fayum mysterious portrait

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fayum mysterious portrait
Originalveröffentlichung in: Arion 8.1, 2000, S. 63-96
The Face of the Elite
B A R B A R A E. B O R G
Translated by Glenn W . Most
W H E N THE R O M A N NOBLEMAN Pietro Deila Valle
p u t o u t t o sea near V e n i c e o n J u n e 8, 1614, in order t o set o u t o n
a l o n g v o y a g e t o the O r i e n t , it w a s n o t o n l y h i s h o p e o f o v e r c o m i n g h i s d e e p s o r r o w Over a n u n h a p p y love a f f a i r that d r o v e
h i m o n . T o b e sure, a c c o r d i n g t o h i s o w n t e s t i m o n y it w a s o n l y
t h e I n t e r v e n t i o n o f Saint C a t h e r i n e o n the Sinai that f i n a l l y succ e e d e d i n c u r i n g h i m o f t h e a n g u i s h o f h i s l o v e ; b u t in fact the
a f f a i r h a d o c c u r r e d five years b e f o r e h e d e p a r t e d . I n s t e a d , it
s e e m s t o have b e e n the p r o s p e c t o f " w i n n i n g a r e s o u n d i n g n a m e
a n d eternal f a m e " that a p p e a l e d t o h i m . A s the s o n o f a n o l d a n d
w e a l t h y R o m a n f a m i l y , h e h a d o f c o u r s e a l r e a d y inherited a
share in t h a t " r e s o u n d i n g n a m e " as h i s b i r t h - r i g h t . B u t a l t h o u g h
P i e t r o h a d e n j o y e d the e d u c a t i o n a n d t r a i n i n g in R o m e a p p r o p r i a t e t o h i s Status, he h a d n o t yet p e r f o r m e d e x c e p t i o n a l
e x p l o i t s o r a c h i e v e d " e t e r n a l f a m e " i n a n y area. I n s t e a d , it l o o k s
as t h o u g h P i e t r o ' s desire f o r great d e e d s , f a m e , a n d a t y p i c a l l y
H u m a n i s t f o r m o f i m m o r t a l i t y s t o o d i n a certain d i s p r o p o r t i o n
t o h i s o w n c a p a b i l i t i e s i n t h e classical f i e l d s o f n o b l e a c c o m p l i s h m e n t . So he s a w the struggle f o r C h r i s t i a n v i r t u e s a n d ideals in
d i s t a n t , d a n g e r o u s lands as a m o r e p r o m i s i n g field for h i s
ambitions.1
F r o m V e n i c e , D e i l a V a l l e sailed first t o C o n s t a n t i n o p l e , w h e r e
h e s p e n t a b o u t a year, l e a r n i n g T u r k i s h and a little A r a b i c , a n d
t h e n traveled o n t o E g y p t , w h e r e h e s p e n t t h e w i n t e r in C a i r o .
F r o m there h e u n d e r t o o k v a r i o u s e x c u r s i o n s i n t o the nearer a n d
f a r t h e r s u r r o u n d i n g s , d u r i n g w h i c h he i n d u l g e d in h i s p a s s i o n
f o r a n t i q u i t y a n d a n t i q u i t i e s . H e v i s i t e d the p y r a m i d s as well as
o t h e r g r a v e s — w h e n e v e r p o s s i b l e , inside as well as o u t s i d e .
I n the celebrated n e c r o p o l i s o f S a k k a r a he f o u n d the b r o a d
f i e l d o f graves already largely r a n s a c k e d by p e a s a n t s w h o h a d
64 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
d u g for treasures. D e i l a Valle set u p his tent in the m i d d l e of the
" m o l e h i l l s " w h i c h these e x c a v a t i o n s had left b e h i n d and began
t o study the s u r r o u n d i n g graves a n d m u m m i e s . O n the m o r n i n g
o f D e c e m b e r 15, 1615, h o w e v e r , h e m a d e an e x t r a o r d i n a r y discovery o f w h i c h he p r o v i d e d a description in the letters he w r o t e
c o n c e r n i n g his v o y a g e — a description that was t o b e c o m e the
first, and for over t w o h u n d r e d years the o n l y , discovery report
a b o u t portrait m u m m i e s .
T h a t m o r n i n g , a peasant w h o wanted. t o s h o w D e i l a Valle a
very special f i n d in c o m p l e t e secrecy led h i m t o the shaft o f a
grave f r o m w h i c h he h a d recovered the richly decorated m u m m y
o f a m a n (fig. 1). T h e m u m m y was complete and u n d a m a g e d . Its
u p p e r side s h o w e d the portrait o f the dead m a n , p a i n t e d in a n a t uralistic m a n n e r , as well as various Ornaments and s y m b o l s
w h i c h decorated his w h o l e b o d y , s o m e painted in various colors,
others gilt. W r i t t e n o n the ehest s t o o d the i n s c r i p t i o n : E Y W Y X I ,
" f a r e w e l l . " D e i l a Valle was enthusiastic a b o u t the find: t h e
m u m m y w a s , he w r o t e , " t h e m o s t exquisite sight in the
w o r l d . . . , quite apart f r o m the fact that the curiosity o f s c h o l ars can d r a w a t h o u s a n d c o n c l u s i o n s f r o m it f o r the k n o w l e d g e
o f the antiquities o f t h o s e d a y s . " T h e peasant t h e n b r o u g h t t o
the light o f day a n o t h e r , n o less richly decorated, m u m m y , this
t i m e , t o D e i l a Valle's d e l i g h t , that o f a y o u n g w o m a n . 2 Finally
D e i l a Valle c l i m b e d d o w n i n t o the grave himself in order t o see
h o w the m u m m i e s were b u r i e d . " W h e n I arrived at the b o t t o m
o f the shaft m y s e l f , I f o u n d corpses in all the graves, so that it
w a s clear that, as the p e a s a n t had said, the shaft h a d o n l y just
then been discovered. T h e corpses lay buried in the sand w i t h o u t
any particular order . . . , o n e o n t o p o f another, just like m a c a roni in cheese." E v i d e n t l y , w h a t D e i l a Valle's i n f o r m a n t h a d
s h o w n h i m w a s an older subterranean grave w h i c h had b e e n
filled by the shifting desert s a n d , t o w h i c h later burials had b e e n
a d d e d unsystematically.
C o m p a r a b l e discoveries were n o t made again for a l o n g t i m e .
M o s t o f the m u m m y portraits e x h i b i t e d today in m u s e u m s scattered t h r o u g h o u t the w h o l e w o r l d — t h a t is, those portraits
w h i c h were o n c e placed u p o n m u m m i e s but were r e m o v e d f r o m
t h e m by the p e o p l e w h o f o u n d t h e m — w e r e n o t discovered until
Barbara E. Borg 65
the latter part o f the nineteenth Century. For m o s t o f these p o r traits, u n f o r t u n a t e l y , far t o o little is k n o w n a b o u t the c i r c u m stances o f their discovery: m a n y derive f r o m illegal excavations,
a n d even m o s t scholars behaved n o t m u c h better than the professional thieves competing w i t h t h e m . A laudable e x c e p t i o n was
W . M . Flinders Petrie, w h o n o t o n l y carefully d o c u m e n t e d his
ex c av atio n s in H a w a r a in the F a y u m b u t also p u b l i s h e d t h e m
q u i c k l y . 3 T h e s e m u m m y portraits were discovered all over
E g y p t , b u t restricted t o the vicinity o f those cities a n d villages
especially influenced b y the G r e e k a n d R o m a n conquerors. T h e
f o r m s o f burial involved were extremely various. A t some sites,
f o r e x a m p l e in H a w a r a or A n t i n o o p o l i s , the e x p e n s i v e m u m m i e s
were merely interred in s h a l l o w sand graves w i t h o u t any sign o n
the surface. Elsewhere, f o r e x a m p l e i n e r - R u b a y a t and in P a n o p o l i s / A c h m i m , r o c k t o m b s o f various types were used; as a rule
these were quite m o d e s t c o m p a r e d w i t h the older E g y p t i a n
t o m b s . L o c a l l y , graves f r o m the P h a r a o n i c p e r i o d were r e u s e d —
f o r e x a m p l e , o n Deila Valle's t e s t i m o n y , in S a k k a r a .
In general, a detailed s u m m a r y o f the history o f the discovery
o f the portrait m u m m i e s 4 w o u l d reveal a r e m a r k a b l e discrepancy: o n the o n e h a n d , there has evidently been an e n o r m o u s
e n t h u s i a s m for E g y p t i a n antiquities, for the m u m m i e s and for
the portraits w h i c h were s o m e t i m e s attached t o t h e m , an e n t h u s i a s m expressed n o t least in the great d e m a n d for such collector's pieces; b u t o n the other h a n d , those o f us w h o study these
o b j e c t s are constantly r u n n i n g i n t o a w a l l o f silence, concerning
the exact circumstances o f their discovery, erected b y the lucky
p e o p l e w h o f o u n d t h e m . J u s t i m a g i n e w h a t detailed observations
o f the arrangement o f the necropolises, o f their size and developm e n t , o f the k i n d s o f graves and funeral gifts, o f the precise
m o d e s o f p r o d u c t i o n and d e c o r a t i o n o f the m u m m i e s , etc., c o u l d
have taught us a b o u t the deceased individuals as well as a b o u t
the society t o w h i c h they belonged: a b o u t their social and material c o n d i t i o n s , a b o u t their religious n o t i o n s and rituals, a b o u t
their h o p e s f o r the after-life. O f course it rnust be granted that it
w a s n o t until this Century that questions like these m o v e d more
c o n s p i c u o u s l y into the center o f scholarly i n t e r e s t — o r rather: it
w a s o n l y gradually that p e o p l e recognized h o w m u c h could be
66 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
c o n t r i b u t e d towards a n s w e r i n g questions o f c u l t u r a l history, in
t h e largest sense, 5 b y detailed archaeological o b s e r v a t i o n s , even
w h e n w r i t t e n evidence w a s m i s s i n g — o r , indeed, precisely then.
