The Rostovtzeff lecture
The Sixth Annual Rostovtzeff Lecture
Dr. Dorothy J, Thompson, FBA
Girton College, Cambridge University
Wednesday November 5, 5 PM
"Hospitality Ptolemaic style: Ptolemy II entertains"
The Colloquium, Thursday November 6, 9 AM — 1 PM
"Hellenistic royal rule on display"
When asked about the theme for the upcoming Colloquium held in response to her lecture, Dorothy Thompson responded:
Any ruler needs to present him or herself to different constituencies within their kingdom. This was especially the case for Hellenistic kings and queens who, as successors to Alexander of Macedon in areas earlier under Achaemenid control outside Greece, now ruled over both the Greek diaspora and far larger indigenous populations. A further challenge faced Hellenistic rulers. Alexander’s conquest had opened up a wider world to trade, travel and contact. Rulers now competed for influence on the international scene. The varying ways in which different kings and queens responded to these challenges may be charted both in the written record and in the monuments and artistic productions that survive.
The discussion might well be widened since rulers did not act alone. Their courtiers, ministers, military commanders and other representatives formed part of the structure of rule. Royal patronage took many different forms and varied from region to region. Palaces, temples and other constructions reflected royal power. Like other forms of self-presentation, these often depended on local traditions but also brought modifications, as Hellenistic rulers sought to make their distinctive mark both at home and abroad.
Such is the wider context. Lavish entertainment, especially in the context of festivals, was just one of the ways in which kings might seek to impress. My own paper, entitled ‘Hospitality Ptolemaic style: Ptolemy II entertains’ will focus on one example of royal display, the pavilion of Ptolemy II erected in Alexandria for the festival he had set up in honour of his father Ptolemy Soter. Since our knowledge of this structure depends on an elaborate description in Athenaeus’ Table Talk, my paper will necessarily involve the interpretation of literary as well as archaeological and documentary evidence. I am interested in the image of Ptolemaic royal power presented by this pavilion both to those who visited Egypt for the festival from overseas and those who lived there.