Rome in Egypt's Eastern Desert

Image of the cover of Rome in Egypt's Eastern Desert, Vol. 1
Rome in Egypt's Eastern Desert, Volume 1
  • by: Hélène Cuvigny
  • edited by: Roger S. Bagnall
  • August 2021
  • ISAW/NYU Press
  • ISBN: 9781479810642 (vol. 1); 9781479810697 (vol. 2); 9781479810611 (2 vol. set)

Rome in Egypt’s Eastern Desert is a two-volume set collecting Hélène Cuvigny’s most important articles on Egypt’s Eastern Desert during the Roman period. 

For more than thirty years, beginning with the excavations at the quarry site of Mons Claudianus, Hélène Cuvigny has played a central role in the exploration of Egypt’s Eastern Desert. She has been deeply engaged with the systematic excavation and publication of the texts and other finds from a multitude of sites, including the quarries of the northern zone and the desert forts along the roads from Coptos (in the Nile valley) to the ports of Myos Hormos and Berenike (in the southern part of the desert), which facilitated the Roman Empire’s trade with Arabia, India, and East Africa. The excavations she directed have uncovered a wealth of material, including tens of thousands of texts written on pottery fragments (ostraca). Some are administrative texts, but many more are correspondence, both official and private, written by and to the people (mostly but not all men) who lived and worked in these remote and harsh environments, supported by an elaborate network of defense, administration, and supply that tied the entire region together. 

Image of cover of Rome in Egypt's Eastern Desert, volume 2The contents of Rome in Egypt’s Eastern Desert have all been published earlier in peer-reviewed venues, but most appear here for the first time in English. All of the contributions have been checked or translated by the editor and brought up to date with respect to bibliography, and some have been significantly rewritten by the author, in order to take account of the enormous amount of new material discovered since the original publications. A full index makes this body of work far more accessible than it was before. 

This book assembles into one collection thirty years of detailed study of this material, conjuring in vivid detail the lived experience of those who inhabited these forts—often through their own expressive language—and the realia of desert geography, military life, sex, religion, quarry operations, and imperial administration in the Roman world.

The book will be a key resource for specialists interested in Roman imperial history, ancient social and military history, Roman Egypt, and papyrology.

Hélène Cuvigny is Research Director at the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) and a papyrologist specializing in the eastern Egyptian desert during the Roman period. She is the lead investigator for the research program Ostraca of the Eastern Desert at the Institute of Papyrology of the Paris-Sorbonne University and continues to excavate and publish about the exploitation of the Eastern Desert under the Roman Empire.

Roger S. Bagnall is Leon Levy Director and Professor of Ancient History Emeritus at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. He is author, co-author, and editor of many books, including Egypt in Late Antiquity and Everyday Writing in the Graeco-Roman East.