Temples of Ancient Egypt

By Dieter Arnold; Lanny Bell et al. | Go to book overview

5 TEMPLES OF THE PTOLEMAIC AND ROMAN PERIODS: ANCIENT TRADITIONS IN NEW CONTEXTS

RAGNHILD BJERRE FINNESTAD


Introduction

Scholarly appraisal of the Egyptian temples built under the Ptolemies and Romans has varied between disparagement and encomium. The temples date from a period when foreign intervention and influence brought great transformations to Egyptian society and culture, and scholars have not always regarded them as "genuinely" or "authentically" Egyptian. To many these buildings have seemed little more than uninspired imitations of their glorious predecessors, pastiches exhibiting clear signs of decadence and degeneration.

Growing recognition of how deeply immersed in pharaonic traditions the late temples are has brought a reevaluation of both their historical significance and their aesthetic merit. It is no longer unusual to see a "true striving for perfection" in their exuberant decoration, classical economy of structure, and high quality of execution. 1 A steadily expanding literature convinces us that these temples are worthy of our appreciation and important for understanding Egyptian temples in general.

Temples of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods are the products of a temple-building program of large scale, probably initiated by the Egyptian

____________________
I extend my sincere thanks to Richard H. Pierce and Paul J. Frandsen for helpful comments on this essay.

-185-

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