2. The Hellenistic Fringe: The Case of Meroë

S. M. Burstein

Interaction between Greek and non-Greek cultures is one of the constants of Greek history, and never was it more intense than in the Hellenistic period. Multitudes followed Theocritus’ advice (Id. 14.57–68) and sought their fortunes in the new Macedonian kingdoms that emerged from the wreckage of Alexander’s empire. Their experiences and those of the native subjects of the Macedonian kings among whom they settled have been the subject of numerous studies.[1] On the periphery of the Hellenistic kingdoms, however, were other peoples, peoples that succeeded in preserving their independence, but whose fates were intertwined with those of the Macedonian kingdoms. There also Greeks and non-Greeks and their cultures met, but as equals instead of ruler and ruled. The purpose of this study is to consider the results of one such encounter, that between Ptolemaic Egypt and the kingdom of Meroë in the central Sudan (see figure 2).

Fig. 2.The Meroitic kingdom. After P. L. Shinnie, Meroë: A Civilization of the Sudan (London: Thames and Hudson, 1967), p. 17, fig. 2.

Relations between Ptolemaic Egypt and its southern neighbors occupy little space in Hellenistic histories. Much of this neglect is the result of the fragmentary character of the extant sources that is the bane of all Hellenistic studies. The ancient evidence, both Greek and Meroitic, was once extensive. Pliny the Elder (HN6.183) lists six men who traveled in Meroitic territory in the Hellenistic period and wrote accounts of their experiences; they included Dalion, who explored the southern Sudan, and Simonides the Younger, who lived in Meroë for five years. Of their works and also those of Ptolemaic officials such as Pythagoras, nauarch under Ptolemy II,[2] only fragments remain; this is true also of works based on them, such as the pioneering Geographyof Eratosthenes of Cyrene and the On Affairs in Asia and On the Erythraean Sea of the second century-B.C.historian Agatharchides of Cnidos.[3] Meroitic evidence has suffered similarly severe losses. Nubian historical inscriptions in Egyptian virtually cease with the reign of Nastasen in the third quarter of the fourth century B.C.,[4] while those in the still undeciphered Meroitic language are few and, in any event, only begin in the second century B.C. Worst of all, much of the rich evidence once contained in the large royal and noble cemeteries near Meroë and in the ruins of the ancient city has been lost through looting in antiquity and the crude excavation methods employed by the first modern archaeologist to work at Meroë, Sir John Garstang, who dug in the royal city between 1909 and 1914.[5] The deficiencies of our sources, however, are not alone sufficient to account for the neglect of the history of Hellenistic Meroë. Equally important was Meroë’s peripheral character, both geographically and politically.

The Meroitic kings claimed sovereignty over all Nubia, from the first cataract in the north to Sennar in the south. The reality was different. The Meroitic heartland lay in the famous Island of Meroë, the triangle of land formed by the junction of the Nile and Atbara rivers, about six hundred miles south of Egypt, and separated from it by the barren and forbidding Nile valley in lower Nubia, with its numerous rapids, the so-called cataracts.[6]With sufficient effort these obstacles could be overcome, as they were by the pharaohs of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties, who incorporated all of Nubia into the Egyptian empire. Faced with these same obstacles, however, most Egyptian dynasties pursued less aggressive policies toward their southern neighbors, maintaining a strong defensive position on Egypt’s southern frontier while relying on diplomatic ties with the increasingly Egyptianized elites of Meroë and its predecessors to ensure a steady supply of the various Nubian products—ivory, gold, ebony, exotic animals and their skins, and slaves—desired by Egyptians.[7] Even were our sources fuller, therefore, the history of Egypt’s relations with Nubia would still be episodic in character, a history marked by long periods of relative peace punctuated by occasional military intervention —by Egypt in Nubia or, less frequently, by its Nubian clients in Egypt—whenever circumstances suggested the possibility of gaining a temporary advantage. Such was also to be the pattern of Egyptian-Nubian relations during the Hellenistic period.

The story of Greek contact with Nubia prior to the early third century B.C. is quickly told. In what became the standard Greek account of Meroë and its environs, namely the long digression on the Nile in the second book of his On Affairs in Asia (DS 1.37.5), Agatharchides of Cnidos claimed that prior to the reign of Ptolemy II “Aithiopia,” that is, the Nile valley south of Egypt, was closed to the Greeks. Stricto sensu this is incorrect, but Agatharchides’ exaggeration is understandable. Pre-Hellenistic contact between Greeks and the Upper Nile valley is attested, but it was sporadic and insignificant. Graffiti on the colossi of Ramses II at Abu Simbel attest to the participation of Greek mercenaries in the Nubian campaign of Psamtek II in 593 B.C.,[8] and their continued service as members of the Egyptian garrison at Aswan is confirmed by hieroglyphic evidence.[9] Thereafter, evidence for Greek penetration of the central Sudan is lacking for three centuries. Like his Egyptian and Persian predecessors, Alexander garrisoned Elephantine (Arr. Anab. 3.2.7), but that was only prudent in view of the attempts, documented in hieroglyphic inscriptions, by fourth-century-B.C. Meroitic rulers to exploit Egyptian weakness in order to expand their influence in lower Nubia.[10] My attempt to credit Alexander with activity in Nubia on the basis of references in Hellenistic and Roman sources to an Aithiopian expedition led by Callisthenes has, however, found few adherents;[11] and no one has attempted to rehabilitate Arrian’s reference (Anab. 7.15.4) to an “Aithiopian,” that is, a Meroitic, embassy to Alexander in 324 B.C., as has been done for the Roman embassy. The implications of the Meroitic evidence are similar. Finds of Greek imports are almost unknown in pre-Hellenistic Meroitic sites; and the special treatment accorded the only one whose archaeological context is known—namely the famous Sotades Vase found in Tomb S 24 in the South Cemetery at Meroë and now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—suggests that the few that did reach Meroë were valued precisely because of their rare and exotic character.[12] Only in the 270s B.C. did this situation change, with the decision by Ptolemy II to mount a full-scale military campaign in Nubia.

