Late Hellenistic volume contents

Contents for the project’s edited volume (titles in alphabetical order by contributor).

1. Mario Baumann: Joyful voyages: Periplous and the reader’s pleasure in Diodorus’ Bibliotheke and Philostratus’ Imagines

2. Joy Connolly: Inscape empire: uses of classical Athens from Cicero to Aristides

3. Casper C. de Jonge, On Imitation: from Dionysius to Dio

4. Matthew Fox: Dialogic history: Rome from Dionysius to Plutarch

5. Benjamin Gray: Polis and cosmopolis in later Hellenistic literature and civic rhetoric

6. Myrto Hatzimichali: Philosophical self-definition in Strabo’s Geography

7. Regina Höschele: The Wondrous Journey of Cicero’s Head to Sardis: Hellenic Identity and Biculturalism in a Greek Imperial Epigram

8. Katarzyna Jazdzewska: From Plato to Plutarch and Dio Chrysostom: dialogue in the Hellenistic and early Imperial Period

9. Lawrence Kim: ‘Asian’ oratory from the Hellenistic period to the Second Sophistic

10. Emily Kneebone: Mapping power in late Hellenistic and imperial Greek geographical poetry

11. Jason König: Comparing Strabo and Pausanias

12. Felix K. Maier: Narrating the ‘Swarm of Possibilities’ — The Historian’s Challenge of Dealing with Contingency

13. Thomas A. Schmitz: Pyrenaean Mountains and Deep-Valleyed Alps: Geography and Empire in the Garland of Philip

14. Nicolas Wiater: tbc


Thomas A. Schmitz: Pyrenaean Mountains and Deep-Valleyed Alps: Geography and Empire in the Garland of Philip

While classical studies generally lack the depth and width of evidence which allow the digital analysis typical of the “spatial turn” in modern historical research, representations and imaginations of space have come into focus during the last two decades. Taking their cues from the postcolonial deconstruction of the binary opposition “center/periphery,” scholars have studied the ideological configuration of space in the Roman Empire (see, e.g., K. Clarke, Between Geography and History. Hellenistic Constructions of the Roman World, OUP 1999). In my contribution, I intend to analyze the representation of (imperial) space in the epigrams of the Garland of Philip. The material is difficult to interpret as the authenticity of many epigrams, the chronology of their authors, and their geographical place are disputed, so most of my conclusions must remain tentative.

My contribution analyzes the ways in which geographical space is imagined and depicted in these poetical texts. Distant regions are no longer seen as completely unfamiliar and outlandish, but populate the imaginary map of an ever growing world. Moreover, I argue that in the first century B.C.E., Italy and in particular Rome became part of the Greek landscape; e.g., first-person statements in epigrams can call Italy the “fatherland,” thus depicting it as the emotional center of the vast world of the Roman empire. An important topic in many funerary epigrams is “death in a faraway place”; this reflects the reality of a huge empire in which mercenaries, tradesmen, ambassadors and other officials were indeed traveling to the most distant regions. My paper will examine different strategies which poetical texts employ to impose order on this vast world, such as stereotypical connections with myth or “classical” Greek history. In the process, some place names (such as Thermopylae or Salamis) are loaded with cultural significance and become Greek “lieux de mémoire” (P. Nora). My contribution will conclude by briefly comparing this Greek view of the Roman Empire with the view which we find in the Second Sophistic, when a Greek Renaissance had established an imaginary Greece as the center of the world; this will allow us to see the specificity of the geography of the Roman Empire in late Hellenistic and early imperial Greek texts.

Felix K. Maier: Narrating the ‘Swarm of Possibilities’ — The Historian’s Challenge of Dealing with Contingency

Every reader expects a historian to come up with reasons why a certain event happened. No one wants to be told by him that everything was accidental or that no reason can be found for an event. As a consequence, history appears to be somewhat determined, since piling up reasons evokes the impression of a past that followed a pattern of necessity. Thus, a historian often runs the risk of unintentionally leaving out possible alternatives, which could have happened alike, but which did not come about.

In my study, I would like to draw upon Plutarch’s biographies and show that he made use of some subtle techniques to avoid that his text seemed to tell a determined past.

