North Africa

Egypt History – The Ptolemaic Age Part VIII

The chiefs of the villages and the toparchi had the main task of presiding over the collection of taxes: collection, transport and storage of soil products for taxes payable in kind, and for the collection of sums due in cash. They were assisted by the heads of the royal warehouses or ϑησαυροί, by the sitologists, for the grain, and by the trapezites, semi-official bankers, and by special single tax collectors. All revenues were centralized in the royal cash desk (τὸ βασιλικόν) whose management was entrusted to a finance minister, diocete, who had almost unlimited competence to operate the bureaucratic machine, assisted by the administrator of the private cash register, by the hypodiocete, by the epistolographer and by inferior employees, among whom there were several who possessed knowledge of the two languages. This is the system, and it is evident that the consideration of their own interests placed a limit on the capricious dissipations and expenditures for unproductive purposes on the Ptolemies. That if many of the riches served to satisfy the luxury of the sovereign, or to consolidate the power of a dynasty that the Egyptians suffered and that had distant possessions to defend, it is equally certain that many riches were spent on public utility works, for the development of culture, arts and sciences. No doubt the financial and economic policy of the Lagids left to their subjects, especially the Egyptians, too small part of their incomes, subject to astounding monopolies, of wealth and to make existing ones more productive,

According to shoefrantics.com, the Ptolemies, contrary to the merger policy initiated by Alexander the Great, attempted to establish a clear separation between the Greeks and Egyptians. This purpose appears above all in the exclusion of the latter from the fighting or permanent army. In general, in fact, until Ptolemy IV the Egyptians were used only as oarsmen in the fleet. The army was made up mainly of Macedonians, who not only formed the bodyguard, but also the central nucleus of the various militias made up of Greeks from the motherland and colonies; next to these there are no shortage of Persians or those originating from Misia, Pisidia, Lycia, etc. This state of affairs lasted until 217, when Ptolemy Philopator organized a body of Egyptian soldiers to use them against Antiochus. In so doing, the king, if he provided for immediate interest of the dynasty, on the other hand determined the awakening of national sentiment and the consequent weakening of Hellenic superiority. in the sec. II an Egyptian “guard”, the ἐκίλεκτον, had garrisoned in Alexandria and Egyptians meet in high military posts. In time of war, new mercenaries gathered around the army on permanent service, hired on the large, always open markets. Apart from the garrison of Alexandria, made up of Macedonians, there were large garrisons of soldiers distributed in the provinces and in the main cities of the interior as cleruchs, and whom we must consider not as veterans, but as active soldiers, subject at all times to be mobilized.. The army included knights and foot soldiers. The cavalry was distributed in hipparchies and ἴλαι. The grouping took place according to the number of land areas granted in concession, 100 or 70, and in the century. II also 30 (indigenous knights); the four hipparchies, made up of knights of 70 arura, bear ethnic names: of Thracians, of Thessalians, of Misî, of Persians; but, if in the beginning the members of that given hipparchy were originally from the country that the name indicated, later individuals of different ethnic backgrounds were admitted. The infantry included subdivisions of 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50 men. Alongside the officers (chiliarchs, pentacosiarchs, etc.) there were officers of the superintendency, scribes, accountants. composed of knights of 70 arura, they bear ethnic names: of Thracians, of Thessalians, of Misî, of Persians; but, if in the beginning the members of that given hipparchy were originally from the country that the name indicated, later individuals of different ethnic backgrounds were admitted. The infantry included subdivisions of 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50 men. Alongside the officers (chiliarchs, pentacosiarchs, etc.) there were officers of the superintendency, scribes, accountants. composed of knights of 70 arura, they bear ethnic names: of Thracians, of Thessalians, of Misî, of Persians; but, if in the beginning the members of that given hipparchy were originally from the country that the name indicated, later individuals of different ethnic backgrounds were admitted. The infantry included subdivisions of 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50 men. Alongside the officers (chiliarchs, pentacosiarchs, etc.) there were officers of the superintendency, scribes, accountants.

Religion could present a danger of grave conflicts and insuperable divisions between the subject people and the conquerors. The Ptolemies managed to skillfully overcome the very serious difficulties, showing themselves very tolerant of religion but equally firm in opposing the clergy to constitute, as had happened under the pharaohs, a state within a state. Many Greek deities, roughly corresponding in their generic essence, were juxtaposed with the Egyptian deities, identified with them, merged. This explains the great scarcity, in Ptolemaic Egypt, of sanctuaries dedicated to purely Hellenic divinities, and the fact that the Greek cults of Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, although officially recognized, are not among the most conspicuous. The most skilful act of the Lagidi religious policy was the creation of Serapis (v.). This new god became the supreme head of the Alexandrian pantheon and exercised a very important function as an element of fusion between the two peoples, in the religious field. Serapis was given as wife Isis (v.): The two gods conquered, it can be said, the whole world then known. The old gods of the natives were highly respected and honored, but it is no longer the high priest who administers their goods. The king holds effective religious power, which has become a function of the monarchical state and not a parallel power. The priests could gather in assemblies only to decree new honors to the sovereign. Until Ptolemy IV, a general meeting of the entire Egyptian priesthood took place in Alexandria every year to celebrate the king’s birthday. Ptolemy V, by renouncing this meeting, gave proof of great weakness. Indeed, also the politics of a pre-eminently Hellenic character, was carried out and applied with greater or lesser vigor according to the greater or lesser energy of the reigning sovereign, and, above all, according to the greater or lesser resignation of the indigenous priesthood, and the greater or lesser success of the revolts that ‘it openly occurred or covertly aroused. After the battle of Rafia, the Ptolemies showed themselves more and more compliant also towards the clergy. The Greeks generally welcomed the cult of animals; alongside the pre-existing divinities others arose, Greek-Egyptian, syncretistic, particular to the Hellenistic period. Living rulers, deified according to the Greek rite, were admitted as ούνναοι ϑεοί next to the main indigenous god, venerated in a given temple, when a similar decision was made by the Egyptian priesthood.

Egypt History - The Ptolemaic Age 8