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Author(s): Carl G. Johnson
Source: Ancient Society , 1995, Vol. 26 (1995), pp. 145-155
Published by: Peeters Publishers
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Understanding the relation between native Egyptian and Greek cult in Ptolemaic Egypt is crucial to our perception of Ptolemaic histo Two views of this relationship have been influential since the time Droysen1. The first holds that there was a synthesis of Egyptian a Greek forms, ideas and institutions which created a distinct and n culture, Greco-Egyptian, and that Greek forms underwent an ‘Egyptian ization’, whereby they became Egyptian in character2. The second v holds that, for the most part, Egyptian and Greek culture remained iso lated from one another, and that any influence upon one another superficial. The nature and character of Ptolemaic kingship has n been immune to such an analysis. It has been argued repeatedly that Ptolemies, and in particular Ptolemy V, adopted Pharaonic titulature an customs in an effort to win the sympathies of native Egyptians. This art intends to challenge this thesis by examining royal titulature form found in contemporary papyri, inscriptions and coins, and will show th this Egyptianization of the Greek monarchy was only superficial.
H. Thissen and C. Onasch have argued that the Ptolemaic monarch was Egyptianized by the reign of Ptolemy V. Their arguments rest marily on the priestly decrees of Canopus, Raphia and Rosetta3. Ot scholars have followed their lead. M.M. Austin, in his description of Rosetta decree, states:
«similar in character to the earlier decree from Canopus, though com-
parison with that text reveals the increasing ‘Egyptianization’ of the
Ptolemaic dynasty from the time of Ptolemy IV»4.
Likewise R.S. Bagnali writes, in comparing the Canopus and Roset decrees:
1 For an account of historical approaches to the Hellenistic Age, see Cl. Préaux, Le
monde hellénistique , Paris 1978, 1, p. 5-9.
2 Also known as ‘syncretism’; see Cl. Préaux, op. cit. II, p. 545f.
3 H.-J. Thissen, Studien zum Raphiadekret , Meisenheim am Glan 1966; C. Onasch,
Zur Königsideologie der Ptolemäer in den Dekreten von Kanopus und Memphis (Roset-
tana), APF 24/25 (1976), p. 137-155.
4 M.M. Austin, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest. A
Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation , Cambridge 1981, p. 374.
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«The two are in many respects similar, much more prominent in the Rosetta de titulature and the fact that the assemb not at Canopus). This reflects the incre element in Ptolemaic Egypt»5.
In this paper we will examine wheth an indication of the Egyptianization will examine current discussion of the Canopus, Raphia and Rosetta.
Royal Titulature of Ptolemy III from th ßaai Xeùç Iïxo^e^aïoç IlxoXeiaaíoi) Kai Kai ßaaiA,iacra BepevlKiļ f| àôstapí) Royal Titulature of Ptolemy IV from the [ßaaiA,ei)ovToq
6ÔC0K8V ifļv ßa]criA,siav, Kuploi) ßaaiA,eiö)v, (1. 1)
[¿isyaÀ,oôóÇoi), eoaeßoß^ xà rcpòç 0so í>ç, àvGpamoov 8è acúxfípoç;,
ávxi7cáx,í0]v Ď7C8pX8pOO, XoC XT1V Aïy- (1. 2)
[urcxov Kaxaaxrjaa^évoi) Kaì xà íepà ¿7tavop0cóaavxoę Kai xoòç
vóp,ouç xe0évxaç ôrcò xoõ ^syíaxoi) Kal [isyía- (1. 3)
[xo£> eEp|ioö ßeßaioCvxoc;, Kuplou xpiaKOvxexripíScov KaOárcep ó
Ttyaiaxoç ó] jiéyaç, ßaailsax; Ka0á7c[ep] (1. 4)
[ó “H/Uoç, jieyá^ov) ßaai^ecoq xÅ“v xe avo Kai xã>v Káxco %copÅ“v,
Å“i ó “HXioç 8ÔC0K8V xò Kpáxo]ç, elróvoç Çcoariç xoC (1. 5)
[Áióç, uíoC xoC eHWoi), ITuo^eļiaioi) alcovoßioi), f|ya7ur||4,évoi) ôtuò
xÍ1ç “Iaiôoç] (1. 6)
Royai Titulature of Ptolemy ßacjiXeCovxoq xoO vbod Ka xoC rcaxpóç, ku pí ou ßaai^ KaxaaxT|aa|iévoi) Kai xà rcpòç xoòç (1. 1)
0soí)ç sòae ßoö<;, ávxi7cáXcov òtte pxé poi), xoC xòv ßiov xã àv0pa)7icov è7cavop0ô>aavxoç Kuplou xpiaKovxsxripiSÅ“v ó “Hcpaiaxoç ó ¿léyaç, ßaailecoq Ka0á7csp ó |iéyaç fiamXzbq xÅ“v xs ävco Kai xcov Káxco %©pcč)v, ¿Kyó Oi^oTcaxópcov, öv ó “Hcpaiaxoç èôoKÍjiaasv, au ó “HXioç xfļv VÍKT1V, síkóvoç Çcòar|ç xou Àióç, l)ÍÒÇ xoß eHX,ÍOl),
IIxoX8ļiaioi) (1. 3)
aicovoßioi), fiya7iT1|xévoi) òrco xoõ O0ã (1. 4)
