Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Review of Rutherford (ed.), Greco-Egyptian Interactions

Ian Rutherford (ed.), Greco-Egyptian Interactions: Literature, Translation, and Culture 500 BCE-300 CE. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. xiii, 393. ISBN 9780199656127. $135.00.

Reviewed by Felipe Rojas, Brown University (felipe_rojas@brown.edu)

Publisher’s Preview

The study of cultural interaction as documented in the textual output of Egypt, Greece, and Rome is in flux. Egyptologists, who traditionally had paid less attention to texts written under Ptolemaic and especially Roman rule than to earlier material, have been devoting more of their energies to the arduous duty of editing Demotic papyri. Many such documents provide evidence of Greek-Egyptian cross-pollination, even if the exact nature of that exchange is hard to puzzle out.1 As the editor of one of those texts acknowledges here without despair: “Any conclusion may be overturned tomorrow” (p. 347). Classicists, on their part, have been producing less Hellenocentric readings of textual documents written in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, and also increasingly sophisticated literary and historical analyses that are informed by theoretical trends outside of classics.2 Many of the contributors to this volume are directly responsible for rocking the Greco-Egyptian textual boat. In fact, beginning nearly two decades ago, the editor himself has been offering challenging studies of Greco-Egyptian literary and cultural interaction.3 This book is of immediate and obvious importance to those working on Greek and Roman Egypt. As I explain below, however, it may also be of interest to those studying cross-cultural contact in the ancient world more generally.

Indeed. Jews in the Second Temple period and late antiquity were also interacting with Egyptians, Greeks, and Greek-speaking Egyptians. A number of articles in this volume (e.g., on the Greek Magical Papyri and on the Oracle of the Potter) look likely to have some background relevance to Judaism in those periods.