No account of the campaign is extant, and except for a possible allusion to a Meroitic raid on Ptolemaic positions near Aswan in a fragmentary third-century papyrus (SB no. 5111), no details survive concerning its course. About the campaign itself, therefore, hardly more can be said than that Agatharchides’ reference to Ptolemy II recruiting five hundred cavalrymen in the Aegean suggests that preparations were on a considerable scale.[13] Fortunately, the situation is clearer with regard to the origins of the war and its implications for relations between Ptolemaic Egypt and Meroë in the third century B.C.

Fragments of a speech urging war by a now unidentifiable Ptolemaic adviser from the first book of Agatharchides’ On the Erythraean Sea indicate that, in Thucydidean terms, the pretext for attack was the Meroitic activity in Lower Nubia alluded to above; and the results of the campaign reflected this concern. Theocritus, who celebrated the Nubian campaign as one of the significant achievements of the first decade of Ptolemy’s long reign, observed (17.86–87) that Ptolemy “cut off a part of Black Aithiopia.” This phrase has usually been interpreted as an allusion to the annexation of the Dodekaschoinos, that is, the roughly seventy-five-mile stretch of the Nile immediately south of the first cataract, which from this time on formed the estate of the great new temple of Isis Ptolemy II built at Philae,[14] together with the important gold mining region, east of the Nile in the Wadi Allaqi, whose horrors Agatharchides described so vividly in the fifth book of his On the Erythraean Sea (frags. 23–29).[15] Graffiti and numismatic evidence suggest, however, that this interpretation is too narrow and that to secure his hold on Dodekaschoinos Ptolemy also garrisoned the old Middle Kingdom forts at Buhen[16] and Mirgissa[17] near the second cataract, so that, at least temporarily, the whole of lower Nubia from Aswan to the modern border between Egypt and the Sudan at Wadi Halfa came under Ptolemaic control as a result of his Nubian campaign. But if preempting Meroitic ambitions in lower Nubia was the pretext for Ptolemy II’s Nubian campaign, the “truest cause” for the third-century Ptolemies’ continuing interest in the Sudan was something else: their desire to find a secure source of war elephants.

The military use of elephants was millennia old in Asia. The Greeks and Macedonians first encountered them in battle, however, during Alexander’s campaign, at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 B.C. and again in India in 326B.C. Thereafter, despite their mixed record in combat, the Diadochoi assigned a high priority to the acquisition of war elephants. But in this ancient “arms race” geography placed the Ptolemies at a serious disadvantage since their Seleucid rivals controlled the land routes to India, the chief source of elephants and elephant handlers. During the reign of Ptolemy I this had not been a serious problem because of his capture of some of Alexander’s original Indian elephants at the battle of Gaza in 312 B.C. But by the 270s the situation had changed, since the elephants Ptolemy II had inherited from his father were by then too old to face in battle the fresh beasts of his rival Antiochus I, and they had to be replaced. Hence the interest of Ptolemy II and his successors in Nubia, and their concern to maintain a strong presence there, with results that are clear even in our fragmentary sources.[18]

For three-quarters of a century relations between Ptolemaic Egypt and Meroë were unusually close. Elephant-hunting expeditions, sometimes numbering hundreds of men,[19] repeatedly penetrated Upper Nubia, either from the north via the Nile valley or from the east via the Red Sea port of Ptolemaïs of the Hunts, while explorers traveled freely throughout Meroitic territory (see figure 3). The results are apparent in the sudden precision of Hellenistic accounts of the Sudan and in Meroitic archaeology (see figure 4). Thus, the course of the Nile south of Egypt was accurately described and its major tributaries together with their native names were identified; the political map of northeast Africa was clarified; the Egyptianizing character of Meroitic culture was recognized; and the ways of life followed by Meroë’s noncivilized neighbors were analyzed.[20] At the same time Greek luxury goods became a regular part of the funerary equipment of Meroitic kings, queens, and nobles. Aithiopia ceased to be part of the world of Greek myth and became part of the oecumene; and such it remained for the rest of antiquity.

