Egypt after the Pharaohs revolves around the period through which Egypt witnessed the coming of the Greeks as well as the Hellenistic culture. It also covers the empire of the Ptolemy -from Ptolemy I to the rule of Cleopatra. The book also explains Egypt’s conquest by Rome, along with scientific and cultural achievements of Alexandria. It also covers the rise of Christianity I Egypt. Moreover, it explains the rich cultural, social, and intellectual formation within the period that comes light through the narrative by Alan Bowman.
There are four major themes displayed from this book. Firstly, the transformation of the political configuration within the Egyptian states, which refers to the Roman conquest and Ptolemaic rule in Egypt. Secondly, the focus on urban violence provides another perspective of the wars that erupted in Egypt and especially the town of Alexandria. For instance, the war between the Greeks and the Egyptians brings out urban violence clearly. Chaos and orders can be highlighted as another theme that the author uses to explain the situation in Egypt during that period of power handover. This was from the Egyptians to the Greeks. Then the final theme can be said to be creation, which shows the creation of new cultures, wealth, social and economic ways of life as after the power handover to different empires.
In terms of reactions to the author’s work, the book has one strong review by Kholoud Aref. Kholoud Aref’s review on this book praises the author on the knowledge of the Egyptians history despite the Greek language used by the Roman Empire. For instance, in pg 3 the author says “The attempt to write a general account based on synthesis of intimidating range of quantity of material might well appear foolhardy for a variety of reasons. Evidence can emerge tomorrow which will turn today’s truth on its head- awareness of which tends to make documentary.” This shows the seriousness of Bowman takes in researching for this book and the passion he had in writing the history book.
Ptolemaic Egypt can be dated from the period when the great Ptolemy 1 Soter, a follower of Alexander declared himself the Pharaoh of Egypt in 305 BC. The reign later ended with the death of Cleopatra VII, as well as the Roman conquest in 30 BC. Ptolemaic Kingdom comprised of powerful Hellenistic State. Alexandria became the capital of this city as well as the culture and trade centre during that period. For recognition by the natives of Egypt, Ptolemies assimilated Egyptian traditions, participated in their religious life, made them portrayed within Egyptian’s religion and dress as well as other social ways of life. The main rule by the Ptolemaic ignited in 332 BC, immediately after Alexander the III conquered Egypt as part the campaign to bring Persians down. This made him be accepted by the Egyptians as deliverer . After the demise of Alexander in Babylon within 323 BC, a crisis on the succession erupted among the generals. First, Perdiccas became the empire’s ruler, holding the position for Alexander's half-brother by the name Arrhidaeus, as well as regent Philip III and Alexander IV, Alexander's infant son who came from Macedon, but he was not born during the death of his father.
Perdiccas later appointed Ptolemy, who was one of Alexander's closest friends, to rule Egypt. Ptolemy took the leadership from 323 BC through the succession of the joint kings Alexander IV and Philip III. Unfortunately, when the empire of Alexander the Great disintegrated, it led to the establishment of Ptolemy as the ruler.
Ptolemy got successful in defending Egypt from Perdicca’s invasion by 321 BC, and established his powers in Egypt as well as the environs over the time of the Wars by Diadochi which existed in 322 to 301 BC. Ptolemy, in 305 BC, acquired the king title. Through Ptolemy I Soter who went by the name "Savior", founded the dynasty of Ptolemaic that ruled Egypt for a period of around 300 years. The male leaders of the dynasty were referred to as "Ptolemy", while as queens and princesses took the name of Cleopatra as well as Berenice. Moreover, Ptolemy II founded a practice of marriage between brother-sister after marrying full sister who went by the name, Arsinoe II. They later became co-rulers, as they took the biggest names in the empire, Philadelphus. There was a popular notion explaining the empire to be based on Egyptian precedent in literature, but without historical basis. That type of custom complicated Ptolemaic politics, and the Ptolemies increased with time . The “sisters in law”, Cleopatra V made the co-ruling together with Berenice IV. Later, Cleopatra VII made the official co-ruling in support of the empire that was under Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator, Ptolemy XV Caesarion, and Ptolemy XIV, although she ruled Egypt alone and effectively. Initially, Ptolemies were not disturbing the religion as well as, the customs of the original Egyptians, but they did build new temples that were extremely beautiful for the Egyptian gods. Ptolemies later adopted the outward display style like that of the old Pharaohs.The period of Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III leadership comprised of thousands of Greek veterans being rewarded through farmlands, as the Greeks planted in colonies, garrisons or settled throughout the country in small villages. However, the Upper Egypt, far from the main government, was not affected immediately as compared to the other areas, although Ptolemy I made Ptolemais Hermiou the Greek colony as the capital. However, within one century, the influence from the Greek spread throughout the country. They intermarried with the Egyptians which led to Greco-Egyptians, a well educated class of people. However, the Greeks remained as the minority who were privileged within the Ptolemaic Egypt. The Greeks provided them with laws hat controlled Egyptian and were used to try the offenders in their local courts. They were also provided with Greek citizenship, and offered the best education without discrimination.
