GOVERNANCE IN PTOLEMAIC EGYPT: FROM RAPHIA TO CLEOPATRA VII (217 - 31 B.C.), CLASS-BASED ‘COLONIALISM’?

J. Adler

Abstract


During the first hundred years of its existence, Ptolemaic Egypt was ruled by means of a system based on race under which the Greco-Macedonian minority oppressed and exploited the indigenous Egyptian majority. As an imperialist state, established after the subjection of Persian-ruled Egypt by Alexander the Great, it was ruled by foreigners for their own benefit alone. This situation changed during the second century when Egyptian resistance, which took the form of open rebellion after seminal events relating to the battle of Raphia, came to a head during the rule of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II.
This paper suggests that, far from being a demented fool bent on personal revenge, this king was a shrewd politician who understood that the days of Greco-Macedonian domination were numbered. He took the necessary (if extreme) steps to safeguard his throne and dynasty. Ptolemaic Egypt was converted into a colony where power and influence no longer depended on race alone, but also on class, a situation demanded by the political realities of the time.
A result of this re-assessment of Euergetes’s actions and political acumen is a drastic revision, or even overturning, of the traditional evaluation of his position as statesman vis-à-vis that of the early Ptolemies, which requires an answer to one further question: why has he been denied such recognition up to now?

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/50-0-74

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ISSN 2079-2883 (online); ISSN 0303-1896 (print)

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