This module is concerned with the impact of the Classical World on ancient Egypt between Alexander's invasion and the Arab conquest, and on the nature and permanence of the brilliant hybrid civilisation which emerged under Greek and Roman rule.
Alexander entered Egypt as a liberator, but he and his successors created a colonial regime with Greek as the ruling language and Greeks as the ruling elite under their own law. Mercenaries were settled on reclaimed land, Greek cities were founded, especially Alexandria, one of the glories of the ancient world. An elaborate system of economic regulation maximised production to support warfare, city-building and display. The temples became a department of state. New cults were created to unite the two peoples and strengthen the regime. Native Egyptians showed their resentment in disaffection and rebellion. Roman rule (after the spectacular end of the Ptolemaic dynasty) was if anything harsher and more remote, and the rise of the Copts is often interpreted as an anti-Roman, anti-Classical movement.
Yet it is a mistake to see the relationship as wholly negative. Art and architecture flourished – most temples surviving today are the work of the Ptolemies. In civil service, army, business the new regime offered avenues to advancement for native Egyptians. A genuinely bilingual upper class emerged, able to make significant contributions to Classical culture. The ancient religion retained its prestige and was adopted by many Greeks, spreading far outside Egypt. Coptic culture was as much Classical as Egyptian, and Greek language long survived the Arab conquest. Sources for this vivid, complex and often neglected phase of Egyptian history are rich and varied: temples, tombs, remains of cities and villages, mummies, inscriptions, sculpture, coins, and an extraordinary range of papyrus documents, able to offer unique insights into an ancient civilisation.
Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130
Total Study Hours: 150
Autumn or Spring
Method of assessment
Main assessment methods
Essay 1 (1500 words) – 40%
Essay 2 (1500 words) – 40%.
Presentation (15 minutes) – 20%
Indicative Reading List
Bagnall, RS. (1993). Egypt in Late Antiquity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Baines, J. & Málek, J. (1980). Atlas of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Andromeda Oxford Publishing.
Bowman, AK. (1986). Egypt after the Pharaohs, 322BC-AD642: From Alexander to the Arab Conquest. London: British Museum Press.
Holbl, G. (2000). A History of the Ptolemaic Empire. London: Routledge.
Walker, S. & Bierbrier, ML. (1997). Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt. London: British Museum Press.
Walker, S. & Higgs, P. Eds, (2001). Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth. London: British Museum Press.
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
On successfully completing the module Level 6 students will be able to:
Articulate detailed and nuanced responses to key questions about the nature and value of the historical evidence for the history of Graeco-Roman Egypt;
1. Demonstrate deep understanding of the importance and implications of the political, social, economic and cultural history of Graeco-Roman Egypt;
2. Understand the nature and extent of interaction between the incoming Graeco-Macedonians, Romans and the indigenous Egyptian population (e.g. in politics, society, the
economy, religion and in cultural life);
3. Devise sustained, critical and evaluative arguments related to the interpretation of the nature and extent of interaction between the incoming Graeco-Macedonians and the
indigenous Egyptian population (e.g. in politics, society, the economy, religion and in cultural life);
4. Engage reflectively with current research related to primary and secondary sources.
Back to top
- ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
- The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.