Fig. 3.Ptolemaic elephant-hunting stations. From H. H. Scullard, The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World (London: Thames and Hudson, 1974), p. 129, fig. 13.
Fig. 4.Representations of elephants from Meroë. From P. L. Shinnie, Meroë: A Civilization of the Sudan (London: Thames and Hudson, 1967), figs. 27 and 48.

Active Ptolemaic intervention in Nubia, however, ended in the last decade of the third century B.C., and for good reason. The poor performance of Ptolemy IV’s elephants at the battle of Raphia had exposed the inadequacies of the Ptolemaic elephant corps, while the revolts of Horwennefer and Ankhwennefer in Upper Egypt forced his successor Ptolemy V to concentrate all his efforts on maintaining his hold on Egypt, a goal that was only achieved in 186 B.C. after two decades of struggle. Reoccupation of the Dodekaschoinos, which had fallen to Horwennefer and Ankhwennefer’s Meroitic allies, quickly followed.[21] Thereafter, although trade with Meroë continued, the increasingly embattled second- and first-century Ptolemies limited their efforts to maintaining their control of the Dodekaschoinos, except for a brief period during the reign of Ptolemy VI when Ptolemaic power again reached the second cataract.[22] In the end, therefore, the active policy of the third-century-B.C.Ptolemies in Nubia was only an episode, with little long-term significance for Egypt. But what about its impact on Meroë?

In an important recent survey of Meroitic history the distinguished Hungarian art historian and Meroiticist László Török with some justification characterized the treatment of Meroë by Ptolemy II and his immediate successors as “intimidation.” [23] Not only had Meroë suffered military defeat and loss of territory but it also had to assent to Ptolemaic claims of suzerainty. Thus, Meroë was included in the list of Nubian nomes obligated to bring offerings to Ptolemy II’s new temple of Isis at Philae;[24] and, according to Callixenus (FGrH 627 F2), “Aithiopian” tribute bearers took part in the great pomp Ptolemy II held at Alexandria in the mid-270s B.C.[25]Even more important, Meroë had to endure foreign penetration of its territory on a scale unparalleled since the second millennium B.C. But did this restoration of close ties with Egypt also have a significant impact on Meroitic institutions and culture? A controversial fragment of Agatharchides’ On Affairs in Asia that is preserved by Diodorus (3.6) has suggested to scholars that it did:

Of all their customs the most astonishing is that which obtains in connection with the death of their kings. For the priests at Meroë who spend their time in the worship of the gods and the rites which do them honour, being the greatest and most powerful order, whenever the idea comes to them, dispatch a messenger to the king with orders that he die. For the gods, they add, have revealed this to them, and it must be that the command of the immortals should in no wise be disregarded by one of mortal frame. And this order they accompany with other arguments, such as are accepted by a simple minded nature, which has been bred in a custom that is both ancient and difficult to eradicate and which knows no argument that can set in opposition to commands enforced by no compulsion. Now in former times the kings would obey the priests, having been overcome, not by arms nor by force, but because their reasoning powers had been put under a constraint by their very superstition; but during the reign of the second Ptolemy the king of the Ethiopians, Ergamenes, who had had a Greek education and had studied philosophy, was the first to have the courage to disdain the command. For assuming a spirit which became the position of a king he entered with his soldiers into the unapproachable place where stood, as it turned out, the golden shrine of the Ethiopians, put the priests to the sword, and after abolishing this custom thereafter ordered affairs after his own will. (Loeb translation by C. H. Oldfather)

Scholarly discussion of this passage with its exaggerated contrast of Hellenic sophistication and barbarian foolishness[26] has been extensive and contentious. Sir James Frazer saw in it proof that the Meroitic king was a “sacral monarch” who embodied the forces of nature and had to die when signs of failing strength appeared.[27]More recently it has been dismissed as merely a doublet of Herodotus’ account (2.137–39) of Sabakos—that is, Shabaka, the first king of the twenty-fifth dynasty—and, like it, a typical tale of a Kulturhero without significant historical value.[28] The breadth of the disagreement between these views is indicative of the magnitude of the problems posed by this passage, not the least of which is the reality of the custom of royal suicide itself.[29] But even a Kulturhero is invoked for a reason, so it is likely that there is a kernel of truth in Agatharchides’ dramatic account, namely that a bloody confrontation between a Greek-educated king, Ergamenes, and the priesthood of Amon, the principal guardians of Meroë’s Egyptian traditions, ended in a major reform of the Meroitic monarchy marked by a strengthening of the position of the king.[30] As always, the lacunae in our evidence prevent certainty, but this interpretation is supported by four facts. First, Meroë seems, sometime in the early third century B.C., to have replaced Napata—site of the holiest shrine in Nubia, the great temple of Amon founded by Thutmose III in the fifteenth century B.C.—as the site of the coronation of the kings of Meroë.[31] Second, beginning with Arakakamani, the king now generally identified with Agatharchides’ Ergamenes, the Meroitic kings and aristocracy abandoned the old royal cemetery at el-Kurru near Napata for a new burial ground at Begarawiya just east of Meroë. Third, Meroitic royal iconography suggests that, again beginning with Arakakamani, the kings of Meroë adopted a new, less Egyptianizing, style of regalia.[32] Fourth and finally, archaeological evidence indicates that in the third century B.C. Meroitic royal patronage of several deities apparently connected with the office of the king, but lacking identifiable Egyptian backgrounds—namely Apedemak, Arensnuphis, and Sebiumeker—was increased.[33]

