Sunday, September 04, 2011

Book Review: Alexandreia und das ptolemäische Ägypten

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by M. Weiskopf)

Gregor Weber (ed.), Alexandreia und das ptolemäische Ägypten: Kulturbegegnungen in hellenistischer Zeit. Berlin: Verlag Antike, 2010.

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Weber has edited an excellent, well-written collection of essays investigating the Ptolemaic era, a collection (whose origins lie in 2007/2008) indicative of the advances made in the field since the 1980s when the imprecise term "multicultural" was first used to placate the “politically correct.” Weber’s introduction (pp. 9-29) makes clear that one is investigating cultural interactions, Kulturbegegnungen: a plural. The cultures and interactions are never static, nor is there a single Leitkultur. Weber proposes the investigation of five Problembereiche that cut across disciplines: a. the concept of monarchy, in which the desire for dynastic unity led to the adaptation of the Egyptian concept of sibling marriage; b. the elite of the land, Egyptian and Greco-Macedonian maintaining their respective positions, but prosopographical details preclude assigning ethnics based on one’s name; c. religion, in which the Ptolemies were active patrons, but a clear division between divine worlds seems to have persisted; d. the situation in the chora, illuminated for the most part by papyrus-preserved “personal” histories; e. dislike of the Ptolemaic rule: the priesthood saw the Ptolemies as the bulwark against a Sintflut of chaos and anarchy; it remains difficult to assign specific reasons for others’ dissatisfaction. Weber ends with advice (p. 24): “Generalisierende Aussage in grosser Stil ueber die griechische Elite oder die Aegypter verbieten sich daher.”

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