At first glance, Plutarch’s accounts curiously seem to describe a determined past. But even if he sometimes seems to believe in a world in which everything happens according to the plan of a destiny that governs all human actions (tykhe), it would be unwise to assume that this really represents his idea of history. Instead, we should pay more attention to his narrative which again and again points to alternative directions which history did not choose, but which it could have chosen just as well. That he was seriously convinced of the likelihood and the high probability of his presented alternatives becomes obvious by the large investment he spent to hint at different outcomes. E.g. Plutarch makes frequent use of counterfactual remarks, he underlines the complex interaction of his protagonists which leads to unforeseeable and contingent results, and he emphasizes that even people from ,the bottom’ of history can significantly shape and alter the course of events.

It is obvious that Plutarch borrows from some literary techniques which have been established by Polybius in his Histories. By doing this, Plutarch’s biographies do not follow a predestined path leading inevitably towards success, failure or a tragic death. Plutarch sharpens our awareness for the contingency of every life he describes. We are confronted not only with what really happened, but also with a swarm of possibilities whose exact consequences are left to our imagination.

Jason König: Comparing Strabo and Pausanias

This chapter aims to break new ground in our understanding of the relationship between Strabo and Pausania, in dialogue with the helpful starting-points laid out by Maria Pretzler in her chapter in Dueck, Lindsay and Pothecary (eds.) Strabo’s Cultural Geography. In doing so it also addresses broader questions about how we should understand the relationship between late Hellenistic and imperial culture. Pretzler rightly stresses the differences between the two texts. Most strikingly, Strabo aims to fit Greece into the wider Roman world, whereas Pausanias focuses much more narrowly on mainland Greece and on the classical past. That difference is partly a consequence of their different cultural and political contexts. The late Hellenistic and Augustan period when Strabo was writing saw many Greek writers working in Rome and dependent on Roman patronage, and still engaged in the project, started by Polybius, of negotiating Greece’s place in a new, Roman world. By the second century CE, by contrast, the increased wealth and confidence of the cities of the Greek east made it easier to live without constant reference to Rome; that development went hand-in-hand with increasing attention to the classical Greek past. Other differences, not discussed by Pretzler, are part of the same pattern. One thing which has been surprisingly little noted in recent Strabo scholarship is the parallelism between Italy and Greece in the evolving narrative of Strabo’s work, both of them characterised as civilised territories in contrast with the wilder lands around the edges of the Mediterranean. Strabo also celebrates human dominance over and alteration of the natural environment to an unusual degree, a theme which is clearly linked with his broadly celebratory representation of Roman imperial control. That theme is particularly prominent in Book 5, which is full of examples of cities built into the landscape, around mountains and marshes, not least in Strabo’s remarkable account of the city of Rome as a human-altered landscape. It has parallels in the writing of others from the same period–e.g. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, especially Book 3 on the landscape of Rome and its hills, or Vitruvius, De architectura, especially Book 2 on manipulation of natural materials as a key part of architectural practice–although none of them goes so far as Strabo. It has often been suggested in modern ecocriticism that anthropocentric approaches to landscape, which sanction alteration of the natural environment for human use, can be traced back to the ancient world, and Strabo supports that view, but he is in fact far from typical. Pausanias, by contrast, tends to take a much more sceptical view of landscape alteration, linking it with hybris, drawing on the dominant strand of ambivalence about human interference in the natural world which stretches back in the historiographical tradition at least as far as Herodotus. That attitude does seem in his case to be linked with his more standoffish attitude towards Roman rule. In all of those ways Pretzler’s overarching contrast between Strabo and Pausanias, and between their respective periods, seems entirely valid. This chapter also suggests, however, that it needs to be nuanced. For one thing there are important areas of convergence between them, in addition to the differences. In making that argument I focus again on Strabo Book 5, where there is a conspicuous and recurrent engagement with Greek religion, history and myth, used to explain particular sites: Strabo actually sounds very Pausanian in places in Book 5, by comparison with other parts of the work (as he does also in his account of mainland Greece in Books 8 and 9–that similarity is usually ignored). That too makes Strabo of his time: in particular the way in which he stresses Italy’s Greek past brings him close to Dionysius of Halicarnassus and his famous characterisation of Rome as a Greek city. But it also suggests that we should be careful about overstating the contrast with Pausanias, whose methods are so similar. Second, even if we accept the basic contrast between these two authors it is clear that there are certain hazards in extrapolating to a sweeping contrast between the intellectual culture of their respective periods: at the very least we need to be careful to avoid overstatement. In many ways Pausanias is untypical. There are plenty of examples, in the later period too, of attempts to combine Roman and Greek culture within the framework of an encyclopaedic composition: Plutarch’s Lives and Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists are both cases in point. There are also other later examples of authors celebrating Roman landscape-alteration: Aristides’ Praise of Rome is a case in point. It may be right, then, that there is nothing quite like Strabo in the long second century CE, and that the conditions that produced his work were no longer in existence by the time Pausanias was writing. But neither is there a clear break between the two periods.

