Lovers’ Tale

A closer look at Daphnis and Chloe in the Garden of Eden

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2013.—Ed.


Louis Hersent, Daphnis and Chloe. Photo: Erich Lessing/Art Resource NY.

In “Daphnis and Chloe in the Garden of Eden” in the July/August 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Theodore Feder explores how a second-century pagan love story alludes to the Biblical tale of Adam and Eve. In this post, delve deeper into the story with passages from the pagan romance, their Biblical counterparts and images of artistic representations of the lovers and their idyllic garden.

Written around 200 A.D. by the Greco-Roman author Longus, Daphnis and Chloe is a pagan pastoral romance that echoes the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Daphnis and Chloe are simple country-dwelling teenagers in love. They are the adopted children of pastoralists indentured to a far off Master. In a meadow where the couple often meet, there is an apple tree, completely bare except for one large and sweet apple hanging from the topmost twig. Daphnis climbs the tree and picks it for Chloe, to her dismay. Daphnis justifies himself, saying that if he did not pluck it, the apple would fall to the earth and be trampled by a beast or poisoned by a snake.


Francois Gerard, Daphnis and Chloe (1825). Photo: ©RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY.

In spite of some variations, all the principal elements of the Genesis story of Adam and Eve are included in Longus’s Daphnis and Chloe. There are male and female counterparts, the tree and the fruit in the Edenic setting and even an ominous mention of a snake. It is likely that Longus knew some version of the Genesis story, whether by first or second hand. As Theodore Feder writes, Daphnis and Chloe is an example of how “stories of the Jews and early Christians were becoming part of the general cultural inventory of the time.”


Francois Boucher, Daphnis and Chloe (1743). By kind permission of the Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London/Art Resource, NY.

Read passages from Longus’s text below (translated by Ronald McCail) alongside their Biblical counterparts to see how Daphnis and Chloe draws from the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. And enjoy our collection of artistic depictions of Daphnis and Chloe in their idyllic world. We include pieces by Marc Chagall, Francois Boucher, Louis Hersent and Francois Gerard.

BAS Library Members: Read “Daphnis and Chloe in the Garden of Eden” by Theodore Feder as it appears in the July/August 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a library member yet? Sign up today.

In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.


Excerpts from Daphnis and Chloe and Genesis

All text from Longus’s Daphnis and Chloe are from the excellent translation by Ronald McCail (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002).

Daphnis and Chloe, Book 3.33–34 (pp. 63-64)


Marc Chagall, The Lesson of Philetas. Photo: © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY.

There stood an apple-tree, all picked, with neither fruit nor leaf remaining; bare were all its boughs; yet one apple still hung ripening atop the very topmost twig, an apple large and lovely, which by itself surpassed the sweet scent of its whole clan. He feared to go up there, the harvester, nor had he taken heed to reach it down—perhaps some power was guarding it, that apple fair, for a love-struck shepherd.

When Daphnis saw the apple, he made to go up and pluck it, and took no notice of Chloe when she tried to hold him back. Whereupon she, ignored, went angrily away to the sheep and goats; but Daphnis quickly clambered up the tree and succeeded in plucking the apple and bringing it down as a gift for Chloe, and made this speech to the wrathful girl:

‘O maiden,
this apple
the lovely Seasons of the Year brought forth
and a fair tree fed
beneath the mellowing Sun
and Chance preserved;
and, while I have eyes, I am not the one to leave it there
that it may fall to earth
for browsing beast to trample
or gliding snake to poison
or Time to ruin when it lies forlorn—
the cynosure,
the nonpareil.
This did Aphrodite win as a prize for beauty,
this do I give you as a prize of victory.
Like witnesses have you both:
Paris was a shepherd,
a goatherd am I.’

With these words he placed the apple in her bosom, and when he came close she kissed him, so that Daphnis was not sorry that he had risked climbing to such a height. For the kiss that he got was better than even a golden apple.


Marc Chagall, The Lesson of Philetas. Photo: © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY.

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1–7

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’


Marc Chagall, Noon, Summer. Photo: © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.


Marc Chagall, Springtime. Photo: © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY.

