10
ASPECTS OF ALEXANDRIAN LITERATURE

IN this chapter no attempt is made to provide a continuous or detailed account of the literary production of Ptolemaic Alexandria. My principal aim is to place Alexandrian writers in their social and intellectual setting, and to determine and examine the main types of literature represented there. Consequently the philologist will find little here to stimulate him; my analysis of texts is historical rather than textual, and there are several aspects of literature of which I say nothing. But in spite of these short-comings and limitations, I hope I have provided students both of Alexandrian civilization and of Alexandrian literature with a background for more detailed studies.


I. HISTORIOGRAPHY

Most of our attention will be given to poetry, for it is in this field that Alexandria made its most lasting contributions to Greek literature. We may, however, begin with a survey of the salient features of Alexandrian prose writing, with particular reference to historical and geographical writing. The term 'prose writing' covers, of course, everything not written in metre, but it is used here in its conventional sense of non-technical literary composition in a recognized genre. We have already seen that, in a wider field of prose composition, the Alexandrian output in scientific writing, in pinacographical writing, and in similar works of Peripatetic inspiration, was very considerable, while in another field, that of philosophy, it was small.

In historical as in philosophical writing Alexandria left but a small mark. It is striking that none of the main Hellenistic historians, Hieronymus, Timaeus, Phylarchus, Polybius, and others, had any lasting personal connection with the city (though the last, like Diodorus a century later, visited it on one occasion, and left us a tantalizing fragment concerning it).1 On the other hand Soter himself wrote one of the standard histories of the campaigns of Alexander, and even if his account, written in Alexandria, probably towards the end of his life, cannot be said to belong to the historical writing of the city, and it does not appear that in putting it into book form he owed anything to his residence in Alexandria, the appearance of this sober

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Ptolemaic Alexandria
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Publisher's Note (1984) vi
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Corrigenda xvi
  • Part I - The Frame Work 1
  • 1 - Foundation and Topography 3
  • 2 - The Population, its Organization and Composition 38
  • 3 - City and Sovereign 93
  • 4 - Industry and Trade 132
  • 5 - Religious Life 189
  • Part II - The Achievement 303
  • 6 - Ptolemaic Patronage: the Mouseion and Library 305
  • 7 - Alexandrian Science 336
  • 8 - Alexandrian Scholarship 447
  • 9 - Alexandrian Philosophy: the Main Phases 480
  • 10 - Aspects of Alexandrian Literature 495
  • 11 - The Horizon of Callimachus 717
  • Epilogue 794
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