Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra: History and Society under the Ptolemies

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Few other civilizations rival Ancient Egypt in its power to capture the modern imagination, and Cleopatra VII, monarch at the end of the Ptolemaic period, has always been preeminent among its cast of characters. Coming to power just before the unstable state was about to be absorbed into an autocratic empire, Cleopatra oversaw not only Egypt's progress as an influential regional power but also the fragile peace of its ethnically mixed population.Michel Chauveau looks at many facets of life under this queen and her dynasty, drawing on such sources as firsthand accounts, numismatics, and Greek, Demotic, and hieroglyphic inscriptions. His use of such sources helps to free the narrative of dependence on later (and usually hostile) Greek and Roman historians. By taking up such subjects as funeral customs, language and writing, social class structure, religion, and administration, he affords the reader an unprecedented and comprehensive picture of Greek and Egyptian life in both the cities and the countryside.Originally published in French in 1997, Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra fulfills a long-standing need for an accessible introduction to the social, economic, religious, military, and cultural history of Ptolemaic Egypt.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Michel Chauveau has given the reader a useful, readable and easy-to-navigate summary of Lagide Egypt. . . Lorton's translation, as always, is smooth and precise. . . It should be part of every Egyptophile's library."—KMT, Winter 2001-02

"Chauveau offers a detailed and vivid portrayal of these three centuries from the perspective of an Egyptian. . . . This excellent work richly reveals two cultures, Egyptian and Greek, involved in colonialism, imperialism, and acculturation. Upper-division undergraduates and above."—Choice. September 2000

"The book provides an easily digestible introduction to Cleopatra's world. . . A fascinating introduction to an era when the political and military face of the Mediterranean world was changing rapidly."—Patricia Spencer, Egyptian Archaeology, No. 18, Spring 2001

"Egypt in the Age of a valuable addition as there are few, if any, general publications of this period, and it provides a very readable and entertaining overview."—Helen Strudwick, Antiquity 2001

"Chauveau makes extensive use of the Egyptian sources, including papyri, ostraca, hieroglyphic inscriptions, stelae, and coins to present a concise overview of both urban and rural Egypt under the last of the Ptolemaic rulers. . . .Well researched and documented, the book provides a valuable and needed overview for both students and more advanced scholars."—Denise Doxey, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Religious Studies Review, Vol. 28, No. 3, July 2002

C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky
Chauveau offers a detailed and vivid portrayal of these three centuries from the perspective of an Egyptian. . . . This excellent work richly reveals two cultures, Egyptian and Greek, involved in colonialism, imperialism, and acculturation. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
—(C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, Harvard University. Choice)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801485763
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 709,685
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lorton, an Egyptologist, is the translator of many books, including Erik Hornung's books The Secret Lore of Egypt and Akhenaten and the Religion of Light, both from Cornell.

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Table of Contents

Translator's Note
Genealogical Table of the Ptolemaic Dynasty
Map of Egypt
Introduction 1
1 Historical Perspective 6
The Heritage of Alexander the Great 6
Crisis in the Kingdom under Philopator and Epiphanes 11
Ptolemy VI Philometor and the Recovery of Egypt 13
The Fat King and His Wives 15
Physkon's Children 16
Ptolemy the Flutist 18
The Flight and Return of Auletes 20
Auletes's Children 22
Cleopatra, Ally of Rome 24
Cleopatra and Antony 26
2 Greek Pharaohs and their Subjects 29
Kings, Queens, and Royal Children 29
A King for the Greeks 33
The Deified King 34
A Pharaoh for the Egyptians 37
A Pharaoh for the Gods 39
Protection of the Temples 40
Royal "Philanthropy" 41
Visits to the Provinces 43
A Regal Life 44
The Program of the Royal Titularies 45
The Allegiance of the Clergy 46
The Ideology of Resistance 49
3 Cities and Countryside 52
A Unique Land 52
A Multitudinous Population 55
The Lagide Capital 56
The Center of the Hellenistic World 58
The Delta 63
Memphis and the Faiyum 65
Map of the Faiyum area 67
Upper Egypt 67
Architecture and Urbanism 69
4 Economy and Society 72
The Weight of Bureaucracy 72
The Strategos 73
The Official Scribes 76
The Burden of Taxation 78
Resistance and Contraband 80
A Cash Economy 82
The Ravages of Inflation 84
The Misery of the Peasants 87
Autopsy of a Village: Kerkeosiris 90
Artisans and Shopkeepers 93
Greeks and Egyptians before the Law 95
Slavery 98
5 Priests and Temples 100
The Most Religious of Peoples 100
New Sanctuaries 102
Sacred Animals 106
The Prestige of the Priests 108
Piety outside the Temples 109
Greek Priests 113
Temple Economy 115
Oracles and Oaths 117
Strange Slaves 117
The Deities of Memphis 118
The Life and Dreams of Ptolemaios the Recluse 123
Coveted Virgins 127
The Woes of an Egyptian Mendicant Friar 129
To Be Greek in an Egyptian Temple 131
An Informer in the Temple 133
6 Living on the Death of others 135
The Land of the Dead 135
The Greeks and the Egyptian Afterlife 136
Specialists in the Service of the Dead 137
The Choachytai at Work 139
A Professional Association 141
"Saints" Sometimes Disturbed 143
Division of Labor in the Other Corporations 143
A Disputed House 145
Cadavers in the City 147
An Embalmer Complains to the King 149
7 Soldiers and Peasants 151
A Military State 151
Soldiers in the Countryside 152
The Hazards of Cohabitation 154
Independent Income from Real Estate 155
A Soldier-Speculator: Dionysios, Son of Kephalas 156
A Curious "Persian" 158
A Military Colony in the South of Egypt: Pathyris 160
A Cretan in Egypt: The Cavalryman Dryton 160
The Solidarity of an Egyptian Family 164
The Sudden Disappearance of a Garrison 166
The End of the Lagide Army 167
8 Two Languages, Two Cultures, Three Writing Systems 170
A Multicultural Society 170
The New Athens 171
Decline and Rebirth of Alexandrianism 173
Medicine in the Reign of Cleopatra 176
Greek Culture in the Countryside 177
Poems in the Midst of Accounts 178
Hellenizing Distractions at the Serapeum 180
Apollonios and the Last Pharaoh 182
The Native Temples as Guardians of Religious Culture 183
Demotic: Living Language and New Literature 185
Egyptian Stories and Romances 186
Wisdom and Satire 187
Hellenism at Edfu 189
Conclusion 191
Abbreviations 197
Notes 199
Glossary 214
Index 217
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