Section 2. Introduction

Edited by Francesco Camia and Angela Cinalli
Section 2 stems from a group effort of the students of the Doctoral Course in History and Philology of the Ancient World at “La Sapienza” University of Rome together with some external willing doctoral and postdoctoral students [1] who attended the cycle of lessons held by Dr. Angela Cinalli for the II Term Lessons of the Sapienza Doctoral Course, A.Y. 2020/2021.
As for Section 1, the lessons cycle revolved around the theme of the poeti vaganti and authorship, in particular the odes and new compositions meant to be performed and/or left to epigraphic memory, whose authors are specified. Despite the rich evidence attesting to the cultural phenomenon of the itinerant artists of the Hellenistic period, only a limited set of testimonies concretely documents the professionalism of some poeti vaganti through their own artistic work incised on stone and bearing their name. Delphi and Delos are two favorite loci for the signed odes. Due to a heterogeneous environment receptive to peripheral influences and featuring the territory especially from the mid-2nd century until the island’s decadence, Delos shows a variety of sparks in composition spanning from the hymnography for newcoming divinities to celebratory/auto-celebratory epigrams. Conversely, Delphi follows the fil rouge of tradition and sacred institution for the magnificent hymns for the city gods chosen to be preserved on stone.
The abundance of hints for detailed studies has inspired the majority of our doctoral students to address their interests to Delos’s historical and cultural context and explore some of the most interesting topics hovering around the starting point of the poeti vaganti epigraphic products. In her historical and topographical analysis of the Hellenistic Delos, C. Borganzone (Paper 1) explores the city development between the 2nd and the 1st centuries BCE and the cosmopolitan spaces where foreigner groups established their business and focused their power. Particularly, the Agora of the Italikoi was a place for cultural and economic exchange and for influential individuals to show off. Philostratos, a banker and businessman from Askalona in Palestine who financed the northern portico of the agora, was one of them: two skilled epigrammatists, Antipatros from Sidon and Anthistenes from Paphos, celebrated him and his family in their new compositions inscribed on a stone found in the area of the Sacred Lake in front of the agora. The Cypriot poet Anthistenes is again at the very center of a double exchange of gifts between two most powerful men who left in Delos trace of their friendship: the Athenian Stolos, high officer at the court of Ptolemy XI Soter II king of Cyprus, dedicated a verse celebration to Simalos from Salamina, a very powerful man connected to the community of the Italikoi and to the gotha of the Athenians and Romans ruling over Delos since the mid-2nd century BCE. In return for his benevolence, Simalos dedicated to Stolos a statue in the Agora of Theophrastos.
Hellenistic Delos was also the theatre of many other efforts of literature on which authors did not lay their claim and yet they are valuable instruments to reflect on poetic authorship and see through the island’s life and its people. M. Marucci (Paper 2) took into consideration the anonymous verse inscriptions, examining the dedicatory epigrams to the gods offered by magistrates or private individuals, the honorific epigrams for prominent personalities, and the choregic verse inscriptions. In each of these groups, some of the most relevant texts, as the famous monument of Karystios and the epigram of Philetairos, have been analyzed under a linguistic and structural point of view.
By means of the rich production of inscribed literature, the sacred, public, and cultural life flourishing throughout Hellenism in the most prominent places of the island can be narrated. In it, the story of communities residing together and acting at the most strategic point of the Mediterranean converges. The Delian cultural context finds its uniqueness in the foreign communities of eastern Mediterranean and Italic peoples leaving signs of their presence. The archaeological and epigraphic testimonies can support the reconstruction of a Jewish presence that, from the 2nd century BCE, found its foundation in the favorable economic situation and in Roman support. The literary sources confirm that the Jews were active on the isle and some even possessed Roman citizenship. C. Di Cave (Paper 3) conducts the reconstruction of this context and proposes recognizing the vestige of a synagogue in Building GD80 as identified during the French excavations about a century ago. The epigraphic sources found in the building and in the neighborhood not only lead towards recognizing a community of Jews but also of Samaritans who might have shared a cult place at the time of their presence in Delos.
Another foreign element significantly impacting the Delian milieu and generating a religious and cultural osmosis was the Egyptian community. Archaeology and epigraphy offer several testimonia for the Egyptian cults in Delos allowing the localization of three sacred places (Sarapieia A-C), the reconstruction of the characteristic features of the Egyptian divinities, and an insight on their devotees. L. Cuppi’s study (Paper 4) focuses on these concepts, particularly for the period of the second Athenian domination. The placement of the Egyptian cults on the island in the last decades of the 3rd century BCE is documented by a long and detailed inscription including an arethalogy of Sarapis in verses by Maiistas, a poet otherwise unknown, which follows a prose section composed by the priest Apollonios II at the behest of the god. This text, which gravitates around the challenging settlement of the cult in the existent sacred environment of Delos through the typical elements of the dream and the direct intervention of the god positively resolving the matter, has been taken into consideration by A. Palombi and J. Kahlil (Papers 5–6). Their studies respectively focus on the features of the cult (the priests and other ministers, cultural furniture, Sarapis characteristics, narrative keys) and on philological and literary aspects of the verse inscription (commentary notes focused on the main textual cruces were included) that allow shedding some light on the authorship of the mysterious Maiistas, a poet acknowledging the heritage of Greek literature (Homer in particular) and erudite linguistic uses.
The panorama of the Delphian hymns whose authorship is declared is food for thought on the ways one of the leading cities of Hellenism handled its local literature and reflections on its own cultural heritage. The garland of the Delphian epigraphic hymnology spans the last decades of the 4th and of the 2nd centuries BCE: the hymns to Apollo and Hestia signed by Aristonoos from Corinth; the paean to Dionysus in which Philodamos of Skarphea and his brothers conceivably played the role of authors or of sponsors; the most renowned hymns composed by the Dionysiac artists Athenaios(?) and Limenios.
S. Fiori (Paper 7) has looked over these odes spotting a thus far neglected angle of interpretation: the elements that allow connecting the Delphian epigraphic hymns to the Athenian drama by means of possible parallels with the mythic versions adopted by tragedy and of stylistic choices. Such conflation leads D. Fiori to speculate on a twofold possibility, to recognize in the epigraphic hymns of Delphi the powerful shadow of Attic tragedy or the ancient lyric tradition as a source for both tragedy and the Hellenistic odes.
The investigations of our doctoral and postdoctoral students, pivoting on the literature produced by the poeti vaganti in the course of their artistic trips in the most vital centers of the Hellenistic Greece, close with a panorama of the hymns composed by the technitai Limenios and Athenaios(?) for the event of the Athenian Pythaïs led to Delphi, whose epigraphic texts are provided also with musical notation. These compositions—differently from the other Delphian ones—can be both associated to performative occasions. D. Massimo (Paper 8) has approached his study as a tool, useful to both scholars and students, that brings together the history of studies conducted on the texts (linguistic and content characteristics, translation, structure, musical notation), on their finding, and modern performances.
– Francesco Camia and Angela Cinalli


[ back ] 1. The authors are doctoral students at “La Sapienza” University, apart from Marta Marucci (doctoral student at the University of Basilicata) and Davide Massimo (DPhil Candidate in Classical Languages and Literature, Magdalen College – University of Oxford.