CONTINUITY AND CHANGE 1:
THE SURVIVAL OF FORMS OF
ALEXANDRIAN HELLENISTIC ARCHITECTURE
It goes on being Alexandria still. Just walk a bit along the straight road that ends at the Hippodrome and you’ll see palaces and monuments that will amaze you.1
From the centuries of Egyptian Late Antiquity a rich corpus of architectural carvings including capitals, entablatures, cornices, column and pilaster bases, jambs, lintels, niche pediments, etc. has survived. These monuments fall into three classes. The first contains architectural members carved in Egypt from local stones (limestone, sandstone, Egyptian hardstones). The second consists of imported half-finished capitals and some other architectural members (friezes and entablatures) made of marble and finished in Egypt; the third, marble capitals imported in a finished form. The pieces of the latter two categories probably arrived in Egypt during the late antique and early Byzantine periods from Constantinople as ballast of the ships returning to Alexandria after they had delivered their cargo of wheat destined for the capital of the empire2 (cf. Chapters IV.2.2, 2.3). In this chapter we shall discuss only types from the first-named class.
A considerable number of the carvings of all three classes were removed from their original architectural context and reused in the course of the centuries as spolia or simply as building material. Architectural carvings exhibited in the museums of Egypt and other countries with labels such as “from Oxyrhynchos/Bahnasa” or “from Heracleopolis Magna/Ahnas” come from unknown contexts. Even less is known about the architectural carvings which found their way
1 Constantine Cavafy: Exiles. in: Collected Poems trans. E. Keeley and P. Sherrard, ed. G. Savidis. Princeton 1992 200.
2 Suggestion made by Severin — Severin 1987 20; cf. Severin 1998b 96.