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Ptolemaic Royal Patronage

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Chapter Summary

The Hellenistic poets did of course experiment with forms of praise poetry. Alan Cameron is prepared to admit the existence of paeans probably sung at royal festivals or victory celebrations. But as he says, 'Theocritus 17 is the only complete poetic encomion to survive from the Hellenistic world'. It is for that reason that this chapter briefly considers this particular poem, because it seems to demonstrate most clearly the actual nature of Hellenistic praise poetry. Theocritus refers to the existence of competitive performance at festivals, in his reference to the lavish prizes awarded by Ptolemy at the Alexandrian Dionysia; this feature of Ptolemaic culture is clearly an adaptation of the Athenian Dionysia. But Theocritus' poem can hardly be written for a festival of Dionysus: the chapter suggests that the obvious occasion explains all the distinctive features of the poem.

Keywords: Alan Cameron; Alexandrian Dionysia; Hellenistic praise poetry; ptolemaic culture; Theocritus



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