Documents such as letters, accounts, and contracts provide an intimate view of people's daily lives. That is the case for us today, as it was for people in history. We are therefore very fortunate that the dry sands of Egypt have preserved tens of thousands of written documents on papyrus and other writing materials that provide evidence for people's lives over a period of several thousands of years.
This exhibit brings together examples that show how documents can help scholars reconstruct people's lives in ancient Egypt in the ten centuries after Alexander the Great arrived in 332 B.C.E. After Alexander's conquest, Egypt became a Hellenistic (Greek) kingdom under the dynasty of the Ptolemies. Three centuries later, when the Romans defeated the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, Egypt became part of the Roman Empire and later Byzantine Empire.
All of the texts shown here form part of the Papyrus Collection of the University of Michigan.
Timeline of important events332 - 30 B.C.E. PTOLEMAIC PERIOD
- 332 B.C.E. Alexander the Great invades Egypt.
- 305 B.C.E. Egypt becomes an independent Hellenistic kingdom under Ptolemy I Soter. Greek gradually becomes the language of the administration, although Egyptian remains in use.
- 51-30 B.C.E. Cleopatra VII rules Egypt jointly with her brothers Ptolemy XIII, Ptolemy XIV and her son Caesarion.
- 30 B.C.E. Egypt becomes a province of the Roman empire.
- 249-251 C.E. Under the Roman emperor Decius there is a persecution of Christians.
- 284-305 C.E. Under Diocletian Egypt is divided into three independent provinces.
- 395 C.E. The Roman empire is divided into a western and an eastern part; Egypt belongs to the latter.
- 639-641 C.E. Arab forces under the command of Amir ibn al-As conquer Egypt and Egypt becomes a province of the Caliphate.