Egyption History & Travel - 2010

Six months is the amount of time that Alexander actually spent in Egypt. During that time he studied Egyptian philosophy and religion, ordered the reconstruction of the temples at Karnak and Luxor, founded the city of Alexandria, and was anointed Pharaoh in Memphis on November 14, 332 BC. Because his mother, Olympia, had inspired him with stories about Egyptian civilization and culture, he easily assimilated his beliefs in his Greek gods into the Egyptian pantheon. For instance, he accepted Amun as the counterpart of Zeus. Since earlier times Greeks such as Herodotus, Pliny, Thucydides, and Plato had been conversant with things Egyptian through travel and study. Aristotle would have added to Alexander's knowledge of Egypt and he was primed to become a convert. Furthermore, the towering monuments of Egypt's ancient Pharaohs, things like the pyramids of Giza, Karnak and Luxor, overwhelmed him with their larger than life construction and art work. Even Athens did not possess such glorious buildings and statuary. Thus, while Alexander brought Hellenization to the Egyptians, they filled him with awe and respect for their great civilization. Alexander's presence and influence in Egypt is recorded everywhere. First of all, he actually laid out the plans for his city of Alexandria—streets, drainage systems, port facilities, the great library, water supplies, and some administrative types of edifices. Carved scenes of his battle exploits are found in the temples at Karnak and Luxor, statues of him stand all over Egypt and even his cartouche is found in delicate relief all over the country. (Cartouches were created for all Pharaohs to document their kingship: it is an elongated oval pattern filled with the hieroglyphs which spell out the king's name.) Pictures of Alexander making offerings to the Egyptian gods abound and the story of his consultation with the Oracle of Amun at Siwa was a well-known one to Egyptians. It was there that he was greeted as a “son of god” by the priests of Amun and his deification was accepted by the Egyptians because of this recognition by their own priests. When Alexander left Egypt to further his conquest of the world, he would never return alive to this land. However, when he died 10 years later, his embalmed body was returned to his namesake city of Alexandria for burial. The burial site has been lost to history.


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