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Koin? Greek: , romanized: Aigýptos
|Province of the Roman Empire|
|30 BC - 641 AD|
Province of Aegyptus in AD 125
o 1st century AD
o Conquest of Ptolemaic Kingdom
o Formation of the Diocese
|Today part of||Egypt|
Egypt (Latin: Aegyptus, pronounced [ae?'pt?s]; Koin? Greek: , romanized: Aígyptos, pronounced [:?yptos]) was established as a Roman province in 30 BC after Octavian (the future Roman emperor Augustus) defeated his rival Mark Antony, deposed Pharaoh Cleopatra, and annexed the Ptolemaic Kingdom to the Roman Empire. The province encompassed most of modern-day Egypt except for the Sinai Peninsula, which would later be conquered by Trajan. Aegyptus was bordered by the provinces of Crete and Cyrenaica to the west and Judea (later Arabia Petraea) to the East.
The province came to serve as a major producer of grain for the empire and had a highly developed urban economy. Aegyptus was by far the wealthiest Eastern Roman province, and by far the wealthiest Roman province outside of Italia. The population of Roman Egypt is unknown; although estimates vary from . In Alexandria, its capital, it possessed the largest port, and the second largest city of the Roman Empire.
After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, the Ptolemaic Kingdom (r. 305-30 BC), which had ruled Egypt since the Wars of Alexander the Great brought an end to Achaemenid Egypt (the Thirty-first Dynasty), took the side of Mark Antony in the Last war of the Roman Republic, against the eventual victor Octavian, who as Augustus became the first Roman emperor in 27 BC, having defeated Mark Antony and the pharaoh, Cleopatra VII, at the naval Battle of Actium. After the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra, the Roman Republic annexed the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. Augustus and many subsequent emperors ruled Egypt as the Roman pharaohs. The Ptolemaic institutions were dismantled, and though some bureaucratic elements were maintained the government administration was wholly reformed along with the social structure. The Graeco-Egyptian legal system of the Hellenistic period continued in use, but within the bounds of Roman law. The tetradrachm coinage minted at the Ptolemaic capital of Alexandria continued to be the currency of an increasingly monetized economy, but its value was made equal to the Roman denarius. The priesthoods of the Ancient Egyptian deities and Hellenistic religions of Egypt kept most of their temples and privileges, and in turn the priests also served the Roman imperial cult of the deified emperors and their families.
From the 1st century BC, the Roman governor of Egypt was appointed by the emperor for a multi-year term and given the rank of prefect (Latin: praefectus). Both the governor and the major officials were of equestrian rank (rather than of senatorial rank). Three Roman legions garrisoned Egypt in the early Roman imperial period, with the garrison later reduced to two, alongside auxilia formations of the Roman army. Augustus introduced land reforms that enabled wider entitlement to private ownership of land (previously rare under the Ptolemaic cleruchy system of allotments under royal ownership) and the local administration reformed into a Roman liturgical system, in which land-owners were required to serve in local government. The status of Egypt's cites was increased, particularly the major towns of each nome (administrative region), known as a m?tropolis (Koin? Greek: ?, lit. 'mother city'). The m?tropoleis were governed by magistrates drawn from the liturgy system; these magistrates, as in other Roman cities, practised euergetism and built public buildings. In 200/201, the emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193-211) allowed to each metropolis, and to the city of Alexandria, a Boule (a Hellenistic town council).
The Antonine Plague had struck in the latter 2nd century, but Roman Egypt had recovered by the 3rd century. Having escaped much of the Crisis of the Third Century, Roman Egypt fell under the control of the breakaway Palmyrene Empire after the invasion of Egypt by Zenobia in 269. The emperor Aurelian (r. 270-275) successfully besieged Alexandria and recovered Egypt, as did Diocletian (r. 284-305) in his 297-298 campaign against the usurpers Domitius Domitianus and Achilleus.
The inhabitants of Roman Egypt were divided by social class along ethnic and cultural lines.Roman citizens and citizens of Alexandria were exempted from the poll tax paid by the other inhabitants, the "Egyptians", and had other defined legal distinctions. Egyptians legally resident in the metropolis of the nomoi paid a reduced poll tax and had more privileges than other Egyptians, and within these m?tropoleis there were the Hellenic socio-political élite, who as an urban, land-owning aristocracy dominated Egypt by the 2nd and throughout the 3rd centuries through their large private estates. Most inhabitants were peasants, many working as tenant-farmers for high rents in kind, cultivating sacred land belonging to temples or public land formerly belonging to the Egyptian monarchy. The division between the rural life of the villages, where the Egyptian language was spoken, and the metropolis, where the citizens spoke Koine Greek and frequented the Hellenistic gymnasia, was the most significant cultural division in Roman Egypt, and was not dissolved by the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212, which made all free Egyptians Roman citizens. There was considerable social mobility however, accompanying mass urbanization, and participation in the monetized economy and literacy in Greek by the peasant population was widespread.
In Late Antiquity, the administrative and economic reforms of Diocletian (r. 284-305) coincided with the Christianization of the Roman Empire, especially the growth of Christianity in Egypt. After Constantine the Great gained control of Egypt from his erstwhile co-augustus Licinius (r. 308-324), the emperors promoted Christianity. The latest stage of Egyptian language, Coptic, emerged as literary language among the Christians of Roman Egypt. Under Diocletian the frontier was moved downriver to the First Cataract of the Nile at Syene (Aswan), withdrawing from the Dodekaschoinos region. This southern frontier was largely peaceful for many centuries, as attested by serving military documents from the late 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries from garrisons at Syene, Philae, and Elephantine. These soldiers of the Late Roman army were likely limitanei, but regular units also served in Egypt, including the Scythae Iustiniani of Justinian the Great (r. 527-565), known to have been stationed in the Thebaid. Constantine's currency reforms, including the introduction of the gold solidus, stabilized the economy and ensured Roman Egypt remained a monetized system, even in the rural economy. The trend towards private ownership of land became more pronounced in the 5th century and peaked in the 6th century, with large estates built up from many individual plots. Some large estates were owned by Christian churches, and smaller land-holders included those who were themselves both tenant farmers on larger estates and landlords of tenant-farmers working their own land.
