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ELISA CHIARA PORTALE

Sicilia ed Egitto in età ellenistica: riflessioni sulle relazioni artistico-culturali fra Siracusa e Alessandria

Abstract

During the Early Hellenistic age (late 4th and 3rd centuries) the relationships between Sicily and Egypt are above all based on the strong political, economic and cultural links between Syracuse and Alexandria. Literary sources and few material remains testify how the kings of Syracuse (Agathocles, and later Hieron II and his offsprings) follow mainly Ptolemaic models in “staging” their kingship with well-appointed architectural sceneries, and in adopting some distintive status symbols and a luxurious style of living (with the related artifacts, like silver tableware, jewels, “royal” dress, but also banqueting-halls, furnishings, mosaics, royal portraits, etc.). During 3rd century BCE local workshops give, however, a “Sikeliote” touch to their products, both luxurious and ordinary. At the same time, the “Hieronian” workshops compete with the Alexandrian ones; the chief town itself, Syracuse, is widely reshaped by the king, especially in the so called Neapolis, integrating artificial and natural features, sanctuaries, porticoes and terraces, a monumental theater and the biggest altar of the Antiquity, dedicated to Zeus. The colossal ship “Syrakosia”, sent by Hieron II as a gift to Ptolemaios (III?) and re-named “Alexandris”, gives us an idea of the Syracusan “specialities” and artistic creations. After the Roman conquest, in 2nd-1rst centuries BCE the relationships with Alexandria also involve other cities in Sicily, that are generally situated in key sites of the maritime “International” trade now leaded by Rome and by the Italic mercatores. These import some luxurious products, like glasses, textiles, bronze statuettes from Alexandria, and particularly the wide-appreciated emblemata vermiculata, which are also manufactured in “succursali” workshops based in Campanian harbor towns. A mosaic with an artist’s signature from the acropolis of Segesta confirms that, in some special cases, even artists from Alexandria realized in situ some particularly fine mosaics for the elitist milieu of the Late Hellenistic Sicilian cities.