Sarapis under the Early Ptolemies


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In his will Antony expressed his desire to be buried in Alexandria, rather than taken to Rome in the event of his death, which Octavian used against Antony, sowing further dissent in the Roman populace.


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Octavian was quick to declare war on Antony and Cleopatra while public opinion of Antony was low. Their naval forces met at Actium , where the forces of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa defeated the navy of Cleopatra and Antony. Octavian waited for a year before he claimed Egypt as a Roman province. He arrived in Alexandria and easily defeated Mark Antony's remaining forces outside the city.


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  8. Facing certain death at the hands of Octavian , Antony attempted suicide by falling on his own sword, but survived briefly. He was taken by his remaining soldiers to Cleopatra, who had barricaded herself in her mausoleum, where he died soon after. Knowing that she would be taken to Rome to be paraded in Octavian's triumph and likely executed thereafter , Cleopatra and her handmaidens committed suicide on 12 August 30 BC.

    Legend and numerous ancient sources claim that she died by way of the venomous bite of an asp , though others state that she used poison, or that Octavian ordered her death himself. Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar, nominally succeeded Cleopatra until his capture and supposed execution in the weeks after his mother's death.

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    Cleopatra's children by Antony were spared by Octavian and given to his sister and Antony's Roman wife Octavia Minor , to be raised in her household. Their daughter Cleopatra Selene was eventually married through arrangement by Octavian into the Mauretanian royal line. Through her offspring the Ptolemaic line intermarried back into the Roman nobility. With the deaths of Cleopatra and Caesarion, the dynasty of Ptolemies and the entirety of pharaonic Egypt came to an end. Alexandria remained the capital of the country, but Egypt itself became a Roman province.

    Octavian became the sole ruler of Rome and began converting it into a monarchy, the Roman Empire. Under Roman rule, Egypt was governed by a prefect selected by the emperor from the Equestrian class and not a governor from the Senatorial order, to prevent interference by the Roman Senate. The main Roman interest in Egypt was always the reliable delivery of grain to the city of Rome.

    To this end the Roman administration made no change to the Ptolemaic system of government, although Romans replaced Greeks in the highest offices. But Greeks continued to staff most of the administrative offices and Greek remained the language of government except at the highest levels. Unlike the Greeks, the Romans did not settle in Egypt in large numbers.

    Culture, education and civic life largely remained Greek throughout the Roman period. The Romans, like the Ptolemies, respected and protected Egyptian religion and customs, although the cult of the Roman state and of the Emperor was gradually introduced. Around 25 BC, the Greek geographer , philosopher and historian, Strabo sailed up the Nile until reaching Philae, after which point there is little record of his proceedings until AD According to a study in Nature Communications , volcanic eruptions impacted the Nile in a way as to adversely impact agricultural output and thus trigger revolt in Ptolemaic Egypt.

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    Along with the shipwrecks, a big granite anchor pole dating back to the 6 th BC and amphorae dating back to the 3rd B. C were found.

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    The amphorae were used during the era of the Ptolemaic Kingdom as a container for transporting goods such as wine. It was located in the royal sector of the city. The scholars were housed in the same sector and funded by the Ptolemaic rulers. 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.

    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 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.

    Ptolemaic Kingdom - Wikipedia

    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. Ptolemaic art was produced during the reign of the Ptolemaic Rulers —30 BC , and was concentrated primarily within the bounds of the Ptolemaic Empire.

    The continuation of Egyptian art style evidences the Ptolemies' commitment to maintaining Egyptian customs. This strategy not only helped to legitimize their rule, but also placated the general population. For example, the faience sistrum inscribed with the name of Ptolemy has some deceptively Greek characteristics, such as the scrolls at the top, however, there are many examples of nearly identical sistrum and columns dating all the way to Dynasty 18 in the New Kingdom. It is, therefore, purely Egyptian in style.

    Aside from the name of the king, there are other features that specifically date this to the Ptolemaic period. Most distinctively is the color of the faience. Apple green, deep blue, and lavender-blue are the three colors most frequently used during this period, a shift from the characteristic blue of the earlier kingdoms. During the reign of Ptolemy II, Arsinoe II was deified either as stand-alone goddesses or as a personification of another divine figure and given their own sanctuaries and festivals in association to both Egyptian and Hellenistic gods such as Isis of Egypt and Hera of Greece.

