Ptolemaic Alexandria

Ptolemaic Alexandria

Ptolemaic Alexandria

Ptolemaic Alexandria

Excerpt

Many years ago I began to feel the lack of a documented study of even the main aspects of Alexandrian life in the Ptolemaic period. This book is an attempt to provide it, and at the same time to bridge the wide gap between the different fields of Antiquity and the different types of source material. Literary texts of all sorts, inscriptions, and papyri all have their contribution to make to such a study, and the analysis and combination of these sources form the main element in this book.

The aim explains both the scope and the method of the work. In the first part I have attempted to describe the framework of Alexandrian life, against which the real achievements of its civilization, discussed in the second part, can be seen. In this long second part I have had to walk almost entirely in paths more familiar to others than to me, and I have no doubt that I shall be assailed by specialists in those fields in which I have browsed along the way. Nevertheless, I do not regret my decision so to trespass, for these subjects, and the achievements in them, are the legacy of Alexandria to posterity, and until the achievements and the material background are in some fashion brought into one focus by the same pair of eyes, the former cannot be fully appreciated.

I am sensible that there are omissions. It may very naturally be asked why, in view of the length of the book, I have not included a synthetic picture of social life, the Alexandrian 'daily scene', in the first part, and why, in the second, there is no chapter devoted to Alexandrian art. In regard to the first point, I must confess to scepticism as to the value of such synthetic pictures if copious and precise evidence based on a sound chronological framework (such as exists for the study of the social life of Imperial Rome) is not available. I confess further to a reluctance to adding to the length of this book, and to occupying the time of the reader by recounting social phenomena which were in any case largely common to the whole Greek-speaking world, and therefore have no especial significance for Alexandria. I have, however, attempted to portray in all possible lights what seems to me of lasting significance: the society and social milieu of the intelligentsia to which we owe the legacy of Alexandria. My decision not to include a study of Alexandrian art was based on two considerations. First, art criticism and art history are remote both from my competence and from my line of approach to Alexandria, which is essentially through literary and documentary (including archaeological) evidence. To have introduced a different type of criticism would . . .

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