Katelijn Vandorpe

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199571451
Published online November 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191750540 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology


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  • Archaeology of the Near East
  • Egyptian Archaeology
  • Race and Ethnicity


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This article discusses identity in Roman Egypt, covering collective identities, state identity, social classes and legal categories, shifts in collective identity, gender, ethnicity and cultural-religious identity, and names as identifiers of kinship bonds and of other collectivities. Identity is about one's place in society. As under the Ptolemies, descent was crucial to belonging to an elite group, and upward mobility was possible. Through wealth, civic donations, and networking, members of the elite were candidates for social promotion. But compared with Ptolemaic times, there was a downturn for the ordinary Egyptian man, woman, and their children, whose path towards the elite groups was limited in many respects. Compartmentalization gained the upper hand. After the Constitutio Antoniniana, wealth replaced descent as the crucial criterion to belonging to the elite.

Keywords: Roman Egypt; elite; upward mobility; collective identity; state identity; social class; ethnicity; kinship; Egyptians

Article.  8720 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology of the Near East ; Egyptian Archaeology ; Race and Ethnicity

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