    The Statuette of Arsinoe II was created c. The figure also exemplifies the fusing of Greek and Egyptian art. Although the backpillar and the goddess's striding pose is distinctively Egyptian, the cornucopia she holds and her hairstyle are both Greek in style. The rounded eyes, prominent lips, and overall youthful features show Greek influence as well. Despite the unification of Greek and Egyptian elements in the intermediate Ptolemaic period, the Ptolemaic Kingdom also featured prominent temple construction as a continuation of developments based on Egyptian art tradition from the Thirtieth Dynasty.

    Scenes were often framed with textual inscriptions, with a higher text to image ratio than seen previously during the New Kingdom. The figures in the scenes are smooth, rounded, and high relief, a style continued throughout the 30th Dynasty. The relief represents the interaction between the Ptolemaic kings and the Egyptian deities, which legitimized their rule in Egypt. In Ptolemaic art, the idealism seen in the art of previous dynasties continues, with some alterations. Women are portrayed as more youthful, and men begin to be portrayed in a range from idealistic to realistic.

    Serapis had powers over fertility, the sun, 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. Ptolemy I also promoted the cult of the deified Alexander , who became the state god of the Ptolemaic kingdom; the Ptolemies eventually associated themselves with the cult as gods.

    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.


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    Male gods were no longer portrayed with tails in attempt to make them more human-like. A common stele that appears during the Ptolemaic Dynasty is the cippus, religious objects produced for the purpose of protection of individuals. These magical stelae were made of various materials such as limestone, chlorite schist, and meta-grey-wacke, and were connected with matters of health.

    This portrayal of Horus refers to the myth wherein Horus triumphs over dangerous animals in the marshes of Khemmis with magic power also known as Akhmim. The Greeks now formed the new upper classes in Egypt , replacing the old native aristocracy.

    Egypt in the Ptolemaic Period

    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 — BC when others gained control over one district and ruled as a line of native "pharaohs. The struggle was continued by his sister and niece who both became his wives until they finally issued an Amnesty Decree in BC. Ptolemaic Egypt was noted for its extensive series of coinage in gold, silver and bronze. It was especially noted for its issues of large coins in all three metals, most notably gold penta drachm and octadrachm , and silver tetradrachm , decadrachm and pentakaidecadrachm.

    This was especially noteworthy as it would not be until the introduction of the Guldengroschen in that coins of substantial size particularly in silver would be minted in significant quantities [ citation needed ]. Ptolemaic Egypt, along with the other Hellenistic states outside of the Greek mainland after Alexander the Great , had its armies based on the Macedonian phalanx and featured Macedonian and native troops fighting side by side. The Ptolemaic military was filled with diverse peoples from across their territories. At first most of the military was made up of a pool of Greek settlers who, in exchange for military service, were given land grants.

    These made up the majority of the army. With the many wars the Ptolemies were involved in, their pool of Macedonian troops dwindled and there was little Greek immigration from the mainland so they were kept in the royal bodyguard and as generals and officers.

    Native troops were looked down upon and distrusted due to their disloyalty and frequent tendency to aid local revolts. However, with the decline of royal power, they gained influence and became common in the military. The Ptolemies used the great wealth of Egypt to their advantage by hiring vast amounts of mercenaries from across the known world. Black Ethiopians are also known to have served in the military along with the Galatians, Mysians and others.

    With their vast amount of territory spread along the Eastern Mediterranean such as Cyprus , Crete , the islands of the Aegean and even Thrace , the Ptolemies required a large navy to defend these far-flung strongholds from enemies like the Seleucids and Macedonians. While ruling Egypt , the Ptolemaic Dynasty built many Greek settlements throughout their Empire, to either Hellenize new conquered peoples or reinforce the area. Egypt had only three main Greek cities— Alexandria , Naucratis , and Ptolemais. Of the three Greek cities, Naucratis , although its commercial importance was reduced with the founding of Alexandria, continued in a quiet way its life as a Greek city-state.

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