Greece in Egypt and Egypt in Greece, from Homer to Rome and Byzantium
About the project
Graeco-Aegyptiaca is a collaborative initiative by colleagues in the fields of Egyptology and Classics based in Hungary and the United Kingdom. We hope the project will grow into an international network bringing together researchers in Europe and across the world who are interested in the history of cultural interaction between Egyptians and Greeks from the very beginning to the Byzantine period.
The initial impetus for this project came from a small collective of scholars in the UCL Department of Greek and Latin in London and the Palladion, a community-focused Classics project based in Budapest. As a mix of Hellenists and Egyptologists, and of experts on texts and material culture, we aim to break down the disciplinary boundaries that have stifled progress in this area for far too long, stimulating discussion and creating a forum for sharing questions and ideas.
Who we are
Peter Agócs is a lecturer in Classics specialising in Archaic and Classical Greek poetry at UCL; Árpád M. Nagy is a professor of Classical archaeology at the University of Pécs; and Kata Endreffy is a lecturer in Egyptology at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. Besides being active in Palladion, both the latter have extensive museum experience as former directors of the Classical Collection in the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts.
We in the Graeco-Aegyptiaca collective look forward to your participation, your ideas and enthusiasm, and to working together on projects of importance and interest to us all!
Programme in 2022/2023
In the fall of 2022 we will be continuing our online Graeco-Aegyptiaca seminar inaugurated in January 2022. The series will consist of 40-minute papers given monthly by established scholars in the field of Egyptian and Greek cultural relations. Lectures will be held on ZOOM; participation is free, but registration is required. If you are interested in attending our events, please register on our Eventbrite page.
Recordings of previous lectures are available in our Video archive.
October 25, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Kata Endreffy (The Palladion – Eötvös Loránd University), ‘Seeing double: visualizing creation on Graeco-Egyptian stone dishes’
Correspondence, translation or convergence? The talk focuses on relief-decorated stone dishes, a unique and relatively little-known set of objects from Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, and looks at how the concept of creation is expressed in their diverse iconographical repertoire through a coherent fusion of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman images of renewal and triumph.
November 29, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge (Collège de France, FNRS), ‘Herodotus as an historian of religions and polytheism: the Egyptian matrix’
My lecture aims at addressing some well-known passages of Herodotus’s Book 2 about the origin of the gods and the place of the divine in his inquiry. The fact that these passages, crucial for the modern historian of religions, are embedded in the developments on Egypt is related to the Greek vision of the depth of Egyptian time, but the overall framework remains purely Greek and refers to what we call “Greek religion”.
January 31, 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Tamar Hodos (University of Bristol), ‘Eggstraordinary Objects: Ostrich Eggs as Luxury Items in the Ancient Mediterranean’
Decorated ostrich eggs were traded as luxury items from the Middle East to the western Mediterranean during the second and first millennia BCE. The eggs were engraved, painted, and occasionally embellished with ivory, precious metals and faience fittings. While archaeologists note their presence as unusual vessels in funerary and dedicatory contexts, little is known about how or from where they were sourced, decorated and traded. Researchers at Bristol University, Durham University, and the British Museum have established techniques to identify where the eggs originated and how they were decorated, while researchers from Bristol, Cranfield, Ghent, Leuven, and Newcastle Universities have assessed comparative methods to identify pigments. This talk shares the results of our studies, revealing the complexity of the production, trade, and economic and social values of luxury organic items between competing cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world.
February 28, 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Raquel Martín-Hernández (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Composing Magical Formularies in Late Antique Egypt
The so-called Greek Magical Papyri form one of the most interesting and strange groups of ancient texts surviving on papyrus from the Roman period. They were published as individual texts almost since their discovery, but re-edited as a corpus thanks to the joint efforts of a group of scholars under the leadership of K. Preisendanz (1924–1928). The edition of these texts has been fundamental for the study of magical and vernacular religious practices in Greco-Roman Egypt. In recent years, the project “Transmission of Magical Knowledge in Antiquity”, based in Chicago, has been working on a new critical edition of the Greco-Egyptian magical formularies in which the study of the text is combined with information offered by the material study of the books themselves. Until recently, scholarship has tended to view the magical papyri as a monolithic block; thanks to the Chicago project, we are learning to see just how varied and diverse these papyri are. Written mostly in Greek, these texts constitute one of the most interesting, and still largely untapped, resources for the study of Greco-Egyptian cultural interaction in the Roman Empire.
