History of Ptolemaic Egypt: Wikis

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Ptolemaic Egypt began when Ptolemy I Soter declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt in 305 BC and ended with the death of queen Cleopatra of Egypt and the Roman conquest in 30 BC. The Ptolemaic Kingdom was a powerful Hellenistic state, extending from southern Syria in the east, to Cyrene to the west, and south to the frontier with Nubia. Alexandria became the capital city and a center of Greek culture and trade. To gain recognition by the native Egyptian populace, they named themselves as the successors to the Pharaohs. The later Ptolemies took on Egyptian traditions, had themselves portrayed on public monuments in Egyptian style and dress, and participated in Egyptian religious life.[1][2] Hellenistic culture continued to thrive in Egypt well after the Muslim conquest. The Ptolemies faced rebellions of native Egyptians often caused by an unwanted regime and were involved in foreign and civil wars that led to the decline of the kingdom and its annexation by Rome.

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In 332 BC Alexander III of Macedon conquered Egypt with little resistance from the Persians. He was welcomed by the Egyptians as a deliverer. He visited Memphis, and went on pilgrimage to the oracle of Amun at the Oasis of Siwa. The oracle declared him to be the son of Amun-Re.[3] He conciliated the Egyptians by the respect which he showed for their religion. While Macedonians commanded military garrisons, including at Memphis and Pelusium, Alexander left the civil administration in local control; initially there were two, later one governor.[4] Alexander founded a new Greek city, Alexandria, to be a major commercial port.[5] This city, where Alexander was buried,[6] grew, quickly becoming as well Egypt's administrative capital and an intellectual centre.[7]

The wealth of Egypt could now be harnessed for Alexander's conquest of the rest of the Persian Empire. Early in 331 BC he was ready to depart, and led his forces away to Phoenicia. He left Cleomenes as the ruling nomarch to control Egypt in his absence.

Ptolemaic Kingdom

Following Alexander's death in Babylon in 323 BC, a succession crisis erupted among his generals. Initially, Perdiccas ruled the empire as regent for Alexander's half-brother Arrhidaeus, who became Philip III of Macedon, and then as regent for both Philip III and Alexander's infant son Alexander IV of Macedon, who had not been born at the time of his father's death. Perdiccas appointed Ptolemy, one of Alexander's closest companions, to be satrap of Egypt. Ptolemy ruled Egypt from 323 BC, nominally in the name of the joint kings Philip III and Alexander IV. However, as Alexander the Great's empire disintegrated, Ptolemy soon established himself as ruler in his own right. Ptolemy successfully defended Egypt against an invasion by Perdiccas in 321 BC, and consolidated his position in Egypt and the surrounding areas during the Wars of the Diadochi (322 BC-301 BC). In 305 BC, Ptolemy took the title of King. As Ptolemy I Soter ("Saviour"), he founded the Ptolemaic dynasty that was to rule Egypt for nearly 300 years.

Ptolemaic Kingdom and its neighbors in 200 BC.

All the male rulers of the dynasty took the name "Ptolemy", while princesses and queens preferred the names Cleopatra and Berenice. Ptolemy II instituted a new practice of brother-sister marriage when he married his full sister, Arsinoe II. They became, in effect, co-rulers, and both took the epithet Philadelphus ("Brother-Loving" and "Sister-Loving"). The notion that this was based on Egyptian precedent has been popular in the literature but has not historical basis.[8] This custom made Ptolemaic politics confusingly incestuous, and the later Ptolemies were increasingly feeble. The only Ptolemaic Queens to officially rule on their own were Berenice III and Berenice IV. Cleopatra V did co-rule, but it was with another female, Berenice IV. Cleopatra VII officially co-ruled with Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator, Ptolemy XIV, and Ptolemy XV, but effectively, she ruled Egypt alone.

