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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

CHAPTER 11
EGYPT AND ROME
IF one of the emperors had been asked what were the principal
contributions of Egypt to the Roman Empire, he would un-
doubtedly have answered: corn and money. Egypt furnished
few recruits to fight in the Roman armies; the natives were
assessed so low in the social scale that they were even forbidden
to enlist in the legions. It contributed yet fewer members to
the governing aristocracy of the empire: the Egyptians were
excluded from, the Roman citizenship and a fortiori from the
equestrian and senatorial orders, from which were selected the
officials who ruled the empire; and even Alexandrians were, until
the third century A.D., debarred from the senate. Apart from
the three Greek cities which were in Egypt but not of it, it
produced very few men of learning and culture, such as were
the pride of Greece and Asia Minor. In religion its influence
was on the whole regarded as pernicious: for though the Romans
were awed by the immense antiquity of the Egyptian gods and
cherished a belief that their priests were the guardians of a pro-
found esoteric philosophy, they were moved to contempt by
the superstition of the natives, particularly by the worship of
'sacred animals. They frequently repressed the magicians and
astrologers who were the chief representatives of Egyptian
religion abroad, and even regarded with suspicion the wide-
spread cult of Serapis and Isis. In the eyes of the Roman
government Egypt had no intellectual or spiritual contribution
to make to the life of the empire—or none that the empire
would not be better without—and its people were unfitted to
fight for Rome, much more to take any share in its government.
The value of Egypt was purely material; its rich soil, watered
and fertilized each year with unfailing regularity by the Nile
and laboriously tilled by its docile inhabitants, provided an