Reviewed by David Frankfurter, University of New Hampshire (davidTf@unh.edu)
Word count: 1616 words
How Egyptian was Roman Egypt? The question has dominated quarters of Classics, Art History, and Ancient History for over a century. The perpetuation of classical Egyptian iconography on temples suggests a fundamental religious conservatism, while papyrological documentation reflects extensive Hellenism.
But for some decades -- since at least Glen Bowersock's Hellenism in Late Antiquity -- the most exciting work has sought to de-polarize Egyptianism and Hellenism as forces and instead to explain the ways that Egyptian traditions could be revitalized through Hellenism and Hellenism appropriated in Egyptian terms. Thus in recent years the scholar of Roman Egypt has had to reckon with such carefully nuanced studies as Fowden's Egyptian Hermes, Venit's Monumental Tombs of Ancient Alexandria, Dieleman's Priests, Tongues, and Rites, as well as the many essential essays of Jan Quaegebeur.1 Into this lively scholarship on the interplay of Egyptian and Hellenistic traditions in the Roman period comes this impressive and richly documented book by Christina Riggs, the new curator of Egyptology at the University of Manchester Museum. The book covers the varying uses of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman imagery in that most conservative of subcultures, mummification workshops.
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