As Rome overtook the Ptolemaic system in place for areas of Egypt, they made many changes. The effect of the Roman conquest was at first to strengthen the position of the Greeks and of Hellenism against Egyptian influences. Some of the previous offices and names of offices under the Hellenistic Ptolemaic rule were kept, some were changed, and some names would have remained but the function and administration would have changed.
The Romans introduced important changes in the administrative system, aimed at achieving a high level of efficiency and maximizing revenue. The duties of the prefect of Aegyptus combined responsibility for military security through command of the legions and cohorts, for the organization of finance and taxation, and for the administration of justice.
The Egyptian provinces of the Ptolemaic Kingdom remained wholly under Roman rule until the administrative reforms of the augustus Diocletian (r. 284-305).:57 In these first three centuries of Roman Egypt, the whole country came under the central Roman control of single governor, officially called in Latin: praefectus Alexandreae et Aegypti, lit. 'prefect of Alexandria and Egypt' and more usually referred to as the Latin: praefectus Aegypti, lit. 'prefect of Egypt' or the Koin? Greek: ? , romanized: eparchos Aigyptou, lit. 'Eparch of Egypt'.:57 The double title of the governor as prefect "of Alexandria and Egypt" reflects the distinctions between Upper and Lower Egypt and Alexandria, since Alexandria, outside the Nile Delta, was not within the then-prevailing traditional geographic boundaries of Egypt.:57
Roman Egypt was the only Roman province whose governor was of equestrian rank in the Roman social order; all others were of the senatorial class and served as Roman senators, including former Roman consuls, but the prefect of Egypt had more or less equivalent civil and military powers (imperium) to a proconsul, since a Roman law (a lex) granted him "proconsular imperium" (Latin: imperium ad similitudinem proconsulis).:57 Unlike in senatorially-governed provinces, the prefect was responsible for the collection of certain taxes and for the organization of the all-important grain shipments from Egypt (including the annona).:58 Because of these financial responsibilities, the governor's administration had to be closely controlled and organized.:58 The governorship of Egypt was the second-highest office available to the equestrian class on the cursus honorum (after that of the praetorian prefect (Latin: praefectus praetorio), the commander of the imperial Praetorian Guard) and one of the highest-paid, receiving an annual salary of 200,000 sesterces (a "ducenarian" post).:58 The prefect was appointed at the emperor's discretion; officially the governors' status and responsibilities mirrored those of the augustus himself: his fairness (aequitas, 'equality') and his foresight (providentia, 'providence').:58 From the early 2nd century, service as the governor of Egypt was frequently the penultimate stage in the career of a praetorian prefect.:58
The governor's powers as prefect, which included the rights to make edicts (ius edicendi) and, as the supreme judicial authority, to order capital punishment (ius gladii, 'right of swords'), expired as soon as his successor arrived in the provincial capital at Alexandria, who then also took up overall command of the Roman legions of the Egyptian garrison.:58 (Initially, three legions were stationed in Egypt, with only two from the reign of Tiberius (r. 14-37 AD).):58 The official duties of the praefectus Aegypti are well known because enough records survive to reconstruct a mostly complete official calendar (fasti) of the governors' engagements.:57 Yearly in Lower Egypt, and once every two years in Upper Egypt, the praefectus Aegypti held a conventus (Koin? Greek: , romanized: dialogismos, lit. 'dialogue'), during which legal trials were conducted and administrative officials' practices were examined, usually between January (Ianuarius) and April (Aprilis) in the Roman calendar.:58 Evidence exists of more than 60 edicts issued by the Roman governors of Egypt.:58
To the government at Alexandria besides the prefect of Egypt, the Roman emperors appointed several other subordinate procurators for the province, all of equestrian rank and, at least from the reign of Commodus (r. 176-192) of similar, "ducenarian" salary bracket.:58 The administrator of the Idios Logos, responsible for special revenues like the proceeds of bona caduca property, and the iuridicus (Koin? Greek: , romanized: dikaiodotes, lit. 'giver of laws'), the senior legal official, were both imperially appointed.:58 From the reign of Hadrian (r. 117-138), the financial powers of the prefect and the control of the Egyptian temples and priesthoods was devolved to other procurators, a dioiketes (), the chief financial officer, and an archiereus (, 'archpriest').:58 A procurator could deputize as the prefect's representative where necessary.:58
Procurators were also appointed from among the freedmen (manumitted slaves) of the imperial household, including the powerful procurator usiacus, responsible for state property in the province.:58 Other procurators were responsible for revenue farming of state monopolies (the procurator ad Mercurium), oversight of farm lands (the procurator episkepseos), of the warehouses of Alexandria (the procurator Neaspoleos), and of exports and emigration (the procurator Phari, 'procurator of the Pharos').:58 These roles are poorly attested, with often the only surviving information beyond the names of the offices is a few names of the incumbents. In general, the central provincial administration of Egypt is no better-known than the Roman governments of other provinces, since, unlike in the rest of Egypt, the conditions for the preservation of official papyri were very unfavourable at Alexandria.:58