My lecture belongs in this trend of research. I aim to provide an overview of the preserved Greco-Egyptian magical formularies, discussing their particularities and similarities. Certain magical books in particular will be studied in order to present ideas on how magical knowledge was transmitted in Roman Egypt, and for whom the production of such magnificent books may have been destined.
April 25, 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Carolina López-Ruiz (University of Chicago), ‘Egyptian Herakles and Syrian Aphrodite? Disentangling perceptions of Phoenician art and religion in the Greek tradition’
In this talk I will offer some thoughts on the entanglement of Phoenician and Egyptian cultures, and focus on the impact this phenomenon had in the perception of Phoenician art and religion in ancient Greek traditions and modern scholarship.
May 30, 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Lindsey Mazurek (Indiana University, Bloomington), ‘Imagining a Greek Home for an Egyptian Goddess: Time, Landscape, and Architecture in Greek Sanctuaries to Isis’
When Isis first arrived on Greek shores in the 3rd century BCE, her new followers had to build sanctuaries appropriate to an Egyptian goddess. In the process of imagining a place for their Greek Isis to dwell, devotees came up with a wide range of eclectic solutions that intertwined local needs, imperialist fantasy, and fantastical chronology. These sanctuaries do not draw from contemporaneous Egyptian art and architecture, but rather from Greek stereotypes about Egypt and the Nile River. Isis’ Greek temples, I argue, allowed Greek devotees to imagine Egypt in a way that responded to their own experiences as provincial subjects of the Roman Empire.
I begin with a brief overview of Isis’ and Sarapis cults’ arrival in Greece in the early Hellenistic period. Then, I turn to literary evidence, in which Greco-Roman authors from Herodotus to Pliny the Younger characterize Egypt as a timeless and strange place and highlight its unique flora and fauna. I next trace the popularity of these ideas in wall paintings and mosaics, where depictions of the Nile convey ideas of otherness and imperial control. I conclude by discussing the sanctuaries of the Egyptian gods at Marathon and Gortyna. The sanctuary at Marathon combines imaginative architecture that resembles Pharaonic Egyptian temples, archaizing sculpture that evoked a timeless Greco-Egyptian past, and a riverine setting that recalled the Nile Delta. At Gortyna, the sanctuary includes both an underground water crypt that echoed the Nilometers used to measure the river’s annual flood and cattle statuettes that personified the river’s waters. Taken together, this evidence suggests that Greek devotees used sanctuary spaces to explore Greek conceptions of Egypt as an imagined, far-off, and ancient place that they could control in much the same way that Rome controlled and imagined Greece.
June 27, 2023. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Alexandra Villing (British Museum), ‘Naukratis: new fieldwork and new results’
Alexandra Villing will discuss her recent fieldwork and monograph on the site of Naukratis, which she carried out together with Ross Thomas, and which has the potential to transform our understanding of this important archaic Greek site in Egypt.
September, 2023. John Tait (University College London), ‘Demotic narrative and emotions’
Emotional responses (both those of the characters of the plot and those of the audiences) play an important role in all narrative. This paper looks at how they operate in Demotic Egyptian narratives, and asks whether or not variations can be seen, either between genres, or between individual compositions.
- January 25, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Véronique Dasen (Université de Fribourg), ‘Visual bilingualism in Graeco-Egyptian amulet gems’
- February 22, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Joachim F. Quack (Universität Heidelberg), ‘Demotic Egyptian traditions of the war of the gods and giants’
- March 22, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Marianne Bergmann (Universität Göttingen), ‘Diocletian’s porphyry workshop. New images for the Tetrarchic rulers made in Egypt and the role of local craftsmanship in their conception.’
- April 26, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Cäcilia Fluck (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), ‘Akhmîm-Panopolis – City of the weavers from Late Antiquity to the Arab Middle Ages’
- May 24, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Ian Rutherford (University of Reading), ‘Theogonies and Theomachies in Egypt, Greece and Elsewhere. Comparisons, Connections and Speculations’
- June 28, 2022. 17:00 (CET; 16:00 GMT). Marina Escolano-Poveda (University of Manchester), ‘The interactions of Egyptian- and Greek-language astronomy: new sources and open questions’
Image credit: The Colossi of Memnon, Thebes, Egypt. Photo: MusikAnimal, source: Wikipedia (CC-BY-SA-4.0).