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Lawrence Kim

Asianism is a modern coinage referring to the rhetorical practice of certain Greek and Latin orators whose styles were designated by ancient critics as Asian (Asianus, Asiaticus, Ἀσιανός)—the “Asia” in question being the Republican Roman province. Asian eloquence was often contrasted unfavorably to a corresponding Attic style (Atticus, Ἀττικός), which was modelled on the prose of classical Athenian writers (a practice now known as Atticism). This opposition between Asian and Attic styles is first attested in Roman oratorical circles during the mid-1st century bce and was subsequently adopted by Greek critics in Augustan Rome, but seems to have fallen out of fashion by the reign of Tiberius. While Attic remains a general stylistic ideal in the more broadly conceived classicism of Imperial Greek literature, the term Asian disappears as a stylistic label. In a related, but separate development, from the late 1st century ce onwards, Greek literary writers increasingly adhered to a linguistic, rather than stylistic, variety of Atticism, which concentrated on reproducing the ancient Attic dialect used by Athenian authors of the 5th and 4th centuries bce.


Sylvie Honigman

The Letter of Aristeas is a literary work composed in Greek that narrates the legendary origins of the Septuagint. Scholars date the work to between the 3rd century bce and the late 1st century bce, with most at present agreeing on the 2nd century bce. While the first-person narrator, Aristeas, introduces himself as a Greek courtier of Ptolemy II Philadelphus writing to another Greek named Philocrates, modern scholars concur that the author was in fact an Alexandrian Jew. The Letter of Aristeas offers the earliest version of the legend according to which the Septuagint was translated by seventy-two elders from Jerusalem who came to Alexandria upon the invitation of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Because the nomenclature employed to describe the work done by the elders suggests a process not of translation but of textual emendation, the letter is also an important source of evidence for the editorial techniques developed by the scholars of the Alexandrian Museum. It is only with subsequent authors that the legend of the Septuagint’s origins acquired a miraculous element, according to which each one of the seventy-two elders produced the very same translation simultaneously through prophetic inspiration.