“Because I Am Greek”: Polyonymy as an Expression of Ethnicity in Ptolemaic Egypt
Leuven: Peeters, 2016 pp. xx + 429. €98.00
Studia Hellenistica, 55
Description: Double names have a long history in Egypt. The are already attested on Old Kingdom funerary monuments, where concern about eternal life required a correct identification of the deceased. When Greek and Egyptian cultures came into contact under the Ptolemies, bilingual polyonymy (i.e. the combination of an Egyptian and a Greek name) became more popular. During this period, Greek ethnicity was valued as a symbol of power and social status, and was used to create borders between the rulers and the ruled. At the same time, however, it was a flexible concept and this made it a useful tool for crossing the very same boundaries it constructed.
As ethnicity became a crucial aspect of one's identity, it is not surprising that bilingual polyonymy was well attested among those that formed a bridge between the ruling class and the Egyptian population: particularly military, administrative and priestly officials. Since they moved between largely separated ethnic contexts, combining names of different linguistic origins was a way to negotiate their ethnic identities. Rather than serving as a reliable source for ethnic origin, names can therefore be interpreted as an expression of the ethnic identity of an individual in a certain space or context.
Subjects: Ancient Near East, Egyptian Literature, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches
Review by Stewart Moore
Citation: Stewart Moore, review of Sandra Coussement, “Because I Am Greek”: Polyonymy as an Expression of Ethnicity in Ptolemaic Egypt, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2018).
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