Depictions of Intellectuals and Philosophers in Egypt during the Greco-Roman Period
Dr. Sobhy Ashour
23 February 2017
The BA Antiquities Museum is organizing a lecture titled “Depictions of Intellectuals and Philosophers in Egypt during the Greco-Roman Period”. The lecture is going to be held on Thursday, 23 February 2017, the BA Floating Room on level (F4), at 2:00 pm. It will be delivered by Dr. Sobhy Ashour, professor of Greco-Roman Arts and Archaeology at the Faculty of Arts, Helwan University. The researcher will discuss the prosperous cultural and scientific movements, the core of which were the famed library and Musaeum, during the Ptolemaic Period. The royal patronage of said activities and prosperity was a great incentive for numerous Greek academics and literati to travel to Egypt. Literary resources and papyrus contain abundant information on such activities, unlike the visual illustrations and representations of Greek intellectuals that existed at the same time. These cultural and scientific activities throve in Roman Egypt as well, and they reached a number of provinces, such as Al Faiyum, Al Bahnasa, Hermopolis, and Aphroditopolis. The interest in portraying intellectuals and philosophers in Egypt continued during the Roman period, as the historian Arrian documented that Ptolemy IV built a temple to Homer and that there may have been an Alexandrian model of an exedra for philosophers and poets in Memphis.
The Antiquities Museum has a valuable collection, prized among Egyptian museums, of portrayals of intellectuals, including a funerary stele from the Chatby Necropolis that represents a memorial of one of the philosophers or intellectuals who were dynamic and active in Alexandria during the 3rd century BCE. Several statues of Greek thinkers usually had Roman copies and adaptations, such as the marble pyramid representing Xenophon, a famed Athenian historian and soldier. Statues and sculptures of Socrates, Plato, Zeno, Hermarchus, Menander, Hesiod, and others are also found in Egypt. The 2nd century AE was probably the time when Greek philosophy peaked in the East and resulted in the spread of statues of new sophists, such as the elegant marble statue with a Greek pallium in Marsa Matrouh and terracotta statues of school students and learners. Another marble statue from a cemetery located in Sporting, Alexandria, demonstrates how Roman soldiers (togati) were keen on dressing as intellectuals or learned men when performing their civil duties.