A Handbook of Egyptian Religion

By Adolf Erman; A. S. Griffith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X

THE HELLENISTIC PERIOD IN EGYPT

DURING the period when the Saite kings, the Persians, and the dynasts opposed to them, reigned over Egypt, a new element, which found its way into the East, penetrated also into Egypt--the Greeks. They took service in the East as soldiers, they settled down in its cities as merchants and manufacturers, and prospered everywhere by their skill and industry. They settled down quietly, exactly as they do at the present day, working, bargaining, and advancing money on usury, hated by the Orientals, and yet bound to them by a thousand ties of business relationship. As early as the time of Amasis it proved necessary to found a special Greek town in Egypt, Naukratis, the wealthy city frequented by all nationalities, and when Herodotus travelled in Egypt he found the people completely accustomed to their foreign guests. Thus when Alexander's campaign in 332 B.C. made the Greeks masters of the country, it only brought to a political conclusion what their enterprising commercial spirit had prepared long before. From this time the Greeks were the dominant people in Egypt, and the government, and part of the population of the towns were Greek. The greater part of the Egyptians remained true to their nationality and above all to their inherited belief. They remained, as they had ever been, the pious Egyptians; indeed they clung more closely to their religion than before, and when in the course of centuries these beliefs became remodelled by contact with Greece, in essentials they remained what they had always been, and instead of losing ground they actually made some advance: the Egyptian gods even gained some adherents among the Greek population.

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