BMCR 1997.03.29

1997.3.29, Eide, et al., Fontes Historiae Nubiorum

, Fontes historiae nubiorum : textual sources for the history of the middle Nile region between the eighth century BC and the sixth century AD. Bergen: University of Bergen, Dept. of Classics, 1994-. volumes ; 25 cm. ISBN 9788299141161.

This is the second volume of a work which will be completed with two more volumes. Volume 1 was reviewed by J.G. Manning in this journal (7.4 [1996] 311-315) and many of the general comments that he makes are relevant also for this volume.

The intention of this excellent project is to provide easily accessible versions in the original languages and in English translation of the main texts which have historical relevance for Nubian history for the period indicated in the title, 8th century B.C. to 6th century A.D. together with a commentary which discusses the historical significance of the text. The languages concerned are Egyptian, both hieroglyphic and Demotic, Greek, Latin and Meroitic. For Meroitic, in view of our very small understanding of the language, no English version is possible although a few words are known and some slight meaning can sometimes be extracted.

The volume under review deals with an important period in Nubian history from the reign of the twentieth Kushite ruler, Talakhamani, about 200 years after the end of Kushite rule in Egypt, to the end of the first century A.D. and the clashes between Romans and Meroites at that time.

The translations and commentaries, which provide much excellent information, will ease the work of those who wish to study in more detail than has been previously possible the history of Kushite times. Though the amount of historical detail that can be extracted from the royal inscriptions is not great what there is is now clearly set out with original text and translation.

The other matter which will now be more easily comprehended is that of the tangled relationships of first the Ptolemies and then the Romans on one side and the Meroites on the other in the Dodecaschoenus and Triacontaschoenus, a frontier area south of the First Cataract in which the different parties had come and gone, set up different forms of administration, and carried out much building activity and had at times been enemies and at other times co-operated. Now that we have the main documents in easily available form it will be much easier to grasp what was going on in that key area.

As the reviewer of volume 1 has already commented it is unfortunate that the Egyptian texts are only given in transliteration but a full hieroglyphic version would have much increased the cost of the project and, perhaps, delayed its publication. Most of the texts are published in reasonably accessible works and since it is likely that many of the users of this book will not be Egyptologists then perhaps the present solution is the best.

The student of the new discipline of Nubian studies will now be well equipped and when the remaining volumes appear, of which the last with an index will be most valuable, the main historical documents to the sixth century A.D. will be available. That date is when Nubia was Christianised and from that time on the work of Father Vantini “Oriental Sources for Concerning Nubia’ will provide further information.