On rare occasions, Egyptians would be allowed in higher levels of the Greek culture, although the majority of the Egyptians lacked interest in such Greek cultures. During this period of the Ptolemaic rule, there were certain achievements that Egypt benefited. Ptolemy I, is believed to have founded, the Museum as well as Library of Alexandria as advised by Demetrius of Phalerum. This Museum was meant to be a research center and was to be supported by the then king. The museum located within the royal sector of the city of Alexandria. Those scholars working and taking their lessons there were housed within the same sector as well as funded by the rulers of Ptolemaic. The scholars also had authority to use the Library. The main librarian got their services as the crown tutor for the prince. Therefore, for the first 150 years since it started to exist, the library as well as the research centre brought the great and well known Greek scholars. It later became a major academic, scientific and literary center .
The crucial interest of Roman in Egypt was convenient and sufficient delivery of grains to the city of Rome. Therefore, to ensure progressive delivery, Roman administrators did not alter the Ptolemaic system of the ruling but them replacing the Greeks within the offices which are high. However, the Greeks kept on staffing the government while still under The Roman rule. At the same time, Greek language remained as the only language in the government as well as the other branches.
Throughout the Roman period, Greek education, culture as well as civic life remained Greek since Romans did not occupy or settle in Egypt as many as Greeks. Romans, just like the Ptolemies, were able to respect as well as protect Egyptian religion together with customs, as they were slowly introducing Roman state cult and the rule within the panoply that contained duties well recognized by the Egyptians .
Christianity in Egypt does not have clear records on when it first got to Egypt. Currently, people have it that Saint Mark formed the Patriarchate of Alexandria town as well as the Church of Alexandria. This could be dated back within the period of 41 AD. Due to Christian persecution, which was raging throughout the majority of Roman world, Christian population within Egypt grew steadily, thus making Alexandria the main center for the Christian world back in 200 AD.
The Roman Empire ended the persecution of Christianity with the Edict of Milan, through the rule of Constantine I, the Roman emperor. However, as the Egyptian Church acquired official freedom, there erupted long-simmering as well as internal conflict, which would later be referred to as schism. Schism at times ended up as civil war in the Empire.In 326 AD, there was a split or separation in Christian world as it happened at Alexandria immediately after the First Council of Nicaea denied the ideas of an Alexandrian priest by the name of Arius, thus favoring the orthodox Christians that were represented by priest Athanasius. It was later referred to as "Arian Controversy" and it caused riots as well as rebellions for the rest of the fourth century, together with continued expulsion of Athanasius from Alexandria. Fall of Roman Empire in the fifth century separated Egypt from the Roman culture as it increased spreading of Christianity in Egypt, and it later resulted to the disappearance of pharaonic culture in Egypt. Egyptian priests disappeared, and ancient temples were abandonment, a move that seemed not to matter a lot in Egypt due to lack of ability to read hieroglyphics found in the temples. The Pharaonic religious structures that remained in Egypt were later converted to churches, and others were left to wear out.
There are certain links, or connection with old Greco-Roman world faded, thus resulting to Eastern Empire that increasingly was oriental in both style as well as attitude. The Empire was also very new to the average people living in Egypt. The local government system used by the Greek disappeared. There emerged different types of offices that were new and having unfamiliar names, that managed in hereditary fashion by rich plot-owning people or families. Moreover, after the murder of Hypatia a philosopher and mathematician in Alexandria, it signaled conquer of vestige of the last Hellenistic culture. This situation erupted schism inside Byzantine church that resulted to the rise of Eastern Empire. This Empire was under rule of emperor Justinian I, in 482 to 565. The main objective of Eastern Empire was to recapture the city of Rome, and exposing Egypt to certain attacks from the Sassanians which is Persia.Again this was marked by the Second Persian Conquest of Egypt that happened during the 7th century AD. This period comprised of the last chapter comprising of larger long drama known seven-century and referred to as Roman Persian Wars which existed between 92 BC and 627 AD, which fixed Romans against Parthian as well as, later involving Sassanians for management and control in the East. It later resulted to Arab Conquest of Middle East, Arabia and North Africa over the 7th and 8th centuries.
The invasion of Egypt, marked the beginning of war during 619 or 618, and it represented one of the final Sassanians conquer within the Roman-Persian Wars over Byzantium.This war later came to an end, as Egypt went back to be controlled by Byzantine. It came after Khosrow died. Since the Egyptians had no love for the emperor in Constantinople, it made them put little resistance to protect them. They were contented to stay in a perpetual state comprising of political as well as religious foreign invasion till the following invader emerged.
Alan Keir Bowman is a renowned writer and a principal at Brasenose College in Oxford. The Author was born in 1944 and attended Manchester Grammar School then Queen’s college and later joined University of Toronto. He was later elected as a lecturer of Ancient History at Oxford University after achieving academic positions at Manchester University and Rutgers University. Again, Bowman became the Senior Censor in Christ Church between 1988 and 1990.
Bowman became the founding Director of Center for the Study of Ancient Documents in Oxford. In 1996, he wrote the book “Egypt after the Pharaohs 332 BC Ad 642: From Alexander to the Arab Conquest” In 2002 Bowman became a Camden Professor of Ancient History.
Bowman, Alan K. Egypt After the Pharaohs: 332 BC-AD 642 : from Alexander to the Arab
Conquest. California: University of California Press, 1996. Print.