It is highly unfortunate that what has reached us of Demotic papers about the first Ptolemaic age specially from the time of Ptolemy I and Ptolemy II is so little compared to what has reached us about the Greeks. It is probable that this is due to Egyptians not having a lot of dealings outside their environment. In addition, they only documented very few of their dealings with the occupiers and may have even been restricted to what relates to farming and renting of land. As for dealings that took place between Egyptians themselves, they were many and were related to diverse fields. Such documents kept increasing from the time of Ptolemy III who started ruling Egypt in 246 BC.

Ptolemy III started ruling the Egyptian Empire at the time when it appeared at it best. He continued ruling it with strength and wisdom till 221 BC. The general consensus is that Egypt reached its goriest time at the time of his reign. We find that he has extended the Egyptian Empire and succeeded in managing its internal affairs fairly well. He started his rule by adding a state to his Empire. After that, we find him carrying out the Third Syrian war in defence of his nephew’s throne. That was ended with his laying his hands on more land after making a peace treaty. After those wars, in which he found little resistance, Ptolemy III returned triumphantly back to Egypt.


Greek culture had been transferred at that time and since the death of Alexander the Great and the dividing of his empire to the capitals of the countries that were recently formed comprising the Hellenic world at the top of which was Alexandria. It was all based on Greek principles of civilization and science. As a result, the new Hellenic countries which had been formed on the remains of Alexander the Great's empire strongly competed among themselves in the fields of Greek science and art which led to them being in the spotlight of the developed world. This led to scholars and students from all over the Hellenic world going to such capitals at the top of which was Alexandria which was the source of science and arts to the world. We found that research in pure science had taken wide steps forward, ancient Greek art was revived and so was research in the history of Egypt. In addition, scientists established new fields of research, yet most of it was to a great extent not related to the Egyptian civilization which was only modestly referred to as the source of ancient civilizations in the eyes of the Greeks.

At that period of time, the original Egyptian people were disconnected from the group of occupying Hellenes. They were culturally removed from the Hellenes and lived in complete isolation. They lived confined to their homes and land as they have done before the coming of the foreign occupation, farming and doing small industries which they inherited from their parents, yet with greater effort in order to keep up with the demands of Ptolemy II who searched for and desired nothing but money. Valuable information about their lives and about the lives of the Greek and Macedonian occupiers has reached us. This information covers their social and religions life which has been revealed through papyrus paper discovered during excavations in the last two centuries. We have talked a lot about this in the previous volume of Ancient Egypt.


The higher status professions were also under the monopoly of the occupiers. We have not heard that during the first phase of the Ptolemaic rule any Egyptian was appointed as minister or even vice minister. In addition to that, all low professions were done by the Egyptians who did not work in the fields. Even the clergy themselves were not all living a comfortable life. Among them were groups who worked in the lowest of jobs. They also worked in farming like the occupiers. In brief, Ptolemy II viewed Egypt as his private farm from which he gave whoever he wanted and denied whoever he pleased. Ptolemy II continued with this policy until the end of his rule in Egypt. Nothing concerned him other than collecting money and expanding his empire abroad.

As for the group of occupiers, which were only a few, they had their own different life which was opposite to that of the overworked Egyptian farmer. In fact, those occupiers, the majority of which were Greeks and Macedonians, lived to a great extent unconnected to the Egyptian people. The reason behind this was their complete ignorance of the local Egyptian language. They never even tried to learn it because on one side it was a very difficult language and on the other side they were not in need of it because they were the masters who controlled the livelihoods of people like all occupiers. Moreover, Egyptians had been disconnected at that time from the rest of the world and its sciences. The occupiers also were not connected to Egyptians with regards to science. Their connection with regards to science and culture was towards their original countries.


The Egyptian farmer did not own any of the land he farmed, it was all owned by Ptolemy. Egyptians actually owned nothing, except for the clergy. Even the clergy remained in the background as long as the king did not touch their own possessions, and took what the farmers produced with hard labor and gave some of it to the clergy either in the form of erecting temples or offering land for the gods in addition to what the clergy owned of vast lands which the Ptolemies have left for them free from taxes. Because of that, there was complete harmony between the Pharaoh and the clergy as long as he provided them with offerings and did not interfere with their possessions or their independence inside their temples. On their side, the clergy elevated his image in the eyes of the people by writing in this regard whenever need be. All this was on the expense of the poor farmer who spent his energy and life in farming. Despite that, this farmer barely earned his daily living expenses with with tough work due to numerous high taxes. As if that was not enough, this poor farmer had to do tough work for his master as well. We never read that any of those farmers or any of the Egyptians as a whole had reached a high ranking position in the state careers or even a middle position. All such state possessions were in the hands of foreigners from Greeks and Macedonians.