Monday, February 3, 2014

Alexandrian Academia

A map of ancient Alexandria.
Concerning the intellectual culture of ancient Alexandria, Peter Green wryly observes the following.
Timon of Philus, a bitter lampoonist . . . wrote of Ptolemy's Alexandrian think tank: "In the polyglot land of Egypt many now find pasturage as endowed scribblers, endlessly quarreling in the Muses' birdcage." . . . The Museum faculty also developed a reputation for symposia, frivolous research topics, and alcoholism: to anyone in the same profession there cannot fail to be a certain sense of déjà vu.
Green then has this observation (something worthy of Menander or another satirist) that should still hold true today.
Most of the quarrelsome bookworms were sensible enough to stay well clear of palace intrigue: they knew better than to risk offending their patrons.
(Peter Green, Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age [Berkley: University of California Press, 1990], 87–88.)

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