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LECTURE: Pharaoh Alexander the Great: The Egyptian Background of the Alexander Romance

LECTURE: Pharaoh Alexander the Great: The Egyptian Background of the Alexander Romance

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LECTURE: Pharaoh Alexander the Great: The Egyptian Background of the Alexander Romance

Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 3:30PM

Penn Museum, Classroom 2

The Alexander Romance is an ancient popular narrative about the conquests and legendary exploits of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE). Likely composed from various sources in Greek in Alexandria in the Roman period, it was translated throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages into Latin, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Ge’ez, and other languages, and expanded with every new recension.

According to this tale, Alexander was not the son of King Phillip of Macedon (382-336 BCE), but of Pharaoh Nectanebo II (360-342 BC), the last native pharaoh of Egypt. This preposterous claim is obviously unfounded, but not fully without historical merit. A careful analysis of the motifs of this birth-legend against the background of indigenous Egyptian literature of the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods shows that the birth-legend is likely the product of a careful negotiation about political legitimacy and cultural authenticity between Egyptian elites and their new Greek rulers following Alexander’s conquest of Egypt in 332 BCE.

Speaker:

Jacco Dieleman is Associate Professor of Egyptology at UCLA (PhD University of Leiden, 2003). He studies how Egyptian scribal culture responded to the imposition of foreign rule in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods in two related projects.

Dielman is editing a hieratic-demotic manuscript preserving the instructions and incantations adapted from temple handbooks for a private individual (Artemis Liturgical Papyrus). Another project studies the nature, use, and development of textual amulets in ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean.

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