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Alexander the Great, reception of  

Diana Spencer

What makes Alexander Great? His story has captured the imagination of authors, artists, philosophers, and politicians across more than two millennia. He has provided a point of convergence for religious and spiritual thinkers, he has been co-opted as a champion for gender and sexual openness, he represents a paradigm for would-be charismatic dictators (and their opponents), he gives us scientific imperialism and justification for conquistadorial dreaming, and he exemplifies the risks of cultural appropriation. To understand why Alexander resonates so widely across so many different fields of study, interest groups, and media, is an exercise in reception. This Alexander who has captured the imagination is triumphantly equivocal and it is in the plurality of traditions through which this complexity is expressed that his enduring “greatness” lies. The imaginary quality of Alexander is unsurprising because more profoundly than for any comparable individual from classical antiquity, his history is a product of reception from the start: every encounter with Alexander the Great is part of a conversation that depends substantially on accounts and narrative evidence from long after his death, and at the least at one remove from the historians who first and contemporaneously chronicled his life and achievements.



Alan Douglas Edward Cameron and P. J. Parsons

Is not used in the modern sense before *Diogenianus (2). Many Hellenistic poets published books of epigrams: PMil. Vogl. VIII. 309 and PColon. 5. 204 are from collections by *Posidippus (2) and *Mnasalces, and a number of papyri of the 3rd–2nd cents. bce contain epigrams (P. Firmin Didot, SH 961, 974, 985, 986, 981, PColon. 3.128). The unpublished PVindob. G 40611 (3rd/2nd cent. bce) contains a check-list of at least 240 epigrams (first lines only), all unknown but one, selected from a collection or anthology in four books; for a preliminary account see P. J. Parsons, Entretiens Hardt XLVIII, Callimaque (2002) 118–20. Florilegia of all sorts were common from an early period (H. Chadwick, RAC ‘Florilegium’; J. Barns, CQ 1950–1), but the first artistically arranged anthology of epigrams still seems to be the Garland (Στέφανος) of *Meleager (2), c.


anthropology and the classics  

Helen King

Anthropology and the classics currently enjoy a fairly good relationship, but one which has never been stable. In the 19th cent. the interest of evolutionary anthropology in a ‘savage’ period through which all societies must pass meant that studies of contemporary simple societies began to be used to illuminate the classical past. After the First World War, classicists reacted against what were perceived as the excesses of the work of Jane Harrison and the Cambridge school, in which it was claimed that knowledge of ‘things primitive’ gave a better understanding of the Greeks. Meanwhile, in social anthropology, the rise of the static structural-functional paradigm and an insistence on an identity as ‘the science of fieldwork’ combined to cause a rejection of history. In the last 50 years, the divorce between the subjects has been eroded from both sides, with comparative studies increasingly valued as enabling us to escape from our intellectual heritage and the specific—though, to us, self-evident—ways it has formulated questions and sought answers.



Phillip Harding

Atthis was the title given in post-*Alexandrian scholarship to the genre of Greek *historiography that narrated the local history of *Attica. The title, derived from the name of the daughter of the mythical king Cranaus (Strabo 9. 1. 8), was probably invented by *Callimachus (3) for cataloguing purposes. The authors themselves used a variety of titles (Protogonia, Attika, Attikē Syngraphē) or none. The genre was probably created by *Hellanicus (1) in the late 5th cent., though *Pausanias (3) (10. 15. 5) credits *Cleidemus. It was most popular in the 4th cent. when Atthides were written by Cleidemus, *Androtion, *Phanodemus, and perhaps *Melanthius (3). *Demon and *Philochorus, the last and most respected atthidographer, wrote in the 3rd. Later *Ister compiled an epitome of these Atthides.In structure the Atthis was a chronicle, based upon a hypothetical list of kings (for the mythical period) and, after 683/2 bce, on the eponymous archons.


