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Naukratis: background

Naukratis is the only Greek colony in Egypt, and was founded in the seventh or sixth century BC, at the time of the Egyptian 26th Dynasty. The city acted as trading post for the Greeks in Egypt: it is not far away from the 26th Dynasty capital Sais. In the Late Period Egypt was still one of the biggest and richest countries in the Mediterranean. Therefore trade with Egypt would have been highly lucrative for the Greeks. The precise date of foundation is debated. Herodotus (II, 78-79) reports, that Amasis gave Naukratis to Greek settlers, but there is evidence that it was already founded under Psamtek I (Coulson 1996: 177-195). The city had a 'pan-Hellenic' character, meaning that it was not founded by one Greek tribe or state (normally Greek colonies were founded only by one city). The 'Hellenion' of the city (not yet identified on the ground) was installed by representatives of all three Greek tribes (Ionians, Dorians, Aeolians). Herodotus mentioned nine cities as sponsors. Building activity of Egyptian pharaohs is also attested ('Great Temenos'). The city must have lost its importance with the arrival of Alexander the Great and foundation of Alexandria, and the spread of Greek culture throughout the Nile Valley, but it remained nonetheless a significant centre. The name Naukratis is not Greek but Egyptian (nAiw-krD). The town was still important in the Coptic Periods; bishops appear in lists (scalae) into medieval times. The ancient name survived in the name of the nearby villages (Neqrash, and maybe also Nebire).



  • 1883 site discovered by Petrie
  • 1884-85 - W.M.F. Petrie
  • 1886 - E.A.Gardner (under Petrie)
  • 1899, 1903 - D.G. Hogarth
  • 1977-78: survey
  • since 1983: survey

The site was discovered by Petrie, who excavated parts of the city and made a plan of it; a second season of excavation was directed for Petrie by E. Gardner. Since the time of Petrie and Gardner, the site has been heavily destroyed. The old city is today occupied by a lake and seems therefore effectively lost to further research, though there are still some mounds in the same area, which form perhaps the last surviving remains of ancient Naukratis. Gardner 1888: 10: 'We found the site of the city already somewhat altered by destructive operations ... In this way the walls of the Great Temenos or Hellenion had almost disappeared ... But though, on the one hand, this process is destructive, it is also on the other, of great service to the excavator, for digging of the Arabs constantly laying bare new strata and disclosing new sites'

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