Land tenure, rural space, and the political economy of Ptolemaic Egypt



by Manning, JG
published on 14 October 2011

In this paper I argue that statist (or “despotic”) assumptions of royal power does not adequately describe the nature of political power in the Ptolemaic development of Egypt. I examine the process of Ptolemaic state formation from the point of view of the expansion and the settlement of the Fayyum, the foundation of Ptolemais in the Thebaid, and from the point of view of new fiscal institutions.

In this paper I argue three points: 1) the usual assumptions of the despotic power of the Ptolemies are built on the false assumptions of political power in ancient Egypt and do not fully describe political power in the Ptolemaic state, 2) the formation of the Ptolemaic state was a process that took close to a century to develop, and it evolved more rapidly in the Fayyum than it did in Upper Egypt, and 3) the effort of socio-economic consolidation during the reign of Ptolemy II suggests that the Ptolemaic state “credibly committed” to protect traditional property rights, which, by the second century BC, were enforced by legal institutions that had become incorporated within the new state structure.

Written by , linked by Jan van der Crabben, published 14 October 2011. Source URL:

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