shepherd seems to be discarded by Longus, and that is the gift of mellifluous song, an almost defining feature of the unnamed first-person αἰπόλος (‘goatherd’) of Theocritus III, of the goatherd Lycidas in Theocritus VII, and also of the ποιμήν (‘shepherd’) Thyrsis in Theocritus I and the shepherd Polyphemus in XI. Only in Theocritus VI do two young βουκόλοι or βοῦται (‘cowherds’) (VI.1 and 44) sing, and one of these two is indeed called Daphnis, though it is unclear how he is supposed to relate to the dying Daphnis of Theocritus I or to the Daphnis who loves Xenea at Theocritus VII.73), if at all. But neither in Theocritus I nor in Theocritus VII is it stated or hinted that Daphnis is himself a singer.

  • 2 Daphnis and Chloe sing imitating birds at I.9.2; expressing their joy at their release from the vin (...)

2Promoting an αἰπόλος (‘goatherd’) to be bearer of the marked cowherd-name Daphnis, then, may be partly responsible for relieving or robbing him of a feature we might expect in a goatherd, distinction in singing. Thus although Daphnis is sometimes said to sing along with Chloe,2 or it is implied that he sings as a member of a larger group, when one of the couple sings solo it is always Chloe, e.g. at III.24.2 (cf. II.31.3):

ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἐνήχετο ἐν τοῖς ποταμοῖς, ἡ δὲ ἐν ταῖς πηγαῖς ἐλούετο· ὁ μὲν ἐσύριζεν ἁμιλλώμενος πρὸς τὰς πίτυς, ἡ δὲ ᾖδε ταῖς ἀηδόσιν ἐρίζουσα.

For he would swim in the rivers, and she would bathe herself in the springs; he would play the syrinx, competing with the pine-trees, and she would sing, vying with the nightingales.

  • 3 Daphnis I.27, III.23; Lamon II.34.

3What the goatherd Daphnis and his goatherd father Lamon do is not sing but tell μῦθοι (‘myths’),3 an action which is set alongside playing the syrinx and pantomime dancing in the party recounted at II.32–37, but at which (unlike the earlier celebration at II.31.2) there is no singing. So although there is group singing at that celebration (II.31.2) and of a of a hymenaion at the couple’s wedding (IV.40.2), and although Chloe, as mentioned, sings solo, no male sings solo in the hic et nunc of the narrative either.

4That silence makes all the more striking the two exceptions to the absence from Daphnis and Chloe of male solo singing. One exception is Philetas. In an analepsis from his youth as a working βουκόλος (‘cowherd’), he recalls how he often sang to the Nymphs, II.3.2:

Φιλητᾶς, ὦ παῖδες, ὁ πρεσβύτης ἐγώ, ὃς πολλὰ μὲν ταῖσδε ταῖς Νύμφαις ᾖσα, πολλὰ δὲ τῷ Πανὶ ἐκείνῳ ἐσύρισα, βοῶν δὲ πολλῆς ἀγέλης ἡγησάμην μόνῃ μουσικῇ’.

I am old Philetas, children, who sang many times to these Nymphs here, and who played the syrinx many times to Pan over there, and who led a large herd by music alone.

Not only is this an exception to the absence from the action of Daphnis and Chloe of male solo singing, it ascribes to Philetas the cowherd a capacity or habit that the cowherd Daphnis of Theocritus I and VII seems not himself to have had.

5The other exception is the unnamed cowherd of Daphnis’ first mythos, the story of the cow-girl who was metamorphosed into a wood-dove, a phatta (φάττα) (I.27). The competitive cowherd of Daphnis’ story charmed eight of the girl’s cattle into his herd by his singing, and in her distress she prayed successfully to be turned into a bird (I.27.3–4). Like the case recalled by Philetas from his youth, this solo singing by a cowherd is not part of the world in which the young Daphnis and Chloe live: even more remote than Philetas’ youthful singing, it is set in mythical time.

6What is Longus’ game here?

One objective may be to avoid having any song in his prose text. Longus may have seen that there was a general problem about having words imagined or represented as sung to music in a prose text designed for reading, whether silently or aloud, and may not have been happy with the solution of Achilles Tatius, which was to paraphrase rather than reproduce the song (Achilles Tatius I.5.5, II.1). Moreover one detail in Philetas’ long speech may suggest that Longus had a particular agenda in the matter of songs expressing eros, love-songs: Philetas denies that a φάρμακον (‘remedy’) for Eros can be found ἐν ᾠδαῖς λαλούμενον (‘uttered in songs’), and thus seems directly to question the concluding two lines (80–81) of Theocritus XI:

οὕτω τοι Πολύφαμος ἐποίμαινεν τὸν ἔρωτα
μουσίσδων, ῥᾷον δὲ διᾶγ’ ἢ εἰ χρυσὸν ἔδωκεν.

