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Daripuff t1_iyvmqv1 wrote

Point number 1 is very interesting.

Egypt is the only place in the Roman Empire with a "full" urban infrastructure (with a large and culturally complex population centers) "in" the fully arid desert (the only greenery was provided by irrigation, both natural (annual floods) or artificial), which allowed commoner's trash to be preserved for archeologists in a way that couldn't manage elsewhere. Thus we got insights into the day to day life of a commoner in Roman Egypt in a way that we have never gotten anywhere else in the empire.


Trackmaster15 t1_iyvwbr2 wrote

Could this maybe imply that other ancient civilizations were as advanced as Ancient Egypt, but we just give more credit to Egypt because it was so much better preserved?


Drops-of-Q t1_iyvy4nn wrote

That is the sort of question any decent historian or archeologist ponder.

But I'll also say that it is more in popular science that Egypt is the greatest civilization of all time. That goes back to when the ancient Egyptian culture was rediscovered. It was the first to be studied scholarly to any degree which is why Egyptology was an entire field of study, but not Indus-Valley-Civilizationology


recoveringleft t1_iyw3eri wrote

It doesn’t help that there are many movies and tv shows relating to ancient Egypt like the mummy movies, yugioh and moon knight


WildVariety t1_iyy1lky wrote

Still waiting for a movie on my boy Gilgamesh.


Maeng_da_00 t1_iyyazsu wrote

I mean technically there's the fate anime, although I don't think I'd consider it accurate... Like at akl


ITFOWjacket t1_iyypwzk wrote

Just watch whatever the most recent marvel/DC blockbuster is in theatres and call it a day tbh


Bentresh t1_iywohy8 wrote

Absolutely. Egypt was only one of several powerful kingdoms of its time. We have many texts from the Hittite empire, Assyria, Mycenaean Greece, etc. referring to splendid furniture, jewelry, palaces, and so on, but they have survived only in rare instances (e.g. jewelry from the royal tombs of Ur and Nimrud and the furniture from the Midas mound at Gordion).

As Edward Chiera noted in They Wrote on Clay,

>In Egypt stone is plentiful, and the great pharaohs utilized it for temples and pyramid, imperishable testimonies to their names. Even had Egypt's history not been practically continuous, still no one could have failed to notice these reminders of the existence of a great civilization. In Mesopotamia, on the other hand, stone hardly exists. Some sort of gypsum is found in the north, and this exclusively was used by the Assyrian kings in the decoration of their palaces. But this stone is of such poor quality as to be virtually soluble in water; any inscription or statue left exposed to the elements will promptly disintegrate. In the southern part of the land even gypsum is lacking, and for this reason the ancient Babylonians treasured what pieces of stones they could import from distant lands and used those pieces exclusively for the images of their gods and their most important records. For building materials they had to make the most of what was at hand, river clay...

>The walls exposed to the elements were protected by plaster of mud and straw, or sometimes with baked bricks set in bitumen. Courtyards were also paved with baked bricks, but the interior of the walls was a solid mass of sun-dried bricks. Building costs were thus cut considerably, and the construction remained solid so long as the roof stood and the facing continued in good condition. But, let the edifice be neglected for a number of years, and it would crumble into dust. When the central government became too weak or too poor to take proper care of the network of canals that irrigated the land, large tracts of fertile territory were converted into a desert almost overnight, and whole cities had to be abandoned. The roofs of the buildings caved in, and the core of the huge walls, no longer protected, was exposed to the rain. Water slowly worked in; the bricks began to swell up, and the walls to crack and fall. After a few rainy seasons, the upper part of the walls completely disintegrated and left merely a little mound of dirt to mark the site of a once splendid palace. All furniture and perishable objects that had not been taken away when the buildings were abandoned remained buried in the wet debris; with the passing of years they too disappeared and are now gone forever. We should have no idea of the magnificence of the ancient furnishings but for the fact that occasionally we find thrones, chairs, and tables sculptured on the reliefs which adorned the palaces…


wbruce098 t1_iyxsh6l wrote

Thanks, this was fascinating to read! I had always wondered why these cities disappeared and how it is we keep seeing that new cities were often literally built on top of older ones. This seems to explain that quite well.


