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Carla Gebauer

 carla gebauer

Dissertation Project: Communicating the Heroic in Ptolemaic Egypt

While consolidating their rule the Ptolemaic dynasty faced the domestic challenge of ruling a populace consisting of Greek colonists and Egyptians, in addition to various other ethnic groups. It was imperative for the Ptolemies to prove themselves as legitimate rulers to both of these large sections of the populace and simultaneously pursue the expansion of their sphere of influence by maximizing economic prosperity.

In order to operate politically amid the social tensions of a multi-ethnic society their authority could not be asserted purely by military means. Instead, the intent was to validate the Ptolemaic claim to power through rite and religion. In the Egyptian as well as in the Greek tradition the deifying exaltation of monarchs represented a considerable source of power.

The hero as a decisive element in the process of a rulers’ transcendence is to be examined firstly as a culturally specific phenomenon in order to subsequently determine his relevance concerning the cultural validation of the Macedonian ruling dynasty. To begin with the project will determine what aspects constituted heroism in Ptolemaic Egypt and in which sense and ways this concept was communicated. For this, Demotic hero narratives, heroizing biographies and ritual texts will be examined. Moreover, the extensive analysis of their individual contexts should reveal the function of the hero in the society and shed light on whether or not the creation and reception of such a heroic figure can be assigned to a particular social or political milieu.

Subsequently, the central question will be to what extent the concept of the heroic functioned as a social and political communication stage in order to render the different concepts of monarchy culturally transferrable and thereby gain broad acceptance of the god-like veneration of the Ptolemaic rulers.

The results from this research project promise to provide further information on the extent to which such a figuration could unify tradition and intercultural dialogue as well as further insight into the importance attributed to heroes during a process of societal change as in the time of the Ptolemies in Egypt.