Thus, you see, did Polyphemus shepherd his desire,
by music, and he endured it more easily than if he had paid gold.

7If we put this alongside Longus’ ambition declared in his preface, to produce a κτῆμα τερπνὸν πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις, ὃ καὶ νοσοῦντα ἰάσεται καἰ λυπούμενον παραμυθήσεται (‘a pleasing possession for all men, which will both cure the one who is ill and console the one who is grieving,’ pr. 3), we may conclude that he sees his own, often poetic, prose as achieving what song had done for Polyphemus, and that the elimination of male solo song from his narrative is part of his broader programme of creating a prose refashioning of Sappho and Theocritus.

8A second function of Philetas’ mention of the songs that he once sang may be to contribute to the distinction Longus draws between good and bad βουκόλοι (‘cowherds’). To that distinction I now turn, and in second part of this paper I address the following question: what does Longus do with the part of the cowherd that he has in a sense taken away from Daphnis?

9In place of a protagonist cowherd such as the Daphnis in Thyrsis’ song in Theocritus I we are given three minor characters, all identified as βουκόλοι (‘cowherds’), each with an important role in advancing the plot.

  • 4 Cf. Longus, Daphnis and Chloe, trans. with and introd. and commentary by J.R. Morgan, Oxford, Oxbow (...)
  • 5 See Longus, Daphnis and Chloe, ed. E.L. Bowie, Cambridge, CUP, Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, (...)

10The first of these cowherds is Dorcon, introduced at first unnamed, simply as a βουκόλος (‘cowherd’) called to help by Chloe at I.12.3 when Daphnis falls into the wolf-trap. He is explicitly said to be ‘ἐκ τῶν ἀγρῶν τῶν πλησίον’ (‘from the neighbouring fields’) and is not from Dionysophanes’ estate, whose brief description at I.1.2 in fact says nothing of grazing for cattle. Dorcon helps Chloe to winch Daphnis out of the pit, using her tainia, bra, that she has taken off for this purpose. We are not told if this has been her own idea, or if it has been suggested by Dorcon, but when he reappears, named, at I.15, it is as a youth who knows the ὄνομα (‘name’) and ἔργα (‘acts’) of Eros and whose desire for Chloe, sparked off by that fateful encounter, has grown daily, to the point where he is determined to get Chloe either by giving her gifts or by force. The name Dorcon, perhaps related to the verb δέρκομαι (‘I look’) may suggest that he is above all a ‘gazer’,4 and that Chloe’s stripping had indeed been his idea; but Dorcon is a relatively well-attested name in all regions so far covered by the published volumes of the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names,5 and it is debateable whether Longus offers it as a speaking name.

11But Dorcon not only gazes, he can also act, and he successively attempts (and fails) to get Chloe by bringing her gifts, by giving her father Dryas gifts and thus seeking her hand in marriage, and by unconvincingly disguising himself as a wolf and ambushing the couple. These manoeuvres by a Dorcon who knows what he wants and how it might be achieved are narrated in parallel to, and as a foil to, the young couple’s own growing feelings of mutual desire which they are quite unable to diagnose, Chloe’s feelings fired by seeing Daphnis bathe naked after his misadventure (I.13), Daphnis’ feelings by the kiss given him by Chloe as winner of the verbal beauty competition with Dorcon (I.17.2)—a competition in self-praise in prose that replaces the competing or complementary songs of Theocritean pastoral.

12At this point Dorcon’s role as a foil is more important than as a contributor to advancing the couple’s knowledge of Eros. Chloe seems to be unaware of what is driving Dorcon, or of what his gifts mean, and her own desire for Daphnis would have been aroused even if Dorcon had not been introduced into the plot. To be sure, without Dorcon there would have been no beauty competition, and Chloe would have had to wait longer for an excuse to kiss Daphnis, but she would surely have found one. Moreover nothing in Dorcon’s behaviour seems to lead either Daphnis or Chloe to a better understanding of Eros. Unlike some other people, animals and things in the novel Dorcon is at no point held up as an object of mimesis.

13Dorcon’s part in the last episode in which he appears is of crucial importance, but he is important for saving Daphnis from pirates rather than for saving the couple from their erotic ignorance. When Dorcon has been savagely beaten up by the pirates and his cattle, together with Daphnis, are being carried off on their ship, Dorcon tells Chloe to play on his syrinx a tune he had taught Daphnis, and Daphnis had then taught her (I.29.2). This causes Dorcon’s cattle to leap into the sea, thus capsizing the ship, and allowing Daphnis to swim ashore with two of them supporting him by their horns (I.30). Meanwhile Dorcon has died, giving his syrinx to Chloe and in exchange asking, this time successfully, for a kiss (I.29.3). Chloe’s awareness of the games of Eros has indeed increased, since in her account to Daphnis of how Dorcon died she says nothing of this kiss (αἰδεσθεῖσα, ‘out of embarrassment,’ I.31.2); but we do not read that the kiss was a factor in their decision that Daphnis should bathe Chloe, a bath that raises his desire to a new intensity when he sees her naked (I.32).

