Saturday, March 06, 2010

Book Review: Traversing Eternity

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by T. G. Wilfong)

Mark Smith, Traversing Eternity: Texts for the Afterlife from Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Egyptian funerary texts of the Graeco-Roman period are less well known than their Pharaonic predecessors. This relative obscurity is partly due to their "lateness" in Egyptological terms, but also because of their diversity and complexity. Modern scholars have tended to group the earlier funerary texts into large corpora (e.g., Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts, etc.), but the later texts defy such broad categorization. Many later compositions were used in a variety of configurations, and the boundaries between individual "books" could be fluid. The complexity of these later funerary texts has made their study as a whole difficult, but the volume under review here will significantly change this situation. In Traversing Eternity, Mark Smith provides an authoritative overview of the funerary literature of Graeco-Roman Egypt, with translations of some sixty texts, extensive introductory material for each and a general introduction for the corpus as a whole. For the first time, the majority of this diverse body of texts is gathered together in a single volume that is an essential resource for anyone interested in Egyptian funerary beliefs and practices of the later periods.

The documents translated in this volume come from the Ptolemaic Period (332-30 BCE) and the first two centuries of the Roman Period (30 BCE-c. 200 CE), a time when Egypt was under foreign rule and the Greek language dominated written documents in Egypt, but also a time when indigenous language and religion were still active and vital forces.

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