Local government in the hinterland (Koin? Greek: ?, romanized: kh?r?, lit. 'countryside') outside Alexandria was divided into traditional regions known as nomoi.:58 To each nome the prefect appointed a strategos (Koin? Greek: , romanized: strat?gós, lit. 'general'); the strategoi were civilian administrators, without military functions, who performed much of the government of the country in the prefect's name and were themselves drawn from the Egyptian upper classes.:58 The strategoi in each of the m?tropoleis were the senior local officials, served as intermediaries between the prefect and the villages, and were legally responsible for the administration and their own conduct while in office for several years.:58 Each strategos was supplemented by a royal scribe ( ?, basilikós grammateús, 'royal secretary').:58 These scribes were responsible for their nome's financial affairs, including administration of all property, land, land revenues, and temples, and what remains of their record-keeping is unparalleled in the ancient world for its completeness and complexity.:58 The royal scribes could act as proxy for the strategoi, but each reported directly to Alexandria, where dedicated financial secretaries - appointed for each individual nome - oversaw the accounts: an eklogistes and a graphon ton nomon.:58 The eklogistes was responsible for general financial affairs while the graphon ton nomon likely dealt with matters relating to the Idios Logos.:58–59
The nomoi were grouped traditionally into those of Upper and Lower Egypt, the two divisions each being known as an "epistrategy" after the chief officer, the epistrategos (, epistrat?gós, 'over-general'), each of whom was also a Roman procurator. Soon after the Roman annexation, a new epistrategy was formed, encompassing the area just south of Memphis and the Faiyum region and named "the Heptanomia and the Arsinoite nome".:58 In the Nile Delta however, power was wielded by two of the epistrategoi.:58 The epistrategos's role was mainly to mediate between the prefect in Alexandria and the strategoi in the m?tropoleis, and they had few specific administrative duties, performing a more general function.:58 Their salary was sexagenarian - 60,000 sesterces annually.:58
Each village or kome (?, k?m?) was served by a village scribe (, k?mogrammateús, 'secretary of the komos'), whose term, possibly paid, was usually held for three years.:59 They, to avoid conflicts of interest, was appointed to a community away from their home village, as they were required to inform the strategoi and epistrategoi of the names of persons due to perform unpaid public service as part of the liturgy system.:59 They were required to be literate and had various duties as official clerks.:59 Other local officials drawn from the liturgy system served for a year in their home kome; they included the practor (?, prákt?r, 'executor'), who collected certain taxes, as well as security officers, granary officials (, sitologoi, 'grain collectors'), public cattle drivers ( k?, d?mósioi kt?notróphoi, 'cattleherds of the demos'), and cargo supervisors (, epiploöi).:59 Other liturgical officials were responsible for other specific aspects of the economy: a suite of officials was each responsible for arranging supplies of particular necessity in the course of the prefect official tours.:59 The liturgy system extended to most aspects of Roman administration by the reign of Trajan (r. 98-117), though constant efforts were made by people eligible for such duties to escape the imposition of these duties.:59
The reforms of the early 4th century had established the basis for another 250 years of comparative prosperity in Aegyptus, at a cost of perhaps greater rigidity and more oppressive state control. Aegyptus was subdivided for administrative purposes into a number of smaller provinces, and separate civil and military officials were established; the praeses and the dux. The province was under the supervision of the count of the Orient (i.e. the vicar) of the diocese headquartered in Antioch in Syria.
Emperor Justinian abolished the Diocese of Egypt in 538 and re-combined civil and military power in the hands of the dux with a civil deputy (praeses) as a counterweight to the power of the church authorities. All pretense of local autonomy had by then vanished. The presence of the soldiery was more noticeable, its power and influence more pervasive in the routine of town and village life.
The economic resources that this imperial government existed to exploit had not changed since the Ptolemaic period, but the development of a much more complex and sophisticated taxation system was a hallmark of Roman rule. Taxes in both cash and kind were assessed on land, and a bewildering variety of small taxes in cash, as well as customs dues and the like, was collected by appointed officials.
A massive amount of Aegyptus's grain was shipped downriver (north) both to feed the population of Alexandria and for export to the Roman capital. There were frequent complaints of oppression and extortion from the taxpayers.
The Roman government had actively encouraged the privatization of land and the increase of private enterprise in manufacture, commerce, and trade, and low tax rates favored private owners and entrepreneurs. The poorer people gained their livelihood as tenants of state-owned land or of property belonging to the emperor or to wealthy private landlords, and they were relatively much more heavily burdened by rentals, which tended to remain at a fairly high level.
Overall, the degree of monetization and complexity in the economy, even at the village level, was intense. Goods were moved around and exchanged through the medium of coin on a large scale and, in the towns and the larger villages, a high level of industrial and commercial activity developed in close conjunction with the exploitation of the predominant agricultural base. The volume of trade, both internal and external, reached its peak in the 1st and 2nd centuries.
By the end of the 3rd century, major problems were evident. A series of debasements of the imperial currency had undermined confidence in the coinage, and even the government itself was contributing to this by demanding more and more irregular tax payments in kind, which it channelled directly to the main consumers, the army personnel. Local administration by the councils was careless, recalcitrant, and inefficient; the evident need for firm and purposeful reform had to be squarely faced in the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine I.
