Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Elizabeth Macaulay

Subject Categories

Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


Ptolemies, Funerary, Architecture, Hellenistic, Egypt


The concept of the final resting place, such as the architecture of the tomb, was an important belief that resonated across all ancient cultures. Upon Alexander the Great’s death his successors competed to possess his body, to use it as a symbol of legitimacy to control Alexander's Empire. The one who successfully accomplished this was Ptolemy Lagides (c.367-282BCE). He seized Egypt in 323 BCE by hijacking Alexander’s body, bringing him first to the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis and afterwards interred him in a royal mausoleum in Alexandria. By claiming Alexander's corpse, Ptolemy had set the stage for his eventual rule over this Pharaonic land.

While Ptolemy became ruler over ancient Egypt (305/4 BCE), he was able to assert control over its native population, as well as create a kingdom by incorporating Egyptian culture along with his Macedonian beliefs. One method of integration used during the Ptolemaic Dynasty (305/4-30 BCE) was funerary architecture, an amalgamation of Egyptian and Greek architectural forms within Ptolemaic Egypt and at the core territories of Cyrenaica, Cyprus, and Coele-Syria. There are instances when tomb structures took on a Greek style, for example tower tombs at Ptolemais in Cyrenaica, whereas in the Egyptian hinterland funerary architecture maintained traditional Egyptian features, such as mudbrick tombs built at the east end of the Assasif cemetery on the Theban necropolis. At Alexandria, innovative subterranean hypogea were produced with a distinctiveness previously not known.

A unique architectural identity was created and associated with the Ptolemaic Dynasty. This thesis will look at several examples of Ptolemaic tomb structures and will demonstrate how the architectural form—along with decorative and sculptural programs—as well as textual evidence, was indicative of a powerful and successful Ptolemaic kingdom until Roman conquest. The focus will begin in Alexandria, then the desert oases, towns near the Mediterranean coast, and finally, along the Nile River. In all, these tombs expressed the fluidity of Ptolemaic funerary architecture.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Saturday, June 01, 2024

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