5 R.S. Bagnall – P. Derow, Greek Historical Documents. The Hellenistic Pe Ann Arbor 1981, no. 137, p. 226.
6 Based upon the restoration of H.-J. Thissen, op. cit. (n. 3), p. 10-11.
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As these selections show, the native priesthood did not honor Pto-
lemy IV with any Pharaonic titulature in the Canopus decree (238 B.C.),
only Greek titles are present. But a remarkable change takes place in the
Raphia (217 B.C.) and the Rosetta (196 B.C.) decrees honoring Ptole-
mies IV and V. Here the five-fold titulature by which the Pharaohs were
honored is translated for the first time into Greek. The five elements of
the Pharaonic titulature are: «King» (ßaaiA,eüOVTO<;), (2) «Lord of the
Crowns» (Kopiou ßaaiA,subv), (3) «Victorious over his enemies»
(ávTi7cáÀ,a>v ÔTiepxépou), (4) «Great King of the Upper and Lower
Lands» (|isyáXoi) ßaai^ecoq xœv xe äva> Kai tgûv k<xtcö xoapœv), (5)
«Son of Helios» (oíòç tou cHÀ,íoi))7.
It is argued that in the reign of Ptolemy III, the Ptolemaic monarchy,
still politically strong, remained Greek in character. However, with the
decline of the dynasty in the reigns of Ptolemies IV and V, and with
7 L. Koenen (Die Adaptation ägyptischer Königsideologie am Ptolemäerhof ‘ in Egypt
and the Hellenistic World [Proceedings of the International Colloquium Leuven 24-26
May 1982], ed. E. Van ‘t Dack – P. Van Dessel – W. Van Gucht, Louvain 1983, p. 155
n. 36, and restated in The Ptolemaic King as a Religious Figure , in Images and Ideolo-
gies. Self-definition in the Hellenistic World , Berkeley 1993, p. 48-66) has isolated the
Pharaonic five-fold titulature from hieroglyphic inscriptions. Koenen has also offered
some interesting observations on the nature of Ptolemaic royal epikleseis , suggesting that
titles such as Soter , Euergetes etc. have double meanings, in other words both have an
interpretatio Graeca and an interpretatio Aegyptica. These titles have obvious parallels in
Greek tradition, but Koenen, pointing to similar precedents in Pharaonic sources, suggests
that the Ptolemies chose epikleseis which would satisfy and be meaningful to both Greek
and Egyptian. His paper in Images and Ideologies stresses the dual nature of the Ptole-
maic kingship from the reign of Ptolemy I on. However, there is no unequivocal evidence
to suggest that the Ptolemies pursued this policy. All our sources, both literary and arche-
ological, suggest that the Ptolemies conceived themselves as Greek kings alone (cf.
