Egypt. Under Ptolemaic rule the city became the cultural, educational and commercial centre ofthe Hellenistic world, apositionit occupiedinthe Roman period as well.20
Alexandria was a cosmopolitan city, oriented to the Mediterranean, and regarded as separate from, or 'alongside of Egypt proper.21 The Egyptian chora ('country') consisted ofthe Nile valley and delta, the Fayum depression, and the desert oases (96 per cent of Egypt is desert). Greeks had penetrated into the chora from the seventh century bce on. In addition to Alexandria, there were two other Greek cities, Naukratis and Ptolemais, and a third founded by Hadrian, Antinoopolis. But Greek-speaking people were to be found in numerous Egyptian towns, and Greek cultural influence was everywhere present. Even so, Egyptian culture and religion persisted in Egypt for a long time, and manifested itself even in Alexandria under Ptolemaic sponsorship.
Jewish immigration into Egypt from Palestine had begun as early as the sixth century bce, and Jews flowed into Alexandria in large numbers, with the result that the Alexandrian Jewish community became the most important in all of the diaspora.22 The Jews were organised as a politeuma ('community', Ep. Arist. 310), and were encouraged by the Ptolemies and later the Roman emperors to live according to their own ancestral customs. By the first century, the Jewish population in Alexandria numbered in hundreds of thousands.
With the coming of Roman rule in 30 bce, the favourable economic situation of the Jews in Egypt under the Ptolemies changed. A 'poll tax' (laographia) was imposed on native Egyptians and other non-Greek groups in 24/ 23 bce. Relations with the Greek population became progressively strained, leading to a pogrom against the Jews in 38 ce. A group of Jews, led by Philo, appealed unsuccessfuly to emperor Gaius (Caligula). In 66 a riot was put down by Philo's apostate nephew, Tiberius Alexander, Roman Prefect ofEgypt, with great loss of life (Josephus, BJ 2.487-98). A revolt of the Jews under Trajan in 115, put down in 117,23 led to the virtual annihilation ofthe Jewish community (Euseb.
20 The topography and beautiful buildings of the city are extensively described by Strabo in book 17 of his Geographica (Strabo resided in the city c.24-20 bce); cf. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria, vol. 1, 7-37; vol. 11,12-111.
21 In his oration 'to the Alexandrians' Dio Chrysostom refers hyperbolically to 'the mighty nation of Egypt' as an 'appendage' (prosthekê, Orationes 32.36) to the magnificent city of Alexandria.
22 See pt 1, ch. 2, above. The Jewish presence in Egypt in the Ptolemaic and Roman periods is fully documented in CPJ, which also includes inscriptions. Cf. Safrai and Stern, Jewish people, which concentrates on the first century; also Starobinski-Safran, 'Communauté juive'.
23 The revolt was inspired by Jewish messianism; see Hengel, 'Messianische Hofffnung'.
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