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Reflecting on 'The Roman Emperor as Egyptian Pharaoh' School Workshops

Statue of unknown emperor (possibly Augustus) in the State Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich, Germany. Photo credit: Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin

30 April 2019

This year, Classics PhD student Maiken Mosleth King created a school workshop entitled 'The Roman Emperor as Egyptian Pharaoh'. The aim of this workshop was to supplement the curriculum for students studying GCSE and A-Levels in Classics, Latin or Ancient History. It introduced students to the often-overlooked Roman province of Egypt, and broadened student understanding of how the imperial power was perceived and conceptualised outside Italy. In this article, Maiken reflects on her experiences.

Thanks to the incredible support of the Bristol Classics Hub, I was able to deliver the workshop to schools in Bristol, Plymouth and London. Many of the students already had a solid understanding of the Greek and Roman civilisations, but had only briefly touched upon Egypt in the curriculum. For many students this workshop served as a welcome introduction to the religion and culture of ancient Egypt in a formal education setting.

Ancient Egypt has been the subject of many films, computer games and comic books over the years. For many, this type of media acts as the first encounter with ancient culture, and therefore has the ability to shape and inform contemporary views of ancient Egypt. A large number of the students I worked with were highly familiar with films such as The Mummy franchise, Stargate and Gods of Egypt. These films tend to emphasise and exaggerate the exotic and fantastical nature of ancient Egypt and its gods. By reading ancient texts and images portraying the Roman emperor as a traditional Egyptian Pharaoh, the students were able to identify many similarities between the Egyptian and Roman cultures. This helped to render the Egyptian culture less alien and more comprehensible to the students, and broadened their understanding of cross-cultural contact in antiquity.

I am very grateful to the Richard Cole, the Bristol Classics Hub and the schools I worked with, and I hope to deliver the workshop to more schools in the future.

Maiken's workshop has been a fantastic opportunity for schools across the South West, and we would like to thank her for all her enthusiasm and hard work!

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