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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:44 pm  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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Mary Beard, SPQR, A History of Ancient Rome.

It’s a book https://www.amazon.com/SPQR-History-Anc ... 1631492225

And a TV series (some of it on Youtube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYjnRAFFy4g and http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0797yqk and https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Beard-Col ... B01JZMZ1ZC

Reviews of the well written and accessible book are universally positive: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/18/book ... -more.html
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/ar ... ss/413143/
http://time.com/4105915/mary-beard-spqr-ancient-rome/

Reviews of the TV series/DVD are universally positive: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2016/04/2 ... h-beard-w/
https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radi ... er-hi-tops

Its an example of everything Egyptology is not – with the possible exception of Rohmer and a small number of others. Beard presents not buildings, temples and mummies but describes how the political, social, legal, cultural and economic systems worked – both for the rich and for the average.

Its presented in an interesting and compelling way which answers modern questions like the role of women and how foreigners were integrated. On the second issue her anti-Brexit position is clear.

Just to show how non-Egyptology she is her approach is skeptical of dogma and certainty. She would never get a job in Egypt which is a good result for a Professor at Cambridge. In any event as an educated, ambitious, liberal and opinionated woman life in Egypt would be far from good – and probably worse.

In the book and the series Egypt hardly rates a mention because the Romans saw it, with the exception of Alexandria, as a backwater for food production. Alas the food production has declined but everything else is the same.

The book is well written in an accessible style and the TV series compelling and entertaining. From time to time she is droll, ironical or bawdy.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 7:46 pm  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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People quibble about her appearance, like that matters. She is, and always has been, top quality in archaeology TV. Her shows are highly intelligent, detailed and entertaining, without fancy camera tricks, loud dramatic music, constant repetitions and announcements of "Next,..." to fill the time, as found in American history docos.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:46 pm  |  Posted from: United Kingdom
  

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I couldn't agree more Isis. John Romer made me interested in Egypt, and I think Mary Beard is just wonderful - I could listen to them both all day everyday and not be bored.

I had difficulty in not being drawn into Egyptology, but was quite determined as I was middle aged at the time and had a time consuming job. As I get easily addicted to things and I could see what it did to the lives of others who were obsessed almost with the subject, I took a advice from a relative who said " Old dead civilisation how are you either going to change it or introduce new information to the world" I couldn't see me just going down a well trodden path, so I enjoy Ancient Egypt at arms length. :up

Long live John Romer and Mary Beard say I! :lol:

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:59 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

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I have her DVD "Ultimate Rome....Empire without Limit" and enjoy replaying it from time to time.

Unlike many Roman histories, it spends little time on the well-trodden Julio-Claudian period (maybe the book SPQR does - I haven't read it *) but instead gives an excellent insight to the foundation of the empire, how it flourished and dominated much of the known world and it's ultimate demise

Mary Beard is very watchable.

I'd love to see her take on ancient Egypt....but alas it's not her field (although I believe her son is an expert on Egyptian literature).

* Correction...I have it on my Kindle, Oooops.....senility beckons :(


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 5:11 am  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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Newcastle - I'd love to see her promoted as the World's Greatest Egyptologist. At least she could read and write (without a paid assistant), stay out of the camera, use logic, not talk about her 'achievements', not do shopping center promotions of her books, not steal money, use irony, reject dogmatism, not promote herself and a hundred other things.

My guess is that she would have something to say about 'current circumstances' - given she has a brain and a conscience - and that could lead to jail.

Whether she could avoid an assassination/deliberate food poisoning by one of her vain and unhinged 'competitors' might be a question.

My guess/hope is that if she did it (very, very unlikely) she could turn 1,000 tombs and 40 museums into a single interesting, integrated narrative including broad themes and trends. Something the current generation of detail-minded idiots with microscopic minds have failed to do.

As an aside. Do any Egyptian TV stations make any history/Egyptology docos for local consumption/education? If not why not? If they do, do they include a spread of experts or just locals and does anyone watch them? Are any docos on any period of Egypt made?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 1:52 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

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Mary Beard would have a problem giving Ancient Egypt (the BCE period) the SPQR treatment for the simple reason that not much happened to Egyptian society during that period!

