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Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus


Publication Year: 2003

Under Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who ruled Egypt in the middle of the third century B.C.E., Alexandria became the brilliant multicultural capital of the Greek world. Theocritus's poem in praise of Philadelphus—at once a Greek king and an Egyptian pharaoh—is the only extended poetic tribute to this extraordinary ruler that survives. Combining the Greek text, an English translation, a full line-by-line commentary, and extensive introductory studies of the poem's historical and literary context, this volume also offers a wide-ranging and far-reaching consideration of the workings and representation of poetic patronage in the Ptolemaic age. In particular, the book explores the subtle and complex links among Theocritus's poem, modes of praise drawn from both Greek and Egyptian traditions, and the subsequent flowering of Latin poetry in the Augustan age.

As the first detailed account of this important poem to show how Theocritus might have drawn on the pharaonic traditions of Egypt as well as earlier Greek poetry, this book affords unique insight into how praise poetry for Ptolemy and his wife may have helped to negotiate the adaptation of Greek culture that changed conditions of the new Hellenistic world. Invaluable for its clear translation and its commentary on genre, dialect, diction, and historical reference in relation to Theocritus's Encomium, the book is also significant for what it reveals about the poem's cultural and social contexts and about Theocritus' devices for addressing his several readerships.

COVER IMAGE: The image on the front cover of this book is incorrectly identified on the jacket flap. The correct caption is: Gold Oktadrachm depicting Ptolemy II and Arsinoe (mid-third century BCE; by permission of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).

Published by: University of California Press

Series: Hellenistic Culture and Society


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Theocritus’s Encomium of Ptolemy is not one of his best-known or most-admired poems, but these are exciting times for the study of Ptolemaic culture, and the need for a new study of this poem seemed, at least to me, self-evident. How far this book goes toward filling that need is a matter for others. ...

Conventions and Abbreviations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-72

Theocritus’s Idyll 17 (EP)1 celebrates Ptolemy II “Philadelphus,”2 who became co-regent of Egypt and the Ptolemaic empire with his father, Ptolemy I “Soter,” in 2853 and then assumed the throne in his own right on Soter’s death in 283/2; he died in 246, to be succeeded by his son Ptolemy III “Euergetes.” ...


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pp. 73-74

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Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus

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pp. 75-92

From Zeus let us begin and, Muses, cease with Zeus, best of the immortal ones, whenever we raise our voices in song.1 But of men let Ptolemy be named in the first place, at the end, and in the middle, for he is the greatest of men. ...

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pp. 93-200

Already, then, as the proem establishes apparently discrete categories of being, vv. 7–8 test the boundary (as indeed does Ptolemy) between analogy and identity through a self-conscious acknowledgment that the language and mode of praise, the hymnos (cf. above, p. 8, 8n.), has been transferred from god to man. ...


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pp. 201-218

General Index

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pp. 219-222

Index of Greek Words

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pp. 223-224

Index Locorum

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pp. 225-226

Further Reading, Production Notes

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pp. 242-245

E-ISBN-13: 9780520929371
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520235601

Page Count: 238
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Hellenistic Culture and Society