I n the nineteenth Century, and also d u r i n g the first half o f the
t w e n t i e t h Century, o n the other h a n d , the portrait panels were
v i e w e d i n the first instance as w o r k s o f art t o b e presented as
isolated display pieces, like masterpieces o f later artistic p e r i o d s ;
the aesthetic e n j o y m e n t a c c o m p a n y i n g the v i e w i n g and a d m i r a t i o n o f life-like realism a n d splendid Color seemed o n e o f the
essential p u r p o s e s o f the p a i n t i n g s , sometimes in fact their o n l y
essential p u r p o s e . B u t since it is p r o b a b l y o n l y rarely that g e n u ine aesthetic e n j o y m e n t can c o m e a b o u t w i t h o u t any c o n n e c t i o n
at all t o the c o n t e n t o f w h a t is represented, it is n o t surprising
that already in the nineteenth Century there arose a lively interest
i n the portrayed i n d i v i d u a l s themselves and in their identity:
p e o p l e tried t o guess their social Status and their o r i g i n , t o investigate their w a y o f life a n d , n o t least, t o penetrate t o their very
personality.
B u t the chances f o r the success o f such a t t e m p t s at r e c o n structing the p a t r o n s o f the m u m m y portraits h a d been virtually
r e d u c e d t o zero b y the very fact that the portraits had been i s o lated f r o m their cultural c o n t e x t . So some viewers tried t o
a p p r o a c h the p a t r o n s ' personalities by using p s y c h o l o g i z i n g
interpretations, for w h i c h the f o l l o w i n g is an e x t r e m e b u t , alas,
b y n o m e a n s isolated e x a m p l e :
Special interest has attached recently to the splendid Number 21 [fig.
2].6 Lenbach considers it the rnost extraordinary of them all. It represents a man who has just recently passed beyond the border line of
youth. His hair falls deeply onto his forehead in casual, perhaps intentional disorder, and if we look into the eyes—which know many
things, and not only permitted o n e s — a n d the sensual, moustached
mouth of this countenance which, though certainly not ugly, is restless,
then we are inclined to believe that it belonged to a pitiless master who
yielded all too readily when his lustful heart demanded that his burning
desires be satisfied. It seems to us that this Number 21 is still in the
midst of Sturm und Drang and is far removed from that inner harmony
which the philosophically educated Greek was supposed to reach at an
age of greater maturity.
Barbara E. Borg 67
T h i s interpretation by the f a m o u s E g y p t o l o g i s t G e o r g Ebers
a n d similar ones f r o m the 1890s, w h i c h themselves seem to be
still in the m i d s t o f their o w n Sturm und Drang, admittedly
remain unsurpassed, b u t even later similar attempts were n o t
lacking. D ü r i n g the T h i r d Reich, p h y s i o g n o m i c studies once
again reached a d i s m a l c l i m a x . U s i n g pseudo-scientific argum e n t s , racist theoreticians attempted t o develop criteria t o determ i n e w h a t race the individuals represented belonged t o and w h a t
their personality characteristics were; they tried to distinguish
a b o v e all G r e e k s and J e w s f r o m o n e another, b u t also A r a b s and
other peoples. T h e s e studies, w h o s e c o m p l i c i t y in N a z i P r o p a g a n d a c a n n o t help b u t disgust us, were largely ignored after
W o r l d W a r I I — a n d , b y the way, they m a y well have contributed
t o the lack o f interest, o n the part o f scholarship since then, in
the question o f the identity o f the patrons o f the m u m m y
portraits.
B u t it is n o t o n l y the i d e o l o g y o f these attempts that makes
t h e m absurd, b u t also their c o n t e n t — a n d n o t just because m a n y
o f these pictures are t h o r o u g h l y stereotyped. A f t e r all, portraits
are never the pure, objective c o p y o f a person and o f his or her
personality, especially n o t those portraits m a d e as a special
c o m m i s s i o n for a representative f u n c t i o n . W h a t applies t o c o n temporary p h o t o g r a p h s — t h i n k o n l y o f f a m i l y p h o t o s f r o m the
beginning o f this Century or o f the images o f politicians o n their
election p o s t e r s — i s even m o r e true in the case o f ancient painted
or sculpted portraits: they s h o w the person, if n o t primarily, then
at the very least additionally, as he or she wanted t o b e seen, and
hence they present a personality w h i c h , at least in part, is deliberately constructed. 7 T h i s is n o t o n l y a question o f superficial
beautification or rejuvenation (procedures w h i c h even today, by
the w a y , convey metaphorical m e a n i n g s such as beautiful - good
or young - active). A person's appearance is always determined
t o a great extent by his or her facial expression, w h i c h , in the
case o f painted or sculpted portraits, could be "seen as a k i n d
o f gesture s u p e r i m p o s e d u p o n the physiological f o u n d a t i o n . So
certain stereotyped facial " g e s t u r e s " — a lowered corner o f
the m o u t h , a f u r r o w e d b r o w , or a suggested s m i l e - — can serve
t o characterize a person in a specific way, as friendly, g r i m ,
68 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
energetic, reflective, et cetera. B u t it is extrernely difficult t o
reach even this superficial layer o f the personality, the w a y in
w h i c h the patrons w a n t e d to be Seen. T h e p h i l o s o p h e r N e l s o n
G o o d m a n reminds us in a similar c o n n e c t i o n that Western v i e w ers were extrernely c o n f u s e d w h e n they saw the first Japanese
m o v i e s a n d at first were hardly able t o recognize just w h i c h e m o tions the actors were t r y i n g t o e x p r e s s — " w h e t h e r , " for e x a m p l e ,
" a face w a s expressing a g o n y or hatred or a n x i e t y or determinat i o n or despair or desire . . . ; for even facial expressions are t o
s o m e extent m o l d e d b y c u s t o m a n d culture." 8 E v e n if m a n y facial
gestures, especially the m o r e expressive ones, o n l y permit a
restricted ränge o f interpretations, nonetheless in the case o f f o r eign cultures w e can never determine w i t h absolute certainty just
h o w these traits are evaluated a n d w h a t their c o n n o t a t i o n s are;
such evaluations are always derived f r o m the c o n t e x t o f the c u l ture as a w h o l e , f r o m its traditions, values and experiences, and
f r o m the specific Situation f o r w h i c h such a portrait was made. In
the case o f ancient cultures, it is o n l y very incompletely, if at all,
that either o f these aspects can ever be reconstructed.
A n o t h e r a t t e m p t t o get closer t o the patrons c o u l d start f r o m
the names that are s o m e t i m e s w r i t t e n o n the portraits or o n the
m u m m y ' s b o d y (pls. i and 6). 9 B u t a n a m e a l o n e does n o t teil us
very m u c h . It is o n l y w h e n a p e r s o n o f this n a m e is k n o w n t o us
f r o m other sources that w e can restore t o the portrait a part o f
its identity by means of the n a m e . B u t because it is o n l y in
e x c e p t i o n a l cases that the f e w i n s c r i p t i o n s o n the portrait m u m mies p r o v i d e n o t o n l y the deceased's n a m e b u t a l s o the names o f
his parents, his place o f residence or his p r o f e s s i o n , there is n o
p o i n t in searching f o r t h e m t h r o u g h o u t the extensive p a p y r u s
archives, since a l m o s t all these names are quite c o m m o n in
R o m a n E g y p t . H e n c e the i n d i v i d u a l persons i n v o l v e d w i l l always
remain u n k n o w n to us.
S o m e scholars have tried at least t o infer f r o m these i n d i v i d u als' names their ancestry, for w e f i n d E g y p t i a n n a m e s as well as
G r e e k and L a t i n ones. B u t this a t t e m p t t o o has proven futile. 1 0
Since the Hellenistic age there h a d been m i x e d marriages in the
higher levels o f E g y p t i a n society between E g y p t i a n s a n d the
M a c e d o n i a n c o n q u e r o r s a n d i m m i g r a n t s f r o m the Hellenized
Barbara E. Borg 69
regions o f the eastern M e d i t e r r a n e a n . In the first t w o and a half
centuries AD, the p e r i o d w h i c h p r o d u c e d most o f the portrait
m u m m i e s , this ethnic i n t e r m i n g l i n g w i t h i n the p o p u l a t i o n o f
E g y p t went s o far that n o c o n c l u s i o n s whatsoever can be d r a w n
any longer f r o m the names c o n c e r n i n g the ancestry o f their bearers. W h e n descriptions like " E g y p t i a n " or " G r e e k " appear in the
w r i t t e n records, they refer exclusively t o the p e r s o n ' s legal
S t a t u s — w h i c h leads t o the seemingly p a r a d o x i c a l consequence
that the " H e l l e n e s " ( " G r e e k s " ) are a sub-category of the
"Egyptians."11
B u t there is o n e thing that the n a m e s d o teil us: they are o n e
piece o f evidence a m o n g others that reveal s o m e t h i n g a b o u t their
bearers' cultural reference System, a n d t o this extent they reflect
an ethos w h i c h tends t o be either m o r e E g y p t i a n , or G r e e k , or
eise R o m a n . U n d e r s t o o d in this sense, the names o n the portrait
m u m m i e s even p e r m i t a c a u t i o u s generalization: the Classificat i o n o f all the names transmitted o n the m u m m i e s (i.e., the
n a m e s n o t o n l y o f the deceased, b u t also o f their parents where
these are indicated) into categories like G r e e k theophoric, E g y p tian t h e o p h o r i c , " C o m m o n G r e e k , " R o m a n , etc., s h o w s a Statistical d i s t r i b u t i o n that lies b e t w e e n that o f the m o s t strongly
H e l l e n i z e d g r o u p in the F a y u m , the "6475 A r s i n o i t e K a t o i k o i , " 1 2
a n d t h a t o f the p o p u l a t i o n o f K a r a n i s , a village w h i c h is disting u i s h e d f r o m m a n y smaller villages o f the oasis b y its still relatively high percentage o f a privileged p o p u l a t i o n . J u d g i n g by the
n a m e s , the p a t r o n s o f the portrait m u m m i e s clearly tend t o
b e l o n g t o the m o r e strongly H e l l e n i z e d parts o f the E g y p t i a n
p o p u l a t i o n ; b u t o n the other h a n d it is certainly n o t the case that
the portraits represent a p u r e l y G r e e k p o p u l a t i o n , as scholars
have o f t e n t h o u g h t — e v e n if " G r e e k " here were u n d e r s t o o d in a
cultural sense. 15
F u r t h e r m o r e , w e can infer that the subjects o f the portraits
b e l o n g e d t o a w e l l - t o - d o social class. T h i s conclusion is based
n o t s o m u c h u p o n the portraits themselves; while w e are accust o m e d n o w a d a y s t o determine the price o f a picture by artistic
criteria, in a n t i q u i t y pictures were p r o d u c e d by artisans and
their value was essentially d e p e n d e n t u p o n the materials, for
e x a m p l e the e x p e n s e o f the c o l o r p i g m e n t s . T h u s , it was more
70 T H E FACE 0 F T H E ELITE
t h e q u a n t i t y o f linen i n w h i c h the m u m m i e s were w r a p p e d than
t h e portraits themselves that determined the cost o f the portrait
m u m m i e s . A s the p a p y r i i n f o r m us, the cost o f such linen w r a p pings c o u l d easily exceed the yearly i n c o m e o f a m a n w i t h even a
respectable profession. In the year 113 AD a f o r e m a n at an irrigat i o n p l a n t earned t h i r t y - s i x d r a c h m a s a m o n t h , and in the years
114 and 150 AD a guard at c u s t o m Station received sixteen d r a c h m a s a m o n t h ; ' 4 b u t prices o f u p t o s i x h u n d r e d d r a c h m a s are
recorded in the p a p y r i f o r the m u m m y w r a p p i n g s o f a single
burial. 1 3 In s o m e cases the m u m m i e s were also partially or c ö m pletely gilt (pl. 2), 16 a l u x u r y w h i c h was doubtlessly available t o
o n l y a small n u m b e r o f w e a l t h y p e o p l e .
