Egypt and the Limits of Hellenism by Ian S. Moyer

By Ian S. Moyer

In a sequence of experiences, Ian Moyer explores the traditional background and glossy historiography of kinfolk among Egypt and Greece from the 5th century BCE to the early Roman empire. starting with Herodotus, he analyzes key encounters among Greeks and Egyptian clergymen, the bearers of Egypt's historical traditions. 4 moments spread as wealthy micro-histories of cross-cultural interplay: Herodotus' interviews with clergymen at Thebes; Manetho's composition of an Egyptian heritage in Greek; the struggles of Egyptian clergymen on Delos; and a Greek physician's quest for magic in Egypt. In writing those histories, the writer strikes past Orientalizing representations of the opposite and colonial metanarratives of the civilizing approach to bare interactions among Greeks and Egyptians as transactional strategies during which the traditions, discourses and pragmatic pursuits of each side formed the result. the result's a dialogical historical past of cultural and highbrow exchanges among the good civilizations of Greece and Egypt.

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In the second book of his Histories, Herodotus tells the story of Hecataeus of Miletus, who once had a conversation with certain priests at Thebes and compared genealogical traditions with them. The Ionian scholar, according to Herodotus, proudly recounted his entire lineage back until he reached a god in the sixteenth generation and, therefore, the mythical beginning of all things. The Egyptian priests, however, considered this impossible, and showed Hecataeus 345 statues, which they claimed represented a continuous lineage of high priests, each son inheriting the office from his father, and each one a man and not a god.

On suit cet abˆatardissement de la langue, signe tr`es claire de celui des esprits, en parcourant dans l’ordre des dates les nombreux documents conserv´es . . On a pu parler de la deshell´enisation des ´ Grecs d’Egypte. Pourtant, a` la reflexion, ce qui est surtout e´tonnant, c’est que cette deshell´enisation ne se soit pas produite plus vite. ‘Le fils d’une Orientale et d’un Europ´een est un Oriental’, dit Renan, et l’on sait ce qui arrive d’ordinaire a` une race immigr´ee, mˆeme conqu´erante, quand elle se mˆele a` celle du pays o`u elle vient s’´etablir” (Jouguet 1961: 398; originally published 1926).

Despite some shortcomings, the work of S. K. Eddy (1961) is an important first attempt to write a history of the reactions of various non-Greek peoples to Graeco-Macedonian imperialism from their cultural and religious perspectives, and Eddy does draw parallels with the history of more recent struggles against imperialism (1961: 339–40). Oswyn Murray’s scathing review (1969) of C. Schneider’s Kulturgeschichte des Hellenismus could also be mentioned along with some comments by Momigliano (1970: 152–53) that suggest a critical awareness of the historiographical problem.

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