Cl. Préaux, op. cit. [n. 1]). For example, the seals from the Louvre (Bj 1092 and 1093),
showing a king in Greek and Pharaonic apparel, which offers Koenen a point of departure
(p. 25-26), cannot be proven to be an official (and therefore representing the official atti-
tude towards kingship) portrait, since it is impossible to determine who made the seal and
for what purpose. On this subject, see the important discussion of R.R.R. Smith, in Hel-
lenistic Royal Portraits , Oxford 1988, p. 88, on the relation between Egyptian and Greek
artistic styles, as well as the contextual ambiguity of portraits in general (p. 44). The same
is true of his interpretation of Callimachus, presenting a dual picture of Ptolemaic ideol-
ogy. In the words of F. Walbank, who responded to Koenen’ s paper in the same volume
(p. 123): «But what conclusions can we draw as to how far Callimachus’ Greek readers
would recognize the more recondite Egyptian allusions? And had Callimachus a personal
interest in ‘making the ideology acceptable’?» Walbank asks in turn whether prominent
Egyptians would care whether the Greek intelligentsia was aware of their traditions, or
whether they even read Callimachus to begin with. Such unanswerable questions are
raised when one promotes the idea of an ideology with a secondary, allusive meaning.
That is not to say that Koenen ‘s suggestions are not important, but that they cannot be
proven presently with the evidence at hand.
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growing concessions to native Egypt priesthood, the Ptolemies were compel an effort to bolster the monarchy thro adoption of Pharaonic titolature and phis are cited as evidence of concess The turning point, as argued by sc towards the native traditions, was th bius cites this and the general chara chief reasons for Ptolemaic decline a Egyptians8. However, the work of W. an inactive and negligent ruler, indiff was quite the opposite9. Although t IV’ s reign may be open to debate, n lems facing young Ptolemy V: his m his overseas territories, most notably ochus III. We should therefore consi most susceptible for a change in the ch look back to the reign of his predecess H. Thissen, in his study of the Ra IV ‘s victory over the Seleucid empir «Die inhaltliche Ägyptisierung zeigt s zu Beginn des Raphiadekretes in der ä griechischer Sprache (Z. 1-4). Bis dah Titulatur in der traditionellen Hierogly die einheimische Bevölkerung eben « der Titulatur in den griechischen Text als solcher vorgestellt – offenbar ein Hofes. Der P. München, nach U. Wilck ebenfalls die Titulatur in griechischer chische Titulatur nur noch in der Ros keine entsprechenden Dekrete aus der neunten Ptolemäers. So wissen wir nich tischen Titulatur in griechischer Sprach dreisprachigen Dekret aus der Zeit Pto die fünfstellige Titulatur jedenfalls nich 8 On the battle of Raphia and its effect on V 107.1-3. For Polybius’ sketch of Ptolemy IV his rule, see V 34.1-11.
9 W. Huss, Unterschungen zur Außenpolitik 10 For the partition treaty of Philip V and A du monde hellénistique , Nancy 1979-19822, I 11 H.-J. Thissen, op. cit. (n. 3), p. 80-81.
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Thissen offers other evidence derived from the Raphia decree suppor-
ting the idea that a synthesis of Egyptian and Greek elements has taken
place. C. Onasch, discussing the Rosetta decree from the same perspec-
tive, states:
«… und die vollständige aus fünf Teilen bestehende ägyptische Königs-
titulatur Ptolemaios’ V. sowohl im hieroglyphischen und demoti-
schen als auch im griechischen Text. Die traditionelle Titulatur der
Pharaonen erscheint erstmals unter Ptolemaios IV. ungekürzt in
griechischer Übersetzung. Es ist dies ein Anzeichen für das zuneh-
mende politische Gewicht der einheimischen Bevölkerung im Ptole-
mäerreich, vor der sich die Lagiden nun als ägyptische Könige zu
legitimieren trachten, während zuvor das griechisch-makedonische
Element dominierte»12.
Onasch uses the text of the Rosetta decree, and by comparing it with the
text and titulature of the Canopus decree honoring Ptolemy III, endeav-
ors to show that the Ptolemaic kingship had become Egyptianized.
Both of these scholars assume that the presence of the Pharaonic five-
fold titulature in Greek, not simply demotic and hieroglyphic, represents
a significant concession to the native Egyptian priesthood. They argue
that Ptolemies IV and V depicted themselves as Pharaohs to both Greek
and Egyptian subject alike, and therefore an Egyptianization of the
monarchy had taken place. This alteration in the character of the monar-
chy was the result of political pressure, namely the decline of the Ptole-
maic empire at home and abroad. But can titulature be interpreted in this
manner? Can it be employed as evidence for an Egyptianization of the
monarchy in the late 3rd, early 2nd centuries B.C.?
