Justin Davis-Morgan

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    This forum is dedicated to your writing on your prospective paper/abstract/bibliography.



    Statement of Intent
    I’d like to look in more detail at the theme of cosmopolitanism–and by that, I mean the dialogue between local and national cultural contexts–and how it’s manifested in the works of both Callimachus and Apollonius, especially as it relates to Greek identity. We’ve talked about this idea some as it relates to courtly life, but of course the Hellenistic period is heavily informed by empire: Alexander’s imperialistic exploits reinvigorate an overarching notion of Greekness through the process of Hellenization, but once he dies the empire is broken up into pieces. This divisions create more localized social contexts in which intellectuals and economic elites flourish–one example we’ve touched on a lot is the particular context of Ptolemaic Egypt–even as Hellenization continues to act upon the Mediterranean in various ways.

    In previous posts, I’ve talked about the ways in which Callimachus specifically juxtaposes the local and national in terms of religion: namely, the cosmopolitan nature of Apollo in the Callimachean hymn, and the obscure premarital ritual of Cydippe in the Aetia. Callimachus often focuses in on local religious traditions and obligations, only to zoom out and identify divinity as something that transcends those local contexts. In the bit of secondary research I’ve started, I see this paralleled in something like “interpretatio graeca,” a term denoting the “fashioning, and often deformation through explanation, of a ‘foreign fact’ in order for it to make sense to a Greek audience” (Dillery 258).

    Apollonius complicates this approach a little in the Argonautica because of his use of epic, a form that has deep connections with nationalism and ethnic identity in a way that Callimachus’ work (at least what we’ve read) doesn’t necessitate. Apollonius openly engages with the Homeric corpus, which arguably creates a unifying “Greek” literature, through Jason and his comrades, who bounce around various localities in their effort to get the golden fleece. On a broader level, perhaps Apollonius responds to the broad Greekness of the Homeric epic by making one that’s smaller and more localized. So, as of right now, I’d like to juxtapose this approach directly with that of Callimachus, and see what comes out of it.

    Here’s some scholarship I’ve been looking at so far:

    Dillery, John. “Hecataeus of Abdera: Hyperboreans, Egypt, and the ‘Interpretatio Graeca.’” Historia: Zeitschrift Für Alte Geschichte, vol. 47, no. 3, 1998, pp. 255–275. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4436508.

    Martin, Luther H. “The Anti-Individualistic Ideology of Hellenistic Culture.” Numen, vol. 41, no. 2, 1994, pp. 117–140. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3270256.

    Nishimura-Jensen, Julie. “Unstable Geographies: The Moving Landscape in Apollonius’ Argonautica and Callimachus’ Hymn to Delos.” Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-), vol. 130, 2000, pp. 287–317. http://www.jstor.org/stable/284313.



    Justin, this is a great start. As we were discussing in the common session last night, as you move forward, you will need to narrow the focus. You are spot on in your contrast between Callimachus and Apollonius. One has the Homeric Hellenization model, the other not. Callimachus may be helping to craft a new “ethnic” identity, and explicitly is not tied to the Homeric but it is one that is within the context of a new Athens, a new Hellenic center of gravity.



    The construction of Greek identity during the Hellenistic period functions on multiple levels: the increased autonomy of the polis, the regional social and intellectual environments created by the breakup of Alexander’s empire, and the continued overarching process of Hellenization carried over from that empire. In his Hymn to Apollo and the story of Acontius and Cydippe in the Aetia, Callimachus uses the interplay between local and national religious contexts to reflect the paradigm through which Greekness was constructed during the Hellenistic period.

    Each of my example texts show a kind of cosmopolitan dialogue that allows places and rituals to be both heavily localized and heavily “Greek” in nature. The Hymn to Apollo, for example, grounds itself in local foundation myths and potentially loaded references to specific cities; meanwhile, Apollo’s divinity is presented as a transcendent force that exists above geography. Scholars like Gosling (1992) have pointed to Apollo’s political function in Callimachus’ work, and his role as a wandering founder of cities literally imbues him with a kind of cosmpolitanism.

    Callimachus then presents the marriage of Acontius and Cydippe as a marriage of disparate local identities under a fully “Greek” banner: meeting in Delos, the traditional birthplace of Apollo, they implicitly embody a kind of cultural syncretism. All the same, Cydippe prepares for marriage by engaging in local religious practice, one that the author becomes reluctant to write about. The fact that the syncretic is dependent on the local testifies to Callimachus’ desire to place the two in dialogue rather than conflict in order for Greekness to form.

    By juxtaposing the idiosyncrasies of local religion with the universalizing qualities of divinity, Callimachus also mimics social processes that used religion as a Hellenizing tool. Dillery (1998), for example, writes about interpetatio graeca in terms of a nationalistic appropriation of “foreign fact[s]” as Greek facts (258), while Stavrianopoulou (2013) discusses the phenomenon of syngeneia, in which “kinship myths” were used to construct genealogical ties between local communities (181). Both hone in on the refashioning of local autonomy to fit national paradigms while preserving said local autonomy; as Dillery argues, “Instead of an ‘erasure’ of culture, we have coexistence of cultures” (260). As a writer working in a post-empire Greek world, Callimachus sees Greekness not in fixed terms, but as something both fractured and whole.

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