Already under the Ptolemies, the coinage of Egypt circulated in a closed currency system: foreign money had to be exchanged for the local currency at the borders, and Egyptian currency remained in Egypt. This closed system continued intact under Roman rule until the end of the third century. The coins were “Alexandrian coins” after the city Alexandria, where they were minted. Two metals were used for coins in circulation in Egypt: billon, a silver alloy, was used for tetradrachms; and bronze for smaller denominations. Oversight of the coinage probably fell either to the idios logos, the highest financial official of Egypt, or to the dioiketes, head of the treasury in Alexandria. Since these provincial coins, with their great variety of types, are official documents of Roman rule, they are considered as excellent sources for study of the monetary, political, religious, artistic and cultural history of Greco-Roman Egypt.
Catharine C. Lorber
The coinage of the Ptolemies stands apart from other royal Hellenistic currencies in interesting respects, including the prominence of gold and bronze coins vis-à-vis silver and the role of coin types in promoting royal cult. The Ptolemies have also been credited with a policy of controlling monetary supply to maintain price stability in the chôra (countryside). The reforms of Ptolemies by definition expanded the monetary supply. While the immediate purpose of the first weight reduction was to finance particular royal objectives, ultimately the reforms served to support the growth of the court, the administration, and Greek-style capitalism. The vast library of surviving papyri and ostraka includes many financial documents that shed light on an evolving and unusually complex currency system, and on its role in the Egyptian economy.
This article presents an overview both of the contents of Coptic literature and of the general questions within which it unfolds. The discussions cover the importance of the Bible; the role of the Origenist controversy; the period of Shenoute and the classical translations; the repercussions of the Council of Chalcedon; the period of Damian; and the consequences of the Arab conquest.
Ancient Egypt essentially encompassed some 1,180 kilometers of the Nile Valley where the river fans out into multiple branches and ultimately reaches the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient Egyptians themselves viewed their homeland as the “Two Lands,” Upper (southern, riverine) and Lower (northern, Delta) Egypt, unified by a king traditionally named Meni and over which his successors ruled for nearly three millennia. Bronze Age Egyptian history after this unification and its succeeding Early Dynastic period is divided into the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, periods of centralized royal authority, separated by numbered “Intermediate Periods,” when instability and loss of this authority divided Egypt into multiple smaller political units, some even ruled by foreigners. Despite these interruptions, the concept of Egypt as one unified “Two Lands” remained unshakeable and all pervasive to the ancient Egyptians themselves.
This article discusses Egypt in Late Antiquity. Egypt in this period was associated with monasticism, administration, taxes, the Apions, Dioskoros, Alexandria and Coptic art, and has often been seen as a closed entity. Looking at the nation from a different perspective reveals that it was also a dynamic participant in the life of the empires of which it was part of, and that its fate was dialectically rather than passively linked to theirs.
Joseph G. Manning
This chapter examines the history of, and the important factors that contributed to, state formation in ancient Egypt during the period from around 3500
Caitlín Eilís Barrett
This review article addresses current controversies and opportunities in research on the roles, uses, and meanings of “Egypt” in ancient Roman visual and material culture. Accordingly, the article investigates problems of definition and interpretation; provides a critical review of current scholarly approaches; and analyzes the field’s intersections with current intellectual developments in the broader fields of archaeology and art history. It is argued that research on Roman Aegyptiaca can gain much from, and is poised to contribute substantially to, (1) 21st-century archaeology’s “material turn”; (2) the construction of new interpretive frameworks for cross-cultural interactions and “hybridization”; and (3) increased attention to the relationships among artifacts, contexts, and assemblages. Roman visual representations of Egypt provide a rich testing ground for research on intercultural exchange, the lived experience of empire, and the complex entanglement of people, things, and images.
This article treats the development of the Egyptian legal system from the Saite to the Roman period (664 BCE to about 150 CE). It addresses the much-disputed question of whether one can speak about a codification under Darius I and presents the known sources for the Egyptian legal corpus, fragments of which are preserved in demotic and Greek manuscripts, and for its accompanying didactic manual. The formation and activities of judges and notary scribes are described, characteristics of demotic legal documents, the different types that were in use, and their development over time are explained, and the best attested areas of Egyptian law—property transfer by sale, matrimonial property settlements and maintenance obligations, tenancy, credits and indebtedness, and heritage—are outlined through evidence from primary sources.
The first section of this article discusses traditional religion, looking at the Ancient Egyptian worldview, mummification and afterlife, and the role of the temples in economy and administration. The second section considers new developments in Egyptian religion such as listening gods, animal cults, Egyptian “saints”, oracles, dreams, and katochê. The third section describes the growing state intervention, examining the administration of temples, priestly privileges, temple asylum, and dynastic and imperial cults. The fourth section looks at the impact of the Greek, describing interpreatio graeca, the Hellenization of the gods, and astrology. The last section describes the end of Egyptian religion, looking at polytheism, religion without temples, and Egyptian religion within Christianity.
After a concise introduction, the chapter considers texts of varying length as examples of the literature that was written in hieroglyphs during the period of Roman rule in Egypt. The translated texts belong to the sphere of religious literature: litanies, hymns to several deities, and myths of creation. Other texts, more secular ones, contain descriptions of buildings and festivals or deal with religious astronomy. The reader will also find two texts reporting extraordinary incidents. The sphere of funeral belief is represented by some texts that shed light on the realm of the dead as it was conceived by the Egyptians. One of these texts touches the reader’s heart and mind, since it is an imaginary letter written by a deceased Egyptian lady to her former husband telling him about her sad destiny in the netherworld.