The first question that must be asked is what was the source of the
priestly decrees (the Canopus, Raphia, and Rosetta) under discussion?
All three were native Egyptian priestly documents. They were written,
inscribed and erected not by the authority of the Ptolemaic bureaucracy
and king, but rather by the native Egyptian priesthood, just as the same
native priesthood wrote, inscribed and erected many other such inscrip-
tions in the native temples of Egypt13. The most important difference
between these three decrees and other priestly decrees was that they
were also translated into Greek. And it is this distinction which has led
to so much speculation about the change in the nature of the Ptolemaic
12 C. Onasch, art. cit. (n. 3), p. 148.
13 See K. Sethe, Hieroglyphische Urkunden der griechisch-römischen Zeit , Leipzig
1904-1916, for hieroglyphic priestly documents honoring the Ptolemies.
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kingship. Yet, it cannot be stresse official documents issued by the kin body of individuals separate and d fore, these decrees cannot be used attitude towards kingship, or as off Moreover, it has been argued that the Ptolemaic bureaucracy had so decree. But too much has been ma decrease of Greek elements in the maic bureaucracy conceded its right decrees, but this cannot be prove priesthood followed Greek models of the Canopus, Raphia and Rosetta also the text and word usage is Gre reference to the Ptolemaic bureauc tion. Nor can it be assumed that t control of the Ptolemaic bureaucr seek official approval for its decre the same period as the Canopus de to Ptolemaic bureaucratic guideline But the most convincing argument Ptolemies is the royal titulature f might be supposed, if indeed Ptole phis as Pharaoh, and having adopt titulature (as seen in the Rosetta argue, had become a Pharaoh in th that Ptolemy V would have introduc ture into the documents used by h Thissen noted above, thought that h Ptolemy IV’ s reign which was evid Pharaonic titles into official docume documents would be absolute pro place, and that Ptolemy V sought to 14 Discrimination between official and n coins) in dealing with Ptolemaic documents mines whether a documents reflects officia titulature in Ptolemaic royal and civil docum 15 C. Onasch, art. cit. (n. 3), p. 154, also spe decrees were composed.
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subjects. However, a survey of every variety of royal and bureaucratic
document from the reigns of not only Ptolemy V, but also of Ptolemy
IV, shows that no such innovation in titulature style was made. In fact,
traditional Greek titulature styles remain unchanged.
The following is a list of titulature types found in official documents;
also included is a list of titulature from unofficial sources. This latter
category demonstrates that Pharaonic titulature translated into Greek did
not influence choice of titulature even in unofficial documents, made by
the subjects of the king, such as in dedications.
Table I. Royal titulature found in officiai documents
from the reign of Ptolemy V
– Royal dedications
ßaaiÄ,ei)<; ITuoÀ,e|aaïoç Kai ßaai^icraa K^eorcáipa, 0soi ‘Ercicpavsïç, Kai
nxoA,enaïoç ó uíóç17
– Dating formulae
ßaaiXsüovTO ç ITro>-[enaíoi) díoC nioA,e[iaíoi>] Kai ‘Apaivóriç (©eÅ“v
– Royal decrees
Paai^é(o[ç IlTO^£|i]aío[u]19
– Numismatic formulae
ßaaiXeco ç IlToA,s|iaíoi)20
ITuoÀ,e|iaíoi) ‘Emcpavouç21
Table II. Royal titulature found in unofficial documents
from the reign of Ptolemy V
– Dedications made in honor of Ptolemy V
[ßaaiX-ei ITcoXE|¿]aí(0i 0eœi sE7uicp[a]v8i22
ßaaiXeco<; IlT0Á,£|¿aÍ0D 0soO ‘ErciípavoCç |ieY<xX,oi) Eü^aplaxoi)23
What is remarkable about all official and unofficial titulature styles
from the reign of Ptolemy V is the utter absence of Pharaonic titles. An
examination of official and unofficial titulature used during the reign of
17 OGIS 1 98.
18 P. Tebt. I 176.
19 C. Ord. Ptol. 8.
20 I.N. Svoronos, 7a vofiía/iara r ou Kpázovç zœv nroXsfiaiœv, 4 vol., Athens 1904,
nos. 1230-1240, 1243-1246.