The Roman army was among the most homogenous Roman structures, and the organization of the army in Egypt differed little from its organization elsewhere in the Roman Empire. The Roman legions were recruited from Roman citizens and the Roman auxilia recruited from the non-citizen subjects.:69
Egypt was unique in that its garrison was commanded by the praefectus Aegypti, an official of the equestrian order, rather than, as in other provinces, a governor of the senatorial class.:75 This distinction was stipulated in a law promulgated by Augustus, and, because it was unthinkable that an equestrian should command a senator, the commanders of the legions in Egypt were themselves, uniquely, of equestrian rank.:75 As a result of these strictures, the governor was rendered unable to build up a rival power base (as Mark Antony had been able to do), while the military legati commanding the legions were career soldiers, formerly centurions with the senior rank of primus pilus, rather than politicians whose military experience was limited to youthful service as a military tribune.:75 Beneath the praefectus Aegypti, the overall commander of legions and auxilia stationed in Egypt was styled in Latin: praefectus stratopedarches, from the Greek: , romanized: stratopedárch?s, lit. 'camp commander', or as Latin: praefectus exercitu qui est in Aegypto, lit. 'prefect of the army in Egypt'.:75–76 Collectively, these forces were known as the exercitus Aegyptiacus, 'Army of Egypt'.:76
The Roman garrison was concentrated at Nicopolis, a district of Alexandria, rather than at the strategic heart of the country around Memphis and Egyptian Babylon.:37 Alexandria was the Mediterranean's second city in the early Roman empire, the cultural capital of the Greek East and rival to Rome under Antony and Cleopatra.:37 Because only a few papyri are preserved from the area, little more is known about the legionaries' everyday life than is known from other provinces of the empire, and little evidence exists of the military practices of the prefect and his officers.:75 Most papyri have been found in Middle Egypt's villages, and the texts are primarily concerned with local affairs, rarely giving space to high politics and military matters.:70 Not much is known about the military encampments of the Roman imperial period, since many are underwater or have been built over and because Egyptian archaeology has traditionally taken little interest in Roman sites.:70 Because they supply a record of soldiers' service history, six bronze Roman military diplomas dating between 83 and 206 are the main source of documentary evidence for the auxilia in Egypt; these inscribed certificates rewarded 25 or 26 years of military service in the auxilia with Roman citizenship and the right of conubium.:70–71 That the army was more Greek-speaking than in other provinces is certain.:75
The heart of the Army of Egypt was the Nicopolis garrison at Alexandria, with at least one legion permanently stationed there, along with a strong force of auxilia cavalry.:71 These troops would both guard the residence of the praefectus Aegypti against uprisings among the Alexandrians and were poised to march quickly to any point at the prefect's command.:71–72 At Alexandria too was the Classis Alexandrina, the provincial fleet of the Roman Navy in Egypt.:71 In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, there were around 8,000 soldiers at Alexandria, a fraction of the megalopolis's huge population.:72
Initially, the legionary garrison of Roman Egypt consisted of three legions: the Legio III Cyrenaica, the Legio XXII Deiotariana, and one other legion.:70 The station and identity of this third legion is not known for sure, and it is not known precisely when it was withdrawn from Egypt, though it was certainly before 23 AD, during the reign of Tiberius (r. 14-37).:70 In the reign of Tiberius's step-father and predecessor Augustus, the legions had been stationed at Nicopolis and at Egyptian Babylon, and perhaps at Thebes.:70 After August 119, the III Cyrenaica was ordered out of Egypt; the XXII Deiotariana was transferred sometime afterwards, and before 127/8, the Legio II Traiana arrived, to remain as the main component of the Army of Egypt for two centuries.:70
After some fluctuations in the size and positions of the auxilia garrison in the early decades of Roman Egypt, relating to the conquest and pacification of the country, the auxilia contingent was mostly stable during the Principate, increasing somewhat towards the end of the 2nd century, and with some individual formations remaining in Egypt for centuries at a time.:71 Three or four alae of cavalry were stationed in Egypt, each ala numbering around 500 horsemen.:71 There were between seven and ten cohortes of auxilia infantry, each cohors about 500 hundred strong, although some were cohortes equitatae - mixed units of 600 men, with infantry and cavalry in a roughly 4:1 ratio.:71 Besides the auxilia stationed at Alexandria, at least three detachments permanently garrisoned the southern border, on the Nile's First Cataract around Philae and Syene (Aswan), protecting Egypt from enemies to the south and guarding against rebellion in the Thebaid.:72
Besides the main garrison at Alexandrian Nicopolis and the southern border force, the disposition of the rest of the Army of Egypt is not clear, though many soldiers are known to have been stationed at various outposts (praesidia), including those defending roads and remote natural resources from attack.:72 Roman detachments, centuriones, and beneficiarii maintained order in the Nile Valley, but about their duties little is known, as little evidence survives, though they were, in addition to the strategoi of the nomoi, the prime local representatives of the Roman state.:73 Archaeological work led by Hélène Cuvigny has revealed many ostraca (inscribed ceramic fragments) which give unprecedently detailed information on the lives of soldiers stationed in the Eastern Desert along the Coptos-Myos Hormos road and at the imperial granite quarry at Mons Claudianus.:72 Another Roman outpost, known from an inscription, existed on Farasan, the chief island of the Red Sea's Farasan Islands off the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula.:72
As in other provinces, many of the Roman soldiers in Egypt were recruited locally, not only among the non-citizen auxilia, but among the legionaries as well, who were required to have Roman citizenship.:73 An increasing proportion of the Army of Egypt was of local origin in the reign of the Flavian dynasty, with an even higher proportion - as many as ¾ of legionaries - under the Severan dynasty.:73 Of these, around 1/3 were themselves the offspring (Latin: castrenses, lit. 'camp-men') of soldiers raised in the canabae settlements surrounding the army's base at Nicopolis, while only about 1/8 were Alexandrian citizens.:73 Egyptians were given Roman-style Latin names on joining the army; unlike in other provinces, indigenous names are nearly unknown among the local soldiers of the Army of Egypt.:74
One of the surviving military diplomas lists the soldier's birthplace as Coptos, while others demonstrate that soldiers and centurions from elsewhere retired to Egypt: auxilia veterans from Chios and Hippo Regius (or Hippos) are named.:73–74 Evidence from the 2nd century suggests most auxilia came from Egypt, with others drawn from the provinces of Africa and Syria, and from Roman Asia Minor.:73–74Auxilia from the Balkans, who served throughout the Roman army, also served in Egypt: many Dacian names are known from ostraca in the Trajanic period, perhaps connected with the recruitment of Dacians during and after Trajan's Dacian Wars; they are predominantly cavalrymen's names, with some infantrymen's.:74Thracians, common in the army in other Roman provinces, were also present, and an auxiliary diploma from the Egyptian garrison has been found in Thracia.:74 Two auxilia diplomas connect Army of Egypt veterans with Syria, including one naming Apamea.:74 Large numbers of recruits mustered in Asia Minor may have supplemented the garrison after the Kitos War against a Jewish uprising in Egypt and Syria.:74
The social structure in Aegyptus under the Romans was both unique and complicated. On the one hand, the Romans continued to use many of the same organizational tactics that were in place under the leaders of the Ptolemaic period. At the same time, the Romans saw the Greeks in Aegyptus as "Egyptians", an idea that both the native Egyptians and Greeks would have rejected. To further compound the whole situation, Jews, who themselves were very Hellenized overall, had their own communities, separate from both Greeks and native Egyptians.
