“Egyptomania” lecture given by visiting

April West

Oct. 9, Marjorie Venit, professor of ancient Mediterranean art and archaeology at the University of Maryland, lectured on the influence of Egypt in ancient Greco-Roman culture and the lure of Egypt in the city of Alexandria.
The lecture, which was held in the Wriston Art Center auditorium, was part of a series given by the Archeological Institute of America.
Venit began the presentation with signs of Egyptian influence seen throughout America: pharaohs in Legoland, on murals, in cartoons — such as “Tutenstein” — and in buildings.
You can most notably find imagery of Cleopatra because “Cleopatra holds powerful romantic sway,” stated Venit.
All the modern examples are a testament to the idea of exoticism and luxury that ancient Egypt still creates. For Venit, “Egyptomania” is a hard word to describe, but her definition centers on the adaptation or replication of Egyptian antiquity in other cultures.
Venit’s presentation focused mostly on showing and explaining notable examples of how Alexandrian Greeks and Romans adapted and adopted Egyptian themes and motifs.
The presentation was predominantly in slide format, with the most important images being specific Egyptian examples from Roman and Greek tombs, since they are among some of the best-preserved monuments in ancient Alexandria.
Rome found Egypt in a different time and circumstance than Greece, and the Romans were attracted both by the exoticism of Egypt and its religious traditions. As Venit said, “The use of Egypt by the Romans showed sophisticated taste.”
Venit concluded that “Egyptomania will continue to enthrall us all; it is an ever-evolving process that joins the past and present.”
Student Caroline Jorgenson commented, “I enjoyed the lecture because it ended up being a lot more accessible than I had expected. I mean, ultimately, most of us are Egyptomaniacs. So, it was pretty reaffirming to know that the ancient Greeks and Romans were too.”
Venit earned her bachelor’s from the San Francisco Art Institute and her doctorate from New York University. She has done excavations in Tel Anafa, Israel and Mendes, Egypt, and is the author of numerous articles as well as two books.