But did Ergamenes’ reforms also include a policy of deliberate Hellenization? Meroitic studies form an interdisciplinary field, and opinions on the extent and significance of Hellenization in third-century-B.C. Meroë tend to divide along disciplinary lines. Egyptologists and Meroiticists are inclined to minimize the implications of Ergamenes’ Greek education—the product of a chance encounter with a “wandering Greek scholar” in one notorious formulation[34]—and to limit Ptolemaic influence on Meroitic culture to that which accompanied the reestablishment of trade with Egypt following Ptolemy II’s Nubian campaign.[35] The few classicists who have considered the problem have been more sanguine in their conclusions. So M. I. Rostovtzeff claimed that “under Ergamenes Meroë, the capital, and in particular its citadel with its Hellenistic palaces, its Hellenistic bath, its Ethiopian-Hellenistic statues and decorative frescoes, became a little Nubian Alexandria,” [36] while L. A. Thompson maintained that Ergamenes transformed Meroë into “an approximation of a Hellenistic kingdom,” [37]and Jehan Desanges suggested that the kings and queens of Meroë “ont contracté des habitudes liées à la culture hellénique;” [38] a miscellaneous and superficially impressive body of evidence has been or could be cited in support of this view.[39] Besides the architectural and artistic phenomena mentioned by Rostovtzeff, it includes imported pottery, especially amphorae but also tableware; classical influence on Meroitic pottery; jewelry;[40] statuary either of Greek workmanship or reflecting classical stylistic influence and themes;[41]auloi,[42] imported metal vessels[43] and fine glassware;[44] and Greek inscriptions and graffiti, including a column drum from Meroë inscribed with a Greek alphabet, thus suggesting that Greek was taught in the royal city.[45]

Meroitic history spans almost a millennium, but the evidence for reconstructing any particular aspect of that history, such as the nature of its relations with Greco-Roman Egypt, is, to say the least, sparse. Of the dozens of known Meroitic kings only two can be assigned approximately exact dates: Arqamani in the late third centuryB.C.[46] and Teqorideamani in the mid–third century A.D.;[47] and Ergamenes’ coup is the only recorded event of the kingdom’s internal political history. The temptation is strong, therefore, to try to form a synthetic picture of Meroitic culture by assembling miscellaneous lists of objects and culture traits with little regard for their chronology, archaeological context, or possible function in Meroitic culture. When the items cited above are viewed in the light of these three factors, however, a different picture of the extent and character of Hellenism in Hellenistic Meroë results.

Chronologically, the distribution of the items in the list is uneven. There were two peaks in contact between Meroë and Greco-Roman Egypt, namely the period between Ptolemy II’s Nubian campaign in the 270s and the early second century B.C., and that between approximately the mid–first century B.C. and the early third century A.D. The overwhelming bulk of the known classical and classicizing objects date from the second of these two periods, the first being represented by only a few metal vessels of various types—goose-head wine strainers,[48] drinking cups, buckets, and basins—and fragments of wine amphorae.[49] There is a similar distinction, in the archaeological contexts in which these objects are found, between the two regions that constituted the kingdom of Meroë: the narrow valley of the Nile in lower Nubia, and the Meroitic heartland in the steppe country of the central Sudan. In Lower Nubia they occur widely in both residential and burial sites, and classical influence is evident in the material culture of the region, most likely as a result of the profitable trade conducted by the natives with the personnel of the temples and garrisons of the Dodekaschoinos and Aswan area. By contrast in Upper Nubia classical imports are found only in two types of sites: palace complexes, and tombs identified by their architecture and the richness of their burial goods as royal or noble.[50] Finally, of the admittedly few surviving Greek imported goods found in third- and second-century-B.C. Meroitic contexts, only the wine strainers and wine amphorae represent additions to Meroë’s cultural repertory, the other vessels belonging to categories of objects well attested as normal components of pre-Hellenistic Meroitic royal and noble funerary equipment.[51] Clearly, except for the possible development of a taste for Greek wine on the part of the Meroitic aristocracy, the extent of Hellenization in third- and second-century-B.C. Meroë was nugatory. This is not, however, to deny Ptolemaic influence on the culture and institutions of Hellenistic Meroë. Quite the contrary. Ptolemaic influence was considerable, but it was not Greek. One aspect of that influence, the adoption by Meroë of the use of war elephants, has even been described as Indian,[52] albeit at second hand; but in the main it was Egyptian, and for good reason.

