Conference Egyptian Cults on the Black Sea Coast
On 2nd of June 2022 from 6:30 pm in the Regional History Museum – Varna was held the Opening of the International Scientific Conference Egyptian Cults on the Black Sea Coast and the exhibition Egyptian Cults on the Bulgarian Black Sea. They are part of the research project Thrace and Egypt in the Greco-Roman World of the Institute of Balkan Studies with Center for Thracology “Prof. Alexander Fol” at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences supervised by Assistant Professor Dr. Vesela Atanasova and are organized with the support of the Bulgarian Scientific Research Fund, New Bulgarian University, Regional History Museum – Varna and the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Bulgaria.
The conference “Egyptian Cults along the Black Sea Coast” was fully financed by the Bulgarian Scientific Research Fund (under project КП-06-МНФ/25). It aimed to attract foreign and Bulgarian scholars working on the subject to discuss the possible interpretations, parallels and distinctive features of the existing documentation about the Egyptian cults in the various ancient settlements along the Black Sea coast. Therefore, researchers from countries bordering the Black Sea coast were attracted to the scientific forum – Bulgaria (Prof. Vanya Lozanova, Prof. Sergei Ignatov, etc.), Romania (Prof. Dan Deac, Stefana Cristea, etc.), Turkey (Prof. Mustafa Sayar), Georgia (Prof. Natia Phiphia), but also European scholars with worldwide authority in the study of Egyptian cults in the Greco-Roman world – Prof. Laurent Bricault (France), Prof. Richard Veymiers (Belgium), Prof. Thomas Faucher (France/Egypt). Their papers allowed within the framework of the conference to offer a comprehensive view of the problem thus defined, with an emphasis on the spread of Egyptian cults in the cultural space of Ancient Thrace over a wide time horizon.
Within three days the scientific forum was able to offer an international field for discussions and exchange of ideas as well as to create lasting contacts for scientific exchange and cooperation. It is planned to collect the papers from the conference and to publish them in the prestigious series Bibliotheca Isiaca, which will emphasize the international importance of the scientific event held in Bulgaria and will provide greater visibility to scientific research in the fields of thracology and Thracian-Egyptian interactions.
The conference was accompanied by the exhibition Egyptian Cults along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast which was organized in cooperation with the New Bulgarian University. The curator of the exhibition is Assistant Professor Dr. Vesela Atanasova and its scientific editors are Prof. Sergey Ignatov (NBU) and Prof. D.Sc. Vanya Lozanova-Stancheva (IBCT-BAS). It will be exhibited in Regional History Museum-Varna between 2nd of June to 15th of August 2022, and then it will visit other museums in Bulgaria and abroad.
The monuments presented in the exhibition originate from the ancient cities along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, Apollonia Pontica (Sozopol), Messambria (Nessebar), Anchialus (Pomorie), Odessos (Varna) and Dionysopolis (Balchik) and are divided into five sections according to their type: Amulets, Epigraphic monuments, Terracotta, Bronze, Numismatics. They are selected to illustrate the penetration of the Egyptian cults into Ancient Thrace. Due to the communicative location of these cities in relation to its interior, this penetration took place initially here, probably already at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. The earliest known monuments with Egyptian influence are the amulets found in the Greek colonies of Apollonia Pontica (Sozopol) and Messambria (Nessebar).
The conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great and the rise to power of the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty marked the beginning of the Hellenistic Period (3–1 BC) during which some Egyptian cults entered the Greek world as well as Apollonia Pontica (Sozopol), Messambria (Nesebar), Anchialo (Pomorie), and later in Odessos (Varna) and Dionysopolis (Balchik). The focus of these cults was on the worship of the divine family of Isis, Sarapis and Harpocrates, which was imposed by the Ptolemaic dynasty (305–31 BC) throughout the Hellenic world in order to assert their royal power. Although the roots of these deities were Egyptian, their appearance and nature were Hellenized, i.e. with adopted Hellenic characteristics and features of Greek art. Therefore, there are monuments of various types related to their cult and their study helps us to understand their nature.
The two events are an example of the amazing amalgam between science and popular science, of the great interest caused by the topic both by world-class scientists and the general public. Moreover, they will certainly enrich our knowledge of the intense religious and cultural processes in the Black Sea region.