Alexandria, Poetry, and Space
Although the Argonauts’ voyage describes a space with mainland Greece roughly at its center, the Argonautika was written in Alexandria, away from the traditional centers of Greek culture and with an oblique relation to them. In different and sometimes contrasting ways, not only Apollonius but also other Alexandrian poets contemporary with him respond to this dislocation. Alexandria itself can be read as (in Lefebvre’s phrase) a “space of representation,” configured by and reinforcing relations of power but also more complex intercultural relations. It contained places that proclaimed it a Greek city: palace, Mouseion and Library, Pharos lighthouse, agora, and gymnasium. But the temple of Sarapis overlooked it on a hill reminiscent of a Greek acropolis; and throughout the city were reused architectural elements from Pharaonic temples. These seem to attest an interest by Greeks in Egyptian culture, and Alexandria was a Greek city with an Egyptian cast. Actual attitudes of Greeks toward Egyptians seem to have ranged from a compensatory assertion of superiority to interest in the other culture. Thus the Argonautika explores in its mythic narrative issues that were of urgent concern for its readers.
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