Unlike Rome where, in a thousand years from its (probably mythical) origins as a group of down-and-outs who had to pillage surrounding towns for wives, it went through various kings (again, possibly mythical), through the Republic of Brutus, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero & Co, the dictatorial rule of Augustus and successive emperors to end up in 212AD as the hub of a vast empire of many nationalities, all free members of which were granted Roman citizenship.

In two and a half thousand years of Egyptian pre BCE history, one pharaoh followed another, monotonously (except for a very brief blip) worshiping the same deities, having the same hierarchy, maintaining, with little discernible change, the same science. art and culture....all within boundaries that didn't expand or shrink. A civilisation ruled by the timeless ebb and flow of the Nile.

Dr Who entering his Tardis as Khufu was building his pyramid, and leaving it 2,500 years later as Cleopatra lay dying with an asp clasped to her bosom, would be hard pushed to notice he'd gone far into the future at all!

Compounding Mary's problem would be the dearth of written material describing events at the top, or at the bottom of society. No letters from Cicero. No histories from Pliny or Suetonius. Some ramblings from Herodotus written two millennia after the event....as reliable as the myth of Romulus and Remus or Virgil's Aeneid. Maybe she could make something of the ostraca from Deir el Medina...but it would need a lot of "imaginative filling".

Regarding current Egyptian TV interest in Ancient Egypt the answer is "no". There's little to no interest in modern egyptology. You can't say there's that much in the West. Most of it's very repetitive......or fairly ludicrous costume dramas when they try to reconstruct the pharaonic era. Think "Cleopatra" or the "Mummy " films.

In Egypt itself there's not even this dross. Thankfully perhaps. Post islamic history gets a look in with early islamic conquests, the crusades etc....but nothing pharaonic.

Whilst in the UK, there are countless documentaries on the Plantagenets, Tudors, Victorians etc...and a huge amount of fictional, historically-based drama to go with it..... there's nothing equivalent on Egyptian TV or cinema until you reach King Farouk.

A shame, as my Egyptian friends tell me. They learn a little of the pharaonic period at school but it doesn't translate into much except a desire to dig in the desert for buried gold! However, they do carry away with them impressions of past greatness.

That must be quite depressing when they look around Egypt today.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 4:02 pm  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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Newcastle - Thanks - you make good, reasoned points but don't draw any conclusions - possibly because they are harsh/sad.

Maybe the unasked/unanswered question of Egyptology is why so little changed over 2,000 years. A time when there were external invasions of foreign cultures and a period when Egypt controlled foreign countries in the Sudan, Libya and the Middle East. Why was there so little change when there was contact with different people?

The Private Eye in me says that there is an Egyptian monomaniacal DNA problem - but its got to be more complex. For example both the Greeks and Romans absorbed the culture of the places they controlled and brought those values home.

That modern Egyptians know little or nothing of their history - including the history of 70 years ago does not surprise me. If you are a third rate dictatorship you do not want your people to know about capable and honest first rate people - let alone about the disasters of the past. If such histories or biographies existed (they don't in Egypt) the locals might start to judge the current rulers by objective standards.Who would want that.

My 'major' point is the same - if Mary 'did' Egypt would she be killed or imprisoned - or both.

Maybe the TV Egypt is 'better' left to corrupt bull... As if I believe in that - although now silent members of this forum were previous gushing and frequent advocates of him. I await their defense of their previous position. An admission of poor judgement would suffice.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 6:36 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

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My description of pharaonic Egypt as an unchanging 2,500 year civilisation is, of course, a bit of a simplification and could be challenged on the micro, if not the macro, level.

For example, burials, at least for the elite, went from mastabas to pyramids, to rock cut tombs....and back and forth at some times.

The written language changed in form.

The popularity of the gods and their composition varied over time, for example with the supreme deity moving from Ra to Amun during the New Kingdom. The relationship between the pharaoh and priesthood also altered back & forth at times.

Egypt was influenced by its contact with its neighbours - absorbing new techniques (e.g. horses from the Hyksos) and gods from Mesopotamia.

