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Aegyptus, here highlighted in dark red

Aegyptus , Latin for Egypt , was from 30 BC. A province of the Roman or Byzantine Empire until the Islamic expansion in 642 AD . Because of Egypt's great wealth, it held a certain special position among the Roman provinces , which was often overestimated in the past: Egypt was considered the granary of the empire .


Already since 273 BC There were friendly relations between the Roman Republic and the Ptolemies . No later than the middle of the Second Punic War , in 210 BC. When a famine broke out in Italy and was only alleviated by a large delivery of grain to King Ptolemy IV of Egypt, the Romans were aware of the importance of the kingdom on the Nile .

Map of Egypt in Roman times

The decline of the Ptolemaic Empire peaked around 80 BC. In the fact that Ptolemy XI. should have considered leaving rule in Egypt to the Romans after his death. As early as the time of Caesar , the empire tried to increase political power in Egypt. Rome intervened in the controversy for the throne by the governor of Syria Aulus Gabinius the previously expelled Ptolemy XII. Neos brought Dionysus back to the throne. The Roman military had been stationed on the Nile ever since , and the great romance between Caesar and Cleopatra VII no doubt had a strong political background. After Caesar's assassination (44 BC), Mark Antony succeeded in gaining the favor of Cleopatra, and with her support he fought for the legacy of Caesar against his rival C. Octavius , Caesar's great-nephew and later Emperor Augustus. After their defeat in the naval battle of Actium in 31 BC. Although Cleopatra and Antonius managed to flee to Egypt, they both died of their own free will in view of the hopelessness of organizing military resistance against the approaching persecutors. Egypt was thus in the hands of C. Octavius, and at the same time the struggle for the succession of Caesar in sole rule was decided in his favor.

The late antique Egypt with the Eastern Roman province of division 395 n. Chr.

30 BC BC Egypt was finally conquered by Rome. It was converted into a province administered by imperial agents, the so-called imperial province (in contrast to the senatorial provinces subordinate to the Senate ), but had a special status insofar as it was not from a senatorial legate, but from the first incumbent, the Roman Knight C. Cornelius Gallus , a close confidante of C. Octavius, was administered by a Praefectus Aegypti belonging to the knighthood . Obviously it should be avoided that senators create their own power base on the Nile. In addition, this was an important signal from C. Octavius ​​to the knighthood, on whose loyal cooperation he relied to a particular extent that under his rule knights could also achieve the highest political and military functions, even if they also had access to the traditional republican offices of the Cursus honorum was still denied due to the privileged position of the senators. Initially, they were strictly forbidden from even entering Egypt, as Octavius ​​and Augustus knew Egypt's political potential: 150,000 tons of grain were shipped to Rome annually during his reign. Above all, however, the Ptolemaic Empire was a great power in the eastern Mediterranean and the most important power base of its rival, Marcus Antonius .

Female personification of the Roman province of Aegyptus; originated around the year 145

Older research opinions, mainly going back to Theodor Mommsen , according to which Egypt was the private property of the emperor and the status of a crown colony , which Praefectus Aegypti would have had that of a kind of viceroy , are outdated, even if they can occasionally be found in more recent literature. The emperor's authority to issue instructions to the Praefectus Aegypti did not differ in any way from that of provincial governors of senatorial rank, be it the Legati Augusti in the so-called imperial provinces or the promagistrates in the senatorial provinces. Except in the cultic area, where the emperor was represented in the role and iconography of the pharaoh, the tradition of Ptolemaic kingship was not followed, the rule of Rome was legally based on the victory over the public enemy Antonius and his helper Cleopatra and on the subsequent one Conquest, however, did not legitimize itself as a continuation of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Initially three legions (later two and finally only one legion) were stationed in the province of Aegyptus . The Legio II Traiana , the Legio III Cyrenaica , the Legio XII Fulminata and the Legio XXII Deiotariana can be detected at different times . The fact that a knightly official was in command of legionnaires was an exception for a long time.

In 69 AD Vespasian was proclaimed emperor in Alexandria . At the beginning of the 2nd century there was an uprising of the Jews in Egypt, which ended in 117 with the annihilation of Judaism in Egypt. In the 3rd century, Egypt belonged temporarily to the Palmyrenean empire of Zenobia (270-272). Under Emperor Diocletian , the province of Egypt was divided into the provinces Aegyptus Iovia (north), Aegyptus Herculea (center) and Thebais (south). Under the Constantinian dynasty , the province was redistributed. After the division of the Empire in 395, Egypt became part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire and initially comprised four and later six provinces.

In 619 Egypt was temporarily lost to the Sassanids . Emperor Herakleios was able to regain the province in 629 for Ostrom. From 640 onwards the Arabs conquered Egypt ; The Islamic history of Egypt begins with the fall of Alexandria in 642.

See also


Coordinates: 28 ° 46 '  N , 30 ° 52'  E