The impact of the Athenian cultural and political model in the post-Classical world has recently become a central theme of ancient historical research. My project at the CHS is part of a new wave of studies whose purpose is to reach a better understanding of the legacy of Athenian democracy in the Hellenistic era. In particular, it seeks to determine the ways in which the Ptolemies engaged with Classical Athens’ political history, institutions and ideals in the period between the establishment of their kingdom (305 BC) and the end of the so-called Chremonidean War (263/2 BC). These chronological boundaries have primarily been chosen because this time span saw the political relations between Athens and Alexandria become ever closer: as the paradigmatic cases of Demetrius of Phalerum and the brothers Chremonides and Glaucon clearly reveal, an intense movement of statesmen, diplomats, philosophers and, above all, ideas between the two greatest cities before the rise of Rome took place from the conclusion of the fourth century to the mid-third century BC.
Building on the assumption that the Ptolemies actively shaped and adapted Classical Athenian cultural, civic and institutional templates, my project examines the mechanisms of appropriation of this complex heritage which took place at the Alexandrian court between the reign of Ptolemy I and that of Ptolemy III by focusing on two main facets: the institutional and the religious. As regards the first point, starting from the fact that, as a Greek city, Alexandria shared with other poleis a political architecture featuring a citizen-body, a council, a popular assembly, a board of magistrates and a civic law-code, I intend to assess the role played by typically democratic institutions in the political life of a city that was the symbolic center of monarchic power. Besides focusing on P.Hibeh I 28 and P.Hibeh II 196, two early Ptolemaic papyri from the necropolis of Ancyronpolis which are probably to be connected with the Egyptian exile of Demetrius of Phalerum and possibly shed some light on the initial shaping of the Alexandrian institutions, particular attention is devoted to parallels between the two cities regarding civic and political mechanisms (assembly places, tribal system, deme membership, restriction of citizen rights, admission procedure to phratries, ephebate, scrutiny of magistrates). As for the second point, my aim is to analyze to what extent some of the most important festivals in Ptolemaic Alexandria, such as the Thesmophoria mentioned in P.Col.Zen. I 19 (257 BC), the Adōnia delineated in Theocritus’ Idyll 15 or the Aiōra in honor of Erigone referred to in a fragment of Callimachus’ Aitia (F 89 Massimilla = F 178 Harder) and presupposed by a poem of Eratosthenes, were introduced by Ptolemy II with the purpose of imitating Athenian customs, as stated by a number of ancient sources.
By bringing to bear insights from various scholarly methodologies, such as political science, religious studies, social theory and cultural anthropology, my project also intends to explore divergences between ancient and modern conceptions of democracy and civic identity in the attempt to understand to what extent and with what implications ancient Greek political discourse was practicable in multi-ethnic and multicultural societies like Ptolemaic Egypt. Starting from the assumption that the manifold dimensions of the post-Classical world are generally studied separately, I give careful consideration to a variety of media and processes so as to offer a thorough account of its cultural and political complexity. From this perspective, Ptolemaic Alexandria is an ideal case study, crucially shedding new light on issues of Hellenistic Greek identity.
My interest in this subject began during my doctoral research on a late second-century BC papyrus (P.Berol. inv. 13045) containing praise for the city and for the Lagid monarchy, as well as a longer narrative of the trial of the well-known Athenian politician Demades. Because of the numerous issues raised by this fascinating and challenging document, I have decided to embark on a broader project on the Hellenistic reception of Athenian democracy in early Ptolemaic Egypt. The CHS is the ideal environment for conducting this kind of research: having access to both an extensive stock of printed volumes (including the libraries of Sterling Dow and Werner Jaeger) and electronic resources actively fosters the interdisciplinary nature of my study, which involves a very wide range of evidence and approaches (from papyrus fragments of documents and ancient writers to inscriptions, from archaeological material to modern historiography). Besides, I have already greatly benefited from the stimulation of interacting with colleagues on multiple levels and from the exposure to new and relevant research agendas: participation in the numerous events that take place at the CHS affords me the matchless opportunity to share current work with the other fellows and the local academic community, thereby enabling me to forge new research paths.
Davide Amendola completed his PhD in Classics and Ancient History at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa (2017), where he also received his BA (2010) and MA (2012). At the SNS, he has subsequently served as a postdoctoral research assistant for the project Greek Envoys and Diplomacy in the Hellenistic and Roman World (GED). He has also held visiting fellowships at Princeton University (Department of Classics) and at the École Normale Supérieure of Lyon. His research focuses on Greek political, institutional, social and cultural history, chiefly in the late Classical and Hellenistic ages. He is especially interested in ancient historical writing and antiquarianism, Greek inscriptions and epigraphic habit, papyrology, Attic oratory and Athenian political discourse. He also works on the reception of ancient historiography in Renaissance Italy and, more generally, on the history of Classical scholarship. Currently, he is revising his doctoral dissertation on the so-called Demades papyrus (P.Berol. inv. 13045) for publication in the international series Sozomena: Studies in the Recovery of Ancient Texts (De Gruyter). The purpose of his research at the CHS is to complete a new book-length project on the impact of the Athenian model in the period following Alexander’s death. In particular, it aims to understand how the first Ptolemies engaged with Classical Athens’ political history, institutions and ideals by attempting to determine in which strands and through which media they responded to the legacy of Athenian democracy.