Der makedonische König und die ägyptischen Priester: Studien zur Geschichte des ptolemaiischen Ägypten (review

Richard A. Billows

American Journal of Philology, Volume 118, Number 2 (Whole Number 470), Summer 1997, pp. 343-345 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/ajp.1997.0024

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is rather different with respect to the term “Kirche. but rather competed for prestige and standing while each assiduously building its own power and wealth. (Historia Einzelschriften. the term “Kirche” seems to me to import with it a set of institutional and theological suppositions that are entirely out of place when discussing the pre–Christian religion of Egypt. 238 pp. Simply as a way of thinking and talking about Egyptian religion. his monograph does have much good to offer. the notion of “Kirche” inevitably leads one to see this religion in a certain way—with a rather unified and uniform institutional framework and hierarchy. given the lack of theological or even mythological coherence between the various cults of the great temples in different regions of Egypt. 5). It is divided into two parts: Part I discusses the dealings of the state towards the “Kirche. that one should speak rather of Egyptian religions. 1994. In placing these terms always between quotation marks the author clearly seeks to create a little distance between his usage and the standard modern connotations. and that they were related to each other by no set and uniformly accepted hierarchy. One could argue. Huss is not at all unaware of these facts.” Even when used circumspectly with scholarly caveat regarding meaning (see the author’s Einführung. and a set of accepted beliefs and dogmas—which I doubt is the right way to see it. To be fair. Paper.” outlining the ways in which the Ptolemies attempted to win accep- . indeed. The situation. which immediately poses the question of just how appropriate it is to attempt to understand and discuss the ancient institutions and structures of Ptolemaic Egypt in this way. DM 80. The present reviewer is very willing to allow Huss the term “Staat. And one could further note that each of these great temples had its own structure and hierarchy. however. 85) The aim of this monograph is to elucidate the interactions of “Staat” and “Kirche” (author’s quotes) in Egypt under the Ptolemaic rule. Der makedonische König und die ägyptischen Priester: Studien zur Geschichte des ptolemaiischen Ägypten. and despite the shaky theoretical ground on which he stands.WERNER HUSS. n.” and indeed so far as I am concerned the quotation marks around this term could be dispensed with. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

by priestly title. and students of the Ptolemaic regime will be particularly interested by the prosopography of priests holding official posts and/or titles presented by Huss at 73–90. Part I of the monograph shows very clearly the lengths to which the Ptolemies went to placate and win acceptance of the Egyptian priests. The most extreme case. and by official rank. and this is only the most egregious case. Part II begins with a full discussion of the ways in which the priests cooperated—passively and/or actively—with the Ptolemaic regime (69–128). That said. making it clear that all of the Ptolemies followed this politics of “appeasement” to a greater or lesser degree. illustrating thereby without question the very powerful and important role the priests had in Egyptian society. Huss documents a whole range of financial. Even in a monograph devoted to the cult of Sarapis. It is not unusual to find pages in which the footnotes take up considerably more space than the text.344 BOOK REVIEWS tance of. even though only a minority of known priests are also known to have held official posts . which this is not. note 163 on 58–60. and social privileges and concessions granted to numerous temples and priests by the Ptolemies. their rule on the part of the Egyptian temples and priests. by time period. and source). The treatment is extraordinarily thorough with respect to its presentation of source material and secondary literature—at times indeed too thorough. and is itself subdivided into two parts. takes up almost a full two pages of space for a list of abbreviated references to secondary works discussing the early Sarapis cult. and in fact pages 58–68 are concerned with the establishment of the Sarapis cult. being rather aimed at the Greek– speaking immigrant population. However. the evidence is relatively slight. arranged by locality. part II discusses the stance of the “Kirche” towards the Ptolemaic rule. and I heartily commend Huss for his excellent bibliography and four indices (person. or even outright cooperation with. concerning which Huss concludes—rightly in my view—that it was not an attempt to undermine in any way the traditional authority of the priests among the indigenous population. place. dealing with forms of cooperation and forms of opposition respectively. These sections (56–68) do show that the Ptolemies attempted to control and limit priestly activities in some ways and at some times. subject. such a footnote would seem irksomely long and detailed. it is clear that. trusting to the ability of interested readers to do further follow–up research for themselves. It greatly outweighs the negative side presented in sections 11–13. and that virtually all of the temples benefitted from this policy (see the impressive tabulation of Ptolemaic building activity at temples in 26–39). The author would do well to observe the common practice of providing references only to the most important and the most recent secondary literature. As Huss concludes. Again the documentation is full. this monograph is a mine of information. All of this is the subject of sections 1 to 9 of part I (14–55). where Huss collects evidence of Ptolemaic limitation and control of priestly influence and activity (section 10 deals with official propaganda aimed at the priests). political.

he has provided a rich vein of research data for other students of Ptolemaic Egyptian religion. expressing in his preface doubts as to the feasibility of grand analysis and synthesis based on lacunose evidence (9). it seems to me. nevertheless there was no great reluctance on the part of priests to collaborate openly and actively with the regime. and society to mine. that the main role of the priests in support of the government lay in the less concrete fields of organizing progovernment festivals and displays intended to guide popular opinion. It is also clear. institutions. contenting himself with the unsurprising and rather disappointing conclusions that the Ptolemaic regime sought by every available means to coopt the priests as supporters of their rule. All of this forms. that the priests were by and large willing to support the regime in return for tangible benefits. NEW YORK . that dealing with the various overt and covert. to be fair. It is true that. but that there was nevertheless some opposition to the Ptolemies from priestly circles deriving mostly from resentment of foreign domination. To this reviewer. rather than subjecting them to a thorough and probing analysis. and in his introduction (12) describing his work as a “sketch” (Skizze) intended to give the reader only a “provisional orientation” (vorläufigen Orientierung). quite an impressive one. RICHARD A. ranging from the relatively harmless leaving out of honorific titulature and so forth when mentioning the Ptolemaic king in documents. Huss lists and describes these forms of opposition. perhaps bound by the confines of the monographic format he has chosen. however. and that in his analysis he has aimed no higher. admittedly inadequate as it is. BILLOWS COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY. to outright denunciations of the regime of the foreigners such as those found in the “Lamb Prophecy” and the “Oracle of the Potter. Again. Huss aims at no more. through more active behavior such as promoting Egyptian patriotic tales like the Nectanebo legend.” a field into which Huss himself barely enters. Even as it is. The list is.” and ultimately to physical acts of disloyalty (see 179–80 for the latter). He clearly has the requisite learning to have produced a very much richer treatment of this topic.BOOK REVIEWS 345 and/or titles. a rich field to be exploited by exponents of so–called “subaltern history” and “opposition history. however. It is a pity that he takes such a restricted view of what can be made of and done with the ancient evidence. the most interesting part of the monograph is the last part. subtle and forthright forms of opposition to Ptolemaic rule emanating from priestly circles.

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