Greek Literature and the Roman Empire: The Politics of Imitation

Greek Literature and the Roman Empire: The Politics of Imitation

Greek Literature and the Roman Empire: The Politics of Imitation

Greek Literature and the Roman Empire: The Politics of Imitation

Synopsis

'Tim Whitmarsh is possibly the most interesting and sophisticated critic writing on Greek Imperial literature these days, and this important, groundbreaking new book should solidify this reputation. The breadth, subtlety, and richness of writing on display is remarkable... for once, the expansive title of a book actually matches the scope of its contents... essential reading for anyone attempting to grapple with the issues involved in reading or interpreting Greek Imperial literature.' -Bryn Mawr Classical ReviewGreek Literature and the Roman Empire uses up-to-date literary and cultural theory to explore the phenomenal rise of interest in literary writing in Greece under the Roman Empire. Greek identity cannot be properly understood without appreciating the brilliant sophistication of the writers of the period, whose texts must be considered in the historical and cultural context of the battles for identity that raged under the vast, multicultural Roman Empire.

Excerpt

When, in the early 1990s, I first turned my attention to the literature of Roman Greece, most publications on the subject seemed to begin with an apology for a deviation from the traditional path of Classical scholarship (which also functioned as an advertisement for the author's ground-breaking foray). Now it is almost as though one needs to apologize for adding to the quantity of works on the subject, many of which are extremely erudite and thoughtprovoking. There remains, however, a need for a book that supplements the now familiar, historiographical emphasis upon Greek identity (in relation to the Greek past and in relation to Rome), with an awareness of the subtlety and literary panache of much Roman Greek writing. It is the central contention of this book that these two approaches are mutually dependent: it is impossible to consider Greek identity without understanding the ingenuity of the authors, and it is undesirable to consider literary aesthetics in isolation from the circuits of 'power' (however we choose to define that shibboleth of contemporary academia).

All dates are ce unless otherwise stated (and I have preferred bce/ce to bc/ad). English titles for Greek and Latin works are given in the main text, but the conventional Latin abbreviations (as employed in Liddell and Scott's Greek–English Lexicon) are used for footnotes and references. I have retained the familiar Latin spellings of Greek names, rather than attempting to transliterate Greek. Words like 'Akhilleus' and 'Loukianos' are difficult on the eye, and (worse) the practice represents a spurious attempt at authenticity. In a book that often deals with ideological debates concerning links between past and present, any attempted solution to the ongoing problem of representing ancient Greek nomenclature in English risks the charge of disingenuity; but (a sophistic concession) I would rather be open in my disingenuity.

The debts I have incurred during the gestation of this book are many. Let me here acknowledge only those of an intellectual cast. I have benefited immensely from conversations with Rebecca . . .

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