Hellenistic Culture and Society

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Hellenistic Culture and Society

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Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions

Frank L. Holt

To all those who witnessed his extraordinary conquests, from Albania to India, Alexander the Great appeared invincible. How Alexander himself promoted this appearance—how he abetted the belief that he enjoyed divine favor and commanded even the forces of nature against his enemies—is the subject of Frank L. Holt's absorbing book.

Solid evidence for the "supernaturalized" Alexander lies in a rare series of medallions that depict the triumphant young king at war against the elephants, archers, and chariots of Rajah Porus of India at the Battle of the Hydaspes River. Recovered from Afghanistan and Iraq in sensational and sometimes perilous circumstances, these ancient artifacts have long animated the modern historical debate about Alexander. Holt's book, the first devoted to the mystery of these ancient medallions, takes us into the history of their discovery and interpretation, into the knowable facts of their manufacture and meaning, and, ultimately, into the king's own psyche and his frightening theology of war. The result is a valuable analysis of Alexander history and myth, a vivid account of numismatics, and a spellbinding look into the age-old mechanics of megalomania.

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Athens and Macedon

Attic Letter-Cutters of 300 to 229 B.C.

Stephen V. Tracy

Little of the historiography of third-century Athens survives, and much of what we know—or might know—about the period has come down to us in inscriptions carved by Attic stonemasons of the time. In this book Stephen Tracy, the world's preeminent expert in this area, provides new insight into an unsettled and obscure moment in antiquity.

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Creating a Common Polity

Religion, Economy, and Politics in the Making of the Greek Koinon

Emily Mackil

In the ancient Greece of Pericles and Plato, the polis, or city-state, reigned supreme, but by the time of Alexander, nearly half of the mainland Greek city-states had surrendered part of their autonomy to join the larger political entities called koina. In the first book in fifty years to tackle the rise of these so-called Greek federal states, Emily Mackil charts a complex, fascinating map of how shared religious practices and long-standing economic interactions faciliated political cooperation and the emergence of a new kind of state. Mackil provides a detailed historical narrative spanning five centuries to contextualize her analyses, which focus on the three best-attested areas of mainland Greece—Boiotia, Achaia, and Aitolia. The analysis is supported by a dossier of Greek inscriptions, each text accompanied by an English translation and commentary.

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Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus

Theocritus

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).

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From Alexander to Jesus

Ory Amitay

Scholars have long recognized the relevance to Christianity of the many stories surrounding the life of Alexander the Great, who claimed to be the son of Zeus. But until now, no comprehensive effort has been made to connect the mythic life and career of Alexander to the stories about Jesus and to the earliest theology of the nascent Christian churches. Ory Amitay delves into a wide range of primary texts in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew to trace Alexander as a mythological figure, from his relationship to his ancestor and rival, Herakles, to the idea of his divinity as the son of a god. In compelling detail, Amitay illuminates both Alexander’s links to Herakles and to two important and enduring ideas: that of divine sonship and that of reconciliation among peoples.

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The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa

Getzel M. Cohen

This authoritative and sweeping compendium, the second volume in Getzel Cohen's organized survey of the Greek settlements founded or refounded in the Hellenistic period, provides historical narratives, detailed references, citations, and commentaries on all the settlements in Syria, The Red Sea Basin, and North Africa from 331 to 31 BCE. Organized geographically, the volume pulls together discoveries and debates from dozens of widely scattered archaeological and epigraphic projects. Cohen's magisterial breadth of focus enables him to provide more than a compilation of information; the volume also contributes to ongoing questions and will point the way toward new avenues of inquiry.

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Historical Fictions and Hellenistic Jewish Identity

Third Maccabees in Its Cultural Context

Sara Raup Johnson

In this thoughtful and penetrating study, Sara Raup Johnson investigates the creation of historical fictions in a wide range of Hellenistic Jewish texts. Surveying so-called Jewish novels, including the Letter of Aristeas, 2 Maccabees, Esther, Daniel, Judith, Tobit, Josephus's account of Alexander's visit to Jerusalem and of the Tobiads, Artapanus, and Joseph and Aseneth, she demonstrates that the use of historical fiction in these texts does not constitute a uniform genre. Instead it cuts across all boundaries of language, provenance, genre, and even purpose. Johnson argues that each author uses historical fiction to construct a particular model of Hellenistic Jewish identity through the reinvention of the past. The models of identity differ, but all seek to explore relations between Jews and the wider non-Jewish world.