Daphnis and Chloe, Book 4.8 (p. 68)

True, they were weeping for fear of their master; but even a complete stranger would have wept, had he chanced on such a sight.


Marc Chagall, Winter. Photo: © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New Yorks/CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY.

Genesis 3:8

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on June 12, 2013.


Discover More Biblical Art in Bible History Daily:

The Split of Early Christianity and Judaism

Solomon, Socrates and Aristotle

First Person: Art as Bible Interpretation


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11 Responses

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  1. Bob says

    I thought this fictional love “story” was Biblically irrelevant and more like daydreaming with past artists and storytellers. Please stay focused on Biblical Archaeology like we subscribers enjoy. Leave fiction to the multitudes of non-Biblical adherents who enjoy mind flights and pretty paintings.

  2. philip says

    I agree with Bob leave fictional accounts to others this article has no place in objective research

  3. Joyce says

    I disagree, showing how fanciful artists and poets have distorted Biblical truths is definitely part of the learning process. Too often these “variations” have become modern truths, giving the impression that the Bible was derived from these stories, rather than the other way around. Please keep giving us the history of Biblical truths as well as how man has managed to muddy them up.

  4. Lisa says

    There is more literary material in BAR now that Bible Review is gone. Personally, I appreciate it.
    Also, please be aware (editors) that not all subscribers are “Biblical adherents” or looking for “Biblical truths” or even unqualified “truths,” since most questions about history cannot be answered to a level of “truth.” Rather, we try to get closer to understanding aspects of the past than has been achieved previously.

  5. Karen says

    I agree with Lisa.

  6. Clark says

    This story seems to be the origin of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil being identified as an apple. The fruit is not identified in Genesis.

  7. David says

    What an excellent insight. Thank you.

  8. Valentin says

    As I know, myths of a pagan antiquity often have some common traits with biblical ones. One of many possible examples: myth of delicious food or precious thing guarded by evil creature or creatures. Longus could be inspired by antic mythology and, consequently, had no need to go to Bible in search of themes, sujets and symbols. As for Clark’s suggestion about apple – belief that an apple was the unnamed fruit from Tree of Knowledge have never be universal. Cypriots e.g. believed that Eve had been tempted by a lemon.

  9. Randy says

    The French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel created a great tone poem based on the myth of Daphnis and Chloe. One of the highlights of my youth was hearing it played live by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra on their US tour in the early ’70s. As an adherent of the Bible, I believe that other mythologies are simply corrupted memories of what actually happened in antiquity. It is helpful to trace the direction they took. I am in agreement with JoyceB on this one.

  10. JAllan says

    I am not sure exactly how it came to be called an apple in the European tradition, but I have a pet theory that, when the story was translated into Latin, this created a pun on the word for evil: “fructus arboris scientiae bonae et mali” (the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) could have been compressed to “fructus arboris bonae et mali” (the fruit of the tree of good and evil) and then to “fructus arboris mali” (the fruit of the tree of evil). And “malus/mali” or evil is pronounced exactly the same as “malus/mali” or apple; the apple has a long “ah” sound and evil a short one, but in common speech they sound alike, so the abbreviated phrase could be misunderstood as “the fruit of the tree of the apple” or “the fruit of the apple tree.” And since Western European traditions about the Bible come from the Latin Vulgate, the naming of the fruit as an apple would spread all over Christendom.

    Perhaps someone can check whether the Greek or Aramaic words for “evil” and “lemon” are similarly pronounced, also?

  11. Valentin says

    To JAllan: In case of apple your explanation is quite ingenious , but it cannot be applied to lemon. Ancient Greek for “lemon” is “kitrios” or “kitron”. Both words are derived from Latin “citrus”. They cannot be found in Ancient Greek Bible (Septuaginta or LXX). The earliest author who used word “kitrion” is Josephus Flavius (Antiq. lib. XIII, ch. XIII, 5). The term “evil” used in LXX in connection of tree of knowledge is “poneros” – not like “kitrion” or “kitros” at all. Cypriots’s language is Greek so there is no need in checking Aramaic.

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