The New Politics of Olympos

Michael Brumbaugh

320 Pages | 5  – ISBN: 9780190059262

The New Politics of Olympos explores the dynamics of praise, power, and persuasion in Kallimachos’ hymns, detailing how they simultaneously substantiate and interrogate the radically new phenomenon of Hellenistic kingship taking shape during Kallimachos’ lifetime. Long before the Ptolemies invested vast treasure in establishing Alexandria as the center of Hellenic culture and learning, tyrants such as Peisistratos and Hieron recognized the value of poetry in advancing their political agendas. Plato, too, saw the vast power inherent in poetry, and famously advocated either censoring it (Republic) or harnessing it (Laws) for the good of the political community. As Xenophon notes in his Hieron and Pindar demonstrates in his politically charged epinikian hymns, wielding poetry’s power entails a complex negotiation between the poet, the audience, and political leaders. Kallimachos’ poetic medium for engaging in this dynamic, the hymn, had for centuries served as an unparalleled vehicle for negotiating with the super-powerful.

The New Politics of Olympos offers the first in-depth analysis of Kallimachos’ only fully extant poetry book, the Hymns, by examining its contemporary political setting, engagement with a tradition of political thought stretching back to Homer, and portrayal of the poet as an image-maker for the king. In addition to investigating the political dynamics in the individual hymns, this book details how the poet’s six hymns, once juxtaposed within a single bookroll, constitute a macro-narrative on the prerogatives of Ptolemaic kingship. Throughout the collection Kallimachos refigures the infamously factious divine family as a paradigm of stability and good governance in concert with the self-fashioning of the Ptolemaic dynasty. At the same time, the poet defines the characteristics and behaviors worthy of praise, effectively shaping contemporary political ethics. Thus, for a Ptolemaic reader, this poetry book may have served as an education in and inducement to good kingship.

Part I: On Zeus’ Kingship
Chapter 1: Zeus as a Paradigm for Dynastic Continuity
Seeing Double
The Encomiastic Challenge of a Zeus Narrative
The Persuasive Rhetoric of Political “Correction”

Chapter 2: Kallimachos’ Hymn “On Kingship”
Greatness, Justice, and the Politics of the Homeric Lottery
The Politics and Structures of Power in Zeus’ Regime
“Kings and Singers” Re-Figured

Chapter 3: The Poetics of Praise in the Hymn to Zeus
Praise Makes the King – On Deeds, Praise, and Power
Hymnic Expectations and Musings on the Poet’s Task

The (Meta)poetics of Rhea’s Search
Dramatizing the
Poetic Process

Part II: The Divine Family and the Ptolemaic Dynasty
Chapter 4: Apollo as a New Paradigm for Kingship
Poet as Client and Gatekeeper
Apollo (and) the King
Reading the Hymn in Context
A Poetics of Strife

Chapter 5: Saviors, Tyrants, and the Poetics of Empire
The Poetics of a Destabilized Kosmos
Apollo’s Ordered Regime and Universal Empire
Ptolemaic Thalassocracy in a Destabilized Mediterranean
The Dynastic Legacy of “Soterism”

Distinguishing Kingship from Tyranny

Chapter 6: On the Good Queen
The Emergence of Ptolemaic Queenship
Kallimachos’ Regal Goddesses

Conclusion: On the Good King According to Kallimachos
Figured Speech and the Didactics of Praise
Hymnic Paradeigmata – A
Kallimachean Katoptron Basileos?



Auteur/autrice : Christophe Cusset

Ancien élève de l'ENS Fontenay/ Saint-Cloud. Agrégé de Lettres classiques. Docteur ès Lettres (Université Lyon II). Professeur de littérature grecque à l'ENS de Lyon.

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