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Classics Presents... Dr. Kale Coghlan "Eratosthenes, The Gaze of the Geographer and Ptolemaic Power"

Monday, February 7, 2022
4:30 PM – 6:00 PM

Dr. Kale Coghlan, SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Dept of Classics at the University of Toronto

Eratosthenes, The Gaze of the Geographer and Ptolemaic Power


Toward the end of the 3rd century BCE, Eratosthenes of Cyrene, summoned from Athens to Alexandria by Ptolemy III, initiated a new paradigm in Greek geographic writing with his text in three books. Modern scholars have largely considered his work to be an early attempt at mathematical geography. Little attention has been paid to the extent to which the geographic project of Eratosthenes and his resulting map of the known world continues the celebration of Ptolemaic rule by intellectuals, including the most important poets, in the courts of Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III. The focus on the mathematical elements of the fragments implies an objectivity on the part of the author. The image of the world is placed before the eyes of the audience to interpret, but behind the façade of an objective geographical projection of the oikoumene, Eratosthenes broadcasts ideas of dynastic self-representation of the Ptolemies.

I will explore aspects of what is Ptolemaic about Eratosthenes’ Geography. After situating his life and career in the context of Hellenistic Alexandria, I will discuss the idea of cartographic vision in the Greek tradition which summons images of the divine and, when attempted by men, evokes suspicion and ridicule. By embracing cartographic vision authoritatively, Eratosthenes...(cont'd on Classics website).

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