The Roman Mummies


When Egypt was conquered first by Alexander the Great and then by the Romans, an extraordinary fusion of classical and Egyptian traditions. Like many subsequent empires they hoped to reduce indigenous population’s resistance to their rule by co-opting their culture. This produced unique art forms reflecting these twin influences. The Greek ruling family known as the Ptolemy branded themselves as ‘pharaohs’ and even adopted the practice of sibling marriage. And while Roman rule would eventually provide a conduit through which Christianity would spread in Egypt, both the Ptolemy and Roman authorities continued building temples to the old gods. This period lasted almost 700 years until it was ended by the Arab conquests: it produced the city of Alexandria, the reign of Cleopatra, some of the most unusual theologians in Christian history and an extraordinary intermingling of Greeks, Jews, and Egyptians.

One of the strangest examples of this melding was that the new Greco-Roman adopted the process of mummifying their dead. While the process of mumification and burial in sarcophaguses continued it adapted to reflect the Roman influence. So we get confins decorated in a distinctly classical style such as the famous: Fayum mummy portraits.



One thought on “The Roman Mummies

  1. Pingback: Studying Abroad: Egypt | American Living Abroad

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