Reading Epic: An Introduction to the Ancient Narratives

By Peter Toohey | Go to book overview

4

APOLLONIUS OF RHODES, ARGONAUTICA

ALEXANDRIA AND APOLLONIUS

Intensified by convex mirrors, a wood-fire light shone thirty miles out to sea from the lighthouse at Alexandria. There were steam-powered warning sirens for bad weather. Some claim that the light-house had a lift (Ferguson 1973:22). A mole three-quarters of a mile long linked the lighthouse's island with the metropolis. Alexandria was a new city. Designed by Deinocrates of Rhodes, commissioned by Alexander the Great, founded in 331 BC, it received traffic from the sea and the Nile. The city was an architect's creation. With streets set in a grid pattern, it was divided into five sectors, each logically designated by a letter of the alphabet. Enclosed by a wall nine miles long were such show-pieces as the palace, Alexander's tomb, the temple of the Muses and of Sarapis, the shrine of Pan, the university and library, the theatre, the zoological gardens, the gymnasium, stadium, and race course (Ferguson 1973:22-4). There were large Egyptian and Jewish communities. In late antiquity the city included colonies from all over the world.

The Mediterranean in the third century BC had become a Greek lake, as Cary (1962:195) colourfully puts it, 'but it had ceased to be under unified political control'. After the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC) his empire was split into a number of states. Of these 'Hellenistic' (a term used to describe the Greek world from 323 to 31 BC; see especially Green 1990) kingdoms, three dominated. The Antigonids were regents of Macedonia, ruled Thessaly and the Greek mainland. The Seleucids, resident in Antioch, controlled much of the east, and the southern half of Asia Minor. With their capital in Alexandria, the Ptolemies ruled Egypt, Cyrene, Cyprus,

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Reading Epic: An Introduction to the Ancient Narratives
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - Epic- The Genre, Its Characteristics 1
  • 2 - Homer, Iliad 20
  • 3 - Homer, Odyssey 44
  • 4 - Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 68
  • 5 - Beginning Epic in Rome 90
  • 6 - The Alexandrian Miniature Epic 100
  • 7 - Virgil, Aeneid 121
  • 8 - Ovid, Metamorphoses 144
  • 9 - Lucan, the Civil War 166
  • 10 - Roman Epic and the Emperor Domitian 186
  • 11 - Ends and Beginnings; Late Ancient Epic 211
  • Appendix- The Epic and the Novel 224
  • Bibliography 230
  • Index 242
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