Gilles Gorre

Gilles Gorre (University of Rennes): “The Transformation of Native Temples and Invented Traditions: Between New Religiosity and Royal Policy – The Case of Ptolemaic Egypt”


The Ptolemaic policy towards Egyptian temples was inspired by Pharaonic traditions and the innovations of the the Nectanebids, the last Egyptian kings (30th dynasty, 343-332 BCE), as well as by Hellenistic innovations that were introduced by the Ptolemies themselves. In earlier studies (cf. bibliography) that I will summarize in my proposed paper, I analyzed how the Ptolemies used this combination of old and new practices to subject the temples to an unprecedented extant of administrative and financial control. Starting from the creation of the dynastic cult, Ptolemy II allocated royal subsidies to the temples to finance the dynastic cult, and by this means the temples eventually became dependent upon the royal treasury.

In this paper I pursue my examination of how far-ranging changes in the administrative status, the spatial organization of the sacred space and cultic traditions could be explained by the Ptolemaic policy towards the temples.

Firstly, through the case study of Hermopolis in Middle-Egypt, I will examine how the installation of the royal administration within the temples’ temenè entailed a wide-ranging reorganization of the sacred space. This intrusion of the royal administration in the temples may be described as a form of external control that the Ptolemies exercised on them. In addition, as Pharaohs the Ptolemies were able to act from within the temples, encouraging cultic changes as a means to legitimate their rule. In the second part of my paper I argue that the cultic changes and correlated modifications in the temples’ architecture and space that are documented in the Delta city of Tanis evidence a twofold trend: on the one hand, some of them reflected a genuine religious change in Egypt— as the popularity of infant-gods—which the Crown simply endorsed; on the other hand, the importation to Tanis of Horus, a god that was particularly favored by the Greek dynasty, may be understood as a means of expressing dynastic support.




Agut, D., and Gorre, G., 2014, “De l’autonomie à l’intégration, les temples égyptiens face à la couronne des Saïtes aux Ptolémées VI-IIème av. J.-C.”, in Ph. Clancier and J. Monerie (eds), Rois et sanctuaires à l’époque hellénistique (Topoi 19), forthcoming.

Gorre, G., 2014, “La monnaie de bronze lagide et les temples égyptiens”, Annales 69/1, 2014, 91-113.

Gorre, G., and Honigman, S., 2013, “Kings, Taxes and High Priests: Comparing the Ptolemaic and Seleukid Policies”, in S. Bussi (ed.), Egitto dai Faraoni agli Arabi: atti del convegno Egitto: amministrazione, economia, società, cultura dai Faraoni agli Arabi, Milano, Universita degli Studi, 7-9 gennaio 2013, 105–119.

Gorre, G., and Honigman, S., 2014. “La politique d’Antiochos IV à Jérusalem à la lumière des relations entre rois et temples aux époques perse et hellénistique (Babylonie, Judée et Égypte)”, in C. Feyel and L. Graslin (eds), Le Projet politique d’Antiochos IV.. Paris and Nancy.

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