T h e s a m e circles are also p o i n t e d t o b y the f e w indications o f
p r o f e s s i o n s f o u n d o n the portraits. A b o u t t w e n t y panels s h o w
m e n w i t h a c o a t w h i c h characteristically is either lying in a f o l d
o n the Ieft Shoulder (pl. 4) or is closed over the right Shoulder,
a n d is o f t e n c o m b i n e d w i t h a s w o r d - b e l t . M a n y o f these m e n
m a y have been soldiers, w h o received R o m a n citizenship and
o t h e r Privileges either w h e n they enlisted in the military or after
they c o m p l e t e d their Service, a n d w h o , according t o the w r i t t e n
records, b e l o n g e d t o the w e l l - t o - d o local elite. 17
A n o t h e r portrait bears an; i n s c r i p t i o n designating the represented p e r s o n as a naukleros. A c c o r d i n g to ancient law, these
naukleroi were freight contractors for c o m m e r c i a l transport b y
w at er , w h o c o u l d o w n the s h i p or eise, under certain c i r c u m stances, merely leased it. In any case, these naukleroi were liable
w i t h their private w e a l t h f o r every l o a d they transported, even in
the case o f loss due t o force m a j e u r e . P r o b a b l y n o o n e w o u l d
have entrusted a l o a d t o t h e m unless they had a s o u n d financial
b a c k g r o u n d , and o f t e n w e have evidence that in fact they d i d
b e l o n g t o the m o s t w e a l t h y i n h a b i t a n t s o f a place. 1 8
B u t perhaps m o s t interesting o f all is a g r o u p o f portraits o f
c h i l d r e n , w h i c h s h o w the b o y s in w h i t e garments and w i t h an
u n u s u a l h a i r d o (pl. 3). In contrast t o ordinary f a s h i o n a b l e h a i r d o s , here the hair is l o n g a n d , as w i t h girls, is c o m b e d b a c k w a r d s
f r o m the forehead a n d is b o u n d i n t o a short p o n y - t a i l . 1 9 T h e key
t o the interpretation o f this u n u s u a l h a i r d o f o r b o y s can p r o b a b l y be f o u n d in a literary t e x t o f the second Century AD. In " T h e
Barbara E. Borg 71
Ship or the W i s h e s , " L u c i a n reports the conversation o f s o m e
A t h e n i a n friends in the h a r b o r o f Piraeus, where an u n u s u a l l y
large and splendid ship w i t h a l o a d o f grain had just arrived
f r o m E g y p t . T h e y have visited the s h i p w i t h a m a z e m e n t and
n o w that they o n c e again have solid earth under their feet they
n o t i c e that o n e o f their c o m p a n i o n s is missing. S a m i p p u s voices
the suspicion that this m a n h a d f o r g o t t e n everything a r o u n d h i m
" w h e n that pretty lad c a m e o u t o f the h o l d , the o n e in pure
w h i t e linen, w i t h his hair tied b a c k over b o t h sides o f his forehead [and] coiled in a plait (plokatnon) b e h i n d . " 2 0 In the ensuing
conversation o f the friends c o n c e r n i n g the m e a n i n g o f this
u n u s u a l h a i r d o , T i m o l a u s f i n a l l y e x p l a i n s that a m o n g the E g y p tians this is a sign o f n o b l e birth a n d that all aristocratic b o y s
wear their hair braided in this w a y u n t i l they have reached a d o lescence (ephebikon). T h e d e s c r i p t i o n o f h a i r d o a n d c l o t h i n g
c o u l d hardly c o r r e s p o n d m o r e precisely t o the appearance o f
these boys in the m u m m y portraits, w h o c o n s e q u e n t l y were n o t
o n l y f r e e - b o r n b u t also o f g o o d birth. 2 '
Perhaps we can even g o a step farther. Several p a p y r i refer t o a
ritual o n the o c c a s i o n o f a b o y ' s entrance into the age o f (fiscal)
a d u l t h o o d , of w h i c h the central s y m b o l i c action w a s the cutting
o f f o f a l o c k o f hair d u r i n g a ceremonial rite de passage, the
M a l l o k ö u r i a . 2 2 T h e b o y s b e l o n g e d t o the highest local social
class. If this c o n n e c t i o n o f t h e h a i r d o o n the m u m m y portraits
w i t h the passage in L u c i a n o n the o n e h a n d a n d w i t h the M a l l o k ö u r i a o n the other is correct, then the boys o n the m u m m y portraits belonged t o the highest social class o f the F a y u m , the
"6475 A r s i n o i t e K a t o i k o i " m e n t i o n e d a b o v e (and t o their e q u i v alents in the other t o w n s f r o m w h i c h the portraits originate). In
the F a y u m these "6475 A r s i n o i t e K a t o i k o i " were a rieh a n d ,
w h a t is m o r e , t a x - f a v o r e d circle o f p e r s o n s into w h i c h o n e c o u l d
o n l y b e a d m i t t e d after a strict e x a m i n a t i o n {epikrisis), o n the
basis o f o n e ' s descent f r o m ancestors w h o themselves had
already belonged t o this g r o u p , p r e s u m a b l y since the A u g u s t a n
age. 23 T h e s e 6475 K a t o i k o i h a d dedicated themselves especially
t o the task o f preserving G r e e k culture, a n d they had their c h i l dren taught in the g y m n a s i u m aecording to traditional G r e e k
custom.24
72 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
T h e s e and some further indications in d i e portraits s h o w that
the p a t r o n s o f m u m m y portraits were m e m b e r s o f the local
upper class o f the various t o w n s . T h e m a j o r i t y o f the p e r s o n s
present themselves in a f a s h i o n a b l e dress w h i c h is typical o f the
u p p e r classes o f all the R o m a n provinces a n d even o f the city o f
R o m e . T h u s the m e n imitate the f a m o u s h a i r d o o f N e r o , they
t a k e over the beard f a s h i o n o f the E m p e r o r H a d r i a n and his successors, or they present themselves in a military m o d e w i t h a
short h a i r - c u t (pl. 4) like the soldier-emperors o f the t h i r d Cent u r y (fig. 5). T h e ladies d o their hair according t o the current
f a s h i o n (figs. 3 a n d 4) w i t h l u x u r i o u s l y p l a y f u l c u r l y w i g s ,
braided h a i r d o s similar t o t u r b a n s , or eise the m o r e restrained
c o i f f u r e o f the E m p r e s s Faustina M i n o r f r o m t h e second h a l f o f
the second Century. 25 T h e same applies t o the c l o t h i n g , w h i c h
always consists o f a n u n d e r g a r m e n t w i t h decorative stripes
(clavi) a n d a c l o a k w o r n o n t o p o f it (pl. 5). T h e p a i n t e d jewelry
o f the ladies has real parallels in the m u s e u m s o f E u r o p e , deriving f r o m sites t h r o u g h o u t the w h o l e R o m a n empire. 2 6
O n the basis o f o b s e r v a t i o n s l i k e these, Classicists have o f t e n
c o n c l u d e d that the b a c k g r o u n d o f the p a t r o n s was " p u r e l y
G r e e k . " J u s t h o w p r o b l e m a t i c the m i x t u r e o f p o p u l a t i o n s since
the Hellenistic p e r i o d m a k e s any s u c h c o n c l u s i o n w a s already
p o i n t e d o u t a b o v e in c o n n e c t i o n w i t h the personal names; f u r t h e r m o r e , there is g o o d reason f o r f u n d a m e n t a l d o u b t whether
any cultural g r o u p ever preserves itself as " p u r e " (whatever that
m i g h t m e a n ) . But t h o s e scholars w h o have interpreted the evidence in this w a y have also completely o v e r l o o k e d the fact that
the portraits were o r i g i n a l l y n o t isolated pictures b u t f o r m e d
p a r t o f a larger ensemble: the m u m m y . It is quite w r o n g t o interpret the burial f o r m o f the m u m m y as an arbitrary w h i m , as
t h o u g h it were accidental or had b e e n chosen f o r reasons o f f a s h i o n . Burial c u s t o m s a n d ideas a b o u t death and t h e afterlife tend
t o b e particularly c o n s e r v a t i v e — i n the face o f the existential
threat o f d e a t h , p e o p l e recall the tried and true c o n v i c t i o n s and
rituals o f their ancestors. Instead, this m o d e o f burial m u s t be
seen in c o n n e c t i o n w i t h the persuasive p o w e r o f the E g y p t i a n
t r a d i t i o n , its religious d o c t r i n e s a n d h o p e s f o r the afterlife,
Barbara E. Borg 73
w h i c h already h a d a p o w e r f u l effect u p o n the G r e e k conquerors
o f the Hellenistic A g e and thereafter u p o n their descendants.