While not themselves Egyptian, the rulers of Meroë, like the pharaohs, claimed to be sons of the sun god Re[53] and kings of Upper and Lower Egypt; conducted their government in Egyptian; celebrated their exploits in hieroglyphic inscriptions; and were buried with Egyptian rites in miniature pyramids decorated with excerpts from the Book of the Dead and other traditional funerary texts. Even the reform by Ergamenes and his successors of the Meroitic monarchy was expressed, despite their rejection of the domination of the priesthood of Amon, in forms derived ultimately from Egypt. Not surprisingly, therefore, it was the Egyptian side of Ptolemaic civilization that attracted the Meroites in the decades following Ptolemy II’s Nubian campaign, particularly the form in which they encountered it at Philae, where the third- and second-century Ptolemies paraded their role as pharaoh through their patronage of an important group of temples, including ones dedicated to Isis, the Meroitic royal god Arensnuphis, and possibly Mandulis, chief god of the Blemmyes, Meroitic vassals who roamed the eastern deserts of Lower Nubia.[54] As a result, in contrast to the meagerness of the evidence for Greek influence in Hellenistic Meroë, examples of Ptolemaic Egyptian influence are easy to find. Thus the royal titularies of the third-century Meroitic kings echo those of the contemporary Ptolemies;[55] their regalia included a style of crown first attested in Egypt in the Ptolemaic period, particularly in reliefs of Ptolemy IV at Philae;[56] and at the pilgrimage center of Musawwarrat es Sufra, south of Meroë, with the aid of Greek architects[57] and masons[58] they built a number of important temples. Of these temples the most revealing is the so-called Lion Temple, excavated and partially restored by the East Germans in the 1960s. Here in an impressive series of reliefs accompanied by texts—based on Egyptian originals that are best attested at Philae, and inscribed in hieroglyphs typical of the early Ptolemaic period[59]—the Meroitic king Arnekhamani, wearing the new-style regalia with its Ptolemaic-style crown,[60] is depicted receiving pledges of victory from the Meroitic pantheon—which, however, is headed now not by Amon but by the native war god Apedemak, who wears a similar crown.[61] Nor was the influence of Ptolemaic Egyptian culture in Hellenistic Meroë confined to the circle of the king. Evidence of it has also been identified in various aspects of Meroitic public and funerary art[62] and, more importantly, cult, where the role of the god Anubis as provider of offerings for the dead becomes increasingly prominent from the late third century B.C. on.[63] Clearly, far from leading to the Hellenization of Meroë, the establishment of close relations between Ptolemaic Egypt and its southern neighbor in the decades following Ptolemy II’s Nubian campaign actually facilitated the restoration of contact between Meroitic culture and its Egyptian roots, and helped make possible the Meroitic renaissance of the late Hellenistic and early Roman imperial periods.[64]

This conclusion should not be considered surprising. In Ptolemaic Egypt Hellenization was a strategy involving adoption of Greek values and a Greek way of life pursued by members of the native Egyptian elite eager to maintain or if possible improve their position and influence in a colonial society. Beyond the frontier, however, the situation was different. Protected by geography and heirs to a centuries-long civilized tradition of their own, and therefore under no similar compulsion to Hellenize, the Meroitic elite were free to select only those elements of Hellenism compatible with their traditions. In the Hellenistic period these were limited to a few imported luxuries. In the Roman period the range of imports, both material and spiritual, widened considerably, and an occasional Meroitic king, impressed perhaps by ambassadors’ reports of life at Alexandria,[65] might even have a nymphaeum built at Meroë,[66] import Greek flute players, or have Greek taught at his court; but the essential pattern remained unchanged. The bulk of classical imports continued to be limited to obvious luxury goods—small portable objects of comparatively high value, such as blown glass and metal vessels—while cultural imports such as architectural forms occur only as decorative elements in buildings built in accordance with Meroë’s Egyptianizing traditions.[67] Meroë’s continuing economic and cultural autonomy, despite centuries of contact with Greco-Roman Egypt, is perhaps best illustrated by two facts: first, unlike its eastern neighbor and later rival Axum, it never found it necessary to develop a coinage system; and second, the only classical god known to have received a cult in Meroitic territory is that most Egyptian of Greek deities, Sarapis.[68] Only after the fall of Meroë in the fourth century A.D. to Axumite and barbarian invasions did this situation change, first with the transformation of Meroë’s northern neighbors, the Noba and Blemmyes, into foederati, and later, in the south, with the conversion of the various medieval successor states of Meroë to Christianity. Then a true Nubian Hellenism developed, one marked by the adoption of Greek artistic forms and the use of Greek as the official language of government and religion, but based on the Christian Hellenism of Byzantium, not the pagan Hellenism of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt.[69] That, however, is another story.


Notes to Text

1. Fundamental is Claire Préaux, Le Monde hellénistique, 2 vols. (Paris, 1978); see esp. 2: 545–65.

2. F. Lasserre, “Pythagoras,” Der kleine Pauly (Munich, 1972) 4:1269.

3. Cf. Truesdell S. Brown, The Greek Historians (Lexington, 1973), 182–94, for a brief account of Agatharchides and his works. An annotated translation of On the Erythraean Sea is now available: Agatharchides of Cnidus, On the Erythraean Sea, ed. Stanley M. Burstein, Hakluyt Society Publications, 2d ser., vol. 172 (London, 1989). For a survey of the Hellenistic historiographic tradition concerning Nubia see Stanley M. Burstein, “The Nubian Campaigns of C. Petronius and George Reisner’s Second Meroitic Kingdom of Napata,” Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 106 (1979): 97–101. The principal literary and epigraphical sources concerning ancient Nubia are collected and translated in László Török, Der meroitische Staat 1, Meroitica 9 (Berlin, 1986).

