Alexander/Alexandria: The Flowering of Hellenistic Culture

Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Alexander conquered the vast Persian Empire and founded Alexandria before dying
in his 33rd year, in 323 BCE. In the aftermath, Greek literature, learning, and art
intermingled with Egyptian, Iranian, Babylonian, and Hebrew cultures. Nowhere did
this convergence of cultures emerge more dramatically than in Alexandria, which became
the royal seat of Hellenistic Egypt. Its Great Library and Museum and its Lighthouse—
one of the ancient wonders of the world—became magnets for travelers from the
Mediterranean and beyond. Though Alexandria’s original Library was destroyed long ago,
another has risen from its ashes, and the luster of Hellenistic Civilization that flourished
for three centuries after Alexander still endures.

Moderator: William S. Greenwalt
(Professor of Classics, Director of University Honors, Director of Lead Scholars, and
Director of Fellowships, Santa Clara University)

Humanities West Board Fellow Dimitrios Latsis has archived selected program materials, including audio of lectures and performances if available, at the non-profit Internet Archive here.

Friday, February 5, 2010 8:00 until 10:15 pm

Introduction: Patricia Lundberg and Moderator William Greenwalt’s Overview of Program

Alexander the Great: Agent for Change?

Keynote Address
Eugene N. Borza
 (History, Pennsylvania State University).
Two things are certain about Alexander the Great. One is that he is among the greatest military commanders of all time. The other is that the eastern Mediterranean and western Asian worlds were transformed because of his passage, resulting in the penetration of Greek culture into previously non-Hellenic parts of the world. To what extent was the introduction of Greek culture into Egypt and the East the result of a deliberate policy of Hellenization? Did Alexander, a pupil of Aristotle who himself had made clear distinctions between Greeks and “barbarians,” have a deliberate policy of introducing Greek culture into the “barbarian” world? How do we go about attempting to answer these questions? And following from this, one must ask to what extent Hellenic culture—whatever its source—actually penetrated deeply into native cultures such as Ptolemaic Egypt during the Hellenistic Era.

Picturing Ptolemaic Egypt: The Nile Mosaic from Praeneste

Andrew Stewart (Art History, UC Berkeley).
The huge and spectacular Nile Mosaic from Praeneste (ancient Palestrina) in Italy, discovered in 1600, transferred to Rome in 1626, returned in 1640, and now heavily restored, remains our best guide not to Ptolemaic Egypt as such, but to Ptolemaic attitudes to Egypt. Labeled in Greek, it faithfully pictures many key elements of Ptolemaic material culture from drinking vessels to temples, and must echo a Ptolemaic painting of the third or second centuries BCE. This lecture examines its threefold image of the country: the Hellenized Delta; the Egyptian chora; and the wilds of Nubia.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

10:00 am until 12 noon & 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm

Recap of Friday. William Greenwalt, Moderator

The Ancient Library at Alexandria: Facts and Fictions
Susan Stephens
 (Classics, Stanford University).
Founded by Alexander in his conquest of the eastern Mediterranean and ruled by a line of his successors, the Ptolemies, Alexandria was the city from which Greeks now ruled over the land of the pharaohs. It was also a city in which Greek and Egyptian cultures must have mixed. The famous Alexandrian library is a case in point. To what extent was it inspired by previous Greek models? Could Egyptian temple libraries have played a role? What was the scribal culture like that enabled the collection and maintenance of so many books? What roles did scholar-poets like Callimachus or Apollonius play in shaping the culture of the early city? What happened to the library? Did the Romans destroy it by accident? The Christians? The Muslims? Or simply time itself?

Jewish Culture in Alexandria: The Hebrew Bible in Greek
Erich Gruen (History, UC Berkeley).
A wonderful and witty legend has it that Ptolemy II, the Hellenistic ruler of Egypt, summoned the most learned Jewish scholars from Jerusalem to his court to render the Hebrew Bible into Greek. The scholars performed that task with precision, earning the gratitude of the Greek-speaking Jewish community, and Ptolemy added the sacred translation to the shelves of his magnificent library in Alexandria. This lecture employs this tale, however fictitious it may be, as an illuminating window on the place of Jewish culture in the life of Alexandria and on the relationship between Jewish intellectuals and the Hellenistic monarchy in Egypt.

