Longus's ancient novel, "Daphnis and Chloe" tells the absolutely charming story of a boy (Daphnis) and a girl (Chloe), left to die by exposure in the Greek countryside. Miraculously, the deities are watching out for them--a goat is selected to nurse Daphnis, and a sheep to nurse Chloe--until a goatherd, Lamo, and a shepherd, Dryas, respectively discover the two children. They are raised in the town of Mytilene, a humble agricultural community, where they tend their adopted fathers's herds of goats and sheep.
Here, the mischievous god of love, Eros, sets them aflame with love for each other. Both Daphnis and Chloe are extremely innocent in their affections throughout the novel, experimenting with their feelings and exposing the amusing limits of their little knowledge. Various incidents involving pirates, kidnapping, inter-city war between Mytilene and Methymna, and the suit of Chloe by a host of lusty young men all provide interesting diversions from the main love story. With a very casual cultural attitude towards homoerotic love, we also see the impertinent male slave, Gnatho, make advances toward the clueless Daphnis. Daphnis's run-in with Lycaenium, a married woman of Mytilene, is also an episode of note in the complex sexual landscape of Longus's novel.
Another intriguing factor in Longus's novel is the relationship between humanity and nature. The figure of the goat is omnipresent throughout the novel. Standing apart from our own cultural/religious associations with the goat, in "Daphnis and Chloe," the goat is all at once associated with maternity, reverence, respect, and honesty. In the novel, we see humanity in general in harmony with the natural world all around: plant, beast, and natural divinities.
Into this seemingly innocent landscape, Longus introduces the problematics of class and wealth. The love story between Daphnis and Chloe is further stalled while these issues play themselves out. Society's intrusion into the pastoral story seems to indicate the fantastic nature of the idyll itself. "Daphnis and Chloe" is a brilliant and beautiful ancient tale, and well worth the short time it takes to read.