Ptolemaic High Priests of Memphis: Names


Discussion of native Egyptians in the Ptolemaic era is bedevilled by the need to choose a naming convention. Transliterations of the original Egyptian, while unambiguous to specialists, are without vowels, and hence unpronouncable. Thus a tradition has grown up for most periods of vocalising names in a manner than is sometimes called "Egyptological".

Although this approach now dominates most of ancient Egyptian history, most Ptolemaicists tend to follow an earlier approach, of using Hellenised forms of Egyptian names. This is partly because many of the sources are written in Greek, but it also has the apparent justification that it gives us a guide as to how the names were actually pronounced in Graeco-Roman times. However, apart from the question of the degree to which the Greek pronounciation of an Egyptian name is an accurate reflection of the Egyptian pronounciation, there are some Egyptian names for which the Hellenisation is unknown or unattested.

Compounding the problem is the fact that demotic script is not as well understood as hieroglyphics. As a result, there are some names for which even the transliteration is in dispute. This includes one of the most important names in the Memphite family, variously rendered as Nesisti, Esisout, Neskote and Eskoti.

Since this is a problem that evidently has no satisfactory solution, the only way to proceed is to pick a convention and hope that not too many people are offended. I have gone for the "Egyptological" route, for consistency with the dominant approach of earlier periods. However, I have indicated Greek forms where known.


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