T h e best p r o o f o f this fact, a n d at the same t i m e the m o s t
striking expression o f the religious d o c t r i n e s themselves, are the
s y m b ö l i c and scenic Images placed o n m a n y m u m m i e s . 2 7 T h e y
were either p a i n t e d a n d applied in g o l d o n t o the o u t e r m o s t linen
b a n d s (fig. 1), or they were s c u l p t e d in relief and gilt o n the
m u m m y cases, w h i c h were f o r m e d w i t h stucco i n t o solid casings
like sarcophagi (pls. 1 and 2). T h e s e images are by n o m e a n s an
e x o t i c decoration o f a decadent age o f decline, as p e o p l e once
suspected. Instead they depict m e a n i n g f u l religious concepts
based u p o n traditional E g y p t i a n ideas. In the end, all the scenes
serve a Single p u r p o s e : t o facilitate the deceased's j o u r n e y i n t o
the U n d e r w o r l d a n d t o guarantee h i m or her eternal life in the
w o r l d b e y o n d . T h a t is w h y every single o n e o f the scenically deco r a t e d m u m m i e s includes a d e p i c t i o n o f the m u m m i f i c a t i o n ritual: b e h i n d an o f t e n l i o n - h e a d e d bier, u p o n w h i c h the deceased
is l y i n g in the f o r m o f a m u m m y , Stands the j a c k a l - h e a d e d g o d
A n u b i s , w h o has started the m u m m i f i c a t i o n rituals w h i c h are
i n d i s p e n s a b l e f o r resurrection. T h e bier is f l a n k e d b y the divine
sisters Isis and N e p h t h y s , w h o appear over and over again; they
m o u r n and protect the deceased, O s i r i s s o - a n d - s o , just as they
o n c e m o u r n e d a n d protected the g o d O s i r i s h i m s e l f . A s t h o u g h
f o r c o n f i r m a t i o n , the effect o f the correctly p e r f o r m e d m u m m i f i c a t i o n ritual is depicted u p o n the m u m m i e s o f T h e r m o u t h a r i n
a n d the y o u n g e r A r t e m i d o r u s (pl. 1): in a lower register the
m u m m y u p o n the bier has just been a w a k e n e d t o a n e w life and
is in the process o f Standing up. 2 8
T h e m a j o r i t y o f the other scenes represent the w o r s h i p o f the
g o d O s i r i s in his various m a n i f e s t a t i o n s , o r the deceased person
in o n e o f his or her f o r m s in the afterlife. W e can confidently
c o n c l u d e that the religious, a n d in particular the sepulchral,
ideas o f the persons o n the m u m m y portraits are deeply rooted
in ancient E g y p t i a n t r a d i t i o n . T h r o u g h the m u m m i f i c a t i o n
itself, t h r o u g h magical Symbols, scenic images and actions, p e o ple reassured themselves a b o u t their resurrection t o a n e w life in
the w o r l d beyond, a b o u t the g o o d w i l l and p r o x i m i t y o f the
g o d s , a b o v e all o f O s i r i s , w h o had o v e r c o m e death h i m s e l f and
74 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
w a s n o w lord o f the U n d e r w o r l d , a n d o f A m u n - R e , in w h o s e
l i g h t a n d splendor p e o p i e w a n t e d t o e n j o y f r e e d o m and all the
pleasures o f a carefree life similar t o that o n earth.
B u t n o w w e s u d d e n l y f i n d ourselves c o n f r o n t e d w i t h an inferesting p h e n o m e n o n : the w e l l - t o - d o local elite o f the F a y u m and
o f other places presents itself in its portraits entirely in G r c c o R o m a n appearance, b u t in its m u m m i f i c a t i o n a n d m u m m y d e c o r a t i o n it d e m o n s t r a t e s its religious a n c h o r i n g i n E g y p t i a n
belief. 2 9
H o w can w e understand the c o n n e c t i o n b e t w e e n such d i s p a rate cultural elements? W e can c o m e s o m e w h a t closer t o an
answer if w e consider the f u n c t i o n o f these m u m m i e s in the
f u n e r a l ritual and ask w h a t it m e a n s w h e n the traditional E g y p tian m a s k o n the head o f the deceased is replaced b y a p a i n t e d
p o r tr ai t . A f t e r all, it w a s n o t because o f lack o f i m a g i n a t i o n that
these m a s k s had always been shaped in the same w a y : instead, as
the face o f O s i r i s , they h a d been an i m p o r t a n t part o f the m u m m y ' s m a g i c a l e q u i p m e n t . T h e k e y t o the answer c o u l d lie h i d d e n
in a series o f o b s e r v a t i o n s a n d ancient reports that indicate that,
starting at the latest in the third Century BC, the m u m m i e s
r e m a i n e d u n b u r i e d f o r s o m e t i m e a n d were k e p t s o m e w h e r e
a b o v e g r o u n d . 3 0 In H a w a r a , f o r e x a m p l e , t h e m u m m i e s were
b u r i e d i n piain pits i n the 'desert sands without any m a r k e r
a b o v e g r o u n d , s o that the grave c o u l d never b e traced again.
T h i s m a d e a cult o f t h e d e a d at t h e grave i m p o s s i b l e , so that
s u c h a c u l t m u s t have t a k e n place before the burial. F u r t h e r m o r e , Flinders Petrie o b s e r v e d that " t h e m u m m i e s had been
m u c h i n j u r e d b y e x p o s u r e d u r i n g a l o n g p e r i o d before b u r i a l "
a n d that they were " d i r t i e d , f l y m a r k e d , c a k e d w i t h d u s t w h i c h
w a s b o u n d o n b y r a i n . " In p o i n t o f fact, s o m e ancient authors
t o o report that the E g y p t i a n s k e p t the m u m m i e s o f their relatives
a b o v e g r o u n d a n d even at their h o m e for s o m e t i m e , a c u s t o m
t h e C h u r c h Fathers still c o m p l a i n e d a b o u t . A c c o r d i n g t o A t h a n a s i u s , Saint A n t h o n y retired i n t o the loneliness o f the desert t o
d i e ; he w a n t e d t o b e b u r i e d there b y a f e w close friends, f o r he
feared that o t h e r w i s e his c o r p s e w o u l d be e m b a l m e d a n d e x h i b ited b y t h e m o n k s in a m o n a s t e r y , w h o had o f f e r e d h i m their
h o s p i t a l i t y . S o m e earlier a u t h o r s even report that the m u m m i e s
Barbara E. Borg 75
t o o k part i n banquets. Perhaps we s h o u l d understand this t o
m e a n that o n certain days, in c o n n e c t i o n w i t h ceremonial b a n quets, the portrait m u m m i e s received their cult o f the dead. In
s o m e cases, this m a y have t a k e n place in their relatives' houses,
in others in a k i n d o f heroic sanctuary in the n e c r o p o l i s . A n
impressive e x a m p l e o f such a " h e r o i c s a n c t u a r y " w a s excavated a
f e w years a g o b y the Polish team- led b y W i c t o r D a s z e w s k i in the
coastal village o f M a r i n a e l - A l a m e i n . 3 1 In a large n e c r o p o l i s they
discovered an elaborate grave c o m p l e x w i t h subterranean Chambers, reached b y a l o n g c o r r i d o r leading d o w n w a r d s (fig. 6). In
t w o Chambers b r a n c h i n g o f f t o the sides f r o m this corridor they
f o u n d a total o f fifteen m u m m y burials o f children, w o m e n , a n d
m e n . S o m e o f the m u m m i e s b o r e p a i n t e d portraits, w h i c h u n f o r tunately are n o t w e l l preserved; s o m e w e r e completely gilt, w i t h
the m o u t h covered a d d i t i o n a l l y b y a g o l d leaflet. Particularly
r e m a r k a b l e is a b a n q u e t hall o n the surface w i t h a v i e w o f the
sea a n d couches for the b a n q u e t c o n n e c t e d w i t h the cult o f the
dead.
In this c u s t o m o f e x h i b i t i n g the m u m m i e s , either in the relatives' h o u s e or i n this k i n d o f b a n q u e t h a l l , w e can recognize that
the cult o f the d e a d served n o t o n l y f o r their survival in the afterlife b u t also f o r the self-representation o f the f a m i l y o f the
deceased, w h o presented his or her m u m m y t o the l i m i t e d p u b l i c
o f t h o s e present at the c e r e m o n y . In this c o n n e c t i o n w e can also
easily u n d e r s t a n d the i n t r o d u c t i o n o f naturalistic portraits i n t o
the cult o f the d e a d , f o r they are particularly well suited f o r p u b lic representation. P u b l i c self-representation had already b e c o m e
increasingly i m p o r t a n t in P h a r a o n i c E g y p t , and it a l s o played a
significant role in the Hellenistic k i n g d o m s . In R o m a n culture,
w i t h w h i c h p e o p l e in E g y p t n o w saw themselves c o n f r o n t e d , this
k i n d o f self-representation, a l s o and especially o n the part o f private p e r s o n s , w a s the basis, t o a degree previously u n k n o w n , for
d e t e r m i n i n g p e r s o n a l identity a n d establishing social relations.
B o t h the self-consciousness o f every individual a n d his or her
P o s i t i o n w i t h i n society seem t o have d e p e n d e d t o a large extent
u p o n that i m a g e o f h i m s e l f o r herseif w h i c h , quite literally, was
placed before h i s o w n and o t h e r p e o p l e ' s eyes. D ü r i n g the festivals f o r the d e a d , people s e e m t o have taken advantage o f the
76 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
o p p o r t u n i t y for this k i n d o f self-representation. M u m m i f i c a t i o n
a n d E g y p t i a n decoration fulfilled their magical f u n c t i o n f o r the
survival o f the deceased in the w o r l d b e y o n d ; the realistic repres e n t a t i o n o f a relative in the portrait r e m i n d e d people o f their
social roles in this w o r l d , d e m o n s t r a t e d their m e m b e r s h i p in a
social g r o u p shaped b y H e l l e n i s t i c - R o m a n culture, and in this
w a y guaranteed their survival in the m e m o r y o f society.
I n v i e w o f these c o n s i d e r a t i o n s it s h o u l d b y n o w have b e c o m e
clear that the various elements o f the portrait m u m m i e s were
originally anchored in different cultures and were capable o f sati s f y i n g different requirements o f o n e and the s a m e person or
f a m i l y . A t the same t i m e it has t u r n e d o u t that the question I
raised earlier c o n c e r n i n g the identity o f the p e r s o n s portrayed is
c o n s i d e r a b l y m o r e c o m p l e x t h ä n o n e m i g h t have t h o u g h t at first.
