Interactions between Science, Religion, and Literature
Edited By Luis Arturo Guichard, Juan Luis García Alonso and María Paz de Hoz
Greek Poetry in Late Antique Alexandria: between Culture and Religion: 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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