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Title: On the endurance of indigenous religious culture in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt : evidence of material culture
Author: Chezum, Tiffany
ISNI:       0000 0004 5914 5781
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The aim of this thesis is to examine changes in the status of traditional Egyptian religious culture during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, from 331 BCE to 313 CE. Four distinct categories of material culture are examined: monumental construction of temples and civic buildings, traditional hard-stone sculpture, Alexandrian tombs, and Roman coins. These bodies of evidence were chosen because each offers a unique perspective, reflecting respectively the personal inclinations and official attitudes of both the culturally Hellenic and indigenous elites, which have not previously been studied in this context. Examined together for the first time, these categories reveal commonalities that show clearly the progression of the status of indigenous religious culture. From this, it is argued that, despite being economically disadvantaged by the Roman administration, the high status of this culture persisted in Egyptian society under both the Ptolemies and the Romans. Patterns of Egyptian temple and classical civic building show that Egypt's indigenous elite controlled the resources allocated for temple construction under the Ptolemies, but that the Romans gradually transferred this land into the management of the culturally Hellenic elite. This resulted in a decrease in Egyptian temple building after the first century CE and a corresponding increase in classical construction from then on. The production of hard-stone statues is shown for the first time to reveal that the indigenous elite had the resources and cultural confidence to continue and develop their traditions under the Ptolemies, while the sharp decrease at the start of the Roman period reflects their diminution in autonomy and prosperity under Roman rule. New analysis of traditional elements and motifs in the tombs of Alexandrian elites shows that this group respected and adopted indigenous religious customs and beliefs, with a higher incidence of indigenous imagery in the Roman period compared with the Ptolemaic period. In a similar way, well-informed Egyptian religious iconography rendered in a classical style on Alexandrian coins demonstrates the respect of the Roman authorities for Egyptian religious cults and institutions at an official level. In sum, it is argued that indigenous religious culture largely maintained its privileged economic and social status throughout the Ptolemaic period, despite political upheavals. Under Roman rule, the individuals and institutions representing Egyptian religious culture were disadvantaged economically; however, its social importance and standing were preserved and it continued to enjoy respect.
Supervisor: McKenzie, Judith ; Baines, John Sponsor: Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Egyptology ; Materials studies (archaeology) ; History of the ancient world ; Religions of antiquity ; Egyptian religious culture ; Graeco-Roman Egypt ; Egyptian numismatics ; hard-stone statuary ; Egyptian temples ; Alexandrian tombs ; Egyptian priests