John Barclay, Argenis

edd. Mark Riley & Dorothy Pritchard Huber, 2004

Until the seventeenth century, prose fiction similar to our novel was rare in Latin literature. From Roman times we have only Petronius' Satyricon and Apuleius' Metamorphoses. From the medieval period we have epics in verse, but no prose fiction. In the Renaissance we find some original short fiction, such as the very popular Historia de duobus amantibus, by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini and Sir Thomas More's Utopia.

When John Barclay wrote the Argenis, he wrote the first well-constructed, popular long novel. The work includes many deliberative passages on contemporary issues, making his book more than passing entertainment. The Argenis went through more than fifty editions in the next one hundred years and was translated into all the major European languages. The Argenis began a fashion for original Latin novels, of which a number were written down to 1741.

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