The city of Memphis on the Nile, which had often served as capital in the long period preceding Egypt's conquest by Alexander the Great, became the country's "second city" following the founding of Alexandria. Drawing on archaeological findings and on an unusual combination of Greek and Egyptian evidence, Dorothy Thompson examines the city's economic life and the character of its multi-racial society in the era from Alexander to Augustus. Memphis under the Ptolemies will interest students of intercultural relations and will be essential reading for Egyptologists, papyrologists, and historians of the Hellenistic world, including those concerned with religion.
The relationship of the native population with the Greek-speaking immigrants is illustrated in Thompson's analysis of the position of Memphite priests within the Ptolemaic state. Egyptians continued to control mummification and the cult of the dead; the undertakers of the Memphite necropolis were barely touched by things Greek. The cult of the living Apis bull also remained primarily Egyptian; yet on death the bull, deified as Osorapis, became Sarapis for the Greeks. Within this god's sacred enclosure, the Sarapieion, is found a strange amalgam of Greek and Egyptian cultures.