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The Alexandrian Tradition

Interactions between Science, Religion, and Literature


Edited By Luis Arturo Guichard, Juan Luis García Alonso and María Paz de Hoz

This book is the outcome of the conference «Imperial Alexandria: Interactions between Science, Religion and Literature», held at Salamanca University in October 2011. The conference convened a group of experts from different fields to address the interrelationship between Science, Religion and Literature in the Graeco-Roman world during the Imperial Period, and especially in Alexandria, situating it within the context of the long tradition of knowledge that had been consolidating itself in this city, above all during the Hellenistic era. The encounter’s main aim was to create a forum for interdisciplinary reflection on «the Alexandrian model» of knowledge in the Imperial Period and its background, being attended by philologists and historians specialising in different types of texts (literary, scientific and religious), whose study requires an interdisciplinary approach, with priority being given to the notion of contact and the relationship between these subjects in order to gain a better understanding of the spirit, way of thinking and moral values of a particularly important era in the development of ancient culture.
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Between literature and science, poetry and prose, Alexandria and Rome: the case of Dionysius’ Periegesis of the Known World: Jane Lucy Lightfoot



Between literature and science, poetry and prose, Alexandria and Rome: the case of Dionysius’ Periegesis of the Known World

It is a credit to the vision of the organisers of this project that they encouraged a generous interpretation of “Alexandria” as a cultural force. The subject of my paper, however, is Alexandrian in the strict sense.

This author is Dionysius, who wrote a geographical hexameter poem at some point in the reign of Hadrian. It is just under 1200 lines long, and it describes the known world, with its three continents and the surrounding ocean. However, the identity of the author and his provenance was forgotten already in antiquity. Because of its pedagogical content, the text was popular – it was read in a monastic context in south Italy, and was on the school curriculum in Byzantium1 – and naturally generated various theories about its origin. The scholia and Eustathius, author of an important commentary in the twelfth century, guessed that its author was a Libyan, because in his description of the three continents he put Libya first, a relatively unusual ordering.2 Some nineteenth-century speculation got close to what we now know to be the truth: identifying him with the Dionysius of Alexandria mentioned in Suda δ 1173, Karl Ottfried Müller, editor of the Periegesis in the second volume of his Geographi Graeci Minores, supposed that he was an Alexandrian, and was wrong by a mere generation about the poem’s date, which he...

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