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«Attica in Syria». Persian War Reenactments and Reassessments of the Greek-Asian Relationship: a Literary Point of View

Silvia Barbantani


In one of the fragments of encomiastic poetry which is most difficult to interpret, Suppl. Hell. 958 (P.Hamb. 312 inv. 381, 3rd cent. BCE), a king (most probably Ptolemy II) compares his two arch-enemies, the «Medes» and the Galatians, those already defeated and those about to receive due punishment for their impiety. Comparison with contemporary and late-antique Greek encomia from Egypt may suggest that here are at play two levels of assimilation with the 5th century Persians: on the one hand, every barbarian enemy of a Greek state can be seen as a reincarnation of the Persian spectre (even the Galatians are often assimilated to the invading army of Xerxes in Hellenistic art and literature); on the other hand, the Seleucids, having inherited the land once dominated by the Achaemenids, can be presented by their enemies as «the New Persians». That a Ptolemy could play the role of a defender of the cultural identity of his subjects (both Greeks and Egyptians) against the Persians, is no surprise. We have to assess, however, if the Seleucids really did care less about advertising their Greek/Macedonian cultural inheritance than the rival dynasties. A review of the surviving Greek literature from the Seleucid empire (generally overlooked by scholars, who are most interested in the marvels of Alexandrian poetry) can be useful to reply to this question.


Seleucid, Ptolemy, Hellenistic, Persian, Greek literature, court poetry, SH 958, Seleucidi, Tolemei, ellenistico, Persiani, letteratura greca, poesia di corte

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/erga-2014-001-barb

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