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The archaeology of Hellenistic, Roman and Christian Egypt


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

BA-degree (or equivalent) in Archaeology, Egyptology, Art History, Classics or another relevant discipline.


When the Macedonian general Ptolemy began ruling Egypt in the late 4th century BC as the successor of Alexander the Great, he was initially a foreigner, and he had his kingship recasted in a local idiom. His successors built this principle into an elaborate symbolic system. This suggests that Hellenistic Egypt had an ‘Egyptian’ as well as a ‘Hellenistic’ face. But what kind of consequences did this form of culture contact between Greeks and Egyptians have for society on a large scale, and how did it develop over time? What kind of society was Hellenistic Egypt and how does the use of different forms and types of material culture relate to social structure? What role did Alexandria play?
Similar questions can be posed for the Roman and, perhaps most in particular, the Christian period. What makes culture contact between Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Christians in this period so fascinating in particular is the apparent strength of the Egyptian tradition. An inscription on the back wall of the naos of the main temple for Isis at Philae, constructed by Augustus after he had brought Egypt in the power of the Roman people, tells that the emperor had built this monument ‘for his mother Isis’. At the same time there were three Roman legions stationed in Egypt and the 2nd century AD Egypt saw a building boom as the rest of the Empire.
And what about the ‘romanity’ of Roman Egypt when we look at agriculture, clothing and religion? In this course, these questions will be discussed in class and explored by the students through their own research into a specific topic.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of sources available for the archaeology of Hellenistic, Roman and Christian Egypt and ability to view these sources critically, with a focus on an independent chosen topic;

  • Ability to critically assess the discussions, current research and literature on the ‘Hellenisation’, ‘Romanisation’ and ‘Christianisation’ of Egypt in this period and ability to formulate one’s own point of view in this discussion;

  • Ability to work together in a team on a research topic, come to a combined presentation and paper, and ability to critically assess the different presentations of the other students;

  • Ability to choose a research topic, find relevant literature and present this via a PowerPoint-presentation and ability to handle a stimulating discussion afterwards;

  • Ability to write a paper on one’s study topic, while assessing the literature critically and presenting one’s own opinion and incorporating the received feedback of the presentation;

  • Enhanced performance in the following areas: research skills, composition skills, ability to evaluate the findings of other scholars.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Literature discussion;

  • Presentation;

  • Research & final paper.
    All participants are required to read some general literature (to be specified). This literature will be discussed and elaborated upon in several lectures serving as a general introduction. Subsequently, every participant carries out research on a topic of his/her own choosing and will be asked to present some preliminary results in the course. For this research the students are stimulated to work together in groups. The participants will also be asked to comment on the preliminary findings obtained by fellow-students and to submit a final paper with their research results.

Assessment method

  • Active participation;

  • Short presentation of preliminary findings;

  • Final paper on the research carried out.

Reading list

To be handed out in class.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact dr M.J. Versluys.