Greeks


Greeks
c.664-30BC
    The Greeks began to arrive in Egypt in substantial numbers during the Saite Period, particularly in the reigns of *Psammetichus I and *Necho II. They came first as mercenaries and enabled the Saite rulers to gain freedom from *Persian domination, but later influxes included traders and tourists. Their first great commercial city in Egypt was Naucratis, which was founded under *Psammetichus I, and later *Necho II was obliged to confine Greek commercial activity to Naucratis because of the strength of native protest against the Greek merchants. Greek and *Phoenician mercenaries continued to support the Egyptian kings of later periods, introducing new fighting techniques and modernising the Egyptian army.
    When *Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC and was succeeded by *Ptolemy I, the country came to be ruled by a dynasty of Macedonian Greeks. A new fiscal and economic structure was introduced, and Greek cities such as Alexandria and Ptolemais were established and Greek colonists also settled in the country districts. Alexandria became the great commercial centre, overshadowing
    Naucratis, and, with its famous Museum and Library, it was also recognised as a great intellectual centre, drawing scholars from all parts of the Mediterranean world.
    The *Ptolemies adopted the role of Pharaoh and restored or built Egyptian temples throughout the country, including those at Edfu, Denderah, Philae, Esna and Kom Ombo. The conquerors introduced the Greek language and Greek customs, but the native population largely continued with their age-old practises. In some areas of the culture, hybrid forms developed: art in the tomb of *Petosiris is a good example of this. Generally it was in the new cities with their Greek theatres, gymnasia and chapels, that the Hellenistic culture predominated, while in the countryside, the Greek settlers were more inclined to absorb the existing Egyptian customs. Despite the kingdom's wealth, the native population enjoyed few benefits, and there was unrest which on occasions erupted into rebellions such as those in 208-186 BC and 88-86 BC which were centred around Thebes.
    For the last century of Ptolemaic rule, Egypt became a client state of Rome, but in 30 BC, events brought *Augustus (Octavian) to Egypt as conqueror and emperor.
BIBL. Bevan, E.A. History of Egypt under the Ptolemaic Dynasty. London: 1927; Kienitz, F.K. Die politische.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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