The early Ptolemies did not disturb the religion or the customs of the Egyptians, and indeed built magnificent new temples for the Egyptian gods and soon adopted the outward display of the Pharaohs of old (illustration, left). During the reign of Ptolemies II and III thousands of Greek veterans were rewarded with grants of farm lands, and Greeks were planted in colonies and garrisons or settled themselves in the villages throughout the country. Upper Egypt, farthest from the centre of government, was less immediately affected, though Ptolemy I established the Greek colony of Ptolemais Hermiou to be its capital, but within a century Greek influence had spread through the country and intermarriage had produced a large Greco-Egyptian educated class. Nevertheless, the Greeks always remained a privileged minority in Ptolemaic Egypt. They lived under Greek law, received a Greek education, were tried in Greek courts, and were citizens of Greek cities, just as they had been in Greece. The Egyptians were rarely admitted to the higher levels of Greek culture, in which most Egyptians were not in any case interested.

Effect of Ptolemaic Rule

Ptolemy I, perhaps with advice from Demetrius of Phalerum, founded the Museum and Library of Alexandria[9] The Museum was a research centre supported by the king. It was located in the royal sector of the city. The scholars were housed in the same sector and funded by the Ptolemaic rulers.[10] They had access to the Library. The chief librarian served also as the crown prince's tutor.[11] For the first hundred and fifty years of its existence this library and research centre drew the top Greek scholars[12] This was a key academic, literary and scientific centre.[13]

The Greeks now formed the new upper classes in Egypt, replacing the old native aristocracy. In general, the Ptolemies undertook changes that went far beyond any other measures that earlier foreign rulers had imposed. They used the religion and traditions to increase their own power and wealth. Although they established a prosperous kingdom, enhanced with fine buildings, the native population enjoyed few benefits, and there were frequent uprisings. These expressions of nationalism reached a peak in the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopator (221–205 BC) when others gained control over one district and ruled as a line of native "pharaohs." This was only curtailed nineteen years later when Ptolemy V Epiphanes (205-181 BC) succeeded in subduing them, but the underlying grievances continued and there were riots again later in the dynasty.

Family conflicts affected the later years of the dynasty when Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II fought his brother Ptolemy VI Philometor and briefly seized the throne. The struggle was continued by his sister and niece (who both became his wives) until they finally issued an Amnesty Decree in 118 BC.

Demographics

The Ptolemaic kingdom was ethnically diverse. During this period, Greek troops under Ptolemy I Soter were given land grants and brought their families encouraging tens of thousands of Greeks to settle the country making themselves the new ruling class. Native Egyptians continued having a role, yet a small one in the Ptolemaic government mostly in lower posts and outnumbered the foreigners. During the reign of the Ptolemaic Pharaohs, many Jews were imported from neighboring Palestine by the hundred thousands for being renowned fighters, given that their homeland was on the frontier between Egypt and the Seleucid Empire and established an important presence in Alexandria. Other foreign groups settled during this time even Galatian mercernaries, also fierce and skilled warriors, were first invited in the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus in 276 BCE. The Galatians are thought to have been resettled in the Faiyum region. Other Celts from Gaul and eastern Europe subsequently served in the armies of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Even the royal bodyguard of Cleopatra VII contained a company of 300 Gallic warriors, a contingent given to her by Gaius Julius Caesar in 48 BCE..

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Arabs and Jews under the Ptolemies

Arab nomads of the eastern desert penetrated in small bodies into the cultivated land of the Nile. The Greeks called all the land on the eastern side of the Nile "Arabia", and villages were really to be found here and there with a population of Arabs who had exchanged the life of tent-dwellers for that of settled agriculturists. In the village of Poïs, in the Memphite nome, two inhabitants sent on September 20, 152 B.C a letter in Greek. It had to be written for two of its Arab inhabitants by the young Macedonian Apollonius, the Arabs being even unable apparently to subscribe it. Apollonius writes their names as Myrullas and Chalbas, the first probably, and the second certainly, Semitic. A century earlier Arabs were farther west, in the Fayûm, organized under a leader of their own, and working mainly as herdsmen on the dorea of Apollonius the dioiketes; but these Arabs bear Greek and Egyptian names.