4. Fragments of an inscription commemorating the visit of the early-third-century-B.C. king Sabrakamani to the temple of Amon at Kawa are extant. Török, Staat, no. 28.

5. For brief surveys of archaeological activity at Meroë see P. L. Shinnie, Meroë: A Civilization of the Sudan (London, 1967), 24–28, and William Y. Adams, Nubia: Corridor to Africa (Princeton, 1977), 71–90, 295–96.

6. Cf. Claire Préaux, “Sur les communications de l’Ethiopie avec l’Egypte hellénistique,” Chron. d’Ég. 27 (1952): 257–81, and Claude Vandersleyen, “Des obstacles que constituent les cataractes du Nil,” BIFAO 69 (1969): 253–66.

7. Good recent accounts are Inge Hofmann, Der Sudan als ägyptische Kolonie im Altertum (Vienna, 1979), and William Y. Adams, “The First Colonial Empire: Egypt in Nubia, 3200–1200 B.C.,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 26 (1984): 36–71.

8. Meiggs-Lewis, GHI no. 7.

9. ARE 4:994; cf. Hdt. 2.30–31.

10. Harsiotef campaigned as far as the first cataract in the mid–fourth century; cf. E. A. Wallis Budge, Annals of Nubian Kings (London, 1912), 130–31, line 94.

11. Stanley M. Burstein, “Alexander, Callisthenes and the Sources of the Nile,” GRBS 17 (1976): 135–46.

12. The rhyton was found in situ set against the core of the tomb superstructure immediately behind the tomb chapel: RCK 5:383–84.

13. On the Erythraean Sea, F 20 (Burstein) = GGM 1:119. For the connection of this fragment with Ptolemy II see Stanley M. Burstein, “The Ethiopian War of Ptolemy V: An Historical Myth?” Beiträge zur Sudanforschung 1 (1966): 20.

14. Cf. Kurt Sethe, “Dodekaschoinos: Das Zwölfmeilenland an der Grenze von Ägypten und Nubien,” in Untersuchung zur Geschichte und Altertumskunde Ägypten (Leipzig, 1905) 3:59–92. For the temple and its history see P-M 6:206–10 and Gerhard Haeny, “A Short Architectural History of Philae,” BIFAO 85 (1985): 207.

15. E.g., SEHHW 1:383, Adams, Nubia, 334, and Jehan Desanges, Recherches sur l’activité des Méditerrané s aux confins de l’Afrique(Rome, 1978), 257–58.

16. For Greek graffiti at Buhen see Olivier Masson, “Nouveaux graffites grecs,” Chron. d’Ég. 51 (1976): 310–13.

17. Cf. Georges Le Rider, “Monnaies trouvées à Mirgissa,” RN 6th ser. 11 (1969): 28–35, who publishes a hoard of 28 bronze coins of Ptolemy I and Ptolemy II buried c. 266/5 B.C. and a second hoard including 43 unminted flans and seventeen poorly struck bronzes with types first attested under Ptolemy II, suggesting minting activity at Mirgissa—more likely to be explained by the need to pay soldiers stationed there than as the result of forgery (as suggested by Le Rider’s use of the term “imitation” to describe them). The date of the mint’s activity is less clear; Le Rider favors a date not earlier than the reign of Ptolemy VI, although admitting that a date in the third century is possible.

18. For recent surveys of Ptolemaic elephant-hunting activity in the Sudan see Jehan Desanges, “Les Chasseurs d’éléphants d’Abou-Simbel,” in 92e congrès national des sociétés savants, Strasbourg et Colmar, 1967, section d’archéologie (Paris, 1970), 31–50; H. H. Scullard,The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World (London, 1974) 123–45; and Inge Hofmann, Wege und Möglichkeiten eines indischen Einflusses auf die meroitische Kultur (Vienna, 1975), 46–111.

19. An expedition of 231 men is mentioned in a papyrus of 224 B.C., W. Chr. no. 451.

20. A summary of the state of geographical knowledge of the Sudan in the third century B.C. is contained in Strabo 17.1.2, C 786. Cf. Burstein, “Nubian Campaigns,” 997–98.

21. For Meroitic activity in the Dodekaschoinos at this time see Adel Farid, “The Stela of Adikhalamani Found at Philae,” MDAIK 34 (1976): 532–56, and Erich Winter, “Ergamenes II., seine Datierung und seine Bautätigkeit in Nubien,” MDAIK 37 (1981): 509–13. The presence of Meroitic troops on the Egyptian side during the decisive battle ending the rebellion in 186 B.C. is attested in the Second Philae Decree. M. Alliot, “La Thébaïde en lutte contre les rois d’Alexandrie sous Philopator et Epiphane, 216–184,” Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire 29 (1951): 435.

