The Greeks in Egypt

7 Mar 2012

Al-Ahram (published in Cairo - see http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2012/1087/he2.htm) has been running some nice pieces on the Greek period in Egypt which will interest members coming from various angles - a revised chronology for instance, or dating systems and their impact on the anno domini dates we take for granted in the modern world. Alexandria now largely squats on the sea bed offshore of the Nile delta, drowned by an earthquake and land subsidence. It seems Alexandria was much more Egyptian in appearance than scholars imagined - and as marine archaeology is now showing. Salvage operations have dredged up sphinxes, statues, papyrus columns and blocks of stone inscribed with the names of pharaohs. The sea bed is carpeted with architecture that is Egyptian in style and tradition and some of it was transported from elsewhere to be reused in the Ptolemaic city. Indeed, Ptolemy I sought to accommodate the local population and the Serapeum is a temple to house the god Osir-Apis (Serapis) a hybrid Greek-Egyptian deity. In addition, the site of Alexandria was not pristine as it had been used as a harbour in dynasty 18 and Ramses II built a temple to Osiris there. During the Saite period (6th century) an Egyptian garrison was plced there and by the reign of Nektanebo II it was an important community.

In a related article, at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2012/1087/he1.htm, the subject is Alexander and his heirs, the Ptolemies, and how they revived Egypt over the next 300 years, especially as Egypt was in a state of revolt against the Persians at the time of Alexander. Egyptians joined in the march on Memphis and elevated Alexander to the status of liberater. Egyptians and Greeks, it adds, shared a common enemy and a common culture - Greek traders and sailor had established colonies in the delta, the Fayyoum, and even in Middle and Upper Egypt, from the 6th century onwards. They had intermarried. However, at the same time, in aligning themselves with the Greeks the Egyptians unwittingly brought an end to their independance as they were absorbed into a Greek dominated empire.