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Egypt 3: The Cities. Administration. Important: pp. 54-62 c. 201: Septimius Severus: all nome capitals polis -status (before only Ptolemais , Naucratis, Alex., Antinoopolis ) Introduction of boule (city council): esp. for tax collection by land-owning elite.

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Important: pp. 54-62

c. 201: Septimius Severus: all nome capitals polis-status (before only Ptolemais, Naucratis, Alex., Antinoopolis)

Introduction of boule(city council): esp. for tax collection by land-owning elite

administration cities before diocletian
Administration Cities before Diocletian

Mix of Greek, Egyptian and Roman elements


  • City councils (boulai)
  • Magistrates: euergetism
  • gymnasial/councillor class (bouleutai)


  • Division in nomes (districts), strategos


-toplayer above Egyptian-Greek administration, e.g. prefect and other high officials in Alex.

tasks of councillors
Tasks of councillors:
  • Tax collection
  • Magistratural functions:

- Exegetes: accounting for status

  • Gymnasium (e.g. gymnasiarch)
  • Food supplies (e.g. agoranomos)

Appointed by council and had to report back to them

* Also special public events, such as festivals, visits of emperors etc.

changes diocletian
Changes Diocletian

‘decline’ of boule > better perceived as ‘transformation’!

  • Changes in city itself: gymnasium losing central place in city in favour of other forms of amusement, e.g. horses; religious functions (e.g. archiereus) taken over by functions in Church
  • Early fourth-century administrative changes: Introduction of logistes (curator civitatis); strategos> exactor; riparius: public order; defensorcivitatis: justice



In general:

Shift away from council to curial class (curiales/politeuomenoi)

Basically the councillors in Late Antiquity are only involved in tax collection

  • Countryside:

Toparchies replaced with muncipalities (pagi); at head: praeposituspagi(councillor class) > ‘decline of nome system’


What changed for the elite:

‘growing power but diminished autonomy’

Because of this three-tired system, imperial government not very present, except e.g. through army

provinces of egypt
Provinces of Egypt
  • 298, Diocletian: Egypt and Thebaid
  • 314/5: Herculia, Iovia, Thebaid
  • 322: Herculia, Mercuriana, Iovia, Thebaid
  • 324: Egypt, Thebaid
  • 341: Augustamnica, Egypt, Thebaid
  • 381: Augustamnica, Egypt, Thebaid

Head of these provinces: praeses

381: creation of Egypt as diocese with Augustal Prefect above other praesides

  • 397-ca. 500: Augustamnica, Egypt, Arcadia, Thebaid

* 6th cent.: 6 or 7 provinces; from 539 dux et augustalis

landowning elite
Landowning elite

Concentration of wealth but not undifferentiated unity:

  • Small landowners: < 10 arouras (ca. 40-50% of all holders)

Cannot live off these lands: civil/military service, other occupations

  • Middle group: 11-100 arouras (ca. 40 %)

Not dependent on occupation; civil service

- Large land holders: > 100 arouras (ca. 10%): rich; councillor class


Extensive lands in the countryside, sometimes spread over several pagi

  • Staples, such as grain
  • Other: ships, town houses etc.

In general about 5-10% of city population could live off lands owned

For further details read pp. 68-78

what did the rest of the population do
What did the rest of the population do?
  • Production (food, shelter, clothing, technology)

e.g. processing and milling of grain, meat and fish etc.

Construction business, textile industry etc.

Metal working etc.

  • Distribution: market centre for food and drink, cf. Mediterranean market places, highly specialised
  • Services: transportation (e.g. on Nile); slaves
  • Patriarchal society (though not as bleak as classical Greece): position depended on family, wealth and social position
  • Owning and leasing of land

Ca. 8.5 % of land holders were women

  • Lower classes: shops, domestic service etc.

Widows and orphans not socially accepted

greek education and culture
Greek education and culture
  • Mostly councillors, but exception are e.g. wealthy athletes
  • Education system:
  • Grammatistes
  • Secondary eduction: grammatikos
  • Educational institution: gymnasium, only accessible to gymnasial class

Ca. 14 years: ephebes

Also sports: local, but also trans-regional (Panopolis), or even international (Olympic Games)

high culture
High culture

Main centres: Panopolis, Hermopolis, Oxyrhynchus

  • Full-time philosophers
  • Little evidence for libraries, but large amount of literary works seem to have come from Panopolis (Bodmer collection, perhaps Chester Beatty)
  • Main development: incorporation of Christian literature and use as part of Christian education

Other changes: gymnasium > circus (cf. before on ‘decline of the council’

‘Wider Horizons’:

  • Group of poets from Egyptian nome capitals, ‘Wandering Poets’:

Olympiodorus of Thebes; Nonnus(Dionysiaca), Cyrus of Panopolis (consul 441)


SB III 6222

(Dec. 301?)