Few Arab Jews came with Arabs from Al-Sham, The language of the Egyptian Jews was Greek; after a generation or two immigrants from Palestine forgot their Semitic speech.[14] Their Hebrew scriptures they knew only in the Greek translation, which was named the Septuagint because, according to the legend, the translation had been made by the Seventy Translators under Ptolemy II.[15] Since the Seventy Translators were held to have been themselves miraculously inspired, there was no need for the Egyptian Jews to concern themselves with the original Hebrew. As a matter of fact, the translation of the Old Testament was made, bit by bit, in Egypt during the last three centuries before the Christian era. According to the first form of the legend, it was not the Old Testament as a whole, but only the five books of the Law which were translated by the Seventy,[16].

Roman Egypt

In 30 BC, following the death of Cleopatra VII, the Roman Empire declared that Egypt was a province (Aegyptus), and that it was to be governed by a prefect selected by the Emperor from the Equestrian and not a governor from the Senatorial order, to prevent interference by the Roman Senate. The main Roman interest in Egypt was always the reliable delivery of grain to the city of Rome. To this end the Roman administration made no change to the Ptolemaic system of government, although Romans replaced Greeks in the highest offices. But Greeks continued to staff most of the administrative offices and Greek remained the language of government except at the highest levels. Unlike the Greeks, the Romans did not settle in Egypt in large numbers. Culture, education and civic life largely remained Greek throughout the Roman period. The Romans, like the Ptolemies, respected and protected Egyptian religion and customs, although the cult of the Roman state and of the Emperor was gradually introduced.

Agriculture

The early Ptolemies increased cultivatable land through irrigation and introduced crops such as cotton and better wine-producing grapes. They also increased the availability of luxury goods through foreign trade. They enriched themselves and absorbed Egyptian culture. Ptolemy and his descendants adopted Egyptian royal trappings and added Egypt's religion to their own, worshiping Egyptian gods and building temples to them, and even being mummified and buried in sarcophagi covered with hieroglyphs

In his lifetime Strabo made extensive travels to among others Egypt and Ethiopia.

Images

Notes

  1. ^ Bowman, Alan K (1996). Egypt after the Pharaohs 332 BC – AD 642 (2nd ed. ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0520205316.  
  2. ^ Stanwick, Paul Edmond (2003). Portraits of the Ptolemies: Greek kings as Egyptian pharaohs. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292777728.  
  3. ^ Peters, F.E. "The Harvest of Hellenism" p. 42
  4. ^ ibid pp. 42-3
  5. ^ ibid p. 41
  6. ^ ibid p. 174
  7. ^ ibid p. 41
  8. ^ Shaw, Ian The Oxford history of ancient Egypt Oxford University Press 2000 ISBN 978-0198150343 pp.408-410 [1]
  9. ^ F.E. Peters, "The Harvest of Hellenism" p. 193
  10. ^ ibid
  11. ^ ibid p. 194
  12. ^ ibid
  13. ^ ibid p. 195f
  14. ^ Solomon Grayzel "A History of the Jews" p. 56
  15. ^ Solomon Grayzel ibid pp. 56-57
  16. ^ ibid p, 56

References and further reading

  • Bingen, Jean. Hellenistic Egypt. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007 (hardcover, ISBN 0748615784; paperback, ISBN 0748615792). Hellenistic Egypt: Monarchy, Society, Economy, Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007 (hardcover, ISBN 0520251415; paperback, ISBN 0520251423).
  • Bowman, Alan Keir. 1996. Egypt After the Pharaohs: 332 BC–AD 642; From Alexander to the Arab Conquest. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press
  • Chauveau, Michel. 2000. Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra: History and Society under the Ptolemies. Translated by David Lorton. Ithaca: Cornell University Press
  • Ellis, Simon P. 1992. Graeco-Roman Egypt. Shire Egyptology 17, ser. ed. Barbara G. Adams. Aylesbury: Shire Publications, ltd.
  • Hölbl, Günther. 2001. A History of the Ptolemaic Empire. Translated by Tina Saavedra. London: Routledge Ltd.
  • Lloyd, Alan Brian. 2000. "The Ptolemaic Period (332–30 BC)". In The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, edited by Ian Shaw. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 395–421
  • Peters, F.E. 1970 The Harvest of Hellenism. New York: Simon and Schuster

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