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Pride of Place: Remembering Herodotos in Late Hellenistic Halikarnassos

Jeremy LaBuff

         In the late second or early first century BC, the citizens of Halikarnassos commissioned a now unknown poet to compose a 60-line piece proclaiming the pride (τίμιον) of the city, and had it inscribed on stone.  The poem consists of two major sections, the first recounting the different foundation moments of the city, which R. Gagné has shown also serve to represent the ritual space of the physical community.  The second part lists the famous sons of the city, beginning with Herodotos, described as “the prose Homer,” and a subsequent series of poets native to the city.  This paper proposes to read this last section of the poem as both an important moment in the ancient reception of Herodotos and as shedding light onto how the reception of past literary figures intersected with communal identity.  The public monumentalization of the entire poem suggests that the Halikarnassians were attempting to negotiate their relationship as a community to the broader world, as others have noted in focusing on the first section.  Laying claim to important and well-known figures throughout the Mediterranean was also instrumental to such negotiation.  Past studies of the identities at play in the poem have, however, emphasized how Greek and Karian identities are implicated in the first two-thirds of the text.  In contrast, this paper calls into question the assumption that the categories “Greek” and  “Karian” are of primary significance.  Indeed, the poem is striking for its overall lack of overtly Hellenic or Karian references; instead, it is the very absence of the Greek-barbarian polarity in the poem that makes possible the (re)assertion of an identity that incorporates images which transcend a specific ethnic designation, proclaiming the city as a culturally elite community within the larger Mediterranean cultural community.  As such, Herodotos is remembered by his hometown as a historian on par with Homer, defined not by his ethnicity but by the cultural value of the tale he tells.

Session/Panel Title

Inscriptions and Literary Sources

Session/Paper Number

9.4

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