14Overall, then, this first cowherd in Longus’ narrative is important in twice saving Daphnis, and is perhaps crucial in setting up a situation where Chloe kisses Daphnis for the first time. He is potentially an example of how a less naïve and more sexually knowledgeable herdsman might be imagined to behave, but that knowledgeable example is not followed. His attempts to get Chloe for himself might have made him a villain had they been successful, but they are not, and they elicit less condemnation than his death elicits sympathy. That sympathy is all the greater because his gift of his syrinx to Chloe recalls how the dying Daphnis of Theocritus I gave his syrinx to Pan (I.128–30). Like the first poem of at least one Hellenistic collection of Theocritus, the first book of Longus’ novel ends with the death of a cowherd who has suffered the pangs of Eros, but the name of Theocritus’ cowherd has been transferred to the αἰπόλος (‘goatherd’) who does not die, and whose entanglement with Eros he is beginning to find as overwhelming as that of Theocritus’ Daphnis.

15The second of the minor characters identified as βουκόλοι (‘cowherds’), and one who makes a more important contribution, is Philetas. Admittedly, as we have seen, he is a retired βουκόλος, now almost wholly concerned with his garden (II.3.3), even if he still dresses like a herdsman (II.3.1). Like herdsmen of all types he has been a syrinx-player, and unlike the Daphnis of both Theocritus and Longus he has sung songs to the Nymphs (II.3.2, quoted above), as does the celebratory group at II.31.2. Like the goatherd of Theocritus III he once wooed an Amaryllis, but unlike that goatherd he won her, with the help of Eros (II.5.3), and they now have sons who herd cattle and farm land. There is no hint that Philetas himself or any of his sons was ever a goatherd, and the wooing of an Amaryllis is the only element in Longus’ picture that might compromise its presentation of a herder of cattle who thereby stands higher in the hierarchy than herders of goats and sheep. In his exposition to the young couple of the nature of Eros and his prescription of the only φάρμακον (‘remedy’) for it—φίλημα καὶ περιβολὴ καὶ συγκατακλιθῆναι γυμνοῖς σώμασι (‘kissing and embracing and lying down together naked,’ II.7.7)—the old Philetas’ sharing of his recent and past experiences raises the prospect that Daphnis and Chloe too will soon indeed be able to engage in the ἔργα ἔρωτος (‘acts of love’). As in the later scene in which he acts as a judge between Daphnis and the angry Methymnans (II.15) Philetas comes across as both wise and level-headed—a safe pair of hands.

16The third cowherd, Lampis, re-establishes an image of young cowherds as hot-headed and easily driven by Eros (as Philetas too may well have been in his youth). Like Dorcon, Lampis woos Chloe by offering her father many gifts, and like Dorcon he fails (IV.7.1). The imminent possibility of Daphnis being given his master’s permission to marry Chloe precipitates Lampis’ extreme action to get Lamon and Daphnis into trouble with that master, vandalising the enclosed garden, paradeisos, that is in Lamon’s charge (IV.7.1–3). Later, when Daphnis’ recognition as Dionysophanes’ son is being celebrated, Lampis assembles some farmers and abducts Chloe, thinking that Daphnis will no longer want her (IV.28.1) and she is only rescued by a counter-raid on Lampis’ cottage master-minded by the parasite Gnathon (IV.29.2–5).

  • 6 Cf. the dedications of I.4.3.

17Lampis comes out as the least likeable character in the novel, and when he is listed as a participant in the rustic wedding he is catalogued last, with the authorial explanation that he had been forgiven (IV.38.2), though he does participate in the celebrations to the extent of playing the aulos, an instrument played by each of the βουκόλοι in Theocritus VI (VI.43–44) but only marginal to the world of shepherds and goatherds.6

  • 7 The epithet ἀγέρωχος first appears applied to older shepherd lads, of whom Chloe is afraid, at I.28 (...)

