Reassessing the Ptolemaic settlement policies: Another look at the “poleis”

Wed, 3/15 · 4:30 pm · Bowl 002 Robertson Hall

Christelle Isabel Fischer-Bovet, U Southern California

Program in the Ancient World

For a long time, the view was that the Ptolemies were not active in founding polis-like settlements, especially in comparison to the Seleucids, and the whole interpretative framework was that of rulers with little imperial ambitions. Building on recent studies that challenge such a view, this talk, based on a paper, assesses third-century Ptolemaic settlements in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Red Sea basin, with a focus on those called “poleis” in the sources. It then compares them to second-century Upper Egypt and Southern border “poleis”, examining the strategical and political reasons for their foundation and their location, the identity of the settlers and founders, arguing that the latter were mediators between the kings and the population rather than usurpers of the kings’ functions. Finally, it suggests that the Ptolemaic imperial administration did not reject the idea of founding poleis but “re-invented” the concept in the Egyptian context, where what could be called the “Greco-Egyptian poleis” developed.