W e have already discovered that in the social classes w i t h w h i c h
w e are d e a l i n g here w e can n o longer speak o f G r e e k s or E g y p tians in t h e sense o f racial descent. N o w w e have a series o f i n d i c a t i o n s that m a k e the q u e s t i o n o f cultural identity multilayered
t o o . In the last f e w years, historians and p a p y r o l o g i s t s have
increasingly directed their a t t e n t i o n t o the disparity o f the roles
that a p e r s o n can play in a society. 3 2 In E g y p t these roles were
related t o areas o f life w h i c h were determined in very different
w a y s , s o m e t i m e s m o r e b y E g y p t i a n traditions, sometimes m o r e
b y the culture o f the n e w rulers. S o s o m e o n e w h o belonged t o
the upper class c o u l d b e said t o act, according t o circumstances,
o n e t i m e as " a G r e e k " (for e x a m p l e in the g y m n a s i u m , as the
sanctuary o f Hellenic culture), a n o t h e r t i m e as " a n E g y p t i a n "
(for e x a m p l e in religious cult), a n d p o s s i b l y a third time as " a
R o m a n " (for e x a m p l e in the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n or in the military
d o m a i n ) . Persons o f t e n b o r e t w o Hifferent n a m e s , o n e G r e e k or
L a t i n a n d the other E g y p t i a n . A n d in fact it can b e s h o w n that
the choice o f using the o n e n a m e or the other c o u l d d e p e n d u p o n
the particular c o n t e x t , the particular role. 33
N o w , w h a t is the identity o f such a person? U n f o r t u n a t e l y , w e
lack d o c u m e n t s that c o u l d teil us h o w the i n d i v i d u a l s saw t h e m selves a n d whether they feit this change o f roles as a change f r o m
o n e identity t o a n o t h e r . B u t there seem t o be g o o d g r o u n d s for
s u p p o s i n g that it is o u r m o d e r n , analytical perspective that splits
Barbara E. Borg 77
Plate 1 Portrait m u m m y of A r t e m i d o r o s the younger f o u n d t o gether w i t h the portrait m u m m i e s o f an eider A r t e m i d o r o s (his
father?) and a lady n a m e d T h e r m o u t h a r i n (his mother?) in rhe
n e c r o p o h s o f H a w a r a . L o n d o n , British M u s e u m E A 21810.
78 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
Plate 2 Portrait m u m m y o f a girl, called the " G o l d e n G i r l "
because o f her gilt stucco case. C o u r t e s y o f E . D o x i a d i s , The
Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient Egypt.
Barbara E. Borg 79
Plate 3 M u m m y portrait o f a b o y displaying a hair style typical
o f children b e l o n g i n g t o the local E g y p ü a n elite. C o p e n h a g e n ,
N a t i o n a l M u s e u m 3892.
8o T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
Plate 4 M u m m y portrait o f a soldier(?) presented in a habit t y p i cal o f soldier emperors o f the third Century AD (cf. fig. 5). O x f o r d , A s h m o l e a n M u s e u m o f A r t a n d A r c h a e o l o g y 1896-1908 E.
Barbara E. Borg 81
Plate 5 M u m m y portrait o f a girl, o n e o f the finest surviving
ancient paintings w i t h most delicate features, and wreath and
clavi patterns painted in real gold. B o n n , A k a d e m i s c h e s K u n s t museum D804.
82 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
Plate 6 M u m m y portrait o f the y o u n g Eirene. T h e d e m o t i c
inscription reads: " E i r e n e , daughter o f Sulvanus, her m o t h e r IS
Senpnoutis. M a y her soul live forever in O s i r i s - S o k a r , the great
g o d , the L o r d o f A b y d o s . " Stuttgart, Wuerttembergisches
L a n d e s m u s e u m 7.2.
Barbara E. Borg 83
h u m a n beings u p i n t o d i s c o n t i n u o u s partial e t h n i c identities,
w h e r e a s f o r the p e r s o n s i n v o l v e d the c h a n g e o f role t o o k place
m o r e or less u n n o t i c e d . A t least in t h o s e circles o f R o m a n E g y p t
w h i c h , as a c o n s e q u e n c e o f their v a r i o u s f u n c t i o n s w i t h i n Society, h a d u n i t e d s u c h d i f f e r e n t roles w i t h i n t h e m s e l v e s , p e o p l e
w i l l p e r h a p s h a v e feit n o t s o m u c h a split b e t w e e n c u l t u r a l
w o r l d s , o r even a c r a c k i n t h e i r p e r s o n a l i d e n t i t y , as rather the
c h a n c e o f c r e a t i n g a s y n t h e s i s o f all t h e p o s i t i v e aspects of the
d i f f e r e n t c u l t u r e s — a c o n s i d e r a t i o n w h i c h m u s t a p p e a r all the
m o r e p l a u s i b l e if w e r e m i n d o u r s e l v e s t h a t n o g r o u p w i t h i n a
s o c i e t y c a n ever preserve a n u n c h a n g i n g i d e n t i t y free f r o m e x t e r nal influences. T h i s does n o t m e a n projecting our m o d e r n vision
o f a h a r m o n i o u s l y c o e x i s t i n g , or e v e n u n i f y i n g , m u l t i c u l t u r a l
s o c i e t y o n t o R o m a n E g y p t ; there is c e r t a i n l y n o n e e d f o r that.
Neither was the high society o f R o m a n E g y p t o n e big h a p p y
f a m i l y , n o r is it l i k e l y that the d i f f e r e n c e i n the c u l t u r a l o r i g i n o f
t h e i n d i v i d u a l aspects ever e n t i r e l y v a n i s h e d f r o m p e o p l e ' s c o n s c i o u s n e s s . A n d f i n a l l y the s o c i a l c o n d i t i o n s t u r n e d o u t in the
l o n g r u n t o b e u n s t a b l e . B u t there are m a n y r e a s o n s t o believe
that the combination of cultural elements of different origins
w a s n o t necessarily feit as a c o n t r a d i c t i o n , at least i n certain c i r cles a n d d u r i n g t h e first t w o c e n t u r i e s A D , b u t i n s t e a d as an
enrichment and e x p a n s i o n o f a person's possibilities a n d Potentials, b o t h in d a i l y social life a n d w i t h regard t o r e l i g i o u s ideas
a n d h o p e s . S o w e shall p r o b a b l y h a v e t o a n s w e r the q u e s t i o n
a b o u t the i d e n t i t y o f the p e r s o n s r e p r e s e n t e d i n t h e m u m m y p o r traits either b y s u p p o s i n g t h a t t h e y p o s s e s s e d m a n y identities
o r — a s I w o u l d p r e f e r — t h a t they possessed more complex identities t h a n the o n e s t h a t s c h o l a r s have s o o f t e n l o o k e d for. 3 4 T h e
awareness o f a s p e c i f i c e t h n i c i d e n t i t y d e v e l o p s e x c l u s i v e l y m
c o n t r a s t t o a n o t h e r o n e , t h a t is, it results f r o m a n e e d f o r d e m a r c a t i o n . B u t just t h i s k i n d o f n e e d for d e m a r c a t i o n d o e s n o t seem
t o have b e e n v e r y s t r o n g l y feit d u r i n g t h i s p e r i o d . 3 5
It is precisely t h e p h e n o m e n o n , that t h e p a t r o n s o f o u r p o r t r a i t
m u m m i e s possessed a multicultural background, w h i c h can
p r o b a b l y h e l p e x p l a i n their d i s a p p e a r a n c e at m a n y places a r o u n d
t h e m i d d l e o f t h e t h i r d c e n t u r y AD. 3 6 F o r in the t h i r d Century
a feeling o f d i f f e r e n c e e v i d e n t l y increased, o n e w h i c h w a s
84 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
s u p p o r t e d b y c h a n g i n g political a n d e c o n o m i c c o n d i t i o n s and
w a s also intentionally strengthened b y the behavior o f the m e t r o p o l i t a n and u r b a n p o p u l a c e . In the first and second c e n t u r i e s —
the heyday o f the portrait m u m m i e s — t h e t h o r o u g h g o i n g i n t e r p e n e t r a t i o n o f the cultures in the F a y u m also expressed itself in a
very concrete w a y . T h e m e m b e r s o f the u p p e r class resided n o t
o n l y i n the metropolises but also i n the villages, where they
strengthened the e c o n o m y in general and also s u p p o r t e d the
E g y p t i a n temples. M e m b e r s o f the lower classes tried their l u c k
i n the metropolises a n d there they c a m e i n t o contact w i t h H e l lenic culture.
In the t h i r d Century, t h e social g r o u p s separated o u t again. W e
f i n d scarcely any evidence any m o r e for villagers w h o settled in
the metropolises, a n d the elite m o v e d back f r o m the c o u n t r y s i d e
i n t o the cities. 3 7 T h e i r a m b i t i o n w a s n o w n o longer directed t o
their r e p u t a t i o n i n t h e i m m e d i a t e social c o n t e x t ; instead they
oriented themselves t o w a r d s other elites o f the R o m a n E m p i r e .
T h e E g y p t i a n villages n o w lacked t h e s u p p o r t o f the w e l l - t o - d o ;
as a c o n s e q u e n c e , t h e e c o n o m i c pressure rose and the contrast
b e t w e e n rieh and p o o r , as a contrast b e t w e e n city a n d c o u n t r y ,
intensified. Perhaps, a m o n g the p o p u l a t i o n o f the E g y p t i a n v i l lages there m a y even have d e v e l o p e d a m o o d hostile t o the
" G r e e k s , " as A l a n B o w m a n has argued. For h i m o n e expression
o f t h i s can b e f o u n d in the revival o f the so-called Potter's O r a cle, an a p o c a l y p t i c E g y p t i a n p o e m p r o p h e s y i n g the fall o f A l e x a n d r i a . It w a s o r i g i n a l l y directed against the Privileges the
G r e e k s e n j o y e d u n d e r the rule o f the Ptolemies, b u t is t r a n s m i t ted t o us in several G r e e k m a n u s c r i p t s o f the second a n d third
centuries AD. W h a t e v e r the attitude o f the rural p o p u l a c e m a y
have been, 3 8 in the t h i r d Century, the elite seem t o have w i t h d r a w n f r o m the s u p p o r t o f the E g y p t i a n temples, w h i c h g r a d u ally b e c a m e neglected o r deteriorated or were t u r n e d i n t o
m i l i t a r y c a m p s w h e n the E m p e r o r p a i d a visit t o the province. 3 9
S o it l o o k s as t h o u g h the d e e p e n i n g o f s o c i o e c o n o m i c a n d Status
differences b r o u g h t w i t h it a m o n g the elites an increasing awareness o f a n d interest in G r e c o - R o m a n culture, w h i c h led, at least
t e m p o r a r i l y , t o a n e w , a l m o s t a n a c h r o n i s t i c G r e e k identity o n
Barbara E. Borg 85
the part o f the p a g a n elites, o n e w h i c h w a s t o a certain extent
m o r e o n e - d i m e n s i o n a l than p r e v i o u s l y k n o w n f o r m s .
