Hellenistic Culture and Society

Published by: University of California Press

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Hellenistic Culture and Society

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Seeing Double

Intercultural Poetics in Ptolemaic Alexandria

Susan A. Stephens

When, in the third century B.C.E., the Ptolemies became rulers in Egypt, they found themselves not only kings of a Greek population but also pharaohs for the Egyptian people. Offering a new and expanded understanding of Alexandrian poetry, Susan Stephens argues that poets such as Callimachus, Theocritus, and Apollonius proved instrumental in bridging the distance between the two distinct and at times diametrically opposed cultures under Ptolemaic rule. Her work successfully positions Alexandrian poetry as part of the dynamic in which Greek and Egyptian worlds were bound to interact socially, politically, and imaginatively.

The Alexandrian poets were image-makers for the Ptolemaic court, Seeing Double suggests; their poems were political in the broadest sense, serving neither to support nor to subvert the status quo, but to open up a space in which social and political values could be imaginatively re-created, examined, and critiqued. Seeing Double depicts Alexandrian poetry in its proper context—within the writing of foundation stories and within the imaginative redefinition of Egypt as "Two Lands"—no longer the lands of Upper and Lower Egypt, but of a shared Greek and Egyptian culture.

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Tales of High Priests and Taxes

The Books of the Maccabees and the Judean Rebellion against Antiochos IV

Sylvie Honigman

In the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great, the ancient world of the Bible—the ancient Near East—came under Greek rule, and in the land of Israel, time-old traditions and Greek culture met. But with the accession of King Antiochus IV, the soft power of culture was replaced with armed conflict, and soon the Jews rebelled against their imperial masters, as recorded in the Biblical books of Maccabees. Whereas most scholars have dismissed the Biblical accounts of religious persecution and cultural clash, Sylvie Honigman combines subtle literary analysis with deep historical insight to show how their testimony can be reconciled with modern historical analysis by learning to converse with the Biblical authors, so to speak, in their own language to understand the way they described their own experiences. Honigman contends that their stories are not mere fantasies but genuine attempts to cope with the massacre that followed the rebellion by giving it new meaning. This reading also discloses fresh political and economic factors.




 

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