|Domain||‘Hellenization’ and ‘Romanization’ in Ptolemaic Egypt, Central & Western Asia and Greece|
|University||University of Leiden|
|Date Range||October 2022 - Current|
|Supervisor(s)||Prof. dr. Luuk de Ligt |
Dr. Rens Tacoma
A good ruler of Egypt is one who ensures Maat, honors the gods, and is able, as the supreme religious leader, to collaborate with their officiants. Ptolemy, son of Lagos, and his successors were not only Hellenistic monarchs who needed to build efficient connections with the court and the citizen bodies of their kingdom. They also inherited the role of the Egyptian pharaohs, which empowered them to interact and negotiate with indigenous agents of power. These latter were the Egyptian priests and the colleges of their representatives delegated to interact with the Greco-Macedonian central authority. These indigenous elites were concerned with entering into a process of communication with the new sovereigns of Egypt in order to promote their interests, enforce their advantages, and stabilize their influence in the context of the new political landscapes that emerged in the aftermath of Alexander’s conquests. Not only did the Graeco-Macedonian kings come from a different cultural background than the indigenous elites, as did many other rulers of Egypt before the Hellenistic period, but their political agenda was heavily dependent on the political upheavals of the Hellenistic oikoumenē, the struggles for legitimacy among Alexander’s Diadochoi and their descendants, and a political rallying to found and/or attach to their realm as many cities, settlements, and communities as possible intended to act as political satellites of their kingdom.
In the context of such complex inter-royal and inter-state relationships dominating the Hellenistic political landscape, the intendants of the temples negotiate with the foreign rulers for the first time in Egyptian history through textual, linguistic, and visual means inspired by the latter’s cultural background and political practices and largely adapted to representational codes of the Pharaonic royal ideology and Egyptian tradition.
This research project seeks to explore the way priestly elites anchored their ideological discourse in the cultural and linguistic idiom of the Graeco-Macedonian rulership so as to model themselves as indigenous agents of power who partake in the political koinē and at the same time are capable of registering and adjusting the rule of their new sovereigns to the royal pharaonic tradition.
The main focus is on the reframing of the Greek honor system as part of the reward exchange process between the Ptolemaic Kings and the Egyptian priesthood. Through a semantic and iconographic survey of lexical and visual tokens found in a wide range of written and iconographic evidence, including Hieroglyphic priestly stelae, bilingual and trilingual decrees, and petitions, as well as representations from honorific stelae, statues, and funerary monuments of the Egyptian elite, the project seeks to pinpoint the means and strategies of reframing Greek practices through the prisms of the Egyptian tradition and the imperatives dictated by the political landscape of Hellenistic Egypt and, more broadly, of the Hellenistic world.
Which means the Egyptian priests consciously chose, collectively or individually, to construct their discourse and display their identity on the occasion of honor-oriented interactions with the Ptolemaic monarchs? What were the strategies, the reasons, and the results of the reframing process of Greek honorific practices within Hellenistic Egypt’s cultural and political landscapes? Which elements from the Greek and Egyptian traditions did the agents of power pick out in this process, and how did they manipulate them to achieve their aims?
This project seeks to shed light on innovative agent-centered strategies in the making, developed by the Egyptian priests and the Ptolemaic kings to shape identities and policy in common. It will contribute to the study of the “anchoring innovation” research concept from the perspective of intercultural encounters and cultural transfers and should raise intriguing questions about the cultural integration of elites and cosmopolitan politics in the Hellenistic world.