Greek and Roman Egypt

Greek and Roman Egypt

Following several centuries of Persian rule from 525 BCE, the Ancient Egyptian Empire finally fell under the conquest of Alexander the Great in the year 332 BCE. It subsequently formed part of the Greek Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Roman Empire.

Alexander the Great, ruler of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and creater of one of the largest empires in the ancient world through massive military campaigns. With Egypt unhappily under the control of the Persian Empire, the Greek conquest was relatively simple. 

Hellenistic period

The Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt began following Alexander the Great's expulsion of the Persians from Egypt in 332 BCE. It was a strategic move so that he could then take over the Persian Empire and move further into Asia, and after founding the new capital city of Alexandria and putting Hellenistic statesmen in charge, Alexander never returned to the country.

For several hundred years, until 30 BCE, Alexandria became an important commercial port city, dominating trade routes on the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. The city also became a centre for Greek culture, but interestingly, the Greeks adopted many Ancient Egyptian traditions and religious customs. The Ptolemaic Kings named themselves as Pharaohs, and built a number of magnificent temples in honour of the Egyptian gods throughout their reign, including Kom Ombo and Edfu.

Civil war amongst the Ptolemies and the death of Cleopatra, the last reigning ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt, lead to the conquest and annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BCE.

Roman period

Roman Egypt - or Aegyptus - became one of the empire's wealthiest provinces. Alexandria remained capital, and was still the largest port and the second largest city in the Roman Empire. 

Historia Egipto: Imperio Romano
Extension of the Roman Empire

The following period of time would see a number of religious wars. By the year 200, Alexandria had become an important Christian centre, and the native Ancient Egyptian religion had lost its hold. By 380 CE, the Christian church was the state religion, and throughout this time the Roman emperors persecuted the empire's Jewish subjects.

Egypt continued to be an important economic centre for the Roman Empire, however, religious conflict resulted in the empire being divided into two dioceses in 395, with Egypt being located in the Eastern Empire - known nowadays as the Byzantine Empire. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, attempts to recapture Rome left the east unprotected and vulnerable to the invasions of the Persians and Arabs in the 7th century and onwards.