I n this c o n t e x t it seems t o m e a plausible speculation that the
local elites also developed a n e w feeling for the fact that the
funeral c u s t o m s they preserved were genuinely E g y p t i a n . T h e
fact o f the general decline o f the E g y p t i a n cults proves that p e o ple had b e c o m e o n the w h o l e less r o o t e d in ancient E g y p t i a n
b e l i e f s — a n d p r e s u m a b l y this w a s true a b o v e all a m o n g the H e l lenized p o p u l a t i o n . H e n c e , in v i e w o f the n e w a n t a g o n i s m — o r
at least i n d i f f e r e n c e — w i t h regard t o E g y p t i a n religion, it seems
o n l y logical that the o l d b u r i a l c u s t o m s n o longer c o n v i n c e d
these m e t r o p o l i t a n p e o p l e t o the same d e g r e e — s o that the bell
began t o toll for the end o f the portrait m u m m i e s as w e l l , w h i c h
had b e e n dedicated t o these c u s t o m s .
A t the risk o f a certain degree o f e x a g g e r a t i o n w e c o u l d therefore perhaps s u m m a r i z e part o f the d e v e l o p m e n t in this w a y : the
times o f the t y p e o f bicultural, G r e c o - E g y p t i a n identities and
f o r m s o f expression, t o w h i c h the portrait m u m m i e s o w e d their
o r i g i n , h a d passed. 4 0
NOTES
T h i s a r t i c l e r e p r e s e n t s a s l i g h t l y e x p a n d e d Version o f a l e c t u r e w h i c h I d e l i v e r e d i n F e b r u a r y 1998 i n C o p e n h a g e n a t t h e i n v i t a t i o n o f M o g e n s J o r g e n s e n a n d
the N y C a r l s b e r g G l y p t o t e k as w e l l as in v a r i o u s G e r m a n v e r s i o n s in Berlin,
M a i n z , Göttingen, Leipzig, Darmstadt, and Heidelberg; only the most indispensable f o o t n o t e s have been a d d e d . I w o u l d like t o express m y sincere gratitude for
the invitations a n d f o r the ensuing discussions. I o w e particular t h a n k s t o G l e n n
W . M o s t for the translation.
1. T h e a r t i c l e is b a s e d u p o n m y w o r k o n p o r t r a i t m u m m i e s , w h i c h g o e s b a c k
t o m y d i s s e r t a t i o n o f 1990 a n d f r o m w h i c h t w o m o n o g r a p h s h a v e i s s u e d , i n
w h i c h the a r g u m e n t s presented here c a n be f o u n d in m u c h m o r e detail b u t , alas,
in G e r m a n : Mumienporträts: Chronologie und kultureller Kontext ( M a i n z
1996), c i t e d h e r e a s B o r g , Mumienporträts; a n d "Der zierlichste Anblick der
Welt..." Ägyptische Porträtmumien, s p e c i a l i s s u e o f Antike Welt ( M a i n z
1998), c i t e d h e r e a s B o r g , Antike Welt, w h i c h is i n t e n d e d f o r a b r o a d e r a u d i e n c e
b u t a l s o r e p r e s e n t s a l a t e r s t a g e in m y t h i n k i n g a b o u t t h i s m a t e r i a l . O t h e r w o r k s
c i t e d h e r e in a b b r e v i a t e d f o r m are t h e f o l l o w i n g : P a r l a s c a , Mumienporträts: K .
P a r l a s c a , Mumienporträts und verwandte Denkmäler ( W i e s b a d e n 1966), t h e f i r s t
t h o r o u g h m o n o g r a p h o n t h e s u b j e c t ; P a r l a s c a , Repertorio I—III: K . P a r l a s c a ,
Repertorio d'arte dell'Egitto greco-romano ( e d . A . A d r i a n i ) B I, Ritratti di
mummie I ( P a l e r m o 1969), II ( P a l e r m o 1977), H I ( P a l e r m o 1980), t h e m o s t
86 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
c o m p l e t e c a t a l o g u e o f t h e m u m m y p o r t r a i t s ; B i e r b r i e r , Portraits and Masks: M .
L . B i e r b r i e r , e d . , Portraits and Masks: Burial Customs in Roman Egypt ( L o n d o n
1997), a n i m p o r t a n t r e c e n t c o l l e c t i o n o f a r t i c l e s .
O n P i e t r o D e i l a V a l l e a n d w h a t f o l l o w s , s e e P . G . B i e t e n h o l z , Pietro Deila
Valle (1586-1652). Studien zur Geschichte der Orientkenntnis und des
Orientbildes im Abendlande ( B a s e l 19Ö2). T h e c i t a t i o n s c o n c e r n i n g t h e m o t i v e s
f o r h i s travels are t a k e n f r o m " G e d a n k e n , d i e ich in d e r A c c a d e r n i a [degli U m o r i sti] bei der P r ä s e n t a t i o n m e i n e s B u c h e s v o r z u t r a g e n b e a b s i c h t i g e " = B i e t e n h o l z ,
2 2 5 - 3 0 . , t h o s e a b o u t t h e d i s c o v e r y o f t h e m u m m y f r o m h i s letter o f 25.1.1616 =
Bietenholz , 205-8.
2. B o t h m u m m i e s w e r e l a t e r p u r c h a s e d b y a n a g e n t o f A u g u s t , " d e r S t a r k e "
("the S t r a n g " ) a n d are n o w in the Staatliche K u n s t s a m m l u n g e n in D r e s d e n (Inv.
7 7 7 a n d 778); s e e R . G e r m e r e t a l . , " D i e W i e d e r e n t d e c k u n g d e r L ü b e c k e r A p o t h e k e n - M u m i e , " Antike Welt 26 (1995), 233. W . M . F . P e t r i e , Hawara, Biahmu and Arsinoe ( L o n d o n 1889); Roman Portraits and Memphis ( I V ) , B r i t i s h S c h o o l o f A r c h a e o l o g y i n E g y p t a n d E g y p t i a n
R e s e a r c h A c c o u n t , S e v e n t e e n t h Y e a r ( L o n d o n 1911).
4. A s u r v e y o f t h e h i s t o r y o f t h e d i s c o v e r i e s a n d c o l l e c t i o n s i s p r o v i d e d b y P a r l a s c a , Mumienporträts ( n o t e 1), 1 - 5 8 a n d e l s e w h e r e , B o r g , Mumienporträts
( n o t e 1), 1 8 3 - 9 0 a n d B o r g , Antike Welt ( n o t e 1), 5 - 3 1 .
5. H e r e a n d i n w h a t f o l l o w s , t h e c o n c e p t o f " c u l t u r e " i s i n t e n d e d t o i n c l u d e a l l
s o c i a l p r a c t i c e s , i d e a s , a n d i n s t i t u t i o n s , a s w e l l as t h e m a t e r i a l o b j e c t s t h a t c o r r e s p o n d w i t h t h e m ; these are c o n c e i v e d as b e i n g dialectically related w i f h o n e
another. H e n c e the c o n c e p t o f culture d o e s n o t i m p l y a n y sort o f evaluation or
hierarchical p o s i t i o n (e.g., in the sense o f a l i m i t a t i o n o f the t e r m t o " t h e higher
a c c o m p l i s h m e n t s o f c i v i l i z a t i o n " ) , n o r is it m y i n t e n t i o n t o a c c o r d a p r i v i l e g e t o
o n e o f t h e aspects o f t h e c u l t u r a l totality m e n t i o n e d here in contrast t o the o t h e r s ( w h i c h is w h y n o n e o f t h e m — i n c l u d i n g t h e p i c t u r e s — i s u n d e r s t o o d a s a
pure representation o f one o f the others). T w o copsequences for understanding
the suggestions presented here arise f r o m this conception. W h e n stating that a
certain p h e n o m e n o n is a n c h o r e d in G r e e k or E g y p t i a n o r s o m e other culture, I
i n t e n d f i r s t o f a l l t o i n d i c a t e i t s s o u r c e , b u t a t t h e s a m e t i m e I a l s o c l a i m t h a t its
original c o n t e x t remains relevant in s o m e w a y . H o w e v e r , this s h o u l d n o t be
u n d e r s t o o d in a n a b s o l u t e sense, as t h o u g h t h e m e a n i n g o f cultural e l e m e n t s o f a
certain t r a d i t i o n w h i c h are a d o p t e d i n t o a m o r e o r less n e w c o n t e x t r e m a i n e d
e n t i r e l y u n t o u c h e d . H e n c e I e x p l i c i t l y c o n c e d e t h a t m e a n i n g s , c o n n o t a t i o n s , et
cetera, are c o n s t a n t l y b e i n g m o d i f i e d , a n d all t h e m o r e , t h e m o r e t h e o t h e r f a c tors c h a n g e w i t h w h i c h t h e y interact in t h e a b o v e sense. In this brief article I c a n n o t e x p l o r e these interactions in any m o r e detail. In contrast t o a n y forced
attempts to harmonize the various elements of the Portrait m u m m i e s into
" m o n o l i t h i c " concepts o f culture a n d / o r ethnicity and to alternative attempts to
a t t r i b u t e t h e m t o a n u n r e f l e c t e d a n d a r b i t r a r y e c l e c t i c i s m , i t is m y f o r e m o s t
intention to d e m o n s t r a t e a n d accept the different r o o t s o f these elements and
present t h e m as parts o f a coherent multifaceted whole.
6. T h e n u m b e r r e f e r s t o t h e m u m m y p o r t r a i t s o f t h e c o l l e c t i o n o f T h e o d o r
G r a f , w h i c h was published by the Berlin Egyptologist G e o r g Ebers (G. Ebers,
Antike Portraits: Die hellenistischen Bildnisse aus dem Fayum [ L e i p z i g 1893]
p a s s i m , t h e q u o t a t i o n o n 5 7 - 5 8 ) . T h e p o r t r a i t is n o w l o c a t e d in B e r l i n , S t a a t l i c h e
M u s e e n Preussischer K u l t u r b e s i t z Inv. 31161/8. F o r the h i s t o r i c a l c o n t e x t o f p s y -
Barbara E. Borg 87
c h o l o g i z i n g i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s l i k e t h e s e see J . B a z a n t , Roman Portraiture: A History oflts History ( P r a g u e 1995), 1 9 - 2 3 ; 76—90.
7. O n t h i s s u b j e c t see i n g e n e r a l L . G i u l i a n i , Bildnis und Botschaft ( F r a n k f u r t
1986), a n d w i t h s p e c i a l r e f e r e n c e t o t h e m u m m y p o r t r a i t s B o r g , Antike Welt
( n o t e 1), 34—40.
