Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία
Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Σάββατο, 13 Ιουνίου 2015

Greek culture in Ancient Egypt - Ptolemaic Kingdom

The Ptolemaic Kingdom (Πτολεμαϊκή βασιλεία)was a Hellenistic kingdom based in Egypt. It was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty which started with Ptolemy I Soter's accession after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC- and which ended with the death of Cleopatra VII and the Roman conquest in 30 BC. The origin of Ptolemeans is from greek Macedonia.
The Ptolemaic Kingdom was founded in 305 BC by Ptolemy I Soter, who declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt and created a powerful Hellenistic dynasty that ruled an area stretching from southern Syria to Cyrene and south to Nubia. Alexandria became the capital city and a major center of Greek culture and trade. To gain recognition by the native Egyptian populace, they named themselves the successors to the Pharaohs. The later Ptolemies took on Egyptian traditions by marrying their siblings, had themselves portrayed on public monuments in Egyptian style and dress, and participated in Egyptian religious life. The Ptolemies had to fight native rebellions and were involved in foreign and civil wars that led to the decline of the kingdom and its final annexation by Rome. Hellenistic culture continued to thrive in Egypt throughout the Roman and Byzantine periods until the Muslim conquest. Ptolemy I, perhaps with advice from Demetrius of Phalerum, founded the Museum and Library of Alexandria. The Museum was a research centre supported by the king. It was located in the royal sector of the city. The scholars were housed in the same sector and funded by the Ptolemaic rulers. They had access to the Library. The chief librarian served also as the crown prince's tutor. For the first hundred and fifty years of its existence this library and research centre drew the top Greek scholars. This was a key academic, literary and scientific centre. Greek culture had a long but minor presence in Egypt long before Alexander the Great founded the city of Alexandria. It began when Greek colonists, encouraged by the many Pharaohs, set up the trading post of Naucratis, which became an important link between the Greek world and Egypt's grain. As Egypt came under foreign domination and decline, the Pharaohs depended on the Greeks as mercenaries and even advisors. When the Persians took over Egypt, Naucratis remained an important Greek port and the colonist population were used as mercenaries by both the rebel Egyptian princes and the Persian kings, who later gave them land grants, spreading the Greek culture into the valley of the Nile. When Alexander the Great arrived, he established Alexandria on the site of the Persian fort of Rhakortis. Following Alexander's death, control passed into the hands of the Lagid (Ptolemaic) dynasty; they built Greek cities across their empire and gave land grants across Egypt to the veterans of their many military conflicts. Hellenistic civilization continued to thrive even after Rome annexed Egypt after the battle of Actium and did not decline until the Islamic conquests. When Ptolemy I Soter made himself king of Egypt, he created a new god, Serapis, which was a combination of two Egyptian gods: Apis and Osiris plus the main Greek gods: Zeus, Hades, Asklepios, Dionysios, and Helios. Serapis had powers over fertility, the sun, corn, funerary rites, and medicine. Many people started to worship this god. In the time of the Ptolemies, the cult of Serapis included the worship of the new Ptolemaic line of pharaohs. Alexandria supplanted Memphis as the preeminent religious city. The wife of Ptolemy II, Arsinoe II was often depicted in the form of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, but she wore the crown of lower Egypt, with ram's horns, ostrich feathers, and other traditional Egyptian indicators of royalty and/or deity. She wore the vulture headdress only on the religious portion of a relief. Cleopatra VII, the last of the Ptolemaic line, was often depicted with characteristics of the goddess Isis. She often had either a small throne as her headdress or the more traditional sun disk between two horns.
The traditional table for offerings disappeared from reliefs during the Ptolemaic period. Male gods were no longer portrayed with tails in attempt to make them more humanlike. The wealthy and connected of Egyptian society seemed to put more stock in magical stela during the Ptolemaic period. These were religious objects produced for private individuals, something uncommon in earlier Egyptian times. The Greeks now formed the new upper classes in Egypt, replacing the old native aristocracy. In general, the Ptolemies undertook changes that went far beyond any other measures that earlier foreign rulers had imposed. They used the religion and traditions to increase their own power and wealth. Although they established a prosperous kingdom, enhanced with fine buildings, the native population enjoyed few benefits, and there were frequent uprisings. These expressions of nationalism reached a peak in the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopator (221–205 BC) when others gained control over one district and ruled as a line of native "pharaohs." This was only curtailed nineteen years later when Ptolemy V Epiphanes (205–181 BC) succeeded in subduing them, but the underlying grievances continued and there were riots again later in the dynasty.
Family conflicts affected the later years of the dynasty when Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II fought his brother Ptolemy VI Philometor and briefly seized the throne. The struggle was continued by his sister and niece (who both became his wives) until they finally issued an Amnesty Decree in 118 BC. A major Mediterranean port of Egypt, in ancient times and still today, Alexandria was founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great, one of the many Eastern Macedonian cities that he established. Located 20 miles (32 km) west of the Nile's westernmost mouth, the city was immune to the silt deposits that persistently choked harbors along the river. Alexandria became the capital of the Hellenized Egypt of King Ptolemy (1) I (reigned 323—283 BC). Under the wealthy Ptolemy dynasty, the city soon surpassed Athens as the cultural center of the Greek world.
Laid out on a grid pattern, Alexandria occupied a stretch of land between the sea to the north and Lake Mareotis to the south; a man-made causeway, over three-quarters of a mile long, extended north to the sheltering island of Pharos, thus forming a double harbor, east and west. On the east was the main harbor, called the Great Harbor; it faced the city's chief buildings, including the royal palace and the famous Library and Museum. At the Great Harbor's mouth, on an outcropping of Pharos, stood the lighthouse, built ca. 280 BC. Now vanished, the lighthouse was reckoned as one of the Seven Wonders of the World for its unsurpassed height (perhaps 460 feet); it was a square, fenestrated tower, topped with a metal fire basket and a statue of Zeus the Savior.
The Library, at that time the largest in the world, contained several hundred thousand volumes and housed and employed scholars and poets. A similar scholarly complex was the Museum (Mouseion, "hall of the Muses"). During Alexandria's brief literary golden period, ca. 280–240 BC, the Library subsidized three poets—Callimachus, Apollonius, and Theocritus—whose work now represents the best of Hellenistic literature. Among other thinkers associated with the Library or other Alexandrian patronage were the mathematician Euclid (ca. 300 BC), the inventor Archimedes (287 BC – c. 212 BC), and the polymath Eratosthenes (ca. 225 BC). Cosmopolitan and flourishing, Alexandria possessed a varied population of Macedonians,Greeks and Orientals, including a sizable minority of Jews, who had their own city quarter. Periodic conflicts occurred between Jews and ethnic Greeks. The city enjoyed a calm political history under the Ptolemies. It passed, with the rest of Egypt, into Roman hands in 30 BC, and became the second city of the Roman Empire.

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