PTOLEMAIC PATRONAGE: THE MOUSEION AND LIBRARY
MUCH of the intellectual production of Alexandria derives directly from Ptolemaic patronage, and we may begin this chapter by a general consideration of that institution. Literary patronage is a very ancient feature of Greek culture.1 It arose with the tyrants in the Archaic period, and survived wherever tyranny and monarchy lasted into the Roman period. Leading political figures of the Roman Republic exercised their patronage over Greek poets, and subsequently the emperors established a lavish system of patronage in Rome.2 To name only a few familiar figures, Simonides, Pindar, and Bacchylides all owed their livelihood at one time to the benevolence of the tyrants of Sicily, and Polycrates at Samos and Pisistratus at Athens had also formed notable centres of literary activity. The democratic world of Classic Athens had little use for direct patronage of this type, but outside Athens it survived, and indeed developed in the fifth and fourth centuries, particularly in Macedon, where Archelaus, the ancestor of Philip II, collected round him a coterie of literary notables--Euripides, Timotheus, and others3--and later Philip II also had his court littérateurs, notably Aristotle, and so, in his turn, had Alexander.4
Thus the patronage of the Hellenistic kings was nothing new; the institution was seemingly an invariable accompaniment of royal splendour. The difference, at least in Egypt, lay in the extent and direction of its development. In the Archaic and Classic ages, as later in Imperial Rome, patronage was repaid with poetry, and that, apparently, was the extent of the obligation. In the Hellenistic world this individual aspect of the matter survived to some extent, but the determination of the sovereign to support learning for its own sake was of greater significance. To this end the various kings, with larger funds at their disposal than the rulers of an earlier day, established permanent foundations of learning. This development, which implies a new conception both of the physical world and of the creations of the past as due objects of study, is itself a matter of considerable interest. In Egypt the main factor in the new scientific attitude to literature and to all branches of natural study
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Publication information: Book title: Ptolemaic Alexandria. Contributors: P. M. Fraser - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1972. Page number: 305.
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