The author goes on to present a focal in-depth analysis of one text, Third Maccabees. Maintaining that this is a late Hellenistic, not a Roman, work Johnson traces important themes in Third Maccabees within a broader literary context. She evaluates the evidence for the authorship, audience, and purpose of the work and analyzes the historicity of the persecution described in the narrative. Illustrating how the author reinvents history in order to construct his own model for life in the diaspora, Johnson weighs the attitudes and stances, from defiance to assimilation, of this crucial period.

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The Image of the Jews in Greek Literature

The Hellenistic Period

Bezalel Bar-Kochva

This landmark contribution to ongoing debates about perceptions of the Jews in antiquity examines the attitudes of Greek writers of the Hellenistic period toward the Jewish people. Among the leading Greek intellectuals who devoted special attention to the Jews were Theophrastus (the successor of Aristotle), Hecataeus of Abdera (the father of "scientific" ethnography), and Apollonius Molon (probably the greatest rhetorician of the Hellenistic world). Bezalel Bar-Kochva examines the references of these writers and others to the Jews in light of their literary output and personal background; their religious, social, and political views; their literary and stylistic methods; ethnographic stereotypes current at the time; and more.

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The Making of Fornication

Eros, Ethics, and Political Reform in Greek Philosophy and Early Christianity

Kathy L. Gaca

This provocative work provides a radical reassessment of the emergence and nature of Christian sexual morality, the dominant moral paradigm in Western society since late antiquity. While many scholars, including Michel Foucault, have found the basis of early Christian sexual restrictions in Greek ethics and political philosophy, Kathy L. Gaca demonstrates on compelling new grounds that it is misguided to regard Greek ethics and political theory—with their proposed reforms of eroticism, the family, and civic order—as the foundation of Christian sexual austerity. Rather, in this thoroughly informed and wide-ranging study, Gaca shows that early Christian goals to eradicate fornication were derived from the sexual rules and poetic norms of the Septuagint, or Greek Bible, and that early Christian writers adapted these rules and norms in ways that reveal fascinating insights into the distinctive and largely non-philosophical character of Christian sexual morality.

Writing with an authoritative command of both Greek philosophy and early Christian writings, Gaca investigates Plato, the Stoics, the Pythagoreans, Philo of Alexandria, the apostle Paul, and the patristic Christians Clement of Alexandria, Tatian, and Epiphanes, freshly elucidating their ideas on sexual reform with precision, depth, and originality. Early Christian writers, she demonstrates, transformed all that they borrowed from Greek ethics and political philosophy to launch innovative programs against fornication that were inimical to Greek cultural mores, popular and philosophical alike. The Septuagint's mandate to worship the Lord alone among all gods led to a Christian program to revolutionize Gentile sexual practices, only for early Christians to find this virtually impossible to carry out without going to extremes of sexual renunciation.

Knowledgeable and wide-ranging, this work of intellectual history and ethics cogently demonstrates why early Christian sexual restrictions took such repressive ascetic forms, and casts sobering light on what Christian sexual morality has meant for religious pluralism in Western culture, especially among women as its bearers.

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Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome

Arthur M. Eckstein

This ground-breaking study is the first to employ modern international relations theory to place Roman militarism and expansion of power within the broader Mediterranean context of interstate anarchy. Arthur M. Eckstein challenges claims that Rome was an exceptionally warlike and aggressive state—not merely in modern but in ancient terms—by arguing that intense militarism and aggressiveness were common among all Mediterranean polities from ca 750 B.C. onwards.

In his wide-ranging and masterful narrative, Eckstein explains that international politics in the ancient Mediterranean world was, in political science terms, a multipolar anarchy: international law was minimal, and states struggled desperately for power and survival by means of warfare. Eventually, one state, the Republic of Rome, managed to create predominance and a sort of peace. Rome was certainly a militarized and aggressive state, but it was successful not because it was exceptional in its ruthlessness, Eckstein convincingly argues; rather, it was successful because of its exceptional ability to manage a large network of foreign allies, and to assimilate numerous foreigners within the polity itself. This book shows how these characteristics, in turn, gave Rome incomparably large resources for the grim struggle of states fostered by the Mediterranean anarchy—and hence they were key to Rome's unprecedented success.

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