Ben-Hur, reception of  

Jon Solomon

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a historical romance novel set in 1st-century Judea and Antioch, was written by Lew Wallace (1827–1905) and published by Harper & Brothers in 1880. It has generated more successful popular artistic by-products and had a larger commercial impact than any other modern literary property within the Greco-Roman tradition. The novel’s protagonist, Judah Ben-Hur, is a wealthy Jewish teenager betrayed by his Roman friend Messala and enslaved in a naval galley, where he rescues the tribune Quintus Arrius, who in turn adopts him. Judah returns to Judea, defeats Messala in a chariot race in Antioch, and then raises three legions to support the new “King of the Jews,” whose message of peace he ultimately realizes.The novel did not become a bestseller until 1885, when Wallace, a retired Civil War major-general turned Indiana attorney and literary businessman, wrote a prequel for one of Harper’s magazines and then embarked on lecture tours, most notably reading aloud the chariot race passage to several thousand enthusiasts at Chautauqua in 1886.



Patricia E. Easterling

In Classical Greek the word kanōn (lit. ‘rod’) was used to mean ‘rule’ or ‘standard’; hence its use as the title of a manual on proportions by the sculptor *Polyclitus (2) and as the name of a statue illustrating his principles. The word was later applied by Christian writers to what became the approved selection of books of the Bible, but it was not used in pagan antiquity in the sense of a list of chosen ‘best authors’. (*Dionysius of *Halicarnassus uses it of (e.g.) *Lysias as ‘the perfect model of the Attic dialect’ (Lys. 2), and *Photius in the 9th cent. ce applies it to any author who represents the ‘standard’ of the genre or the model for another writer: e.g. *Thucydides (2) is the kanōn for *Cassius Dio, Bibl. 35b33.) The idea of compiling lists of the best writers in a particular genre, such as the Nine Lyric Poets, was attributed by Roman writers to Alexandrian scholars, particularly *Aristarchus (2) and *Aristophanes (2) of Byzantium (Quint.


cento, Latin  

Stephen Harrison

The extant Latin tradition of cento (the replication and combination of verse lines from a previous text to make a new work) largely uses the hexameter poems of Virgil, familiar to all educated Romans. The earliest extant cento proper is the 461-line tragedy Medea, usually ascribed to Hosidius Geta (200 ce), in which all the characters speak in Virgilian hexameters, and the choral lyrics consist entirely of final half-hexameters. There are eleven other pagan Virgilian centos from late antiquity, none longer than 200 lines; many are short epic narratives on mythological subjects (e.g., Mavortius’ Judgement of Paris [Iudicium Paridis]), but some are amusing parodies on trivial topics (e.g., the anonymous De alea and De panificio on dice playing and baking). The best known are the two epithalamian examples, the wittily obscene Nuptial cento (Cento nuptialis) of Ausonius, written c. 374, and the slightly less risqué Marriage-song of Fridus (Epithalamium Fridi) of Luxorius (early 6th century); Ausonius describes his technique in an important prefatory letter, classifying his cento as frivolum et nullius pretii opusculum—‘a slight work, frivolous and worthless’.



Philip Hardie

The modern use of ‘classicism’ to refer either to the art and literature of a period held to represent a peak of quality or perfection, or to the conscious imitation of works of such a period, derives from M. *Cornelius Fronto's use of classicus (lit. ‘belonging to the highest class of citizens’) to denote those ancient writers whose linguistic practice is authoritative for imitators (quoted in Gell. NA 19. 8. 5). The possibility of designating a period as ‘classical’, and of the consequent appearance of ‘classicizing’ movements, arises with the Hellenistic consciousness of the present as set off from, but heir to, a great past tradition, and with the self-conscious development of a theory of imitation (see imitatio). A full-blown classicizing movement emerges in 1st-cent. bce Rome, fostered by Greek writers like *Dionysius (7) of Halicarnassus who champion *Thucydides (2) as a model for historians and argue for the superiority of ‘Attic’ over ‘Asianic’ rhetorical models (see asianism and atticism); in the visual arts there is a parallel movement to imitate Greek models of the 5th and 4th cents.


Column of Trajan, reception of  

Elizabeth R. Macaulay

Since Late Antiquity, architects, leaders, and nations have emulated, adapted, and reinterpreted the Column of Trajan. Its appeal has been due to its height, ability to dominate the surrounding landscape, and complex spiral reliefs detailing the emperor Trajan’s annexation of Dacia as a Roman province. Its form has inspired countless honorific, triumphal, and commemorative monuments in the post-antique era.

