Saturday 10 September 2016

Greek And Roman Egypt

Ancient Egypt's later history is one of fascinating change and diversity. Absorbed into the empire of the MacedonianAlexander The Great, Egypt joined the Hellenistic(Greek) world under the Ptolemies before become a province first to Rome then to Byzantine Empire.

After the New Kingdom, The Assyrians were ousted, and native Egyptian pharaohs presided over a renaissance of their culture - the Saite era(c. 664 - 525 BC). Achaemenid Persians dominated in the years 525 - 400 BC, Egyptians then ruled until 343 BC, when the Persians returned to defeat Nectanebo II the last Egyptian pharaoh.

In 332 BC, Alexander seized Egypt from Darius III when he conquered the Persian Empire. When Alexander died, the control of Egypt passed to his general, Ptolemy Lagus, who had been his governor there. By 304 BC, Ptolemy was king of Egypt, and his descendant would rule for 300 years.

Macedo-Ptolemaic soldiers of the Ptolemaic kingdom, 100 BC

Ptolemy I Soter moved Egypt's capital from Memphis to Alexandria - the new port city founded by Alexander - where it was to remain for 900 years. It's North coast location opened Egypt to the trade and cultures of the Mediterranean.  With its library of legendary fame, it became the world's center for Greek learning.

Ptolemy I Soter

If the Ptolemies's cooperative policy was a shrewd political strategy, it paid off, because their rule brought stability to Egypt. Reforms were made to land ownership, and methods of agriculture improved. They also began to replace the Egyptian barter system with an early form of monetary banking, created royal monopolies on certain goods.

Ptolemy II Philadelphus

In 3rd century BC, during Ptolemaic times, a great light house was completed on Pharos island in the harbor of Egypt's cosmopolitan capital, Alexandria. This towering structure, destroyed by an earthquake during the medieval period - was one of the Seven wonders of Ancient world.

 Ptolemy III

By the middle of the 1st century BC, the Ptolemaic dynasty was weakened by leadership rivalries. Independence was completely lost in 30 BC, when Cleopatra VII, the last Ptolemaic ruler, allied herself with the losing side in the power struggles in the Roman Republic. Octavian, the victorious Roman leader, incorporated Egypt as his own personal domain.

The Romans probably retained much of Ptolemaic system of administration, but they slowly introduced many of their own practises in agriculture and everyday life.  As Rome's power faded from 4th century CE, Egypt came under the influence of the Eastern Christian Roman Empire based in Constantinople. By 6th century BC, Egypt was strictly christian .

Coin issued by Khosrow II

Alexandria lost it's status as the pre-eminent city of Eastern Christianity to Constantinople. The Arabs' arrival in 642 CE dramatically changed Egypt again. Persian king Khosrow II, wrestled control of Egypt from Byzantine Emperor, Heraclius, and ruled briefly(616 - 628 CE) before Byzantium won control back, between 629-641 BC.

Egypt then passed to Arabs, Caliph Uamr ibn al-'As found an encampment near Memphis that would later become Cairo, and introduced Islam, which dominates today.

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