21 Ibid., no. 1249.
22 SB I 3993.
23 OGIS I 94.
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Ptolemy IV reveals the same trend24 tates earlier styles exactly, and the and Rosetta decrees is not found elsewhere. OGIS 94 does contain the
title «great» (|isyáÀ,oi>), but this adjective is not unique to the Pharaonic
five-fold titulature, and there are many other examples of |iéyaç in other
Ptolemaic inscriptions25. Also significant is the absence of the Pharaonic
five-fold titulature in dedications made by native Egyptians to Ptolemy
V26. Evidently, the translation of the five-fold titulature into Greek had
no effect on native Egyptian titulature use either, for they too continued
to honor Ptolemy V with Greek titles.
If there was no impact upon official and unofficial styles of royal tit-
ulature, it is necessary to conclude that the bestowal of Pharaonic titula-
ture on the king in Greek had no more significance than its bestowal
in hieroglyphic. Since the reign of Alexander, the Ptolemaic dynasty
had been called Pharaohs by the native priesthood in their hieroglyphic
documents, but this made no impression on the Greek character of the
dynasty. Therefore, contrary to Thissen’s comments above, it is impos-
sible to see any significance in the translation of the Pharaonic five-fold
titulature into Greek.
But what of the papyrus document from the reign of Ptolemy IV con-
taining the Pharaonic five-fold titulature which Wilcken claimed to have
been a royal edict? P. München is very fragmentary. Its text, thirteen
lines in length and consisting of royal titles alone, closely resembles that
of the Raphia decree. Wilcken noted, however, that the text is not in the
genitive case as in the Raphia decree (necessary since they belong to the
dating formula, PaaiXeóovxoç IlT0À,£|iaÍ0i) – «in the reign of King
Ptolemy»), but in the nominative27. He suggested that P. München was
a royal decree, since royal decrees begin with the name of the king in the
nominative (cf. C.Ord.Ptol. 8 above). But this is pure speculation. First
of all, the papyrus breaks off before any indication of the nature of the
text is given. Secondly, titulature styles for Ptolemaic royal letters and
24 Cf. SB VI 9300; SEG VIII 360, XVI 869, XX 496 (all temple dedications made by
Ptolemy IV); C.B. Welles, Royal Correspondence 33 (a royal letter to the Magnesians);
P. Frankf. II 1 (a dating formula); C. Ord. Ptol. 29 (a royal decree of Ptolemy IV); OGIS
1 75, 76, 83, 85, 89, SEG VIII 867, XXIV 1 193, and SB I 597, 2136, VI 8924 (dedications
honoring Ptolemy IV).
25 OGIS I 89, SEG XX 467 (Ptolemy IV); OGIS I 94 (Ptolemy V); SEG XXXI 1574
(Ptolemy VIII).
26 OGIS 1 94; M.L. Strack, APF 2 (190x), p. 548, no. 27; SEG XXIV 1201 ; OGIS 1 95.
27 U. Wilcken, art . cit., p. 483-484.
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decrees are simple and consistent. The style for royal decrees, without
exception, consisted of the king’s name nxo^sjiaioç and his royal title
ßaaiXsuq and nothing more28. Such longer titles, such as the Pharaonic
five-fold titulature or even (léyaç, would be very uncharacteristic of
the official style of royal decrees. P. München , then, cannot be cited as
evidence of Egyptianization either. The exact purport of this document
must remain a riddle.
Thissen has also admitted that the only surviving trilingual priestly
decree after the Rosetta decree, from the reign of Ptolemy IX, runs counter
to the trend suggested by himself and later by Onasch29. OGIS 739, a
fragmentary priestly decree honoring Ptolemy IX, is also inscribed in
Greek, demotic and hieroglyphic. Arguing from an Egyptianization
standpoint, it might be expected that, in honoring Ptolemy IX, the native
priesthood would use once more the Pharaonic five-fold titulature, fol-
lowing the precedents of the Raphia and Rosetta decrees. This is not
the case. The surviving Greek text includes only the Greek titles of the
king and nothing more30. Pharaonic titulature is wholly absent, and this
undermines any attempt to see a trend in titulature use reflecting the
Egyptianization of the Ptolemaic dynasty.