22. OGIS 111.

23. L. Török, “Meroe, North and South,” in Nubian Culture Past and Present, ed. Thomas Hägg (Stockholm, 1987), 153.

24. UPZ II 27. The claim of sovereignty is explicit in the similar inscription of Ptolemy VI, in which Ptolemy is portrayed as bringing the offerings of Nubia to Isis. Hermann Junker, Der grosse Pylon des Tempels der Isis in Phila (Vienna, 1958), 263, XXV. On these texts see Hofmann, Wege, 71–73, L. Török, “Die meroitischen Nomoi,” Mitteilungen des archäologischen Instituts der ungarischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 8/9 (1978/79): 47–56, and L. V. Zabkar, Apedemak Lion God of Meroë (Warminster, 1975), 31–32.

25. Cf. E. E. Rice, The Grand Procession of Ptolemy Philadelphus (Oxford, 1983), 19, 95–98. A strong case for dating the pomp to winter 275 B.C. has been made by Victoria Foertmeyer, “The Dating of the Pompe of Ptolemy II Philadelphus,” Historia 37 (1988): 90–104.

26. A favorite theme of Agatharchides; cf. his remarks on the Jewish Sabbath in FGrH 86 F20.

27. Sir James George Frazer, The New Golden Bough, ed. Theodore H. Gaster (New York, 1959), 228.

28. Török, Staat, 13–15.

29. Cf. the reservations concerning reports of similar practices in the modern Sudan in E. E. Evans-Pritchard, “The Divine Kingship of the Shilluk of the Nilotic Sudan,” in Social Anthropology and Other Essays (New York, 1962), 208–9.

30. A similar confrontation between the priesthood of Amon of Napata and the sixth-century-B.C. Napatan king Aspelta is suggested by the so-called Excommunication Stela (Budge, Annals, 113–16), as was pointed out to me by Dr. T. Kendall.

31. This is implied by DS 3.5.1–2. The suggestion that Diodorus, or rather his source, Agatharchides, confused Meroë with Napata (cf. Shinnie, Meroë, 41) is unlikely in view of the silence concerning Napata in Hellenistic geographical sources prior to the first century B.C.Burstein, “Nubian Campaigns,” 101–2.

32. Inge Hofmann, Studien zum meroitischen Königtum (Brussels, 1971), 52.

33. On Apedemak see Zabkar, Apedemak. For Arensnuphis and Sebiumeker see Stefen Wenig, “Arensnuphis und Sebiumeker: Bemerkungen zu zwei in Meroë verehrten Göttern,” Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 101 (1974): 130–50. [

34. Shinnie, Meroë, 18.

35. E.g., Török, “Meroë,” 153–54.

36. M. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1957) 1: 302.

37. L. A. Thompson, “Eastern Africa and the Graeco-Roman World (to A.D. 641),” in Africa in Classical Antiquity, ed. L. Thompson and J. Ferguson (Ibadan, 1969), 36; cf. L. A. Thompson, “The Kingdom of Kush and the Classical World,” Nigeria and the Classics 11 (1969): 32.

38. Jehan Desanges, “L’Hellénisme dans le royaume de Meroë,” Graeco-Arabica 2 (1983): 277.

39. For lists of classical imports see George A. Reisner, “The Pyramids of Meroë and the Candaces of Ethiopia,” Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin 21, no. 124 (April 1923): 25–27; Thompson, “Kush,” 33; Thompson, “Eastern Africa,” 36–37; and L. Török, “Kush and the External World,” Meroitica 10 (1989): 117–156.

40. RCK 5: 175 (W. 179); Steffin Wenig, Africa in Antiquity (Brooklyn, 1978), no. 186 (vol. 2, p. 253).

41. John Garstang, “Third Interim Report on the Excavations at Meroë in Ethiopia,” Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology 5 (1913): 77–80 with pls. IX–X. Dows Dunham, “Four Kushite Colossi in the Sudan,” JEA 33 (1947): 63–65. Adams, Nubia, 312–13; Wenig, Africa, no. 215 (vol. 2, p. 274).

42. Nicholas B. Bodley, “The Auloi of Meroë: A Study of the Greek-Egyptian Auloi found at Meroe, Egypt [sic],” AJA 2d ser. 50 (1946): 217–40; D. M. Dixon and K. P. Wachsmann, “A Sandstone Statue of an Auletes from Meroë,” Kush 12 (1964): 119–25.

43. The imported classical metal objects are surveyed and the parallel dating evidence is summarized by Inge Hofmann, Beiträge zur meroitischen Chronologie (Vienna, 1978), 213–30.

44. E. Marianne Stern, “Hellenistic Glass from Kush (Modern Sudan),” Annales du 8e congrès de l’association internationale pour l’histoire du verre, Londres-Liverpool, 1979 (Liège, 1981), 35–59.

45. Shinnie, Meroë, 23. The inscription has been published in Alan R. Mallard, “BGD…—Magic Spell or Educational Exercise?” Eretz-Israel18 (1985): 40* and pl. IV.10.