Alexandria, the City of Imagination: Cavafy and the Ptolemies
The poetry of C. P. Cavafy set in Ptolemaic Alexandria. Readings and translations by Martha Klironomos (English and Modern Greek Studies, San Francisco State University).

Alexander’s Pictorial Legacy
Ada Cohen (Art History, Dartmouth College).
Textual and visual sources suggest that Alexander the Great was not just a brutal conqueror but that he also possessed and exhibited a certain human complexity. The impression that he also aspired to the life of the mind contributes to his fame. This lecture addresses various layers of complexity embedded within works of art depicting Alexander or other “model” men of his cultural environment, which often highlight aggression. It also demonstrates the longevity of visual paradigms that became dominant in Alexander’s era and explores aspects of the evolution of Alexander’s image over time.

Synthesis and Panel Discussion with all Presenters and Written Questions from the Audience


Eugene N. Borza is Professor Emeritus of Ancient History at The Pennsylvania State University, where he served on the faculty from 1964 until his retirement in 1995. He has held distinguished visiting professorships at the University of Washington, Trinity University, and Carleton College, and has been a visiting professor and special research fellow at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. He has lectured widely on the history and archaeology of ancient Macedonia, and has chaired the Lecture Program Committee of the Archaeological Institute of America, for which he has been an annual lecturer since 1975. From 1984 to 1990 he was President of the Association of Ancient Historians. Among his publications are numerous articles about the history and archaeology of ancient Macedonia, and the history and historiography of Alexander the Great. He is the author of In the Shadow of Olympus. The Emergence of Macedon (Princeton, 1990, 1992),Makedonika: Essays by Eugene N. Borza (Association of Ancient Historians, 1995), and Before Alexander: Constructing Early Macedonia (Association of Ancient Historians, 1999).

Ada Cohen is an Associate Professor of Art History at Dartmouth College, where she teaches courses primarily on ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Near Eastern Art, as well as theory and method. A native of Greece, she received her BA from Brandeis University and her MA and PhD from Harvard University. She is the author of The Alexander Mosaic: Stories of Victory and Defeat, and co-editor of and contributor to Constructions of Childhood in Ancient Greece and Italy. Her book on Art and Culture in the Era of Alexander the Great: Paradigms of Manhood and their Cultural Traditions is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, and a co-edited volume,Assyrian Reliefs from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II: A Cultural Biography, is forthcoming from the University Press of New England. Her current project is on beauty and ugliness in ancient Greece.

William S. Greenwalt received his BA, MA and PhD from the University of Virginia. He received the Santa Clara Summer School Excellence in Teaching Award, the Santa Clara University Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence, the Logothetti Teaching Award for Teaching Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Santa Clara University Brutocao Award for Curricular Innovation, and the Arnold L. & Lois Graves Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2005, 2001, 1999, 1995 and 1991 respectively. In addition to being a Professor of Classics, he is also a Professor (by courtesy) in the department of History. He offers a number of courses from an introduction to classical culture to seminars in Greek and Roman History. His publications have focused on the early development of ancient Macedonia, in which area he continues to be active. He also serves as Santa Clara University’s Director of Honors, the Lead Scholars Program, and, the Office of Fellowships.
Erich S. Gruen, Gladys Rehard Wood Professor of History and Classics, UC Berkeley (PhD Harvard) was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, twice a Guggenheim Fellow, Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and Visiting Fellow at Merton College, Oxford. His awards include Distinguished Teaching Award, UC Berkeley, and the James H. Breasted Prize (for The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome, 1984). Other  publications include: Roman Politics and the Criminal Courts, l49-78 BC(l968), The Last Generation of the Roman Republic (l974, 1995), Studies in Greek Culture and Roman Policy (l990, 1996), Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome (1992, 1994); Images and Ideologies: Self-Definition in the Hellenistic World (co-ed.) (1993); Hellenistic Constructs: Essays in Culture, History, and Historiography (co-ed.) (1997); Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of Jewish Tradition (1998); Diaspora: Jews amidst Greeks and Romans (2002); Cultural Borrowings and Ethnic Appropriations in Antiquity (ed.) (2005).

