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Greek Egypt
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Duncan Sprott
The Ptolemies (Book One:  The House of the Eagle) (London:  Faber and Faber, 2004.  445p.)

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Sprott presents here the first of a series on the history of the Ptolemy Greek dynasty of Egypt.  Cleopatra is the well-known romantic-tragic figure who was the last of the Ptolemy dynasty that ruled Egypt from the 300s till their defeat by Rome.

This first volume tells a very detailed, apparently well-researched story of the Ptolemy Greek dynasty of Egypt, beginning in the campaigns of Ptolemy with Alexander the Great.  It carries through to the second generation of the Ptolemy family and the end of the "Successors," the generals who parceled out the empire of Alexander, then fought each other for more.

This story is a novel, but appears to be well-researched and utilizes vivid personal and environmental detail to bring to us an ancient, very different period of life and culture.  The story is told by Thoth, the Egyptian ibis god of knowledge and writing.

But much of the story is necessarily from the perspective of Ptolemy, who became Ptolemy Soter (Deliverer, Saviour), the founder of the Egyptian Greek dynasty.  He was declared a god in his own lifetime by the Greek oracle of Zeus in Libya, as well as agreeing late in his kingship to become the King of the Egyptians, which meant he was deified as the representative of Ra, the Sun God.

But in a Mitchneresque pattern, the author explains and fills in much background and helps the reader make connections.  He provides an extensive family tree, lists of the lineages, a glossary explaining the names of the gods and other terms, and a long cast of characters.  He does a very good job keeping identities clear in such a saga involving cultures and dynasties that used a variety of names.

Sprott provides good cultural insights, and deals with the ethnic attitudes of the various cultures and classes.  Volume 2 of this series was published in 2007:  Daughter of the Crocodile.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Cultural Drama in Christian Beginnings
[Review] Early Greek Ethnicity and Politics
[Review] Side Trip through the Roman Empire

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First reading notes written 7 March 2006
Developed in September 2007 Finalized as an article for Thoughts and Resources 14 December 2007
Posted on Amazon and Barnes and Noble 2 March 2009
Last edited here 5 August 2011

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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