If titulature use is no indication of the Egyptianization of the Ptole-
maic monarchy, what significance did Ptolemy V’s coronation at Mem-
phis and the change of the synod’s locale from Canopus to Memphis
have? There are two explicit references to the crowning of Ptolemies
as Pharaoh, in the Rosetta decree (1. 46-47), where Ptolemy V is said to
have been crowned with the Pschent crown, and in Diodorus (XXXIII
13.1), where Ptolemy VIII is said to have been crowned according to
Egyptian ritual. There is no other evidence to suggest that any other
Ptolemy was crowned at Memphis. Thus, here as well, it is impossible
to see any trend towards Egyptianization. More importantly, it could
never be suggested that a coronation at Memphis could ever replace a
Greek coronation at Alexandria, for Alexandria remained the royal
seat to the end of the dynasty. At any rate, simply because Ptolemy V
was crowned as Pharaoh at Memphis does not imply that he became a
28 Cf. C. Ord. Ptol. 1-4, 6, 8, 11-14, 16, 20, 22, 25, 27-29, 46, 50, etc.
29 H.-J. Thissen, op. cit., p. 81.
30 OGIS II 739 reads: ßacriA,ei)0VTOöv K^eorcáipaç Ka[ì] licore [ļialoo 0ećov] (1. 1)
Oi^oļiTļTopoov £coTiļ[p]cov, etouç ciciou [<X>]aã>[<pl. . . .] (1. 2), è 7ii íepécoç ‘ApXS|Xl-
<5[còpo]i) etc. Nine lines follow giving the list of dynastic cults of which Artemidorus was
priest. Pharaonic titles are entirely absent from the Greek text.
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Pharaoh in Greek eyes, any more th ture in Greek31.
The change of locale of the prie Alexandria) to Memphis has also bee power of the priesthood opposite the Egyptianization of the dynasty. Howev over a period of forty-two years (238- judge how important this change of pl than political brought about this chang In conclusion, the Pharaonic titu Rosetta decrees cannot be used to su mies IV and V was Egyptianized. Con the Ptolemies continued to depict t not as Pharaohs. There can be no dou mitted the priesthood to honor them not imply that Ptolemies became P any substantial interest in Egyptian cu Ptolemaic dynasty, and it remained significant that Cleopatra VII, the know the native language of Egypt33. can therefore be seen as an example 31 L. Koenen, Eine agonistische Inschrift au feste, Meisenheim am Glan 1977, proposes th tival and the birthdates of Ptolemies II an the Ptolemies were crowned as Pharaoh at M view has been accepted by P. Green, Alexa of the Hellenistic Age , Berkeley 1990, p. Ptolemies seem to have been manipulated to there is no other evidence save that cited, crowned as Pharaoh at Memphis. Indeed, t coronation as Pharaoh, is found in a very untr der Romance I 34.2). See S.M. Burstein, Phar 22 (1991), p. 139-145, for arguments agains Ptolemy V.
32 See D.J. Thompson, Memphis under the Ptolemies , Princeton 1988, for the complex
relationship between the Ptolemies and the native priesthood based at Memphis. In native
priestly accounts of dealings between the priesthood and Ptolemies, this relationship was
naturally depicted as the most important. There can be no doubt that as Ptolemaic power
waned in the 2nd century B.C, the power of the native priesthood increased, but in the
2nd and 1st centuries B.C., it was Rome and not Memphis that dominated the thinking
and policy of the Ptolemies (see E.S. Gruen, The Hellenistic World and the Coming of
Rome , 2 vol., Berkeley 1984).
33 Plutarch, Antony , 27.4.
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Egyptian forms existed side-by-side, with only superficial influence
upon one another34.
University of British Columbia
Department of Classical, Near Eastern
and Religious Studies
Carl G. Johnson
34 Cl. Preaux, op. cit. (n. 1), is the chief proponent of the coexistence approach to
Greek-Egyptian relations, although ironically, like Droysen’s concept of syncretism, it
too is based upon contemporary 20th-century ideologies. L. Koenen, in Images and Ide-
ologies (n. 2), p. 26 n. 2, is quite correct in stating that «the pendulum has now swung
from one extreme (mixture) to the other (two separate cultures)». See the same note for a
complete bibliography of scholarship arguing for both coexistence and syncretism in
recent years.
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