Aforismi: Susan A. Stephens – The Poets of Alexandria

English review: HERE.

Recensione in italiano: QUI.

Susan Stephens’ book is learned, lucid and full of insight. she vividly evokes in all its strangeness the cultural/political setting of third-century BC Alexandria, the newly founded capital of the Ptolemies, then masterfully presents and interprets the work of four exemplary poets who wrote for them there. This book will doubtless become te go-to introduction to the poetry of Alexandria.

Peter Bing

Alexander’s conquest of the east and the later wars of the Successors, centred in Syria, Macedon, Epirus and Sicily, are the new poetic horizons.

Their combined poetic production set the trend for those who followed, and gives the clearest access to their aesthetics as well as their influence.

From the roll’s opening Posidippus stages the movement of valuable objects, of people and of political power towards Alexandria, and Alexander and the Ptolemies are evoked in almost every section.

At a basic level, Posidippus’ roll itself physically embodies the movement from Macedon to incorporation within not just a new place, but a place that blended Greek and Egyptian ways of life.

Theocritus in who of his Idylls (16 and 17) reminds us that the mark of the good king is in guaranteeing the prosperity of his people. And it is the role of poets to publicize their successes – or failures.

Post Alexander, the Panhellenic model was fraying around the edges, as kingship with Macedon or even Alexander himself could be more politically useful than descent from Achilles, and Greek soldiers fought not in defence of their poleis but as hirelings for whichever dynast paid the most.

Fatten your sheep for sacrifice poet

But keep your muse slender


Ptolemaic Alexandria had few precedents – the poets of Alexandria seized that circumstance as an opportunity to break with the past and to narrate their own future.

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