The Romans began a system of social hierarchy that revolved around ethnicity and place of residence. Other than Roman citizens, a Greek citizen of one of the Greek cities had the highest status, and a rural Egyptian would be in the lowest class. In between those classes was the metropolite, who was almost certainly of Hellenic origin. Gaining citizenship and moving up in ranks was very difficult and there were not many available options for ascendancy.
One of the routes that many followed to ascend to another caste was through enlistment in the army. Although only Roman citizens could serve in the legions, many Greeks found their way in. The native Egyptians could join the auxiliary forces and attain citizenship upon discharge. The different groups had different rates of taxation based on their social class. The Greeks were exempt from the poll tax, while Hellenized inhabitants of the nome capitals were taxed at a lower rate than the native Egyptians, who could not enter the army, and paid the full poll tax.
The social structure in Aegyptus is very closely linked to the governing administration. Elements of centralized rule that were derived from the Ptolemaic period lasted into the 4th century. One element in particular was the appointment of strategoi to govern the 'nomes', the traditional administrative divisions of Egypt. Boulai, or town councils, in Egypt were only formally constituted by Septimius Severus. It was only under Diocletian later in the 3rd century that these boulai and their officers acquired important administrative responsibilities for their nomes. The Augustan takeover introduced a system of compulsory public service, which was based on poros (property or income qualification), which was wholly based on social status and power. The Romans also introduced the poll tax which was similar to tax rates that the Ptolemies levied, but the Romans gave special low rates to citizens of m?tropoleis. The city of Oxyrhynchus had many papyri remains that contain much information on the subject of social structure in these cities. This city, along with Alexandria, shows the diverse set-up of various institutions that the Romans continued to use after their takeover of Egypt.
Just as under the Ptolemies, Alexandria and its citizens had their own special designations. The capital city enjoyed a higher status and more privileges than the rest of Egypt. Just as it was under the Ptolemies, the primary way of becoming a citizen of Roman Alexandria was through showing when registering for a deme that both parents were Alexandrian citizens. Alexandrians were the only Egyptians that could obtain Roman citizenship.
If a common Egyptian wanted to become a Roman citizen he would first have to become an Alexandrian citizen. The Augustan period in Egypt saw the creation of urban communities with "Hellenic" landowning elites. These landowning elites were put in a position of privilege and power and had more self-administration than the Egyptian population. Within the citizenry, there were gymnasiums that Greek citizens could enter if they showed that both parents were members of the gymnasium based on a list that was compiled by the government in 4-5 AD.
The candidate for the gymnasium would then be let into the ephebus. There was also the council of elders known as the gerousia. This council of elders did not have a boulai to answer to. All of this Greek organization was a vital part of the metropolis and the Greek institutions provided an elite group of citizens. The Romans looked to these elites to provide municipal officers and well-educated administrators. These elites also paid lower poll-taxes than the local native Egyptians, fellahin. It is well documented that Alexandrians in particular were able to enjoy lower tax-rates on land.
These privileges even extended to corporal punishments. Romans were protected from this type of punishment while native Egyptians were whipped. Alexandrians, on the other hand, had the privilege of merely being beaten with a rod. Although Alexandria enjoyed the greatest status of the Greek cities in Egypt, it is clear that the other Greek cities, such as Antinoopolis, enjoyed privileges very similar to the ones seen in Alexandria. All of these changes amounted to the Greeks being treated as an ally in Egypt and the native Egyptians were treated as a conquered race.
The Gnomon of the Idios Logos shows the connection between law and status. It lays out the revenues it deals with, mainly fines and confiscation of property, to which only a few groups were apt. The Gnomon also confirms that a freed slave takes his former master's social status. The Gnomon demonstrates the social controls that the Romans had in place through monetary means based on status and property.
