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The Gift of the Nile: Hellenizing Egypt from Aeschylus to Alexander

The Gift of the Nile: Hellenizing Egypt from Aeschylus to Alexander

Hardback Classics and Contemporary Thought

By (author) Phiroze Vasunia

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  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Format: Hardback | 360 pages
  • Dimensions: 161mm x 237mm x 29mm | 667g
  • Publication date: 4 December 2001
  • Publication City/Country: Berkerley
  • ISBN 10: 0520228200
  • ISBN 13: 9780520228207
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Illustrations note: 8 b/w photographs
  • Sales rank: 1,559,437

Product description

The Egyptians mesmerized the ancient Greeks for scores of years. The Greek literature and art of the classical period are especially thick with representations of Egypt and Egyptians. Yet despite numerous firsthand contacts with Egypt, Greek writers constructed their own Egypt, one that differed in significant ways from actual Egyptian history, society, and culture. Informed by recent work on orientalism and colonialism, this book unravels the significance of these misrepresentations of Egypt in the Greek cultural imagination in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. Looking in particular at issues of identity, otherness, and cultural anxiety, Phiroze Vasunia shows how Greek authors constructed an image of Egypt that reflected their own attitudes and prejudices about Greece itself. He focuses his discussion on Aeschylus Suppliants; Book 2 of Herodotus; Euripides' Helen; Plato's Phaedrus, Timaeus, and Critias; and Isocrates' Busiris. Reconstructing the history of the bias that informed these writings, Vasunia shows that Egypt in these works was shaped in relation to Greek institutions, values, and ideas on such subjects as gender and sexuality, death, writing, and political and ethnic identity. This study traces the tendentiousness of Greek representations by introducing comparative Egyptian material, thus interrogating the Greek texts and authors from a cross-cultural perspective. A final chapter also considers the invasion of Egypt by Alexander the Great and shows how he exploited and revised the discursive tradition in his conquest of the country. Firmly and knowledgeably rooted in classical studies and the ancient sources, this study takes a broad look at the issue of cross-cultural exchange in antiquity by framing it within the perspective of contemporary cultural studies. In addition, this provocative and original work shows how Greek writers made possible literary Europe's most persistent and adaptable obsession: the barbarian.

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Author information

Phiroze Vasunia is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Table of contents

Editor's Foreword Acknowledgments Chronology of Ancient Egypt Introduction Framing the Issues Sources and a Blueprint Historical Background 1. The Tragic Egyptian Splitting the Danaids Egypt as Locus for Male Fertility Blackness and Death Marrying the Egyptians Doubles in Helen To Die For 2. Space and Otherness The Pharaoh's Space Mapping Egypt Symmetry and Inversion The Traveler's Eye Egyptian Space 3. In an Antique Land Absolute History The Legacies of the Past Egypt and the Trojan War Egyptian Time In an Antique Land 4. Writing Egyptian Writing Graphomania The Tyrant's Writ The Gods of Writing Plato's Grammatology Egyptian Writing Writing and Control 5. Reading Isocrates' Busiris Busiris the Egyptian Reading Isocrates' Speech The Paradox of Parody Isocrates, Plato, Athens 6. Plato's Egyptian Story A Graphic History From Isocrates to Crantor Athens and Atlantis 7. Alexander's Conquest and the Force of Tradition Greeks and Macedonians Homer and Alexander Herodotus and Alexander Aristotle and Alexander The Conquest of Egypt Epilogue Appendix: Fragmentary Greek Historians on Egypt, to 332 B.C.E. Abbreviations Bibliography Index Illustrations follow page xxx.