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A lost historian of Alexander 'Descended from Alexander' and read by Julian?: Praxagoras of Athens Reviewed in the Light of Attic Epigraphy

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Rowland Smith


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Praxagoras of Athens, a Greek historian active in the 4th century AD, is uniquely attested in Photius' Bibliotheca. Insofar as modern scholarship attends to Praxagoras' case at all, its interest has centred almost exclusively on his authorship of a lost history of Constantine, of which Photius supplies a brief summary. Our interest in this paper focusses on other aspects of Praxagoras' case: his socio-cultural milieu, and its bearing on his choice of subject matter in two other works ascribed to him by Photius (on the ‘kings’ of Athens, and on Alexander the Great). As a preliminary (I), we review details in Photius' entry to indicate what can reasonably be inferred about Praxagoras' person and literary career on the basis of the Photian data, but our main aim is to take discussion of Praxagoras beyond the data supplied or implied in Photius' report. We adduce particular items of epigraphic and literary evidence which, though they do not refer directly to the historian or his works, can nonetheless be exploited to shed a fresh light on his case. We argue first (II) that epigraphic texts (one only recently published) commend a hypothesis that can offer new insight into Praxagoras’ ancestry, socio-cultural milieu and choice of subject-matter as a historiographer (especially in regard to Alexander). On the strength of that we close (III) by adducing testimonies from another fourth century Greek historian and from the emperor Julian: we postulate that Praxagoras's Alexander will have found an interested reader in the emperor.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Smith RBE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Historia

Year: 2007

Volume: 56

Issue: 3

Pages: 356-380

ISSN (print): 0018-2311

ISSN (electronic): 0341-0056

Publisher: Franz Steiner Verlag GmbH

Notes: The article is of substantial length: a little over 15,000 words. It has been anonymously assessed by two expert readers and has been formally accepted for publication in 2007 in a leading European academic periodical for Ancient History [Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte], to appear in vol. 56 [2007]. Historia is published in 4 fascicles annually: the article will appear in 'Heft 3', which is to be published in September 2007. [The September 2007 publication-date is secure and confirmed: the point has been checked in mid-March with the Editor of Historia, Prof. K Brodersen]