But the overriding picture is one of continuity....for two main reasons I think :

a) Geographically, Egypt is isolated by deserts and sea, making large scale movements pf people (and conquering armies) problematic.

b) Stability inherent in the hereditary rule of a god-king over a people who took religion and their relationship with the gods seriously. On the occasions when Egypt was conquered by Libyans, Nubians, Greeks & Romans, the new rulers slotted into the Egyptian role of pharaoh. Egypt was never subsumed by its conquerors.

Furthermore, Egypt doesn't seem to have suffered any large scale collapse. It weathered and recovered from the droughts, plagues, invasions and internecine struggles which occurred from time to time.

Perhaps Mary could, after all, make something of it.

Maybe she'd point to the benefits - stability and continuity - conferred on a country by having a ruler with direct links to God. All powerful. Infallible. Whose word is law and beyond contradiction. That observation might go down well and save her from undue local criticism - or worse ;)


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:23 pm  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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Thanks.

I know much less than you do.

Your point about foreign rulers adopting local practice is clear. There must be Greek documents describing their calculations in this. By contrast the Romans and Alexander imposed their systems, including religion, on conquered people. I'm not aware of any research on why the Ptolmey's did what they did when their dead commander did different things elsewhere, What the Persians did doesn't seem to be often described.

A related issue. I'm not aware that in any other place Alexander looked to the local gods for endorsement/validation. He visited the temple at Siwa. Apparently Amun proclaimed him as divine. Divinity wasn't part of the Macedonian makeup and Siwa was an odd and difficult place to go compared with Luxor or Memphis. Most biographies deal with this very briefly. Was it done for media hype - probably. Does he ever do this elsewhere - no. Did he do it in Egypt to make control easier - possibly and did his general follow this practice for the same reason - possibly. On one view Alexander saw Egypt as a fixed, difficult to change, not needing much change, place and adopted integration. I know nothing about how the Roman's handled Egypt and books on this aren't common.

(If interested Bosworth's book on Alexander is a good, sober, not overly long, read - a bit dated - but ignores all the hype and speculation that surrounds this Greek (If indeed he was a Greek) and oddly written by an Aus Professor https://www.amazon.com/Conquest-Empire- ... 052140679X)

On the cut off argument Ican I make some guesses. The most fertile and populated part was the delta with direct sea contact. The early Greeks and the Phoenicians in a somewhat similar situation were driven/attracted to sea trade, exploration and travel. The Egyptians much less so. Maybe it was psychology or maybe their ship technology wasn't so good.Maybe unlike the Greeks local food was plentiful and soil fertile and therefore fewer push factors.

Was it stability and continuity or petrification. From about 600BC to 1952 Egypt was continuously dominated/controlled/invaded by outsiders and its previous power and independence destroyed. Everyone had a go. Makes you think that the DNA must be very 'diverse' and that there is little to point to which is indigenous culture.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:47 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

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I know much less than you do.


Possibly....but I have to concede that my own knowledge of the post pharaonic period is sketchy. I'm happy to share what I know, or rather what I have gleaned from my readings in a subject which has long interested me.

My understanding is that Alexander's armies didn't stay long enough anywhere to impose much by way of system, although he left senior officers in his trail to ensure there was no reversal of his victories, There was a great deal of inter-marrying and probably some Hellenisation of the various countries, They certainly didn't impose their religion. The hundred's of Greek deities were simply expanded by new gods encountered en route.

Alexander's trip to the Oracle of Ammon at Siwa is a bit of a mystery and we only have his biographers to rely on as to what it was all about. Alexander had a troubled relationship with his father, Philip of Macedon, and, according to some accounts, hankered after confirmation that he was the son of Zeus, The relationship of Alexander's belief that he was descended from Heracles, and Ammon being regarded by the Greeks as Zeus in another incarnation, all gets a little murky at this point. Apparently, Alexander never recounted what the Oracle told him...but he seems to have gone away cheered by the news!

I can recommend an excellent biography "Alexander the Great" by Robin Lane Fox if you're interested in further reading.

On coins, Alexander is shown sporting the curled horns of Ammon (clearly a hybrid of the Egyptian Amun and a linked Libyan deity) and he was regarded as a god throughout Egypt. There's a shrine dedicated to him in the innermost part of Luxor Temple.

