Lykophron's Alexandra, Rome, and the Hellenistic World

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2018-08-14
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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This volume takes as its subject one of the most important Greek poems of the Hellenistic period: the Alexandra attributed to Lykophron, probably written in about 190 BC. At 1474 lines and with a riddling narrative and a preponderance of unusual vocabulary it is a notoriously challenging prospect for scholars, but it also sheds crucial light on Greek religion (in particular the role of women) and on foundation myths and myths of colonial identity. Most of the poem purports to be a prophecy by the Trojan princess, Kassandra, who foretells the conflicts between Europe and Asia from the Trojan Wars to the establishment of Roman ascendancy over the Greek world in the poet's own time. The central section narrates in the future tense the dispersal of returning Greek heroes throughout the Mediterranean zone, and their founding of new cities. This section culminates in the Italian wanderings and foundational activity of the Trojan refugee Aineias, Kassandra's own kinsman.

Following Simon Hornblower's detailed full-length commentary on the Alexandra (OUP 2015; paperback 2017), this monograph asserts the poem's importance as not only a strongly political work, but also as a historical document of interest to cultural and religious historians and students of myths of identity. Divided into two Parts, the first explores Lykophron's geopolitical world, paying special attention to south Italy (perhaps the bilingual poet's own area of origin), Sicily, and Rhodes; it suggests that the recent hostile presence of Hannibal in south Italy surfaces as a frequent yet indirectly expressed concern of the poem. The thematic second Part investigates the Alexandra's relation to the Sibylline Oracles and to other apocalyptic literature of the period, and argues for its cultural and religious topicality. The Conclusion puts the case for the 190s BC as a turning-point in Roman history and contends that Lykophron demonstrates a veiled awareness of this, especially of certain peculiar features of Roman colonizing policy in that decade.

Author Biography

Simon Hornblower, Emeritus Senior Research Fellow in Classical Studies, All Souls College, Oxford

Simon Hornblower was most recently a Senior Research Fellow in Classical Studies at All Souls College, Oxford, until his retirement in 2016. Earlier in his career he was a Prize Fellow at All Souls College from 1971 until 1977 before becoming Tutorial Fellow in Ancient History at Oriel College and University CUF Lecturer. In 1997 he was appointed Professor of Classics and Professor of Ancient History at UCL, where he remained until 2010 (from 2006 as Grote Professor of Ancient History). He has been a Fellow of the British Academy since 2004.

Table of Contents

Synopsis of the Alexandra
I: Lykophron's Geopolitical World
1. The Hellenistic Kingdoms; Cities and Federations of Old Greece
1.i. Introduction
1.i.a. Date of the poem
1.ii. The Hellenistic kingdoms
1.ii.a. The tyrants of the Western Mediterranean
1.ii.b. Alexander
1.ii.c. The Antigonids
1.ii.d. The Seleukids
1.ii.e. The Attalids
1.ii.f. The Ptolemies; Lykophron and Egypt
1.iii. The cities and federations (leagues) of Old Greece
1.iii.a. The cities
Athens and Attika; the Athenian colonization of Miletos
Thebes and Boiotia
Sparta and Messenia
1.iii.b. The federations: Boiotian, Aitolian, Lokrian
1.iv. Conclusion
2. Sicily and Magna Graecia (South Italy)
2.i. Sicily
2.ii. Italy
2.ii.a. Epizephyrian Lokroi
2.ii.b. Kaulonia
2.ii.c. Skylletion, Kroton, Petelia, and Temesa (Tempsa)
2.ii.d. Lagaria and Thourioi
2.ii.e. Daunia
3. Rhodes
ANNEX: The Lindian 'Chronicle'
4. Campania, Latium, and Rome
4.i. Campania
4.ii. Latium and Rome
4.iii. Where is Dido?
ANNEX: The Aineias section
II: Cultural and Religious Contexts
5. Sibylline Oracles and Other Apocalyptic Literature
5.i. Introduction
5.ii. The Sibylline Oracles, especially the Third
5.iii. Phlegon of Tralles
5.iv. The Book of Daniel
5.v. The 'Oracle of the Potter'
5.vi. Polybius?
5.vii. Conclusion
6. Culture, Religion, and Myths of Identity in the Alexandra
6.i. Introduction
6.ii. Hektor's bones (again)
6.iii. The Lokrian maidens
6.iv. Cult epithets: Smintheus, Mamertos, Mamersa
6.v. Myths of identity
6.v.a. Rome
6.v.b. Krete and Karia
6.v.c. Cyprus, the two places called Salamis, and Sparta
6.vi. Concluding remarks
ANNEX A: Lykophron on Hektor's bones
ANNEX B: Lykophron on the Lokrian maidens
ANNEX C: The Lokrian maidens inscription: text and translation
7. Conclusion
7.i. A political poem
7.ii. The 190s BC and Hannibal's legacy
7.iii. The intended audience or readership of the Alexandra
General index
Index locorum

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