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ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 47 (2010) 375-382 Jitse HF. Dijkstra, Philae and the End of Ancient Egyptian Religion: A Regional Study of Religious Transformation (298-642 CE). Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 173. Leuven, Paris, and Dudley, MA: Peeters, 2008. xvii + 466 pages. ISBN 978-90-429-2031-6. The island of Philae has traditionally been associated with the end of paganism in Byzantine Egypt because of the account in Procopius' Persian Wars of the closure of the last pagan temple at Philae under Justinian in 537. The petition drafted by Dioskoros of Aphrodito in 567 (P Cair.Masp. 1.67004), in which a man is accused of, among other things, renewing pagan sanctuaries on behalf of the Blemmyes, could also relate to Philae. These two pieces of evidence have been taken as showing both the persistence of indigenous Egyptian religion in the Byzantine period and the atypical nature of such a survival. The late pagan cults at Philae are further attested in Greek and Egyptian language sources - the 4th-5th century CE inscriptions at Philae that include the latest known texts in Egyptian hieroglyphs and Demotic script, along with the Coptic Life of Aaron that includes a vivid account of the destruction of an idol at Philae and the end of its pagan cult. From these sources, individually or as a group, and other related material, historians have reconstructed lively or somber tales of the end of indigenous religion at Philae. But the sources themselves have never been examined critically as a group, and so their respective value and reliability as historical evidence have never been properly established. The volume under review here changes this situation dramatically. Jitse Dijkstra's Philae and the End ofAncient Egyptian Religion is the first in-depth examination and analysis of the evidence for late pagan and early Christian activity at Philae. A revision of the author's 2005 Groningen dissertation, this book would be welcome simply for its critical appraisal of the sources in question. But it accomplishes much more than that; the author integrates his textual sources into their wider archaeological context in a way that makes clear the importance of place in the understanding of Philae. Moreover, the author situates his material into its wider historical context, and does this so effectively that what begins as a very specific study of a local problem expands to consider the transitions from paganism to Christianity in Egypt as a whole, and stands as one of the most important studies of this topic to date. This well written and deeply learned book is a tour de force of regional religious history that will also be essential reading for anyone interested in indigenous religion and early Christianity in this time of transition.
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