46. Winter, Erenes II., 509–13; Hofmann, Beiträge, 57–60.

47. Hofmann, Beiträge, 168.

48. Such a goose-head strainer was found in Beg. N. 7, the tomb of Arakakamani, the first Meroitic king buried at Meroë (RCK 4:28). For other examples see RCK 4:41 (Beg. S. 3, the tomb of an unidentified queen) and RCK 5: 78 (W. 10). The latter two are single rather than double handled.

49. RCK 4: 70 (Beg. N. 8), 73 (Beg. N. 11), 77 (Beg. N. 13), 82 (Bar. 5).

50. William Y. Adams, “Meroitic North and South,” Meroitica 2 (1976): 18.

51. E.g., cups: RCK 2, pl. XC AB (Nuri); basins: RCK 1, pl. XLI BCD (El-Kurru); buckets: RCK 1, pl. XLI A (El-Kurru).

52. Hoffman, Wege, 144–148; cf. B. G. Haycock, “Landmarks in Cushite History,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 58 (1972): 232.

53. Bion, FGrH 668 F1.

54. Arensnuphis: P-M VI 210–11; Haeny, “Philae,” 220. Mandulis: P-M 6:211; Haeny, “Philae,” 227. The existence of a temple in Ptolemaic times is not certain, although Ptolemaic patronage of the cult of Mandulis in the second century B.C. is attested by I. Philae12 bis.

55. Haycock, “Landmarks,” 231; Hofmann, Beiträge, 53–56.

56. László Török, The Royal Crowns of Kush: A Study in Middle Nile Valley Regalia and Iconography in the First Millennia B.C. and A.D., BAR International Series no. 338 (Oxford, 1987), 15–16, 44.

57. The use of Greek architects is implied by the substitution of Greek for Egyptian measures in the laying out of Meroitic public buildings. Friedrich W. Hinkel, “Ägyptische Elle oder griechischer Modul? Metrologische Studien an historischen Bauwerken im mittlern Niltal,” Das Altertum 33 (1987): 150–62. Dr. Hinkel has informed me by letter that the new metric system was employed in the construction of both the Lion Temple and temple IA-300 in the Great Enclosure at Musawwarat es Sufra.

58. The presence of Greek masons is implied by the use at Musawwarat es Sufra of letters of the Greek alphabet as keys to aid in the assembly of architectural elements. Fritz Hintze, “Musawwarat es Sufra: Vorbericht über die Ausgrabungen des Instituts für Ägyptologie der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 1963 bis 1966 (vierte bis sechste Kampagne),” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Gesellschafts und sprachwissenschaftliche Reihe no. 17 (1968), 476 Abb. 17, 477 Abb. 18.

59. Fritz Hintze, Die Inschriften des Löwentempels von Musawwarat es Sufra (Berlin, 1962), 21–22.

60. Fritz Hintze, Musawwarat es Sufra, vol. 1, pt. 2, Der Löwentempel (Berlin, 1971), pls. 20–21.

61. Hintze, Löwentempel, pls. 23c, 25, and 37.

62. Robert S. Bianchi, “Ptolemaic Influences on the Arts of the Late Napatan and Early Meroitic Periods,” Meroitica 5 (1979): 68–69.[

63. Ibid., 68; For details see Janice Yellin, “The Role and Iconography of Anubis in Meroitic Religion” (Ph.D. diss., Brandeis University, 1978).

64. Adams, Nubia, 312–32. Török, “Meroë,” 166–67.

65. For the office of “Great Envoy of Rome” see L. Török, Economic Offices and Officials in Meroitic Nubia: A Study in Territorial Administration of the Late Meroitic Kingdom (Budapest, 1979), 104. Cf. Dio Chrysostom’s reference (32.40) to “Aithiopians” in his audience at Alexandria.

66. Garstang, “Third Interim Report,” 77–81;László Török, “Geschichte Meroes: Ein Beitrag über die Quellenlage und den Forschungstand,” ANRW II.10.1 214–17.

67. For Alexandrian elements in Meroitic architecture see L. Török, “Traces of Alexandrian Architecture in Meroë: A Late Hellenistic Motif in Its History,” Studia Aegyptiaca 2 (1976): 115–36, and “Zu Datierung des sogenannten römischen Kiosks in Naqa/Sudan,” AA (1984): 145–59. On a small scale the same tendency is illustrated by the Doric column used as an offering column support found in RCK 5: 81 (W. 19).

68. E. Seguenny and J. Desanges, “Sarapis dans le royaume de Kouch,” Chron. d’Ég. 61 (1986): 324–329.

69. Cf. Kazimierz Michalowski, “Les Contacts culturels dans le monde méditerrané ,” in Institut française d’archéologie orientale du Caire, livre du centénaire 1880–1980 (Cairo, 1980), 305–6; Tomas Hägg, “Nubien och Bysans,” Svenska Forskningsinstitutet i Istanbul Meddelanden9 (1984): 5–31 (English summary on p. 31). The most important corpus of Nubian Greek inscriptions published to date is that edited by Jadwiga Kuginska: FARAS IV: Inscriptions grecques chrétiennes (Warsaw, 1974).

SOURCE  © 1993 The Regents of the University of California


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