I have always found the decline of the Ptolemaic Era very interesting, and I actually wrote a research paper about this subject just last year. However, the focus of that paper was just on Cleopatra and her dealings with Rome. I want to take this opportunity to look at the earlier rulers of the Ptolemaic Period.
After Alexander the Great’s rule, obviously there was a little bit of confusion as to who would rule next. That honor fell to Ptolemy Soter, who was actually a close friend of Alexander the Great. Under his rule and the rule of the pharaohs after him, there began to be a lot of mixing of Egyptian and Greek aspects of life. In terms of bureaucracy, Greeks held the majority of the positions of power in Egyptian society. There were also designated communities for specific peoples, like the Greeks , Jews and even the Egyptians. The economy of Egypt changed as well; it was still agricultural in nature, but the invention of the water wheel made it easier to manipulate the waters of the Nile to be able to get water to more fields of wheat. Wheat would continue to be one of Egypt’s main exports, but the type of wheat exported did change. Instead of emmer wheat, which had been used practically since Predynastic times, the Egyptians started planting free threshing wheat, which did not need as much tending and made it easier to extract the wheat with just a gentle threshing, as opposed to the strenuous ritual associated with emmer wheat. The Egyptians still did extensive trade, mainly via sea routes, and its main export was papyrus, which had been used in ancient Egypt for centuries as a writing implement. Gold mines were also utilized, but not as much gold was mined compared to before the Ptolemaic period. Religion also changed drastically; a new triad of deities combined the powerful Egyptian and Greek gods Serapis, Isis and Herpocrates, and the temple was actively supported right up until the end of the Ptolemaic period.