- Hellenistic Egypt: Monarchy, Society, Economy, Culture
This title promises a bit more than it delivers: the book is not a systematic discussion of the economic and cultural history of Hellenistic Egypt, but a series of essays written between 1970 and 1999, all but one in French, now translated, arranged, and edited by Roger Bagnall, who provides a contextualizing introduction. The essays are grouped into four sections: the Ptolemies, the Greek populations, the royal economy, and the interactions of Greeks and Egyptians. The book’s appearance tells us more about the emergence of Hellenistic Egypt as an important field of study than about the value of the information it contains (though the addition of bibliography and indices is welcome). Jean Bingen is a scholar of considerable distinction, whose work over three decades has been well assimilated by scholars in the field. But Bingen does not engage with non-Greek [End Page 503] material available from Egypt and tends to formulate questions about economies, ethnicity, and power, based on a rather narrow set of texts and assumptions. As interesting and important as many of these essays are, they are a reflection of where the field has been, not where it seems to be going.
Susan Stephens, professor of classics at Stanford University, is the author of Seeing Double: Intercultural Poetics in Ptolemaic Alexandria. Trained as a papyrologist, she has published literary and documentary texts belonging to the Oxyrhynchus and Yale collections and is coeditor of Ancient Greek Novels: The Fragments.