Mummy portrait from er-Rubayat (Walters Art Museum)
1st/2nd-century mummy portrait from er-Rubayat (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek)
2nd century mummy portrait from er-Rubayat (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek)
Mummy portrait (Antikensammlung Berlin)
2nd-century mummy portrait from Faiyum (Galerie Cybèle, Paris)
2nd-century mummy portrait from er-Rubayat (Antikensammlung Berlin)
3rd-century mummy portrait from er-Rubayat (Brooklyn Museum)
2nd-century mummy portrait (Getty Villa)
2nd-century mummy portrait (Pushkin Museum)
2nd-century mummy portrait (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art)
2nd/3rd-century mummy portrait from er-Rubayat (Walters Art Museum)
2nd-century mummy portrait (Harvard Art Museums)
2nd-century mummy portrait probably from er-Rubayat (Getty Villa)
In the administrative provincial capitals of the nomoi, the m?tropoleis mostly inherited from the Pharaonic and Ptolemaic period, Roman public buildings were erected by the governing strategos and the local gymnasiarch.:189 In most cases, these have not survived and evidence of them is rare, but it is probable that most were built in the classical architecture of the Graeco-Roman world, employing the classical orders in stone buildings.:189 Prominent remains include two Roman theatres at Pelusium, a temple of Serapis and a tetrastyle at Diospolis Magna at Thebes, and, at Philae, a triumphal arch and temples dedicated to the worship of the emperor Augustus and the goddess Roma, the personification of Rome.:189 Besides a few individual stone blocks in some m?tropoleis, substantial remains of Roman architecture are known in particular from three of the m?tropoleis - Heracleopolis Magna, Oxyrhynchus, and Hermopolis Magna - as well as from Antinoöpolis, a city founded c. 130 by the emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138).:189 All these were sacred cities dedicated to particular deities.:189 The ruins of these cities were first methodically surveyed and sketched by intellectuals attached to Napoleon's campaign in Egypt, eventually published in the Description de l'Égypte series.:189 Illustrations produced by Edme-François Jomard and Vivant Denon form much of the evidence of these remains, because since the 19th century many of the ruins have themselves disappeared.:189 South of Thebes, the m?tropoleis may have been largely without classical buildings, but near Antinoöpolis the classical influence may have been stronger.:189 Most m?tropoleis were probably built on the classical Hippodamian grid employed by the Hellenistic polis, as at Alexandria, with the typical Roman pattern of the Cardo (north-south) and Decumanus Maximus (east-west) thoroughfares meeting at their centres, as at Athribis and Antinoöpolis.:189
Vivant Denon made sketches of ruins at Oxyrhynchus, and Edme-François Jomard wrote a description; together with some historical photographs and the few surviving remains, these are the best evidence for the classical architecture of the city, which was dedicated to the medjed, a sacred species of Mormyrus fish.:189 Two groups of buildings survive at Heracleopolis Magna, sacred to Heracles/Hercules, which is otherwise known from Jomard's work, which also forms the mainstay of knowledge about the architecture of Antinoöpolis, founded by Hadrian in honour of his deified lover Antinous.:189 The Napoleonic-era evidence is also important for documenting Hermopolis Magna, where more buildings survive and which was dedicated to the worship of Thoth, equated with Hermes/Mercury.:189
The worship of Egypt's rulers was interrupted entirely by the fall of the Ptolemaic dynasty, who together with their predecessor Alexander the Great had been worshipped with a Egypto-Hellenistic ruler cult.:98 After the Roman conquest of Egypt, Augustus instituted a new Roman imperial cult in Egypt.:98 The official cult was superintended by the archiereus for Alexandria and All Egypt ( , archiereùs Alexandrías kaì Aigyptou pás?s), who was procurator in charge of Egypt's temples and responsible for the worship of the imperial deities and of Serapis throughout the country.:95; 98 As with the praefectus Aegypti, the archiereus of Alexandria and All Egypt was a Roman citizen and probably appointed from the equestrian class.:95 The official cult in Egypt differed from that in other provinces; the goddess Roma, closely associated with the Roman Senate, was not introduced by Augustus, since as an imperial province Egypt lay beyond the reach of the Senate's powers (imperium).:98
An archiereus existed in each of the nomoi; drawn from the local elite through the liturgy system, these high priests were responsible for the maintenance of the imperial temples and cults in their m?tropoleis.:98 These officials, in place since the mid-1st century AD at latest, was each known as the "high priest of the Lords Augusti and all the gods" ( ? ?, archiereùs t?n kurí?n Sebast?n kaì the?n apánt?n) or the "high priest of the city" ( , archiereùs t?s póle?s), and was responsible mainly for the organization of the imperial cult, since the traditional local cults already had their own priesthoods.:92–93 Though imposed by the Roman state and overseen from the provincial capital, the imperial cult was locally organized.:98 Throughout Egypt, sacrificial altars dedicated to the worship of the deified emperor Augustus (Koin? Greek: , romanized: Sebastós, lit. 'Venerable') were set up in dedicated temples (sebasteia or caesarea).:86; 98 Each sebasteion or caesareum had administrative functions as well as organizing the local cult of the emperor.:86 Nevertheless, there is scant evidence that the worship of the emperors was common in private settings, and the Alexandrians were frequently hostile to the emperors themselves.:98
The archiereus for Alexandria and All Egypt was appointed by the emperor.:95 The high priest's full title ("high priest of the gods Augusti and the Great Serapis and the one who is responsible for the temples of Egypt and the whole country") indicates that the cult of Serapis was closely connected with the worship of the emperors and that both were overseen by the same Roman official.:94–95
The imperially-appointed archiereus for Alexandria and All Egypt was responsible for the administrative management of the temples, beyond those of the imperial cult, dedicated to Graeco-Roman deities and the ancient Egyptian gods.:95 He controlled access to the priesthoods of the Egyptian cults: the ritual circumcision of candidates was subject to his approval and he mediated disputes involving temples, wielding some judicial powers.:93
The Patriarchate of Alexandria is traditionally held to be founded by Mark the Evangelist around 42. Evidence for a bishopric before the third century is however slight given the importance of the city's presbyters. Bishops often named their successors (e.g. Peter, his brother, by Athanasius in 373) or the succession was effected by imposing the hands of a deceased bishop on the one chosen to follow him.
By 200 it is clear that Alexandria was one of the great Christian centres. The Christian apologists Clement of Alexandria and Origen both lived part or all of their lives in that city, where they wrote, taught, and debated.
