Abstract This paper proposes a general analysis of the structure and imagery of the Salmacis epigram, a late Hellenistic verse inscription recently found in Bodrum which relates the foundation of Halicarnassus and lists the achievements of the city's authors. Focusing on the first part of the poem, I argue that the epigram can be seen to trace a complex symbolic map of the city in space and time. On a first level of reference the poem's episodes of foundation are consistently represented as the aitia of ritual events. Superimposed on the catalogue of foundation episodes is a catalogue of the ritual events that commemorated them, and our epigram uses this level of reference to ground its portrait of Halicarnassus in the contemporary ritual life of the polis. In this way the poem is able to locate the city in the space of cult and to inscribe the linear time of primordial origins in the recurrent present of ritual practice. On a complementary level of reference, finally, the different episodes of foundation also function as so many statements of kinship——every founder effectively ties the city to another region and another people. As a parallel to the local space of ritual, then, the combination of these statements of kinship is made to locate the city in the wider space of ethnic geography. Behind a seemingly simple catalogic form, the Salmacis epigram actually combines two levels of reference to achieve a significant and multifaceted representation of a late Hellenistic city's cultural memory.
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