Livia Capponi, Roman Egypt. Classical World Series. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2010.
Livia Capponi, an enthusiastic and experienced papyrologist who is currently a lecturer in Ancient History at Newcastle University, has written a modest but well-documented introduction to Roman Egypt, a long historical period that begins with Augustus’ arrival at Alexandria on 1 October, 30 BC and ends with the Arab conquest of Egypt sealed by a treaty signed by the general ‘Amr ibn al-‘As and the patriarch Cyrus on 8 November 641. This introduction is intended for “students and teachers of Classical Civilization at late school and early university level”, according to the series’ mission statement on the back cover, even for “those with no previous knowledge of the classical languages and those who, before reading, did not even know what a papyrus was”, according to the author’s preface.
The book begins with a short preface in which the author briefly explains why the study of Roman Egypt is a difficult task that can be accomplished only by a few scholars who have the appropriate multilingual and multidisciplinary skills to be able to examine the diverse textual sources of this period. Although the author mentions that the book is looking only at a selection of aspects of Roman Egypt, she does not inform the reader on which criteria she bases her selection, a serious omission, I think, since it may lead the uninitiated reader to believe that these are the only important issues arising from the sources about this period.