Andrew G. Jameson holds a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University and a doctorate in history from the Sorbonne (University of Paris), a Master of Science degree in library science from Simmons College in Boston, and a degree in archival management from Radcliffe College. He retired after forty-two years of academic teaching (Byzantine, Near Eastern, African history) and administration at Harvard, where he was Senior Tutor, and the University of California, Berkeley, where he was Assistant Vice Chancellor.

He is Director Emeritus of Books for Asia of The Asia Foundation and President Emeritus of the Academy of Art San Francisco. He served for many years as consultant to the American Publishing Industry for charitable book projects in Africa and Asia, and he was advisor to the National Libraries of Nigeria and China.

Professor Jameson has lived, taught, and traveled extensively in the Near East and Africa and has led study groups to Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Iran, India, China, and Southeast Asia and continues to lecture and write on African and Asian cultures and on the history of libraries. He is the author of historical works on libraries and the Orthodox Church and monasteries and is researching a book on the history of the Nicene Creed and on the history and lore of the camel.

He is a member of Harvard’s Graduate Council and a trustee of the William Saroyan Foundation. He was visiting professor of history at Bosphorus University of Istanbul and advisor to the library of Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church in Istanbul-Constantinople. He is currently historian of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco and was recently elected to the Explorers Club of New York for his dissemination of geographical knowledge and for having climbed Mounts Kilimanjaro and Cameroon and trekked across the Sahara with the Tuareg. He is also Destination Lecturer for the Seaborn and SilverSea Cruise Lines and has returned to school to pursue a degree in theology.

A World War II veteran of the Infantry, he earned a Bronze Star with Cluster and a Purple Heart with Cluster for his participation on the Battle of the Bulge.

Martha Klironomos, Professor of English and Modern Greek Studies, is the Director of the Center for Modern Greek Studies, the Nikos Kazantzakis Chair, at San Francisco State University where she has been teaching courses in Modern Greek language and literature as well as Comparative and English literature courses since 1996. She previously held an appointment as Assistant Professor in Modern Greek literature at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, from 1994-1996 and was a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the Seferis Chair at Harvard University from 1993-1994. She received her PhD from The Ohio State University. Her research areas include the poetry of the two Nobel Prize-winning authors George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis, British and American 20th century travel writing to Greece and contemporary Greek American literature. She is working on a book-length study on memory and historicism in the work of George Seferis and his generation of writers. Currently, she is the Associate Editor of the Arts and Humanities of theJournal of Modern Greek Studies, a refereed interdisciplinary journal published by Johns Hopkins Press. She is also serving as Secretary of the Modern Greek Studies Association, the largest professional organization of faculty, graduate students and researchers in Modern Greek Studies in the U.S. and Canada.

Susan Stephens is Professor of Classics, Stanford University (PhD Stanford). Stephens’ current research is on the political and social dimensions of Hellenistic literature. Publications include editions of literary and documentary papyri belonging to the Oxyrhynchus (P.Oxy. 45) and the Yale (P. Yale II) collections. Ancient Greek Novels: The Fragments (with Jack Winkler, 1995); Seeing Double: Intercultural Poetics in Ptolemaic Alexandria(2003); Classics and National Cultures (With Phiroze Vasunia) will appear this year.

Andrew Stewart, Nicholas C. Petris Professor of Greek Studies and Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Art and Archaeology at UC Berkeley, directed the UC Berkeley excavation team at Tel Dor, Israel, from 1986 through 2006, and currently chairs UC Berkeley’s Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology. He specializes in ancient Greek art and archaeology, the Greeks in the East both before and after Alexander the Great, and the Renaissance and later reception of Greek and Roman sculpture. His awards include UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award; Guggenheim, Getty, and American Council of Learned Societies Fellowships; and the Wittenborn and Association of American Publishers awards for hisGreek Sculpture: An Exploration (1990). His other publications includeSkopas of Paros (1977); Attika: Studies in Athenian Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age (1979); Faces of Power: Alexander’s Image and Hellenistic Politics (1993); Art, Desire, and the Body in Ancient Greece (1997); Attalos, Athens, and the Akropolis: The Pergamene “Little Barbarians” and their Roman and Renaissance Legacy (2004); and Classical Greece and the Birth of Western Art (2008).