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Contesting Antiquity in EgyptArchaeologies, Museums, and the Struggle for Identities from World War I to Nasser$
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Donald Malcolm Reid

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9789774166891

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774166891.001.0001

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Alexandria, Egypt, and the Greco–Roman Heritage

Alexandria, Egypt, and the Greco–Roman Heritage

(p.229) 8 Alexandria, Egypt, and the Greco–Roman Heritage
Contesting Antiquity in Egypt

Donald Malcolm Reid

American University in Cairo Press

This chapter explores the modern meanings which Europeans and Egyptians have attributed to Egypt's Greco-Roman past, highlighting Alexandria's Greco-Roman Museum, the Archeological Society of Alexandria, and Alexandria University, as well as Cairo's Egyptian Museum, and Cairo and Ain Shams universities. In the 1800s, immigrants from around the Mediterranean and inland Egypt flooded into Alexandria, reviving its prominence as the country's gateway to the Mediterranean and Europe. As in ancient times, however, the city's legendary cosmopolitanism was intimately linked to colonialism: from Napoleon to Lord Cromer and the failed conquest dreams of Mussolini, European rulers imagined themselves as Greeks or Romans returning to civilize a fallen oriental Egypt. In contrast to Forster's, Cavafy's, and Durrell's nostalgia for Hellenistic and Roman Alexandria, far more Egyptians were drawn to Islamic, Coptic, Arab, or pharaonic history. Nevertheless, a few determined Egyptians struggled to reclaim the classical past for their own purposes: Prince Omar Toussoun pioneered underwater exploration of classical remains on his estates, and Taha Hussein relentlessly asserted Greece's and Rome's centrality to Egypt's national heritage. Much of Alexandria's cosmopolitanism retreated with departing Europeans in Nasser's day, but more recently Bibliotheca Alexandrina has tried to revive the city's storied cosmopolitanism without its colonial twin.

Keywords:   Alexandria, Classical, Colonialism, Cosmopolitanism, Alexandria University, Archeological Society of Alexandria, Omar Toussoun, Greco-Roman Museum, Taha Hussein

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