chapter  1
INTRODUCTION
Pages 3

This book traces the history of the city in Roman Egypt from the Roman conquest until the fall of the Byzantine empire in the East in the mid-seventh century. During this time Egypt’s distinctive urban forms first took on the trappings of the Classical or Roman city and then became Christian. Such transformations can be seen as part of the dynamic that shaped the Roman empire and, as a result, have been extensively studied. Roman Egypt, however, presents us with an opportunity to write a rather different type of urban history than that of other provinces, a history which in many ways bears a closer relationship to that of modern cities. The archaeological record for Egypt is far poorer than that for many other provinces, but Egypt is rich in texts, both literary and documentary, and although the documentary record is often frustratingly partial in that the excavated and published papyri which provide us with the texts have an uneven chronological and topographical distribution, they allow us to begin to reconstruct the social lives of Egyptians to an extent undreamed of elsewhere. We are not, therefore, limited to a history of the public faces of cities, their monuments, their inscriptions, the writings of their elites, but can begin to understand what the transformations of the city meant for ordinary people and to uncover the forces that shaped the everyday lives of residents of the cities of Roman and Byzantine Egypt.