Pyranze t1_iyzem8x wrote

That's interesting, I would have thought it would be the reverse, since stone is so much harder to work (especially before they even had reliable iron working), the Egyptians only used it because clay was not as readily available. Obviously this has the same end result either way.


Westvoice t1_iyysclx wrote

One of the worst things an archeologist knows is that more is lost than is saved everywhere, always.


As an example, there is a civilization in the South East Arabian peninsula during the Iron age. They leave basically no traces. We don't have them in the bronze age, in the copper age, in the stone age, and suddenly in the Iron age they work iron, except there is no iron locally. The Mesopotamian cultures talk about taxing them for their use of the rivers, and then they talk about them domesticating camels so they don't use the rivers. There is no clear hierarchy, they never become an empire, but all the empires around them talk about them being there. They left a few shards of writing, they left a string of villages along a wadi.


There is a thousand years of prehistory there. 1000 summers and winters uninterrupted in this wadi, generations of people lived and died and we have 10 of their villages and 2 shards of their writing. We don't know their kings, or their gods, their food or their families, we don't even know what they called themselves. But for a thousand years they were there, and we only know for certain that we don't know anything.


powerhearse t1_j0l71yq wrote

This is one of the saddest things I've ever read for some reason


Westvoice t1_j0ntpu7 wrote

I'm sorry it bummed you out! I was just trying to draw attention to how much we don't know and how much there is still out there to discover.


wbruce098 t1_iyxrtji wrote

I highly, highly recommend Tides of History podcast by Patrick Wyman. He has a long arc on the late Bronze Age, as well as a bunch of other looks into early historical states like Egypt. One interesting tidbit from the Bronze Age arc is the large number of advanced contemporary states in the Mediterranean / Near East world, of which Egypt was but one (but perhaps one of the most powerful and oldest).

Of course, there’s also China, who by end of the Mediterranean Bronze Age, was a series of massive, advanced states as well, and India, which I know less about.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call Egypt the greatest ancient civilization, but during its very long peak, it appears to have been pretty incredible. But again, comparing with other kingdoms and entities can be difficult as there’s a bit less understood on them.


Demiansky t1_iyx5wso wrote

Could be, but I think we must remember that Egypt was "special" given its special status as a Roman province. It was the most reliable grain producer in the Meditteranean, and presumably that also afforded it a certain consistency when it came to urban infrastructure and development.


Regular_Ferret1080 t1_izpxf6d wrote

It was also tje biggest net plus for trade taxes. Senators were forbidden to this Provence to guarantee stability of the empire.


hypnos_surf t1_iyyvqps wrote

Egyptian history spans thousands of years and is now a modern country.

It stood the test of time evolving along the way but has always been known for its history even since the ancient Greeks. The ancient Romans visited the ruins of Egypt similar to people today visiting ruins in Rome.

The fact it stood so long as a population center throughout history allowed it to keep its historical reputation than say Babylon or Mesopotamia.


Vegetable-Walrus-302 t1_iywr81y wrote

I don’t think you can actually say that when what we call Egypt today is the place where clocks was first made


GenXUser t1_iyynkm1 wrote

>Egypt is the only place in the Roman Empire with a "full" urban infrastructure

Are we ignoring Athens?


Reddit-runner t1_iyz28m7 wrote

Only if you ignore the second half of the sentence you didn't bother to read.


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Zorn277 t1_iywj8hm wrote

Egypt was a very important province that fed the Eastern half of the Empire. The city of Alexandria was marveled by many emperors.


PitoPlankton3415 t1_iyv9liz wrote



acm2033 t1_iyvowy9 wrote

Instead of being a Roman settlement, Egypt was largely left alone for a while under the Ptolymies. They already had agriculture (which was very different than the rest of the Roman world), language, a system of government, and economy that worked. No need for the Romans to come in and establish things that were already there.

That changed after Cleopatra backed Mark Antony in the civil war, and lost. Octavian made Egypt a province to be governed through Rome, rather than an independent state.

The whole blog is about a 30 min read, well worth the time.


