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Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Roman family

The Roman family has been the focus of many studies in the recent decades, and BrynMawr Reviews presents now a review of a collection of articles published in 2005. This book contains also an article on Egypt and one on ancient Palestinian family structures (you can see its List of Contents here):

Michele George (ed.), The Roman Family in the Empire. Rome, Italy, and
Beyond.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2005.  Pp. 384.  ISBN
0-19-926841-X.  $125.00.

Here are some excerpts of the review concerning Egypt and Palestine:

“Richard Alston’s contribution (pp. 129-157) on the Egyptian family, by
evaluating a vast array of sources (census returns, archives and
private letters of the first three centuries AD) arrives at the
conclusion that it is not possible to sketch a homogeneous family
structure for Roman Egypt. Altson discusses endogamous marriage in
Egypt as a degree of insecurity felt by family members in respect to a
harsher outside world. Although families appear to have had a fairly
tight-knit centre “often concentrating on a single conjugal
relationship” they could extend to include others that were not kin for
social and economic purposes. In some cases the author underlines that
family was so extended as to dissolve into community (an aspect
particularly shown by the letters).”

“The Jewish family in Judea from Pompey to Hadrian is analyzed by
Margaret Williams (pp. 159-182). Romanization, according to the author,
was mainly restricted to the elites who had the wealth to buy the Roman
status symbols, and–as far as regulation was concerned–it took place
in areas where the Thora was unprescriptive as in the fields of
marriage arrangements and burial. Without doubt Romanization brought
changes but they were superficial as the onomastic data would prove.
Williams argues that “it would not have cost non-elite Jews anything to
give their children Roman names,” therefore if they chose not to,
preferring the names used by the Maccabees and the Hasmonean dynasty,
it is evidence of their intention of maintaining a cultural identity
but also of their political attitude towards Rome.”

Highlights from Alexandria

dscn0827Just a few highlights from my trip to Alexandria, Egypt, in the beginning of January. Looking across the harbour you can see the Library. Due to its low profile you can hardly see it in this picture, but it has a wonderful location close to the shore.

No lighthouse, but

dscn0825Looking across the harbour, to the place where the old famous Lighthouse is supposed to have been located.

dscn0823Alexandria is known forits fish and fishing ‘industry’; here are some fisher men mending their nets. Alexandria accordingly also have several fish restaurants, and we tried one, and had an excellent dinner. But don’t ask me the name of the fish.

dscn0826I  couldn’t stand the temptation to post this picture; remove the cars, and you can hardly tell what century it pictures. This great mosque was close to the beach, and to the reataurant where we had our dinner.

Books on Alexandria

When in Egypt, I found some relevant books on Alexandria. The American University Press in Cairo has an excellent bookstore in Cairo, and publishes regularly a lot of books relevant both for present days and ancient Egypt.

Concerning Alexandria, there is a couple of tourist guides you might want to consult if travelling: first and foremost, there is the Lonely Planet volume on Egypt in general:
A Travellers Guide.

Then there is another focusing more on Alexandria:
Jenny Jobbins & Mary Megalli,
Alexandria and the Egyptian Mediterranean.
The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo 1993/2006.

More, relevant perhaps, are these volumes focusing ecplicitly on Alexandria:
Michael Haag,
Alexandria. City of Memory
The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo 2004
Anthony Hirst & Michael Silk,
Alexandria. Real and Imagined.
The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo 2006.
This latter volume contains several articles that are very relevant for those interested in Alexandria in Graeco-Roman times.

Entering Alexandria!

Finally, I was able to enter Alexandria! Below are a few glimpses of my trip to the old city and its modern library.