Emily Kneebone: Mapping power in late Hellenistic and imperial Greek geographical poetry

This paper examines how Greek geographical poems from the late Hellenistic and imperial periods foreground and explore the relationship between poetry and patronage, Greece and Rome. My analysis takes as its primary focus the Periodos Ges of “pseudo-Scymnus”, an iambic periegesis of the world composed in the late second century BCE and addressed to a King Nicomedes of Bithynia. Reading the Periodos against a range of (primarily geographical) texts from the late Hellenistic and imperial periods, including the periegetic poems of Dionysius son of Calliphon (probably first century BCE) and Dionysius the Periegete (second century CE), my paper explores three recurring sites of debate in Hellenistic and imperial Greek literature. The first is the contested role of literature in society at large, refracted in particular through these poets’ own engagement with contemporary theoretical debates about the proper function and characteristics of poetry. The second is the relationship constructed between (didactic) poets and their patrons, figured above all in the close links established between the control of information and political control of the world. The final point of comparison is these poets’ evocations of the evolving relationship between Greek and Roman culture in the late Hellenistic and imperial worlds, brought to the fore in their depictions of Rome as an increasingly prominent physical space often presented as deeply shaped by its Greek cultural heritage.

Lawrence Kim: ‘Asian’ oratory from the Hellenistic period to the Second Sophistic

What does the Second Sophistic owe to Hellenistic oratory and rhetorical discourse? Does the Second Sophistic represent something completely new, marked by a fundamental break from previous style, taste, and practice? Or should we speak of an essential continuity with what went before, despite the changes in social and political context? In the late nineteenth century, this question was posed in terms of a polarity between ‘Attic’ and ‘Asian’ styles; while Erwin Rohde saw the Second Sophistic as dominated by the flamboyant, artificial, and mannered ‘Asian’ rhetoric so prominent in the Hellenistic era, others saw Imperial orators (e.g., Dio, Aristides, and Lucian) as rejecting Hellenistic fashion and advocating a restrained and moderate ‘Attic’ style. Eduard Norden argued that in fact both sides were correct; he saw in each period an identical struggle between proponents of an ‘old’, conservative ‘Attic’ style and their ‘modern’ ‘Asian’ opponents. The validity of Norden’s thesis, which posits a fundamental continuity of both stylistic positions from the Hellenistic to the Imperial era, is, in my opinion, indisputable, despite several problems on points of detail. But the tendency in more recent Second Sophistic scholarship has been to emphasize Imperial writers’ conscious rejection of Hellenistic culture, and to highlight their conservative, classicizing attitude to content and style, as well as language (e.g., the adoption of grammatico-lexical (as opposed to stylistic) Atticism). The ‘modern’, ornate, ‘Asian’ side of Second Sophistic rhetorical style that so struck Rohde and Norden has largely been ignored, at best displaced by modern scholars onto descriptions of the extravagance, excess, and exuberance of sophistic performance.