Choppergold t1_iyvr0l8 wrote

The end of the Hellenistic age and the beginning of the Roman. Cleopatra was not only Egyptian but descended from the Ptolemy who served Alexander the Great himself. Gets forgotten, that Macedonian Greek heritage in Egypt from 300 BC to when Cleopatra killed herself


ValidationRequired t1_iyyewpb wrote

Cleopatra wasn't even ethnically Eqyptian. The Ptolemy dynasty was Greek and did not intermingle with the Egyptian people. Cleopatra was actually the first ruler to even speak Egyptian instead of just Greek like her forebears.


koga90 t1_iywszby wrote

>Octavian made Egypt a province to be governed through Rome, rather than an independent state.

Octavian made Egypt a roman province under exclusive control of the imperator (commander, which is the title he adopted since monarchy was a big nono to romans and evolved into our emperor) unlike other provinces that had appointed governors.


AeonsOfStrife t1_iyxb34o wrote

That's not what Imperator meant in republican context, and that's not the title he regularly used. Imperator meant someone who is invested with imperium, and thats literally it, varying from a governor, to a general, to a high level magistrate, etc. It's true Egypt had one after Imperial integration, but your supposition as to why is a bit erroneous. It was used because literally anyone in control of a province had to have Imperium, and anyone with Imperium was Imperator. Imperator took on a different usage throughout the empire especially after the crisis of the 3rd century, and that's the one you're using. Augustus generally used the titles of "Princeps", "Pater Patriae", or "Caesar" as even by his later life it had taken on a political sense, not just a reverential one.


mglyptostroboides t1_iyyszwd wrote

>They already had agriculture (which was very different than the rest of the Roman world), language, a system of government, and economy that worked.

I'm sorry, but I'm confused by this. Could you clarify what you mean? I'm fairly certain that many of the other places the Romans conquered already practiced farming before the Romans conquered them. And what do you mean by "language" here? Surely you mean written language, right? Because people have been speaking for tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands!) of years.


stormearthfire t1_iyyzalm wrote

Egyptian farming is very much tied to the flood plains of the Nile river and it's annual innudation. The innudation process enriches the soil and determines the quality of the harvest.

Source: played a shit ton of Pharoah city sim back in the days


mglyptostroboides t1_iyzcbzd wrote

I wasn't asking about the parenthetical about Egyptian agriculture being different from the rest of Roman territory. It was the implication from how that comment was worded that Rome introduced the very concept of agriculture to most of the places they conquered which is extremely wrong.

In fact, the whole comment was worded in such a way that it seems like the author literally thought Rome was going into places and introducing the very concepts of farming, language (?!???! what?!) and government....


>Instead of being a Roman settlement, Egypt...

(contrasting Egypt with the rest of Roman territory)


>No need for the Romans to come in and establish things that were already there.

Does this mean the author of the comment literally thought people in, say, pre-Roman Gaul were just walking around, grunting wordlessly until the Romans taught them Latin? I'm pretty certain that's not what they meant, but you have to admit it was worded very ambiguously. However, in light of the fact that they (apparently?) assume the Romans introduced agriculture to most of their empire, I'm not sure what to think...


Pyranze t1_iyzfdv4 wrote

I think they meant that the Romans introduced their versions of these things to those areas which would better integrate them into the Empire as a whole, whereas Egypt already had institutions and infrastructure that the Romans could use without issue.

Edit: re-reading it, I'm pretty sure that's what they meant. They said "the Egyptians already had [list of stuff] that worked" so I assume they meant the stuff worked for the Romans.


mglyptostroboides t1_iyzfzp4 wrote

Ah! That changes a lot. I parsed that as "[things] and and economy that worked]". As if the "that worked" was referring to just the economy not the rest of the things they listed.


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ObeseBackgammon t1_iyvkk5b wrote

Where does it do that? I didn't notice anything like that, other than a fairly sober and normal discussion of Egyptian-Roman religious syncretism


PartySquirrel1 t1_iyvir2d wrote

Thanks for sharing! I liked the article and bookmarked the blog. The author is a good writer and well sourced.


ThatGIRLkimT t1_izkhl5o wrote

One of the topics that I still remembered. Roman Egypt was a very important province.