Honorary columns were erected in Rome, possibly as early as 439bce; they were certainly known by 318bce. Rostral columns—columns with the beaks of captured warships attached—were erected in 260 and 255bce to celebrate Roman victories over the Carthaginians. None were so important in the tradition of erecting monumental, honorific, columns as the Column of Trajan (figure 1). Erected by the Senate in the Forum of Trajan in honour of Trajan’s two successful campaigns in Dacia (101–102ce; 105–106ce), it stood between the forum’s two libraries and the Basilica Ulpia. The Column (38 m tall and 3.7 m in diameter) was topped by a bronze statue (4.7 m) of Trajan in military attire. The column is hollow and contains a spiral staircase to the platform at the top of the column’s capital. The Column is famous for the finely carved helical sculptural relief program that depicted the Dacian wars. If rolled out, this frieze would be approximately 200 m long. There are 155 scenes with more than 2,600 figures, each at about two-thirds life size. The height of the frieze increases, as it spirals up the Column, from 0.89 m to 1.25 m.



Peter G. M. Brown

Contaminatio, a word used by modern scholars to express the procedure of *Terence (and perhaps *Plautus) in incorporating material from another Greek play into the primary play which he was adapting. Terence tells us that he had done this in adapting *Menander (1)'s Andria (adding material from Menander's Perinthia), and that his critics had complained that he ought not to contaminare plays in this way (i.e. to ‘spoil’ them by adding alien material: An. prologue 9 ff.; at Haut. 17 he says he has been accused in a general way of ‘contaminating’ many Greek plays while writing few in Latin). Terence claims the precedent of *Naevius, Plautus, and *Ennius, we cannot tell how truthfully (though some have claimed to detect contaminatio in Plautus; the fragments of Naevius and Ennius are too meagre to judge). He followed the same procedure in Eunuchus and Adelphoe but was there accused of ‘theft’ (plagiarism from earlier Latin comedies), not contaminatio.



Jane Webster

Creolization is a term referring to the process by which elements of different cultures are blended together to create a new culture. The word creole was first attested in Spanish in 1590 with the meaning ‘Spaniard born in the New World’. In the 1970s the term was widely adopted by linguists, who used it to denote a contact language or ‘pidgin’ that is spoken as a first language by subsequent generations. Since that time creolization has emerged as an important paradigm throughout the social sciences. It is employed today in varied ways by anthropologists, ethnographers and archaeologists working on multicultural adjustment in a wide range of colonial and post-colonial contexts.Creolization models have been advanced with reference to provincial material culture change in the Roman world, particularly among non-elites. In common with cognate concepts such as cultural hybridity, bricolage and discrepant experience, creolization enjoys popularity among scholars questioning the value of *Romanization, the traditional paradigm for acculturative cultural change in the Roman world.


damnatio memoriae  

John Percy Vyvian Dacre Balsdon and Barbara Levick

After the deaths of persons deemed by the senate enemies of the state, measures to erase their memory might follow. Originally there was no set package, as the phrase implies (cf. Ulp.Dig. 24. 1. 32. 7) but a repertoire (Tac.Ann. 3. 17. 8–18. 1): images might be destroyed (*Sejanus; *Valeria Messal(l)ina), and their display penalized (L. *Appuleius Saturninus, 98 bce), the name erased from inscriptions, and a man's praenomen banned in his family (Livy 6. 20. 14; 384 bce!). With emperors their acts were abolished. *Claudius prevented the senate from condemning *Gaius (1) (Cass. Dio 60. 4. 5); but decrees were passed against *Domitian (Suet.Dom.23), *Commodus (SHA Comm. 20), and *Elagabalus (SHA Heliogab.17).


