Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

See other formats

Egypt and- Rome                          299
to make good deficits from their own property, as they did in
the third century. It is possible that they did not, and that the
personal responsibility of civic officers, particularly on the finan-
cial side, to the central government was an idea which originated
in Egypt. The eventual system, whereby the liability of the
individual was backed by the guarantee of the community,
would in that case be a combination of the Graeco-Roman
principle of the responsibility of the city with the Egyptian
idea of the service owed by the individual to the state.
The contribution of Egypt to the political theory and practice
of the Graeco-Roman world is difficult to assess because we know
so little of contemporary developments elsewhere in comparison
with the abundant evidence we possess for Egypt. The most
that we can say is that on our evidence certain institutions which
later became common to the Roman Empire seem to develop
first in Egypt, and that though some of them were in origin
foreign importations, the form which they ultimately took and
in which they became universal was essentially Egyptian. It can
at any rate be said that Egypt was already in the Ptolemaic and
still more in the Roman periods dominated by the baleful
notion which in the Byzantine age casts its shadow over the
whole empire, that the individual exists for the state and not
the state for the individual.