18What has Longus achieved? Where does he leave his reader? Despite the profound and helpful advice of the old and experienced ex-cowherd Philetas, the actions of Dorcon and Lampis taken together leave us with the impression that Theocritus may have been wrong to seek so much sympathy for βουκόλοι (‘cowherds’) who in Longus’ novel tend to be boisterous and self-assertive,7 and that a society in which cowherds were allowed to have their way would be a rougher and crueller society than one is which the standards of behaviour were set by αἰπόλοι (‘goatherds’) and ποιμένες (‘shepherds’). One telling detail in Longus’ representation of ποιμένες (‘shepherds’) as more inclined to be gentle than cowherds or even goatherds is his adaptation of Sappho’s comparison of a bride to a hyacinth trampled by shepherds, Sappho fr. 105(c) Voigt:

οἴαν τὰν ὐάκινθον ἐν ὤρεσι ποίμενες ἄνδρες
πόσσι καταστείβοισι, χάμαι δέ τε πόρφυρον ἄνθος . . .

like the hyacinth that in the mountains shepherd men
trample down with their feet, and on the ground its dark-red flower . . .

  • 8 On Longus’ complex reworking of different pieces of Sappho in this sequence see E.L. Bowie, “Caging (...)

19Longus’ reworking of this image replaces the shepherd with a ποίμνιον (‘grazing beast’) which Daphnis fears may trample the apple that symbolises Chloe—he is afraid that if he leaves the apple on the tree it ‘it might fall to the ground and either a sheep might trample it as it grazed . . .’ (ἵνα πέσῃ χαμαὶ καὶ ἢ ποίμνιον αὐτὸ πατήσῃ νεμόμενον . . ., III.34.2).8

20Longus has to some extent, then, elevated the role of the Theocritean shepherd, while like the shepherd Thyrsis in Theocritus I his shepherds are still allowed to compose songs (II.31.2) and his shepherdess, Chloe, to sing (II.31.3, III.24.2). But at the same time Longus has dethroned Daphnis the Theocritean cowherd, βουκόλος or βούτας, who is the fabled subject of songs (Theocritus I.VII.73), and is sometimes heard singing (Theocritus VI), and has replaced him with a goatherd who never sings solo, whose cultural gifts are for telling mythoi in prose, and who will himself achieve through the prose of Longus the mythical status that his Pan predicts for Chloe (II.27.3).

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1 For the notion of a hierarchy of pastoral characters implied by my terms ‘demotion’ and ‘promoting’, see E.A. Schmidt, “Hirtenhierarchie in der antiken Bukolik,” Philologus 113, 1969, p. 183–200; O. Hodkinson, “Attic Idylls: Hierarchies of Herdsmen and Social Status in Alciphron and Longus,” JHS 132, 2012, p. 41–53.

2 Daphnis and Chloe sing imitating birds at I.9.2; expressing their joy at their release from the vintage, II.2.6; and (perhaps along with the other participants) in the party celebrating Chloe’s release, II.31.2.

3 Daphnis I.27, III.23; Lamon II.34.

4 Cf. Longus, Daphnis and Chloe, trans. with and introd. and commentary by J.R. Morgan, Oxford, Oxbow Books, Classical Texts, 2004, p. 163.

5 See Longus, Daphnis and Chloe, ed. E.L. Bowie, Cambridge, CUP, Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, 2019, p. 126.

6 Cf. the dedications of I.4.3.

7 The epithet ἀγέρωχος first appears applied to older shepherd lads, of whom Chloe is afraid, at I.28.2, and there, as when used to describe the cowherd Lampis at IV.7.1, is clearly negative. That is less clear when it is used of Philetas’ son Tityrus (perhaps, as his father had once been, a cowherd) at II.32.1, or when Philetas at II.4.2 describes Eros’ behaviour in his garden as ἀγερωχία, better rendered ‘boisterousness’ (as by J. Morgan, ouvr. cit., p. 53) than ‘naughtiness’ (as by C. Gill, in Collected Ancient Greek Novels, B.P. Reardon [ed.], Berkeley, University of California Press, 1989, p. 305).

8 On Longus’ complex reworking of different pieces of Sappho in this sequence see E.L. Bowie, “Caging Grasshoppers: Longus’ Materials for Weaving ‘Reality’,” in The Construction of the Ral and the Ideal in the Ancient Novel, M. Paschalis and S. Panayotakis (eds), Eelde, Barkhuis, AncNarr. Suppl. 17, 2013, p. 179–98; H. Segers, “The Apple in Longus’ Lesvos: Sapphic Imagery in the Poetic Space of Daphnis and Chloe,” Classics@ 16, 2017. URL:; G. Nagy, “Homo ludens at Play with the Songs of Sappho: Experiments in Comparative Reception Theory, Part Two,” Classical Inquiries 2019.01.16. URL:

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Ewen Bowie, « The Demotion of the Literary Cowherd », Aitia [En ligne], 9.1 | 2019, mis en ligne le 31 janvier 2020, consulté le 28 mai 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Ewen Bowie

Corpus Christi College, Oxford

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