My primary goal in this article is thus to reiterate, with refinements, the claim that Second Sophistic rhetoric should be seen as sharing key features with that of the Hellenistic period. More specifically, I demonstrate that in both periods a certain style of ‘sophistic’ Greek oratory or prose (called ‘Asian’ by its opponents in the first century BCE) can be found, which is characterized by brief, balanced clauses, ‘Gorgianic’ figures, and other embellishing effects: to the scanty Hellenistic remains of Hegesias and Heraclides Criticus we can compare the work of Imperial authors like Favorinus, Maximus of Tyre, and Achilles Tatius. Moreover, in both periods, such a style inspired hostile criticism by ‘classicizing’ writers (e.g., Dionysius; Plutarch and Lucian) who champion a ‘classical’, moderate, and restrained style in contrast to the alleged excess, affectation, and profligacy of their opponents. Despite this underlying continuity, however, there are also significant differences in the way this style is employed and discussed in each period: the predominance of Roman discussions (and the use of the term ‘Asian’) in the earlier period is not matched later, nor are there any examples in the Second Sophistic of the pompous and verbose variety of ‘Asian’ oratory criticized by the so-called Roman Atticists. Most importantly, perhaps, is that in the Imperial period we have first instance of a text celebrating, rather than denigrating, ‘sophistic’ style—Philostratus’ Lives of the Sophists.

The nature of the relationship between Hellenistic and Imperial oratory is a topic bedeviled by problems of terminology (the term ‘Asian’ is not used of contemporary oratory in the Second Sophistic; ‘Attic’ refers only to style in the late Hellenistic period, but later to style and dialect), unevenly distributed evidence (virtually no ‘Asian’ oratory from the first century BCE survives), and inconsistencies and vagueness in our main sources (Dionysius, Cicero, Philostratus). My goal in this article is to provide a clear, coherent account of the relationship, and to highlight the significant continuity in rhetorical style and discourse between the two eras.

Katarzyna Jazdzewska: From Plato to Plutarch and Dio Chrysostom: dialogue in the Hellenistic and early Imperial Period

Greek dialogues of the imperial period are usually discussed in the context of dialogic texts of the Classical period, in particular those of Plato. There seems to be a tacit assumption in scholarship, at times communicated explicitly, that the genre of dialogue was revived by Plutarch and that this revival is related to the general spirit of the period, which preferred Classical models and distanced itself from its more immediate past. This perspective, however, disregards the fact that dialogues of the imperial period, although they frequently allude to works of Plato and imitate them, in many respects reflect and incorporate post-Platonic developments of the dialogic genre.

The aim of my contribution is to rethink the use of the dialogue in the imperial period in the context of our knowledge of the genre’s development after Plato and in the Hellenistic period. For the sake of coherence, I will focus on dialogues of Plutarch and Dio Chrysostom. My choice is due to two reasons: first, these two roughly contemporary authors stand at the beginning of the so-called Second Sophistic period, and therefore connections between their works and the Hellenistic-period and early imperial literature are easier to determine than in the case of later authors; second, considered together, Dio and Plutarch composed thirty-odd dialogues of diverse length and formats which provide abundant material for analysis.

I will begin with an overview of Plutarch’s and Dio’s dialogic works. I will make an attempt at a typology of their dialogues (narrative and dramatic; mythological, historical, and ‘contemporary’; dialectical and non-dialectical; with named interlocutors and with anonymous interlocutors; with or without prefaces and/or dedications) and then discuss some recurrent, non-Platonic features such as:

1) prefaces and dedications (which precede a dialogue or, in the case of Plutarch’s Table Talks, every book) (Plutarch)

2) inclusion of the author, his friends, or family members as speakers (Plutarch, to some extent also Dio)

3) dialectical exchanges between anonymous interlocutors (Dio)

4) polemical discussions of doctrines of Hellenistic-period philosophical schools (Plutarch)

5) historical setting (Plutarch, Dio)

6) third-person narration (Dio)

I will examine these features in the context of our knowledge of earlier, now lost dialogic writings and extant dialogues of the Hellenistic and early imperial period (Pseudo-Platonica, Cicero, Philo of Alexandria) and argue that various formats of Plutarch’s and Dio’s dialogues reflect and continue the diversity of the genre in the preceding period. For instance, prefaces and dedications are an element of Peripatetic provenance, shared by Cicero and Plutarch; interestingly, in Plutarch they tend to accompany narrated rather than dramatic dialogues. Inclusion of the author as one of the principal speakers, also believed to be a feature of Peripatetic provenience, is shared by Cicero, Philo, and Plutarch. Even when they imitate Plato, Dio and Plutarch follow their predecessors who practiced Platonic mimesis from Aristotle (whose Eudemus, it seems, imitated the Phaedo) down to Philo (whose De animalibus imitates the Phaedrus).

