Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism

Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism

Tim Whitmarsh

Language: English

Pages: 296

ISBN: 0520276817

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The “Second Sophistic” traditionally refers to a period at the height of the Roman Empire’s power that witnessed a flourishing of Greek rhetoric and oratory, and since the 19th century it has often been viewed as a defense of Hellenic civilization against the domination of Rome. This book proposes a very different model. Covering popular fiction, poetry and Greco-Jewish material, it argues for a rich, dynamic, and diverse culture, which cannot be reduced to a simple model of continuity. Shining new light on a series of playful, imaginative texts that are left out of the traditional accounts of Greek literature, Whitmarsh models a more adventurous, exploratory approach to later Greek culture. Beyond the Second Sophistic offers not only a new way of looking at Greek literature from 300 BCE onwards, but also a challenge to the Eurocentric, aristocratic constructions placed on the Greek heritage. Accessible and lively, it will appeal to students and scholars of Greek literature and culture, Hellenistic Judaism, world literature, and cultural theory.

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segments of the Torah by Josephus and Philo inflect them with Greek narrative motifs.64 The convergences between Greek and Jewish are closest in the extraordinary Joseph and Aseneth (perhaps Hellenistic), which elaborates on the biblical story of Joseph’s marriage to a young Egyptian maiden (Genesis 41:45; see also 26:20). The date is extremely controversial—estimates range from the second century b.c.e. to the fourth century c.e.65—but the safest guess seems to be that it is a Hellenistic Jewish

normative assessment of this extraordinary text. W HO WA S E U H E M E RU S ? The matter is complicated immeasurably by the fact that we have not a single word of the original Inscription; everything we know about it is filtered through 8. Honigman 2009. 9. After all, this is a story told at the Apatouria festival (Pl., Tim. 21b). On the “fictional” elements in the Atlantis narrative, see notably the nuanced discussions of Gill 1973; Gill 1979; Gill 1993, especially 62–66; also K. A. Morgan

Iamblichus’s Babyloniaka) that acknowledges the Roman present.24 Edith Hall has even argued that the ass becomes a figure for the suffering and complicity enforced by Roman rule.25 But Lucius is playing a strange game with Romanness. On the one hand, as we have seen, he clearly identifies himself as a Roman citizen. Yet even while asserting his Romanness to the governor, he does not actually title himself with his full Roman tria nomina, skating over it in passing 22. Linguistically, the

narrative intermezzo at Odyssey 11.328–84, with a subtle reversal of roles: Odysseus breaks off from narrating to think about his ship (11.330–32), while the vinegrower encourages the Phoenician to think of his. Like the spellbound Phaeacians (Hom., Od. 11.334), however, the Phoenician is not in any mood to give up now: “Who cares about the ship and everything in it? The cargo of the soul is sweeter and more profitable. Let us consider narrative digressions not as nonsense but as the surplus

(5.17–19). In the hymn to the Hadriatic, “The chorus [khoros] of stars leans back toward you, and the gleaming spurs of the moon and the well-born stars of the Pleiad” (6.10–12). In the second poem to the (astrological) horologium, the poet refers to the zodiacal inscriptions on the dial as a “chorus [khoron]” to match the celestial phenomena (8.25). The language of star choruses is traditional: it goes back probably as far as Alcman and Sappho.50 In Archaic poems, the conspicuous luminosity of

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