Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review of Ogden, The Legend of Seleucus

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Daniel Ogden, The Legend of Seleucus: Kingship, Narrative and Mythmaking in the Ancient World. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 386. ISBN 9781107164789. $120.00. Reviewed by Marijn Visscher (
In this excellent book, Daniel Ogden tackles head-on a tricky, but fruitful topic in Hellenistic studies: the many stories, legends and myths surrounding the figure of Seleucus Nicator. The book consists of six thematic chapters that roughly follow the course of Seleucus’ life. The seventh, and final, chapter is a more in-depth discussion of methodology and sources. The book aims to unite and combine different narratives about Seleucus into a coherent whole, while systematically disentangling various layers of the legend. One of its strong points is the exhaustive collection and thorough discussion of the sources. Ogden not only discusses different source passages in depth, he integrates his discussion with possible typological comparanda. The most important of these is the Alexander Romance, but Ogden also looks at folk-tale motifs and other legends, from Greek and Near Eastern mythology. In addition to his careful analysis of passages, Ogden often raises more speculative questions about the material, which subsequently remain unanswered. This happens consistently throughout all chapters and seems to be a conscious choice. Many of the questions raised are tantalising, but not particularly well suited where they appear in the text, as throw-away remarks that disturb the flow of the main argument.

The Book of Daniel mentions Seleucus I, although not by name. For more on that, see here. The review does not mention the passage in Daniel, but I assume the book under review does somewhere.

For some past posts on the Seuleucid dynasty and its importance for biblical and Second Temple Jewish studies, see here, here, and here and links.

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