Regina Höschele: The Wondrous Journey of Cicero’s Head to Sardis: Hellenic Identity and Biculturalism in a Greek Imperial Epigram

My paper examines an inscriptional epigram from Sardis, which a Greek named Polybius (possibly to be identified with the author of several linguistic treatises) set up in the 2nd century AD to accompany a bust of Cicero no longer extant: “Having found your sacred head, Cicero, I erected it – I, Polybius a Greek, the head of the first among Romans” (Merkelbach-Stauber 04/02/05). In this poem, the expression σὴν ἱερὴν κεφαλήν, which is borrowed from a widely known epitaph of Homer (AP 7.3), does not, I submit, simply function as pars pro toto for the person commemorated (as it does in its model), but has a concrete, material referent: the bust of Cicero in front of the spectator’s eyes. The epigram, moreover, playfully engages with the rhetorical tradition surrounding Cicero’s decapitation (a popular declamatory theme) in suggesting that Polybius stumbled upon (εὑρών) the orator’s severed head, which we are invited to picture as having traveled all the way from Rome to Sardis. Through a comparison with Hellenistic tales about Orpheus’ truncated head, whose journey from Thrace to Lesbos served as an aition for the island’s famous song culture, I reflect on the implications of this imagined voyage, in particular on the complex dynamics of Polybius’ dedication, which, in a very self-conscious manner, expresses a Greek’s admiration for a Roman. Contemplating its negotiation of Greek and Roman culture vis-à-vis contemporary reflections on similar issues, my paper situates the epigram within the period’s bicultural discourse. In sum, I show how this brief, at first sight seemingly inconspicuous inscription stands in the tradition of Hellenistic epigram with its frequent play upon the genre’s physical contexts, and (self-ironically?) presents its author as a Greek fan of Rome’s foremost orator.

Myrto Hatzimichali: Philosophical self-definition in Strabo’s Geography

This chapter addresses some aspects of the role of philosophy and the impact of philosophical thought on literature of the Late Hellenistic period. It focuses primarily on Strabo’s Geography, considering the author’s claims about philosophy in general as an educational ideal, linked to his claims about geography as a philosophical discipline, through which he seeks to endow it with added prestige and a tradition of illustrious predecessors. Comparisons will be drawn here with other authors of the Late Hellenistic and Imperial periods who claimed a philosophical pedigree for their own scientific disciplines, such as Vitruvius and Galen.

The chapter will also address the question of what Strabo understands by ‘philosophy’ when he says in his opening paragraphs that geography belongs to the interests of an individual engaged in philosophy. In this regard, Strabo’s work offers an opportunity to explore from a Late Hellenistic point of view certain themes that are recurrent in how we think about the Second Sophistic and intellectual life in the Imperial period, especially the value placed on wide learning (paideia or polymatheia, both terms used by Strabo), as well as the process of constructing an identity for a Greek intellectual in the context of the Roman empire. Some instructive comparisons will also be drawn between Strabo’s philosopher-geographer and portraits of the ‘philosopher’ emerging from Imperial texts such as Plutarch’s Table Talk.

Finally, the chapter will consider the impact of this type of attitude towards philosophy on Strabo’s own alleged affiliation to Stoicism. Through the example of his treatment of human and divine providence (pronoia) it will emerge that doctrinal orthodoxy may become less of a priority compared to the demands of an ambitious large-scale cultural project.

Benjamin Gray: Polis and cosmopolis in later Hellenistic literature and civic rhetoric

This article will argue for the value of considering later Hellenistic poleis’ inscriptions as part of later Hellenistic literature. One of the main forms of self-expression of the Hellenistic polis was the honorific decree for a citizen or foreigner, approved by all citizens in assembly. Any such decree praised the honorand’s virtues and granted honours. From c. 150 BC onwards, as emphasised in the influential analyses of L. Robert and Ph. Gauthier, the language of many such decrees became much more expansive, rhetorical and interesting. Many later Hellenistic decrees even resemble short biographies, containing quite detailed and complex descriptions of individuals’ virtues and education.