8. N . G o o d m a n , Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols
( L o n d o n 1969), 48.
9. T h e i n s c r i p t i o n s o n t h e p o r t r a i t s a n d m u m m i e s are c o l l e c t e d i n P a r l a s c a ,
Mumienporträts ( n o t e 1), 7 6 - 8 4 ; L . H . C o r c o r a n , Portrait Mummies from
Roman Egypt, S A O C 56 ( C h i c a g o 1995}, 6 6 - 6 8 ; D . M o n t s e r r a t , " T o u r n a m e
will reach the hall o f the Western M o u n t a i n s ' : S o m e Aspects o f M u m m y Portrait
I n s c r i p t i o n s , " D . M . B a i l e y , e d . , Archaeological Research in Roman Egypt. T h e
Proceedings of T h e Seventh Classical C o l l o q u i u m o f T h e D e p a r t m e n t of Greek
a n d R o m a n A n t i q u i t i e s , B r i t i s h M u s e u m . J R A S u p p l e m e n t 19 ( A n n A r b o r , M I
1996), 1 7 7 - 8 5 ; B o r g , Mumienporträts ( n o t e 1), 1 5 0 - 5 6 ; R . S. B a g n a l l h a s k i n d l y
b r o u g h t t o m y a t t e n t i o n t h e f o l l o w i n g corrections: (d) the n a m e o f t h e deceased
is D e m o ( n o t D e m o s ) ; (p) t h e n a m e o f t h e d e c e a s e d is D i o s k o r o u s ; (y) t h e s e c o n d
w o r d is i n f a c t a n a m e : E u d a i m o n i s ; the r e a d i n g s o f (g) a n d (s) d o n o t l o o k
persuasive.
10. O n w h a t f o l l o w s it w i l l s o o n b e p o s s i b l e t o c o n s u l t t h e f u n d a m e n t a l w o r k
o f W . C l a r y s s e a n d D . J . T h o m p s o n , Counting the People, C o l l e c t a n e s H e l l e n i s t i c a ( L e u v e n , f o r t h c o m i n g ) ; a g o o d s u m m a r y is R . S. B a g n a l l , " T h e P e o p l e o f t h e
R o m a n F a y u m , " B i e r b r i e r , Portraits and Masks ( n o t e 1), 7—15.
n . J . M e l e z e M o d r z e j e w s k i , " E n t r e la c i t e e t le f i s c : le Statut g r e c d a n s l ' E g y p t e r o m a i n e , " Symposion 1982, V a l e n c i a 241—80 = Droit imperial et traditions
locales dans l'Egypte romaine ( A l d e r s h o t 1990) c h a p . 1; a s u m m a r y in B a g n a l l
( n o t e 10).
iz. O n t h e s e see b e l o w , n o t e 22.
13. A list o f all t h e n a m e s t r a n s m i t t e d o n p o r t r a i t m u m m i e s , b r o u g h t u p t o
d a t e a n d c l a s s i f i e d b y t h e k i n d n e s s o f R . S. B a g n a l l , c a n b e f o u n d in B o r g , Antike
Welt ( n o t e 1), 41; o n t h e c r i t e r i a f o r t h e C l a s s i f i c a t i o n see B a g n a l l ( n o t e 10). I t a k e
t h e o p p o r t u n i t y t o s i n c e r e l y t h a n k R o g e r B a g n a l l o n c e a g a i n . It m u s t b e
a c k n o w l e d g e d t h a t t h e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s u m m a r i z e d h e r e rests u p o n t h e q u i t e s m a l l
Statistical b a s i s o f t h i r t y - n i n e n a m e s a n d h e n c e is n o t f r e e o f t h e c o r r e s p o n d i n g
u n c e r t a i n t i e s . B u t it a g r e e s in its r e s u l t w i t h t h e d a t a t h a t c a n b e i n f e r r e d f r o m
o t h e r e v i d e n c e a s w e l l (see b e l o w ) .
14. F o r t h e s e a n d o t h e r s a l a r i e s s e e A . C . J o h n s o n , Roman Egypt to the Reign
of Diocletian: An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome II ( B a l t i m o r e 1936), 301-10.
15- O n t h e c o s t s o f f u n e r a l s see D . M o n t s e r r a t , " D e a t h a n d F u n e r a l s i n t h e
R o m a n F a y u m , " B i e r b r i e r , Portraits and Masks ( n o t e 1), 3 3 _ 4 4 16. E . g . , t h e s o - c a l l e d " G o l d e n G i r l " i n C a i r o , E g y p t i a n M u s . C G . 33216 ( p l .
2).
17. See, w i t h f u r t h e r b i b l i o g r a p h y , B o r g , Mumienporträts ( n o t e 1), 1 5 6 - 5 9 .
18. S e e t h e p r o v i s i o n a l p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h e p o r t r a i t f r a g m e n t : E . G r a e f e , " A
M u m m y P o r t r a i t o f A n t i n o u s f r o m T h e b e s , " B i e r b r i e r Portraits and Masks ( n o t e
1), 54 F i g . 5. 2. O n t h e naukleroi see A . J . M . M e y e r - T e r m e e r , Die Haftung der
Schiffer im griechischen und römischen Recht ( Z u t p h e n 1978).
19- T h e h a i r d o d i f f e r s as w e l l f r o m t h a t o f thos'e b o y s w h o r e c e i v e d c e r t a i n
p r e l i m i n a r y i n i t i a t i o n s i n t h e m y s t e r y c u l t o f Isis: f o r a m o n g t h e s e latter o n l y t h e
88 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
b u n c h o f h a k w h i c h is g a t h e r e d t o g e t h e r i n t h e l o c k o n t h e s i d e is l o n g , w h i l e t h e
rest o f t h e h a i r is e i t h e r c u t a c c o r d i n g t o t h e u s u a l f a s h i o n (i.e., m o r e o r less
s h o r t ) o r eise is e n t i r e l y c u t o f f . O n t h e I s i s b o y s , w h o m I d o n o t f u r t h e r d i s c u s s
h e r e , s e e B o r g , Mumienporträts ( n o t e i ) , T13-21.
20. L u c . n a v . 2 - 3 ( t r a n s . K . K i l b u r n ) .
21. E v e n i f t h e r e is g o o d r e a s o n t o e x a m i n e c l o s e l y L u c i a n ' s a s s e r t i o n s b e f o r e
t a k i n g t h e m f o r r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s o f h i s t o r i c a l f a c t s , I d o n o t see i n t h e p a s s a g e
cited here either an external reason or o n e internal t o the text w h i c h w o u l d just i f y s k e p t i c i s m regarding its c o n t e n t .
22. O n t h e p a p y r o l o g i c a l e v i d e n c e r e f e r r i n g t o t h e M a l l o k o u r i a s e e D . M o n t serrat, " M a l l o c o u r i a a n d Therapeuteria: R i t u a l s o f T r a n s i t i o n in a M i x e d Socie t y ? , " BASP 28 (1991), 4 3 - 4 9 ; B . L e g r a s , " M a l l o k o u r i a et m a l l o c o u r e t e s : U n r i t e
d e p a s s a g e d a n s l ' E g y p t e r o m a i n e , " Cahier du Centre G. Glotz 4 (i993)> 113-2723. O n t h e 6475 K a t o i k o i see D . C a n d u c c i , " 1 6 4 7 5 c a t e c i g r e c i d e l l ' A r s i n o i t e , "
Aegyptus 70 (1990) 2 1 1 - 5 5 ; a n d " I 6475 c a t e c i g r e c i d e l P A r s i n o i t e , P r o s o p o g r a f i a , " Aegyptus 71 (1991), 121-21Ö.
24. F o r a m o r e c o m p l e t e d i s c u s s i o n o f t h e o b s e r v a t i o n s a n d s o u r c e s m e n t i o n e d
h e r e see B o r g , Mumienporträts ( n o t e 1), 113-21.
25. I n d e t a i l , B o r g , Mumienporträts ( n o t e 1), 1 9 - 8 8 ; i n s u m m a r y , B o r g ,
Antike Welt {note 1), 45~4926. O n t h e c l o t h i n g , s e e B o r g , Mumienporträts ( n o t e 1), 1 6 1 - 6 7 ; o n t h e o r n a m e n t a t i o n , s e e B o r g , Mumienporträts ( n o t e 1), 167-^72; i n s u m m a r y . B o r g ,
Antike Welt ( n o t e 1), 4 9 - 5 2 .
27. O n t h e r e l i g i o u s i m a g e s o n t h e m u m m y b o d i e s s e e P a r l a s c a , Mumienporträts ( n o t e 1), 1 5 2 - 9 2 ; B o r g , Mumienporträts ( n o t e 1), 1 1 1 - 4 9 a n d e s p e c i a l l y L .
H . C o r c o r a n , Portrait Mummies from Roman Egypt, S A O C 56 ( C h i c a g o 1995)W i t h r e g a r d t o h e r (in p a r t p r o b l e m a t i c ) c o n c l u s i o n s , w h i c h a r e i n t e n d e d t o d e m onstrate, against the t r a d i t i o n a l o p i n i o n o f classicists, that t h e p a t r o n s o f the
P o r t r a i t m u m m i e s w e r e p u r e E g y p t i a n s , see t h e r e v i e w b y B . B o r g , AJA 101
(1997). 187-88.
28. L o n d o n , B r i t i s h M u s e u m E A 21810 ( P a r l a s c a , Repertorio [ n o t e 1], n o . 162;
S . W a l k e r a n d M . B i e r b r i e r , e d s . , Ancient Faces, Mummy Portraits from Roman
Egypt: A Catalogue of Roman Portraits in the British Museum [ L o n d o n 1997],
5 6 - 5 7 n o . 32); C a i r o , E g y p t i a n M u s e u m C G . 33221 ( P a r l a s c a , Repertorio [ n o t e
1], n o . 260).
29. I n t h e s e n s e o f w h a t I s a i d a b o v e i n n o t e 5, o f c o u r s e I d o n o t i n t e n d t o
deny here that n o t o n l y m a n y iconographies b u t also m a n y contents o f the
i m a g e s h a d c h a n g e d c o n s i d e r a b l y since the P h a r a o n i c p e r i o d — n o t least u n d e r
t h e i n f l u e n c e o f G r e e k r e l i g i o n . M y p o i n t h e r e is a b o v e a l l t o d e m o n s t r a t e t h a t
the religious a n d s e p u l c h r a l ideas expressed in these i m a g e s agree in their basic
aspects w i t h traditional E g y p t i a n beliefs. A s i d e f r o m this, a study o f the changes
d u r i n g t h e I m p e r i a l p e r i o d is a n u r g e n t d e s i d e r a t u m o f w h i c h t h e r e s u l t s w o u l d
certainly be m o s t interesting.
