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Thibaut Boddez

thibaut boddez


Dissertation Project: New heroes in a time of living gods. The heroization of contemporaries in the cities of Greece and Asia Minor during the Hellenistic period (336-30 BC)

As the Hellenistic period began, the divinization of Hellenistic kings by Greek cities became a communication model to regulate the contact between monarchs and citizens. Parallel to the deification of kings, the number of heroized citizens grew significantly. At the end of the Hellenistic period these heroizations were so common that “Heros” became a typical appellation for the dead. Still, being called “Heros” was not intended neutrally. The term often reflected the gratitude of a city or association towards the esteemed persons, who had distinguished themselves through good deeds. As in the case of the divinization of rulers, the establishment of a cult could articulate the heroization of a benefactor. Therefore tension and distinction between the Hellenistic kings and the other benefactors developed. Yet, the - verbal and visual - representation of these new heroes was not conceived anew, but based upon traditional medial forms already being used to identify ancient mythological heroes. It is arguable, however, to which extent the use of similar religious speech meant an elevation of benefactors to the same level as the mythical heroes. To answer this, epigraphical material will be the focus of attention, since the transformation of heroization is at best discernible in the inscriptions.

This study will revolve around two main inquiries: Particular attention will first be paid to the heroization of historical figures within the long tradition of the cults of mythological heroes, in order to survey the transformations in the staging of the heroic during the Hellenistic period. How was heroization constructed and presented? In what way were these constructions related to the heroization of people in the preceding centuries? What continuities and changes are noticeable?

As a second main development, the heroization of benefactors will be examined in its contrast to the divinization of Hellenistic rulers. The particular influence of the Ptolemies on Hellenistic royal propaganda and the well-studied case of the Ptolemaic ruler cult make the Greek cities of their empire particularly well-suited for the study of this interdependency. By according cultic honors to their citizens, the Greek cities seem to have used comparable, though also differentiated honors, which had to be adapted to the frame of the city-state. Furthermore, the increase of heroic honors coincided with the shrinking influence of the Hellenistic kings in Greece and around the Aegean. How meaningful is this correlation? To what extent do our sources report this possible interdependency? Were there reactions from Alexandria and how did the Greek cities arrange the equalization or distinction between divine rulers and heroic benefactors?

Through both questions, this thesis aims to examine in which communication processes heroic language was used and how the heroic language changed the representation of authority and city during the Hellenistic period.