This article will explore some of the many interesting overlaps between the approaches to virtue, praise and the common good in such decrees and in later Hellenistic literature, especially prose works on history, rhetoric and geography (Polybius, Posidonius, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Dionysius of Halicarnassus). The particular focus of the article will be the coexistence of, or even tension between, more civic and more cosmopolitan perspectives in both inscriptions and literature. Unsurprisingly, a more local, particularist civic perspective on events and virtues is dominant in poleis’ decrees: the traditional small-scale polis, and usually one particular polis, remains the principal political and cultural horizon. Many authors of lost works of local history and ethnography would doubtless have adopted the same perspective. Conversely, a more cosmopolitan, universalist perspective is dominant in the influential and wide-ranging literary works mentioned above: the Mediterranean is now an interconnected, even unified whole, with Rome and Roman power at its centre.[1]

Nevertheless, this article will argue that there are substantial and important traces of the influence of the opposite perspective in each of the genres. Civic rhetoric has some significant cosmopolitan, universalising tendencies. For example, it becomes much more common in the later Hellenistic period for cities to praise benefactors for the universalist virtue of philanthropia or ‘humanity’. Home citizens could even be praised for showing or promoting philanthropia and more universalising attitudes, alongside more traditional particularist ones, in their relations with their own fellow citizens. In an example particularly revealing of links between literature and civic rhetoric, the naturalised Prienian citizen Aulus Aurelius Zosimos was praised, not only for treating Priene as if it were his home polis, but also for arranging a tutor in literature (philologia) for the ephebes, so that their souls would be led towards virtue and ‘humane emotion’ (pathos anthropinon) (see I.Priene 112). Even outsiders who were not, like Zosimos, naturalised as citizens could be represented in decrees as members of an extended, more informal and open-ended quasi-civic community. Resident Romans, other foreigners and slaves could even be presented as on an equal footing with citizens in some contexts.[2]

For their part, influential cosmopolitan literary authors frequently reveal the influence of the traditional polis and its ideals on their language and thinking. Some betray a continuing patriotic loyalty to their home polis. Polybius’ attachment to Megalopolis is an interesting and paradoxical case, because Megalopolis was itself originally an artificial quasi-cosmopolitan construct. In addition, it is common for relevant literary authors to use the model of the polis to conceptualise and explain larger political and social units: for example, Polybius analyses the Achaian League as almost like a polis (2.37.7-11), while Diodorus’ preface praises those historians who can write the history of the world as if of one polis. Moreover, Diodorus’ whole preface reads very like a civic honorary decree, but with the oikoumene standing in for the honouring polis and universalising historians for the civic benefactors. In general, civic ethical language of praise offered very useful vocabulary and values for analysing important individuals and institutions in the new more cosmopolitan, Rome-centred world: for example, the virtues of Dionysius’ early Roman elite closely resemble those attributed in inscriptions to the great benefactors of the later Hellenistic cities. Taken together, the epigraphic and the literary sources reveal a shared ethical koine, based on notions of (for example) arete, philanthropia, prohairesis, protrope and paideia, which could be applied in contrasting particularist and universalist ways.

In addition to revealing the perhaps mainly unconscious hold of the traditional polis on their ethical and political thinking and language, some relevant literary authors also took an active continued interest in the small-polis world and its entanglement with wider Mediterranean affairs. This is particularly evident in the intricacy of Polybius’ narrative of Greek affairs (compare N. Wiater in this volume). Considering relevant literary texts together with some more cosmopolitan inscriptions helps to illuminate how later Hellenistic thinkers and writers, prefiguring developments in later Imperial Greek thought, conceptualised and represented the complexities of the new Graeco-Roman Mediterranean, and the interconnections between local and universal, polis and cosmopolis.

[1] Compare, for example, Clarke, K. (1999), Between Geography and History: Hellenistic Constructions of the Roman World (Oxford).

[2] See Hamon, P. (2011), ‘Gleichheit, Ungleichheit und Euergetismus: die isotes in den kleinasiatischen Poleis der hellenistischen Zeit’, in Mann, Chr., and Scholz, P. (eds.) (2011), “Demokratie” im Hellenismus: Von der Herrschaft des Volkes zur Herrschaft der Honoratioren? (Berlin).