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The Ptolemaic Period in Ancient Egypt, Alexander the Great, Greek Culture.
The era of Ptolemaic reign in Egypt, During the Ptolemaic period, when Egypt was governed by rulers of Greek descent. The Ptolemaic Period. 332-30 BC, The History of the Ptolemaic Period. Ptolemaic reign in Egypt, Greek culture, History of, the Ptolemaic Period, Ptolemaic Kingdom, Alexander the Great.
The Egyptians, who despised the monotheistic Persians and chafed under Persian rule, welcomed Alexander as a deliverer. In the autumn of 332 B.C., Alexander entered Memphis, where, like a true Hellene, he paid homage to the native ancient Egyptian gods and was apparently accepted without question as king of the ancient Egypt Ptolemaic period empire. Also like a true Hellene, he celebrated the occasion with competitive games and a drama and music festival at which some of the leading artists of Greece were present.
Alexander the Great, 333 B.C.
From Memphis, Alexander marched down the western arm of the Nile and founded the city of Alexandria. Then he went to the oasis of Siwa (present-day Siwah) to consult the oracle at the Temple of Amun, the Egyptian god whom the Greeks identified with their own Zeus.
Ptolemy, Son of Lagos, 323 B.C.
After Alexander's death due to malarial fever in 323 B.C., the Macedonian commander in Egypt, Ptolemy, who as the son of Lagos, one of Alexander's seven bodyguards, managed to secure for himself the satrapy (provincial governorship) of ancient Egypt. Thus officially began the ancient Egypt Ptolemaic period. In 306 B.C., Antigonus, citing the principle that the empire Alexander created should remain unified, took the royal title.
In reaction, his rivals for power, Ptolemy of Egypt, Cassander of Macedonia, and Seleucus of Syria, countered by declaring themselves kings of their respective dominions. Thus came into existence the three great monarchies that were to dominate the Hellenistic world until, one by one, they were absorbed into the Roman Empire, ending the ancient Egypt Ptolemaic period.
The dynasty Ptolemy founded in Egypt was known as the line of Ptolemaic pharaohs and endured until the suicide of Cleopatra in 30 B.C., at which time direct Roman control was instituted.
The Forming of a Mixed Culture
The early Ptolemies were hardheaded administrators and business people, anxious to make the state that they created stable, wealthy, and influential. The Ptolemies had their eyes directed outward to the eastern Mediterranean world in which they sought to play a part. Egypt was their basis of power, their granary, and the source of their wealth.
During the early ancient Egypt Ptolemaic period, the culture was exclusively Greek. Greek was the language of the court, the army, and the administration. The Ptolemies founded the university, the museum, the library at Alexandria, and they built the lighthouse at Pharos. A canal to the Red Sea was opened, and Greek sailors explored new trade routes.
Whereas many ancient Egyptians adopted Greek speech, dress, and much of Greek culture, the Greeks also borrowed much from the Egyptians, particularly in religion. In this way, a mixed culture was formed along with a hybrid art that combined ancient Egyptian themes with elements of Hellenistic culture. Examples of this are the grandiose temples built by the Ptolemies at Edfu and Dendera.
Cleopatra, the Last of the Ptolemies
The last of the Ptolemies was Cleopatra, the wife of Julius Caesar and later Mark Antony.
During Cleopatra's reign, ancient Egypt again became a factor in Mediterranean politics. Cleopatra was a woman of genius and a worthy opponent of Rome. Her main preoccupations were to preserve the independence of Egypt, to extend its territory if possible, and to secure the throne for her children.
After the ruinous defeat at Actium in 31 B.C., Cleopatra was unable to continue the fight against Rome. Rather than witnessthe incorporation of Egypt into the Roman Empire, she chose to die by the bite of the asp. The asp was considered the minister of the sun god, whose bite conferred not only immortality but also divinity.