With the Edict of Milan in 313, Constantine I ended the persecution of Christians. Over the course of the 5th century, paganism was suppressed and lost its following, as the poet Palladas pointedly noted. It lingered underground for many decades: the final edict against paganism was issued in 435, but graffiti at Philae in Upper Egypt proves worship of Isis persisted at its temples into the 6th century. Many Egyptian Jews also became Christians, but many others refused to do so, leaving them as the only sizable religious minority in a Christian country.
No sooner had the Egyptian Church achieved freedom and supremacy than it became subject to a schism and prolonged conflict which at times descended into civil war. Alexandria became the centre of the first great split in the Christian world, between the Arians, named for the Alexandrian priest Arius, and their opponents, represented by Athanasius, who became Archbishop of Alexandria in 326 after the First Council of Nicaea rejected Arius's views. The Arian controversy caused years of riots and rebellions throughout most of the 4th century. In the course of one of these, the great temple of Serapis, the stronghold of paganism, was destroyed. Athanasius was alternately expelled from Alexandria and reinstated as its Archbishop between five and seven times.
Patristic authorship was dominated by Egyptian contributions: Athanasius, Didymus the Blind and Cyril, and the power of the Alexandrian see embodied in Athanasius, Theophilus, his nephew, Cyril and shortly by Dioscuros.
Egypt had an ancient tradition of religious speculation, enabling a variety of controversial religious views to thrive there. Not only did Arianism flourish, but other doctrines, such as Gnosticism and Manichaeism, either native or imported, found many followers. Another religious development in Egypt was the monasticism of the Desert Fathers, who renounced the material world in order to live a life of poverty in devotion to the Church.
Egyptian Christians took up monasticism with such enthusiasm that the Emperor Valens had to restrict the number of men who could become monks. Egypt exported monasticism to the rest of the Christian world. Another development of this period was the development of Coptic, a form of the Ancient Egyptian language written with the Greek alphabet supplemented by several signs to represent sounds present in Egyptian which were not present in Greek. It was invented to ensure the correct pronunciation of magical words and names in pagan texts, the so-called Greek Magical Papyri. Coptic was soon adopted by early Christians to spread the word of the gospel to native Egyptians and it became the liturgical language of Egyptian Christianity and remains so to this day.
Christianity was quickly accepted by the people who were oppressed in first-century Roman Egypt. Christianity eventually spread out west to the Berbers. The Coptic Church was established in Egypt. Since Christianity blended with local traditions it never truly united the people against Arabian forces in the seventh and eight centuries. Later on in the seventh and eighth centuries, Christianity spread out to Nubia. 
The fall of the Western Empire in the 5th century further isolated the Egyptian Romans from Rome's culture and hastened the growth of Christianity. The success of Christianity led to a virtual abandonment of pharaonic traditions: with the disappearance of the Egyptian priests and priestesses who officiated at the temples, no-one could read the hieroglyphs of Pharaonic Egypt, and its temples were converted to churches or abandoned to the desert.
Cyril, the patriarch of Alexandria, convinced the city's governor to expel the Jews from the city in 415 with the aid of the mob, in response to the Jews' alleged night-time massacre of many Christians. The murder of the philosopher Hypatia in March 415 marked a dramatic turn in classical Hellenic culture in Egypt but philosophy thrived in sixth century Alexandria. Another schism in the Church produced prolonged disturbances and may have alienated Egypt from the Empire. The countless papyrus finds mark the continuance of Greek culture and institutions at various levels.
The new religious controversy was over the Christ's human and divine nature. The issue was whether he had two natures, human and divine, or a combined one (hypostatic union from his humanity and divinity). In an intensely religious age it was enough to divide an empire. The Miaphysite controversy arose after the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and continued until well after the Council of Chalcedon in 451, which ruled in favour of the position that Christ was "one person in two natures" as opposed to Monophysitism (a single nature).
Monophysite belief was not held by the 'miaphysites' as they stated that Jesus was out of two natures in one nature called, the "Incarnate Logos of God". Many of the 'miaphysites' claimed that they were misunderstood, that there was really no difference between their position be the Chalcedonian position, and that the Council of Chalcedon ruled against them because of political motivations alone. The Church of Alexandria split from the Churches of Rome and Constantinople over this issue, creating what would become the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, which remains a major force in Egyptian religious life today. Egypt and Syria remained hotbeds of Miaphysite sentiment, and organised resistance to the Chalcedonian view was not suppressed until the 570s.
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The province was established in 30 BC after Octavian (the future Roman emperor Augustus) defeated his rival Mark Antony, deposed Pharaoh Cleopatra, and annexed the Ptolemaic Kingdom to the Roman Empire.
The first prefect of Aegyptus, Gaius Cornelius Gallus, brought Upper Egypt under Roman control by force of arms, and established a protectorate over the southern frontier district, which had been abandoned by the later Ptolemies.
The second prefect, Aelius Gallus, made an unsuccessful expedition to conquer Arabia Petraea and even Arabia Felix. The Red Sea coast of Aegyptus was not brought under Roman control until the reign of Claudius. The third prefect, Gaius Petronius, cleared the neglected canals for irrigation, stimulating a revival of agriculture. Petronius even led a campaign into present-day central Sudan against the Kingdom of Kush at Meroe, whose queen Imanarenat had previously attacked Roman Egypt. Failing to acquire permanent gains, in 22 BC he razed the city of Napata to the ground and retreated to the north.
From the reign of Nero onward, Aegyptus enjoyed an era of prosperity which lasted a century. Much trouble was caused by religious conflicts between the Greeks and the Jews, particularly in Alexandria, which after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 became the world centre of Jewish religion and culture. Under Trajan a Jewish revolt occurred, resulting in the suppression of the Jews of Alexandria and the loss of all their privileges, although they soon returned. Hadrian, who twice visited Aegyptus, founded Antinoöpolis in memory of his drowned lover Antinous. From his reign onward buildings in the Greco-Roman style were erected throughout the country.
