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The Alexandrian Tradition

Interactions between Science, Religion, and Literature

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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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Greek Poetry in Late Antique Alexandria: between Culture and Religion: Gianfranco Agosti

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GIANFRANCO AGOSTI

Greek Poetry in Late Antique Alexandria: between Culture and Religion

The title of this paper may appear somewhat surprising. At first instance, it seems quite difficult to speak of ‘poetry in late antique Alexandria’, especially if we take the definition in its narrowest sense, that is to say, poetry produced in Alexandria – as I would propose in what follows. As a matter of fact, except for a couple of prominent authors, such as Palladas1 in the fourth and Nonnus in the fifth century CE, we have only scant traces of poetic activity in Alexandria. The bulk of the Greek poetry flourishing in Egypt comes from the Thebaid:2 and scholars in recent years have increasingly emphasized the peculiar ‘Theban’ character of such a poetic movement (for example, in relation to the problem of the birth of epic panegyric). Alan Cameron’s authoritative views, as expressed in his seminal paper from 19653 and repeated some years later in his book ← 287 | 288 → on Claudian,4 acknowledged a sort of counterpoint between a Theban region devoted to literary culture and Alexandria, whose intellectual life was characterised by training in philosophy and theology, medicine and sciences, not in literature. Recent surveys on the cultural life of Byzantine Alexandria, such as that by Jean Gascou5, point to decadence in the city’s literary production, beginning at least in the fourth century. Oft-quoted sources, such as the writer of the Expositio totius mundi et gentium, make certain vague allusions to scholars...

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