30. S e e t h e d e t a i l e d d i s c u s s i o n o f t h e s o u r c e s i n B . B o r g , " T h e D e a d as a G u e s t
at Table? C o n t i n u i t y and C h a n g e in the Egyptian C u l t o f the D e a d , " Bierbrier,
Portraits and Masks ( n o t e 1), 2 6 - 3 2 , w i t h a r a t h e r t o o o n e - s i d e d e m p h a s i s u p o n
t h e p r e s e r v a t i o n o f the m u m m i e s in the h o u s e o f the f a m i l y o f the d e c e a s e d .
31. W . A . D a s z e w s k i , " M u m m y P o r t r a i t s f r o m N o r t h e r n E g y p t : T h e N e c r o p o l i s i n M a r i n a e l - A l a m e i n , " B i e r b r i e r Portraits and Masks ( n o t e 1), 5 9 - 6 5 ; m o s t
Barbara E. Borg 89
r e c e n t l y : W . A . D a s z e w s k i , " M a r i n a e l - A l a m e i n E x c a v a t i o n s 1 9 9 8 , " Polish
Archaeology in the Mediterranean. Reports ig$8 ( W a r s a w 1999), 4 1 - 4 6 .
32. W . C l a r y s s e , " G r e e k s a n d E g y p t i a n s i n t h e P t o l e m a i c A r m y a n d A d m i n i s t r a t i o n , " Aegyptus 65 (1985), 5 7 - 6 6 ; a n d " S o m e G r e e k s i n E g y p t , " J . H . J o h n s o n , e d . , Life in a Multi-Cultural Society: Egypt from Cambyses to Constantine
and Beyond, S A O C 51 ( C h i c a g o 1992), 5 1 - 5 6 ; B a g n a l l ( n o t e 10), 8.
33. B a g n a l l ( n o t e 10) a n d " T h e F a y u m a n d i t s P e o p l e , " i n W a l k e r a n d B i e r b r i e r , Ancient Faces ( n o t e 28), 17—20. 34. B a g n a l l ' s c o n c l u s i o n is s i m i l a r , n o t e 10, 10 a n d n o t e 33.
35. T o b e s u r e , t h i s c l a i m m u s t b e l i m i t e d i n c e r t a i n c o n t e x t s . I t w i l l c e r t a i n l y
n o t h a v e b e e n a m a t t e r o f i n d i f f e r e n c e t o t h e i n d i v i d u a l w h e t h e r i n a legal sense
h e w a s a G r e e k o r a R o m a n o r a n ( n o n - G r e e k ) E g y p t i a n , s i n c e t h i s p a r t i c u l a r Status resulted directly in certain reductions o f financial obligations a n d application
o f a s p e c i f i c l a w c o d e . F u r t h e r m o r e , t h e r e c a n b e n o d o u b t t h a t t h e 6475 A r s i noite K a t o i k o i assigned a high value to their Greekness and to a "traditional"
e d u c a t i o n of their children in a g y m n a s i u m .
36. T h e r e i s c o n s i d e r a b l e c o n t r o v e r s y a m o n g s c h o l a r s c o n c e r n i n g t h e d a t e o f
the end o f the p r o d u c t i o n o f portrait m u m m i e s . I have argued elsewhere, o n the
basis o f detailed typological c o m p a r i s o n s b e t w e e n the fashion hair styles o f the
m u m m y p o r t r a i t s a n d t h o s e o f s c u l p t u r e d p o r t r a i t s f r o m t h e rest o f t h e R o m a n
E m p i r e , against the hitherto seemingly well-established thesis that the m u m m y
portraits flourished once again in the fourth Century and only c a m e to an end
w i t h t h e p r o h i b i t i o n o f p a g a n c u l t s i n T h e o d o s i u s ' e d i c t o f 392 A D ( s e e B o r g ,
Mumienporträts [ n o t e 1] 19—84); f o r s i m i l a r r e s u l t s s e e t h e c a t a l o g u e o f t h e B r i t i s h M u s e u m p o r t r a i t s : W a l k e r a n d B i e r b r i e r , Ancient Faces ( n o t e 28). T h e t r a d i tional v i e w depends for the most part u p o n an unproven prejudice concerning a
linear stylistic e v o l u t i o n in art f r o m naturalistic beginnings t o a f o r m u l a r ,
a b s t r a c t " e n d " ; f u r t h e r m o r e , it m i s u n d e r s t a n d s t h e e f f e c t o f t h e e d i c t , w h i c h n e i ther prohibited the practice o f m u m m i f i c a t i o n n o r led to a sudden end o f pagan
c u l t s i n E g y p t ( s e e , e . g . , R . S. B a g n a l l , Egypt in Late Antiquity [ P r i n c e t o n , N J
:
9 9 3 ] ; C h . H a a s , Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict
[Baltimore and L o n d o n 1997], 128-172). T h e end of the portrait mummies evidently depended u p o n local traditions. W h i l e in m o s t places the p r o d u c t i o n dries
u p i n t h e s e c o n d q u a r t e r o f t h e t h i r d C e n t u r y , a t a f e w o t h e r s it c o n t i n u e s u n t i l
the latter p a r t o f t h e t h i r d Century ( e . g . S a k k a r a : s e e B o r g , Mumienporträts [ n o t e
*]> 1 7 7 - 7 8 ) o r e v e n i n t o t h e f o u r t h C e n t u r y ( e . g . i n A n t i n o o p o l i s : S . W a l k e r ,
"Porträts auf Leichentüchern aus A n t i n o o p o l i s : Eine A n m e r k u n g z u K l e i d u n g
u n d D a t i e r u n g , " K . P a r l a s c a a n d H . S e e m a n n , e d s . , Augenblicke: Mumienporträts und ägyptische Grabkunst aus römischer Zeit [ F r a n k f u r t
1998], 74~78).
For a more detailed discussion o f the circumstances that contributed to the
e n d o f t h e p o r t r a i t m u m m i e s , s e e B o r g , Antike Welt ( n o t e 1), 8 8 - 1 0 1 . T h e f o l l o w i n g c o n s i d e r a t i o n s a r e n o t i n t e n d e d as a n e x p l a n a t i o n f o r t h e d i s a p p e a r a n c e
o f t h e m u m m y portraits. C o n s i d e r i n g t h e deep changes in the material culture o f
the w h o l e R o m a n E m p i r e in t h e t h i r d Century, w h i c h were the c o n t e x t w i t h i n
w h i c h E g y p t i a n c o n d i t i o n s t o o m u s t b e seen e m b e d d e d , these brief r e m a r k s can
only provide a sketch o f some specific Egyptian conditions w h i c h , together w i t h
m a n y o t h e r factors, m a y well have played a role.
37- C f . H . B r a u n e r t , Die Binnenwanderung, B o n n e r H i s t o r i s c h e S t u d i e n 26
( B o n n 1964).
90 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
38. In general w e m u s t exercise c a u t i o n w h e n j u d g i n g the attitude o f the E g y p tian rural p o p u l a t i o n , f o r o u r sources are f o c u s e d t o o o n e - s i d e d l y u p o n the
u p p e r classes. T h u s E w a W i p s z y c k a p o i n t s rightly t o the danger o f a circular
a r g u m e n t in interpreting t o o quickly the material remains w i t h their particular
stylistic features, w h i c h are s o m e t i m e s all w e have, as " E g y p t i a n p o p u k r a r t " or
t h e l i k e ( E . W i p s z y c k a , Etudes sur le christianisme dans l'Egypte de l'antiquite
tardive [ R o m e
39. S e e
1996], 157—58).
i n d e t a i l R . S . B a g n a l l , Egypt in Late Antiquity ( P r i n c e t o n , N J
1993).
40. I d o n o t intend hereby t o Support the obsolete idea that a k i n d o f C o p t i c
n a t i o n a l i s m set i t s e l f i n O p p o s i t i o n t o G r e e k c u l t u r e i n t h e f o u r t h a n d f i f t h c e n t u ries (see in detail w i t h f u r t h e r literature: W i p s z y c k a [ n o t e 38], p a s s i m ) . I a m
m e r e l y t h i n k i n g o f a r e o r i e n t a t i o n o f t h e ( p a g a n ) l o c a l e l i t e s o f t h e t h i r d (!) C e n tury, for w h o m that part o f Egyptian culture w h i c h was m o s t clearly distinguisha b l e , n a m e l y r e l i g i o n , h a d e v i d e n t l y c o m e t o l o s e s o m e o f its a t t r a c t i v e n e s s .
Barbara E. Borg 91
Figure 1 T h e m u m m y f o u n d at S a k k a r a by Pietro Deila Valle
(see his letter o f J a n u a r y 25, 1616). D r e s d e n , Staatliche S k u l p t u r e n s a m m l u n g A e g . 777.
Figure 2 M u m m y portrait o f a m a n , analyzed and discussed
the E g y p t o l o g i s t G e o r g Ebers. Berlin, Staatliche M u s e e n 311
Barbara E. Borg 93
Figure 3 M u m m y portrait o f a lady f r o m H a w a r a w i t h typical
hair style o f the early A n t o n i n e p e r i o d ( m i d - s e c o n d Century AD;
cf. fig. 4). T h e M a n c h e s t e r M u s e u m 5379-
94 T H E FACE OF T H E ELITE
Figure 4 M a r h l e bust o f a lady w i t h the same hair style as in fig.
3. J . Paul G e t t y M u s e u m 7 9 . A A . 1 1 8 .
Barbara E. Borg 9 5
Figure 5 M a r b l e portrait o f A l e x a n d e r Severus, R o m a n e m p e r o r ,
222_
2 3 5 . R o m e , V a t i c a n , Sala dei Busti 361, acc. n o . 632.
9 6 T H E F A C E OK T H E E L I T E
Figure 6 R e c o n s t r u c t i o n o f the spectacular t o m b in the n e c r o p o lis o f M a r i n a e l - A l a m e i n , w i t h subterranean burial Chambers
and heroon a b o v e g r o u n d w i t h d i n i n g couches and a v i e w o f the
sea. D r a w i n g by J . D o b r o w s o l s k i , by k i n d p e r m i s s i o n o f W . A .
Daszewski.

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