Under Antoninus Pius oppressive taxation led to a revolt in 139, of the native Egyptians, which was suppressed only after several years of fighting. This Bucolic War, led by one Isidorus, caused great damage to the economy and marked the beginning of Egypt's economic decline. Avidius Cassius, who led the Roman forces in the war, declared himself emperor in 175, and was acknowledged by the armies of Syria and Aegyptus.
On the approach of Marcus Aurelius, Cassius was deposed and killed and the clemency of the emperor restored peace. A similar revolt broke out in 193, when Pescennius Niger was proclaimed emperor on the death of Pertinax. The Emperor Septimius Severus gave a constitution to Alexandria and the provincial capitals in 202.[clarification needed]
Caracalla (211-217) granted Roman citizenship to all Egyptians, in common with the other provincials, but this was mainly to extort more taxes, which grew increasingly onerous as the needs of the emperors for more revenue grew more desperate.
There was a series of revolts, both military and civilian, through the 3rd century. Under Decius, in 250, the Christians again suffered from persecution, but their religion continued to spread. The prefect of Aegyptus in 260, Mussius Aemilianus, first supported the Macriani, usurpers during the rule of Gallienus, and later, in 261, became a usurper himself, but was defeated by Gallienus.
Zenobia, queen of Palmyra, took the country away from the Romans when she conquered Aegyptus in 269, declaring herself the Queen of Egypt also. This warrior queen claimed that Egypt was an ancestral home of hers through a familial tie to Cleopatra VII. She was well educated and familiar with the culture of Egypt, its religion, and its language. She lost it later when the Roman emperor, Aurelian, severed amicable relations between the two countries and retook Egypt in 274.
Two generals based in Aegyptus, Probus and Domitius Domitianus, led successful revolts and made themselves emperors. Diocletian captured Alexandria from Domitius in 298 and reorganised the whole province. His edict of 303 against the Christians began a new era of persecution. This was the last serious attempt to stem the steady growth of Christianity in Egypt, however.
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The reign of Constantine the Great also saw the founding of Constantinople as a new capital for the Roman Empire, and in the course of the 4th century the Empire was divided in two, with Egypt finding itself in the Eastern Empire with its capital at Constantinople. Latin, never well established in Egypt, would play a declining role with Greek continuing to be the dominant language of government and scholarship. During the 5th and 6th centuries the Eastern Roman Empire, known historiographically as the Byzantine Empire, gradually transformed itself into a thoroughly Christian state whose culture differed significantly from its pagan past.
The Eastern Empire became increasingly "oriental" in style as its links with the old Græco-Roman world faded. The Greek system of local government by citizens had now entirely disappeared. Offices, with new Greek-Byzantine names, were almost hereditary in the wealthy land-owning families. Alexandria, the second city of the empire, continued to be a centre of religious controversy and violence.
Egypt nevertheless continued to be an important economic center for the Empire supplying much of its agriculture and manufacturing needs as well as continuing to be an important center of scholarship. It would supply the needs of the Byzantine Empire and the Mediterranean as a whole. The reign of Justinian (527–565) saw the Empire recapture Rome and much of Italy from the barbarians, but these successes left the empire's eastern flank exposed. The Empire's "bread basket" now lacked protection.
Ancient episcopal sees of the Roman province of Aegyptus Primus (I) listed in the Annuario Pontificio as titular sees,  suffragans of the Patriarchate of Alexandria : The list here however does not cover other provinces such as Augustamnica, Arcadia and Thebais.
The Sasanian conquest of Egypt, beginning in AD 618 or 619, was one of the last Sassanid triumphs in the Roman-Persian Wars against Byzantium. From 619 to 628, they incorporated Egypt once again within their territories, the previous (much longer) time being under the Achaemenids. Khosrow II Parvêz had begun this war in retaliation for the assassination of Emperor Maurice (582-602) and had achieved a series of early successes, culminating in the conquests of Jerusalem (614) and Alexandria (619).
A Byzantine counteroffensive launched by Emperor Heraclius in the spring of 622 shifted the advantage, and the war was brought to an end by the fall of Khosrow on 25 February 628. The Egyptians had no love of the emperor in Constantinople and put up little resistance. Khosrow's son and successor, Kavadh II ?êrôe (?êrôy), who reigned until September, concluded a peace treaty returning territories conquered by the Sassanids to the Eastern Roman Empire.
The Sassanian conquest allowed Miaphysitism to resurface in the open in Egypt, and when imperial rule was restored by Emperor Heraclius in 629, the Miaphysites were persecuted and their patriarch expelled. Egypt was thus in a state of both religious and political alienation from the Empire when a new invader appeared.
An army of 4,000 Arabs led by Amr Ibn Al-Aas was sent by the Caliph Umar, successor to Muhammad, to spread Islamic rule to the west. Arabs crossed into Egypt from Palestine in December 639, and advanced rapidly into the Nile Delta. The Imperial garrisons retreated into the walled towns, where they successfully held out for a year or more.
The Arabs sent for reinforcements, and in April 641 they besieged and captured Alexandria. The Byzantines assembled a fleet with the aim of recapturing Egypt, and won back Alexandria in 645. The Muslims retook the city in 646, completing the Muslim conquest of Egypt. 40,000 civilians were evacuated to Constantinople with the imperial fleet. Thus ended 975 years of Greco-Roman rule over Egypt.
Mummy Mask of a Man, early 1st century AD, 72.57, Brooklyn Museum
Zenobia coin reporting her title as queen of Egypt (Augusta), and showing her diademed and draped bust on a crescent. The obverse shows a standing figure of Ivno Regina (Juno) holding a patera in her right hand and a sceptre in her left hand, with a peacock at her feet and a brilliant star on the left.