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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Maria Rosaria Falivene
This article outlines the administrative geography of Egypt under the Graeco-Macedonian regime and as it evolved over the next millennium. This information comes from papyri and ostraca—sources that differ from the material evidence of archaeological finds yet are not so distant from these as literary evidence often is. What makes papyrological texts so informative is their being on the same timescale as the actors involved: their speaking, as it were, in everyday words. There are some downsides as well. Mahaffy's observation applies most aptly to the difficulties we encounter when trying to reconstruct the administrative framework of Graeco-Roman Egypt and having to deal with the intricacies of a territory and its management as it evolved over time and under changing regimes.
Graeco-Roman slavery can be properly understood only when compared with slave practices in other ancient societies. This chapter shows that in ancient Israel, Egypt, and Babylonia slavery had a major impact on almost all areas of daily life. Therefore Finley’s categorical distinction between slave societies and slave-holding societies must be dismissed. The main difference between Roman and Near Eastern slaving seems to have been political: Rome at the time of the empire was an imperialist society whose conquests led to mass slavery. When conditions were similar (e.g. during conquests), similar slave practices emerged in Near Eastern societies. Other aspects of slavery may have been affected by Roman practices or developed in analogy to Roman customs. At the same time, all developments must also be understood within the context of the respective Near Eastern societies themselves.
Sitta von Reden
This article examines developments in money and prices in Egypt during the Ptolemaic period based on numismatic and papyrological evidence. It first considers the introduction, spread, and circulation of coinage in Egypt and how money and coins were used for transactions throughout the country. It then discusses the administration of coinage in Ptolemaic Egypt, from the reduction of the weight of the gold and silver coinage under Ptolemy I to the monetary reforms of Ptolemy V. It also explores the use of cash and kind as a mode of payment for rents and wages; the possibility of commuting cash into kind (and vice versa) as a condition for Ptolemaic taxation principles to work in practice; and three different categories of wheat prices in the papyri. It ends by drawing some economic conclusions from prices in the papyri.
This chapter traces the history of Naucratis and highlights the city’s main characteristics, arranged thematically. Naucratis represents the first instance of organized Greek presence recorded in Egypt, dating to the seventh century BC. While another three poleis were founded later in Egypt, the uniqueness of Naucratis lies in its status as the first Greek settlement and onlyemporionin Egypt, and thus the main focus is on its position as the cultural crossroads between Egypt and the Greek world. Archaeological, literary, epigraphic, and papyrological evidence is critically appraised, as are the main current debates on the foundation and function of the city and formation of its citizens’ cultural identity in the pharaonic and Greco-Roman periods.
Lauren Hackworth Petersen
This article examines ancient Rome’s ties to Egypt via the goddess Isis. More specifically, it considers the political meanings of Isis and her place in Roman religion and ritual. It first provides an overview of the connection between Egyptomania and Roman Isis, taking as a point of departure the Temple of Isis in the city of Pompeii. It then explores competing explanations of the significance of Isis in Roman society: one account places Isis in the midst of political maneuverings among the Roman elite, and another presents Isis and things Egyptian as exotic and mysterious. The article also reveals how Isis problematizes scholarly notions of religion in ancient Roman society.
This article explores the character(s) of Ptolemaic kingship in Egypt. A special focus is placed on the legitimation of kingship and the different forms of (self-) representation of the king. After remarks on the king’s court and principles of state organization, the concept of the Hellenisticbasileusis explained by using Ptolemy III as a model of the Ptolemaic king. This is followed by a discussion of the Egyptian side of Ptolemaic kingship, which also can best be explained by the representation of Ptolemy III. In the last section of this essay the question of mixed forms of Ptolemaic representation and self-conception is discussed.