The Ptolemies who inherited Egypt after Alexander's death went the whole hog and were assimilated into the Egyptian pantheon of god-kings, building the length and breadth of Egypt much as earlier pharaonic dynasties had done and adopting all the religious rites and customs that went with it. My guess is that Hellenisation was largely restricted to the environs of Alexandria.

In their expansion, the Romans likewise had no problem assimilating foreign deities. They certainly imposed Roman systems of government on occupied territories, even granting their inhabitants Roman citizenship under the emperor Caracalla, but, like the polytheistic Greeks , they had no issue with the locals continuing to worship their own gods.

So long as they also sacrificed to the state gods of Rome!

This is where the Jews and, particularly, the Christians came to grief. It wasn't so much that they worshiped their own one god...it was that they refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods.

After the defeat of Cleopatra, Egypt became a province of the Roman empire, governed by a prefect appointed by the emperor and evidence of Roman occupation can be found the length of the Nile. The Egyptian priesthood had no problem in deifying the distant emperor as the occupant of the Horus throne and cartouches of the emperors can be found everywhere as temples were erected by them (or rather their appointees in Egypt). The hypostyle hall at Dendera is a particularly fine example, constructed in the reign of Tiberius and dotted with the cartouches of Claudius, Nero and others.

It was only with the conversion of the empire to Christianity that the worship of the old gods died out....finally at the temple of Isis at Aswan.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 6:25 pm  |  Posted from: United Kingdom
  

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Interesting post Newcastle, with which I mainly agree. However your last point re the old religion dying out? Have you read "The Pharoahs Shadow, Travels in Ancient and Modern Egypt" by Anthony Sattin? Extremely thought provoking!! I got my copy many years ago when it was published in 2000, but I think it's still in print.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:08 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

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Yildez wrote:
Interesting post Newcastle, with which I mainly agree. However your last point re the old religion dying out? Have you read "The Pharoahs Shadow, Travels in Ancient and Modern Egypt" by Anthony Sattin? Extremely thought provoking!! I got my copy many years ago when it was published in 2000, but I think it's still in print.


I haven't read Sattin's book...but will shortly as it's now heading for my Kindle. Thanks Vildez!

That there are still vestiges of the old religions to be found in Egypt I have no doubt.....just as we have Druids in the UK etc

I know that. particularly in Upper Egypt, Islam hasn't entirely eliminated beliefs, and perhaps customs, which date from ancient Egypt.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:42 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

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Have you seen the festival honoring Abu Hajaj held just before Ramadan here in Luxor? Carrying the boats from one place to another is very reminiscent of the old ways.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 8:48 pm  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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I was given "The Pharoahs Shadow, Travels in Ancient and Modern Egypt" by Anthony Sattin years ago and have read it a few times. An especially interesting read for those who have travelled in Egypt and spent time with Egyptians. He tries to find evidence of old practices and superstitions etc. still happening.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 9:37 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

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There's a wonderful book, "Shahhat - an Egyptian" by Richard Critchfield concerning the life of a young man who lived in the West Bank village of Bairat, in the shadows of Medinet Habu. I expect many on here have read it. It contains many references to the continuation, even today, of the "old ways".

The first chapter - A Prayer to Ammon-Ra" - opens with Shahhat's mother, Omm Hamed, begging her son to invite her to Mecca. It was an obsession of Omm Hamed who'd had a difficult life. She'd borne 20 children, only to see 14 of them sicken and die. Shahhat was the eldest of her surviving brood.

She carried with her a great sense of guilt and felt her life of hardship might come to an end if only she could make the Haj. In the year before Shahhat was born she had broken the most inviolate principle of Islam : that there is no god but Allah. Since then she had become very pious, strictly following Koranic ritual, praying, almsgiving, fasting etc. What had the good woman done?

She had prayed to be blessed with a son strong enough to survive to manhood - not to Allah, but to the ancient god, Ammon-Ra.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:53 am  |  Posted from: Turkey
  

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Enjoy it Newcastle!! Having told you about it, I found it and started to read it again - just as good third or fourth time round!


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