dance reception  

Fiona Macintosh

Recent scholarship on ancient *pantomime has led to an interest in its impact on the development of modern ballet, ballet d’action, in the 18th cent. When the dancing masters and choreographers, John Weaver and Jean-Georges Noverre sought to dignify dance as an art form sui generis (after its generic separation from opera from the end of the 17th cent. onwards), it was to the ancient treatises of *Lucian (Salt.) and *Libanius that they turned. The ‘first’ modern attempts to revive ancient pantomime were a danced version of Act IV of Corneille’sHorace by Louis XIV’s daughter-in-law, the Duchesse du Maine (nr. Paris, 1714) and John Weaver’s Loves of Venus and Mars (London, 1717). But the most prolific, and notorious, choreographer of ballets d’action was Noverre whose treatise, Lettres sur la danse (1803–1804) was the first serious account of modern dance. Noverre looked to ancient pantomime for its mimetic and expressive power in order to demonstrate that ballet was no mere virtuoso art form, but a potential rival to both painting and opera in its ability to deal with serious subjects and tell a story with gesture and movement alone. Many of Noverre’s ballets d’action draw the source of their inspiration from Greek tragedy, the most famous of which is Medée et Jason (1776).


drama, reception of  

Emma Cole

Ancient drama has had a vast influence upon the literary, performance, and intellectual culture of modernity. From ancient Greece thirty-two tragedies, eleven comedies, and one satyr play survive, and from ancient Rome ten tragedies and twenty-seven comedies remain, alongside countless fragments from all genres. Many of the surviving plays are staged in contemporary theatre in both literal translation and more liberal adaptation, and today more ancient drama is seen in professional theatres than at any point since antiquity. Although all ancient dramatic genres have a rich reception history, Greek tragedy dominates the field, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. Productions of Greek tragedy today range from masked performances in the original language through to radical, avant-garde, immersive, and postdramatic reinventions. Greek tragedy is also frequently used as a touchstone within literary theory and broader intellectual discourse, from the theorisation of the ideal form of performance (Wagner’s Gesamtkuntswerk) to the development of psychoanalytic theory (Freud’s Oedipus complex) and structuralism (Lévi-Strauss). Ancient drama has also provided inspiration for entirely new dramatic forms; the influence of Roman tragedy, for example, can be felt within the revenge tragedies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, while traces of Roman comedy can be felt in slapstick comedy and Italian commedia dell’arte. Current growth areas within both artistic practice, and academic research into the reception of ancient drama, include the performance reception of dramatic fragments, an increased interest in forms such as burlesque and pantomime, and the use of ancient drama as a tool of resistance against oppressive political regimes.



Edward Courtney and Gail Trimble

Epyllion (diminutive of epos), term applied in modern (not ancient) times to some ‘short epics’, hexameter poems of mythological narrative in not more than one book. The texts most frequently called ‘epyllion’ are Hellenistic (especially the Hecale of *Callimachus (3), certain poems of *Theocritus, and Moschus’ Europa) and Roman (the sixty-fourth poem of *Catullus (1), lost works by other *neoterics, and the *Ciris).

Characteristics often considered typical of epyllion include: unfamiliar mythical subject-matter, often erotic; a subjective, emotional style; an uneven narrative scale, with some events elaborated and others quickly passed over; the inclusion of a second theme within the main narrative by means of a speech or *ekphrasis.

However, many of these features are shared with other Hellenistic or neoteric poetry, with earlier poems in the post-Homeric epic tradition, or with shorter poetic narratives in other metres (especially lyric), while some poems usually identified as ‘epyllia’ exhibit only one or two of them. The meaningfulness of the term has therefore been questioned, although its convenience is generally agreed.



Catherine A. Morgan and Peter Heather

In social science usage, a term coined (in 1953) to describe that condition ‘wherein certain members of a society in a given social context choose to emphasize as their most meaningful basis of primary extrafamilial identity certain assumed cultural, national or somatic traits’ (O. Patterson in Glazer and Moynihan, 308); a socio-political strategy of selective advantage enacted within a dominant political organization, which rests on insistence upon the significance of group distinctiveness and identity, and the rights that derive from it. Ethnic identity is not a ‘natural’ condition, but rather a self-conscious statement using selected cultural traits as diacritical marks. Ethnic groups are thus mutually exclusive, and are more usually constituted with reference to kinship than to territory. Dynamic and strongly contextualized, ethnic expression is characteristic of complex societies.In the ancient Greek world, ethnic terminology is found from Homer onwards. Ethnicity, in the above sense, is of importance in two principal areas. First, in the context of the ethnos, a category of state which existed alongside the *polis, but which is only rarely treated by ancient sources.


