2. Hellenism, 2.02 Ptolemaic Dynasty, 2.02.1 Alexandria of Egypt, Hellenism: Non-Fiction Book, Reviews

Book Review/Collaboration: “The Poets of Alexandria” by Susan A. Stephens

Recensione in italiano: QUI.

Quotes: HERE.

Good day everyone, thanks to be on Alessandro III di Macedonia- your source on Alexander the Great! Today I’m talking about a very interesting and very detailed book:

The Poets of Alexandria by Susan A. Stephens published by I.B. Tauris

I want to thank very much the editor for sending me the copy so I could read it and review it! Let’s go straight to the review!

Alexandria was the greatest of the new cities founded by Alexander the Great as his armies swept eastward. It was ruled by his successors, the Ptolemies, who presided over one of the richest and most productive periods in the whole of Greek literature. Susan A Stephens here reveals a cultural world in transition: reverential of the compositions of the past (especially after construction of the great library, repository for all previous Greek oeuvres), but at the same time forward-looking and experimental, willing to make use of previous forms of writing in exciting new ways. The author examines Alexandria’s poets in turban. She discusses the strikingly avant-garde Aetia of Callimachus; the idealized pastoral forms of Theocritus (which anticipated the invention of fiction); and the neo-Homerian epic of Apollonius, the Argonautica, with its impressive combination of narrative grandeur and psychological acuity. She shows that all three poets were innovators, even while they looked to the past for inspiration: drawing upon Homer, Hesiod, Pindar and the lyric poets, they emphasized stories and material that were entirely relevant to their own progressive cosmopolitan environment.

Susan A Stephens is Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Classics at Stanford University. Her books include Seeing Double: Intercultural Poetics in Ptolemaic Alexandria (2003), Callimachus in Context: From Plato to the Augustan Poets (with Benjamin Acosta-Hughes, 2012) and Callimachus: The Hymns (2015).

4 stars.

Reading time: from August 19th to October 9th 2019.

I’m happy to have had the opportunity to read The Poets of Alexandria because it’s a fundamental book for those like me who want to approach the poetry produced after the foundation of Alexandria of Egypt. It took me a long time to read this book even though it is short, very interesting, smooth and clear to read, for reasons that are not related to the book but to my time available.

This book is part of the Understanding Classics series published by Richard Stoneman and each volume is like an introductory guide to the topic but also a valuable tool for university students and anyone who wants to deepen it.

Understanding Classics is a specially commissioned series which aims to introduce the outstanding authors and thinkers of antiquity to a wide audience of appreciative modern readers, whether graduate students of classics, literature, philosophy and ancient history or generalists interested in the classical world.
Each volume – written by leading figures internationally – will examine the historical significance of the writer or writers in question; their social, political and cultural contexts; their use of language, literature and mythology; extracts from their major works; and their reception in later European literature, art, music and culture.

Stephens introduces the poets of Alexandria, in fact Posidippus of Pella, Theocritus of Syracuse, Callimachus of Cyrene and Apollonius of Rhodes are analyzed. The time span is fifty years and it goes from the reign of Ptolemy II to the first years of Ptolemy III, then from 285 to 235 BC. At that time Alexandria was a new city, inhabited by people who no longer had a Greek identity and were looking for their membership. Even the kingdom of the Ptolemies sought a myth of foundation and legitimization of their power, in fact they tried to find a way to be related to Alexander the Great to be considered pharaohs. The four authors examined by Stephens are included in this context: authors who experimented and were innovative for their time. We must not forget that Alexandria has been a focal point of culture for centuries thanks to its Library.

The author analyzes and compares the productions of the four poets who often, indeed almost always, haven’t arrived today in their entirety. Each work of the authors is examined in all its aspects. I don’t comment on the authors’ analysis part because I don’t have the knowledge to do it, but I can say that I read it, I liked it and it seemed exhaustive. The author translates the passages she reports like this, they aren’t inaccessible to those like me who don’t know Greek. The ideal would be to read this book accompanying the reading of the works of the four authors cited in it because otherwise it remains a somewhat unproductive reading, but we must understand this book as an aid to the approach of the four authors. The author has also analyzed in the Afterwards how these poets have influenced later poetry, Roman, Renaissance and how they have been resumed even in more recent times. There are plenty of final pages with notes and bibliography!

To me it was a very interesting reading and now I’m curious to read the Pindar volume edited and edited by Richard Stoneman himself.

My cat also liked this reading 😀

I’m closing the review leaving you some other information:

Richard Stoneman (Editor), Brian Brock (Editor), Susan F. Parsons (Editor)

Publisher:Bloomsbury Academic, I.B. Tauris
Publication date:05/30/2018
Series:Understanding Classics
Product dimensions:5.35(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.65(d)

Table of Contents

Maps viii

Acknowledgements xi

Abbreviations xii

Transliteration xiii

Introduction: Changing Places 1

I The Canon of Truth: Posidippus of Pella 25

II The Bucolic Imagination: Theocritus of Syracuse 57

III Beyond the Reach of Envy: Callimachus of Cyrene 85

IV Destiny’s Voyage: Apollonius of Rhodes 115

V Afterwards 141

Notes 161

Bibliography 177

Index 185


Thanks again to the publisher for this opportunity! I hope I made you interested in the book! Thank you for reading, good day,

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