The Last Pharaohs: Egypt under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC

The Last Pharaohs: Egypt under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC

The Last Pharaohs: Egypt under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC

The Last Pharaohs: Egypt under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC

Synopsis

The history of Ptolemaic Egypt has usually been doubly isolated--separated both from the history of other Hellenistic states and from the history of ancient Egypt. The Last Pharaohs, the first detailed history of Ptolemaic Egypt as a state, departs radically from previous studies by putting the Ptolemaic state firmly in the context of both Hellenistic and Egyptian history. More broadly still, J. G. Manning examines the Ptolemaic dynasty in the context of the study of authoritarian and premodern states, shifting the focus of study away from modern European nation-states and toward ancient Asian ones. By analyzing Ptolemaic reforms of Egyptian economic and legal structures, The Last Pharaohs gauges the impact of Ptolemaic rule on Egypt and the relationships that the Ptolemaic kings formed with Egyptian society. Manning argues that the Ptolemies sought to rule through--rather than over--Egyptian society. He tells how the Ptolemies, adopting a pharaonic model of governance, shaped Egyptian society and in turn were shaped by it. Neither fully Greek nor wholly Egyptian, the Ptolemaic state within its core Egyptian territory was a hybrid that departed from but did not break with Egyptian history. Integrating the latest research on archaeology, papyrology, theories of the state, and legal history, as well as Hellenistic and Egyptian history, The Last Pharaohs draws a dramatically new picture of Egypt's last ancient state.

Excerpt

This book attempts to draw a picture of Ptolemaic state making. My interest in the topic began many years ago when I began trying to understand how we might connect the rich and fascinating documentary material from the period to larger historical issues. Ptolemaic Egypt has for more than a century had a strong presence in academia and elsewhere, but it has often been isolated from other fields of ancient history. That isolation stems from a variety of causes. Ironically, the richness of the source material from the period has been one of the strongest of these. Scholars naturally want to specialize, and the material from Ptolemaic Egypt creates opportunities for many specialties indeed. But in the process the proverbial forest is often lost for the trees. A second, perhaps more vexing reason for Ptolemaic Egypt's isolation from other scholarly fields is the prevailing understanding of Egypt as a place apart, so distinctive that its history has always followed a different course. According to this line of argument, Egypt has produced wonderful documents, but these can only be understood in Egypt's own terms and are useful only for explaining its own history.

On the other hand, Ptolemaic Egypt has always had Kleopatra, and Alexandria, and both have shone in recent years. Kleopatra, the last of the last pharaohs of Egypt, has been the subject of several recent biographies, and a spectacular exhibition of her life and times has been presented in London and in my hometown of Chicago (Walker and Higgs 2001).

As for Alexandria, the great city has been virtually resurrected before our eyes in the last decade. Given the nature of its setting, much of ancient Alexandria will probably remain lost to us forever. But in the last few years, some exciting finds, including the probable discovery of the remains of the great lighthouse itself, have made it possible to match literary descriptions to some parts of the actual Ptolemaic city. The work of two French-led teams in the harbor of Alexandria and its environs has been particularly fruitful. Since the 1990s there has, in fact, been an up tick in archaeological activity throughout Egypt, unlike the other areas of the Hellenistic world. This has been especially true of survey and excavation work in the Fayyum, but there have also been good results in the western and eastern deserts. Roger Bagnall's summary (2001) will provide the reader with an excellent overview of this activity and its important contributions to the understanding of Ptolemaic and Egyptian history in general.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.