explanation, historical  

Christopher Pelling

‘Which of the gods was it that brought the two together in strife?’, asks the Iliad as it launches its narrative (1.8); early in the Odyssey*Zeus complains that mortals blame the gods when they are responsible for their own sufferings (1.32–3). Both poems however swiftly complicate any attempt to limit explanations to either the human or the divine level. Achilles and Agamemnon quarrel, Achilles kills Hector, and Odysseus gets home, largely because they are the people that they are, but gods often intervene too. The Greeks win because they are better fighters; they also win because more gods are on their side. The poems also suggest another form of explanation, not tracing events to their origins but relating them to a familiar pattern of human life. Suffering is the lot of humanity (Il. 24.525–6); outrages like those of the suitors are punished. Life is like that, and one should not be surprised.


feminism and ancient literature  

Helen Morales

Feminism does not refer to one coherent theory, doctrine, or political movement. The range of movements and ideologies that thrive under the term feminism, however, are all committed to political and social change. Feminism recognises that we live in a patriarchal world, that is to say a world in which women are, and have historically been, oppressed by and unequal to men. It opposes this, and strives to change existing power structures so that people of all genders and races have control over their own bodies, have equal opportunities and value, can participate fully in community life, and are allowed to live with dignity and freedom.

What has this to do with ancient literature? There are several significant ways in which feminism and ancient literature interact. Ancient literature, particularly ancient Greek tragedy and myth, has played a formative role in shaping feminist theory. Feminism encourages scholars to uncover and reevaluate a tradition of women’s writing. Feminism has provided the tools for us better to understand how ancient literature functioned to promote, and sometimes to challenge, the misogynist practices of ancient Greek and Roman societies. Scholars have detected feminism, or proto-feminism, in ancient writing. Queer theory and feminism join forces to mine ancient literature for alternatives to hetero, cisgender, and gender binary models of identity. Feminism has changed the field of ancient literary studies by valuing authors and genres that are sensitive to the perspectives of women of all ethnicities and statuses. Finally, ancient literature is used to serve contemporary activism: Greek and Latin texts are used by modern feminist authors who rewrite and creatively adapt ancient literature, and classicists resist the use of ancient literature to promote misogyny and white supremacy.


film and television  

Monica S. Cyrino

Ancient Greece and Rome play starring roles as ideal sites for the iconic characters and plots that cinema and television use to depict the spectacle of the ancient world. The viewing audience is invited to experience the cinematic and televisual depiction of classical antiquity as it is deployed to accomplish a number of different objectives: the image of the ancient world on screen can be used to support contemporary political goals, to interrogate current social issues, or to engage in cultural debates about the modern world’s connection to the classical past. Since the ancient Greek and Roman worlds are frequently used as the visual and narrative backdrop for adventure and romance, the audience is often thrilled to view the luxury, decadence, and excess notoriously enjoyed by the uninhibited ancients. Viewers of films and television series about the ancient world remain engaged in a long and sometimes complex relationship with the representation of classical antiquity on screen, an engagement that has been well analyzed in the last few years by scholars and critics.


founders, city  

Antony Spawforth

Founders were chiefly important before *Alexander (3) the Great in the case of colonies (see apoikia), founded under the leadership of an oikist (οἶκιστής), whose achievements frequently led to his posthumous worship as a hero (see hero-cult). In 5th-cent. bce Athens oikists were state officials who returned home after completing their task, as with Hagnon at *Amphipolis. Among Hellenistic founders of cities (ktistēs was now the preferred term) kings naturally loomed largest, although not all attended in person the founding rituals like Alexander the Great (Arr.Anab. 3. 1. 5). As a device for asserting a Hellenic ancestry compatible with the cultural and ethnic preferences of the ruling power, city-founders acquired a new significance in the Hellenistic and Roman empires: thus Cilician Mallus gained tax-exemption from Alexander (Arr. Anab. 2. 5. 9) on the strength of mutual kinship through *Argos (1).