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Religion in Roman Egypt Paperback – December 15, 2000

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Winner of the 1999 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion, Historical Studies category, of the American Academy of Religion

"Frankfurter presents a new and convincing analysis of the history of religious change in Roman and early Byzantine Egypt. . . . This new synthesis of the available evidence constitutes a real breakthrough in our understanding of the religious changes in late ancient Egypt attending its Christianization."--Birger A. Pearson, Religious Studies Review

"An exemplary work, engagingly written, which will be of interest not only to students of late antiquity, early Christianity, and Egypt but to anyone concerned with issues of religious change and practice."--Jonathan P. Berkey, American Historical Review

"Where it has been usual to focus on the decay of grand temple religion, Frankfurter argues that this is only one side of the matter. There remained a lively practice of popular and local religion. . . . The book overflows with ideas and insights."--Richard Gordon, Times Literary Supplement

"Stimulating in the very best sense of that word: its thickly packed details and formulations reward readers not only with the insights of its author, but with material that often prompts them to travel down new paths of though themselves."--Sarah Iles Johnston, Journal of Biblical Literature

"This ambitious book rewards the specialist and nonspecialist alike with a rich overview of Egyptian religion in late antiquity within a comparative religion framework. . . . Frankfurter's refreshing synthesis of religion and magic both rewards and illumines the reader. His dexterity with such a diversity of visual, material, and textual evidence is a hallmark of this erudite book. . . . Generously illustrated and clearly organized, this thought provoking study has set a benchmark for future work on religion in the ancient Mediterranean."--Georgia Frank, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"This ambitious book rewards the specialist and nonspecialist alike with a rich overview of Egyptian religion in late antiquity within a comparative religion framework. . . . Frankfurter's refreshing synthesis of religion and magic both rewards and illumines the reader. His dexterity with such a diversity of visual, material, and textual evidence is a hallmark of this erudite book. . . . Generously illustrated and clearly organized, this thought-provoking study has set a benchmark for future work on religion in the ancient Mediterranean."--Georgia Frank, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

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"Popular religion is at the center of this excellent study. Frankfurter places Christianity in a multifaceted, often unexpected context in the countryside of Egypt. He shows that despite the state's new religion, Egyptian gods, goddesses, and cultic practices persisted. The result is a thoroughly stimulating book---n unusual mix of erudition and interpretation--and one which I read with great pleasure." (Dorothy J. Thompson, Girton College, Cambridge)

"Clearly written and well-researched, [Frankfurter's] book is accessible to a wide audience of scholars and lay people alike." (J. G. Manning, Stanford University) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Mythos: The Princeton/Bollingen Series in World Mythology
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (December 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691070547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691070544
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Frankfurter's book takes you through religious expression in Roman Egypt up until the time of the Christian conversion. He demonstrates that paganism wasn't in decline in Egypt at the time, as is popularly assumed, but that it rather assumed different forms, move from temple-centered to more individual-centered.

The book is a little dry, but it's worth it, especially when Frankfurter starts evaluating the sources that have come down to us. Many of the popular sources from this time are Christian or otherwise non-Egyptian in nature, so the bias surrounding Egypt at this time period becomes clear.

I love everything about ancient Egypt, from the time of Menes until the Christian conversion, and anyone who feels the same way will want to have this book on their shelf.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I leveraged this for my master's thesis on Egyptian funerary writings and did not find another author with a better treatment of the topic.
Obviously a book for those with a specific topical interest, not casual reading.
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Format: Paperback
A somewhat polemical work countering the widespread assumptions that Egyptian religion became corrupted by Greco-Roman influence and then simply died out when Christianity seemed to offer something "better". It also takes issue with the less biased viewpoint of Roger Bagnall in Egypt in Late Antiquity, which implies that Egyptian religion stopped being practiced because its temples ran out of funds, a process that began even before Christianity made inroads in Egypt. Although he doesn't dispute that conclusion, Frankfurter points out that religion is more than just temple worship and argues that religious practices continued long after many priesthoods had run out of money.

Frankfurter focuses on local society in villages and midsize towns rather than large institutions. Because he barely discusses the more Hellenized and Christianized populace in major cities like Alexandria, one scholarly reviewer suggested the book would better have been called Traditional Local Religion in Roman Egypt. Frankfurter emphasizes how durable popular religious traditions were in the face of Hellenistic influence and Christian attack. He also argues that in order to succeed, Christianity had to adapt to meet the same popular needs that native religion had done. It generally wasn't a conscious decision; there was only so much that Christianity could change about the local culture. Temple priests became community magicians before being supplanted by Christian holy men who offered a similar range of services. Ancient gods were gradually and haphazardly replaced in spells by Jesus and the angels.
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