On this statue of Augustus (image is from Wikipedia), he is depicted wearing the traditional dress of Egyptian pharaohs:

enter image description here

I wonder whether Roman emperors were officially declared kings of Egypt or not, and if yes, who of them was and who was not?

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    Feb 20, 2021 at 21:57
  • @MarkC.Wallace I asked this question 8 years ago, and you welcome me now?
    – Anixx
    Feb 20, 2021 at 22:19

4 Answers 4


No, they were not. The Ptolemys were the last dynasty to rule Egypt directly in the old fashion. When the Romans took over, they just treated it as another province in the empire.

In 30 BC, following the death of Cleopatra VII, the Roman Empire declared that Egypt was a province (Aegyptus), and that it was to be governed by a prefect selected by the Emperor from the Equestrian and not a governor from the Senatorial order, to prevent interference by the Roman Senate. The main Roman interest in Egypt was always the reliable delivery of grain to the city of Rome.

The headdress is called nemes, and is only worn by Pharaohs, sort of like the symbolic function a crown would have to a European. The statue is simply a way of telling those who can't read that Augustus Caesar is their ruler. However, the Roman rulers never came to Egypt to carry out the ceremonial functions required of a proper Pharaoh. If you look over the dynastic lists, you'll see that they end in 30 BC with Cleopatra.

  • So the headdress of Augustus in this statue is just symbolic?
    – Anixx
    Feb 5, 2013 at 10:25
  • @Anixx - Yes. See edit.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 5, 2013 at 10:41
  • 6
    The linked Wikipedia article says "Subsequent Roman Emperors were accorded the title of Pharaoh, although exclusively while in Egypt. One Egyptian king-list lists the Roman Emperors as Pharaohs up to and including Decius." So they were considered pharaohs in Egypt?
    – Anixx
    Feb 5, 2013 at 10:50
  • 1
    @Anixx - The "while in Egypt" there is very important. A proper pharaoh has important cerimonial functions that must be carried out in person. Therefore a ruler who isn't living in Egypt cannot really be considered in the same class as the rest of the ancient Pharaohs.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 5, 2013 at 12:43
  • It wasn't "just another province", at least in the Early Empire. It was governed by a prefect appointed by the emperor rather than by a proconsul or propraetor appointed by the Senate, the way normal provinces were.
    – C Monsour
    Feb 21, 2021 at 0:38

In 30 BC Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, and Caesarion (Ptolemy Caesar) famously met their deaths in the aftermath of the Battle of Actium at the dawn of the Roman Empire and the Augustan Age.

Ronald Syme (in The Roman Revolution) provides this account of the Ptolemaic dynasty's demise in Egypt:

The children of Cleopatra presented a more delicate problem [opposite the virtue of clemency]. "A multitude of Caesars is no good thing." That just observation sealed the fate of Ptolemy Caesar, whom many believed son of the Dictator [Julius Caesar]. Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene were reserved to walk in a Roman triumph. The boy is not heard of again -- he was probably suppressed. The girl was enlisted as an instrument of Roman imperial policy, being given in marriage to Juba, the prince of the Numidian royal stock who became King of Mauretania.

Such was the fate of Egypt's Queen and her children, crowned kinds and queens. The Roman imperator seized the heritage of the Ptolemies. He claimed, using official language to have added the land to the Empire of the Roman People: he treated Egypt as his own private and dynastic possession and governed it trough a viceroy, jealously excluding Roman senators. The first Prefect of Egypt was C. Cornelius Gallus, a Roman knight.

As you may expect, Syme includes references to primary sources, such as Res Gestae Divi Augusti.

  • This answer contradicts itself: it claims that the emperor "added the land to the Empire of the Roman People" and then it says that "he treated Egypt as his own private and dynastic possession". So, the empire of the Roman people or the private possession? Also the fact that Egypt was considered a part of the emperor's domain does not automatically mean it was a kingdom: there were emperors's and senate's provinces, in those which were near the periphery the emperor exercised direct control. There were many emperor's provinces besides Egypt.
    – Anixx
    Feb 5, 2013 at 10:24
  • 4
    @Amixx you may have missed Syme's qualification "using official language" (perhaps as in propaganda), which IMO is crucial to resolving this seeming contradiction. BTW, did he or did I state that Egypt was then a kingdom?
    – Drux
    Feb 5, 2013 at 10:36

Dynastic list List of pharoahs - Wikipedia

The Dynastic list as mentioned elsewhere takes us to a Wikipedia page, and right at the bottom of that page we read that according to Von Beckerath (Citation 2) and "The Book of the Pharaohs" (Citation 110), the last Roman emperor to be conferred the title of pharaoh was Maximinus Daia 311–313 AD.

Dynastic list, Rome, Wikipedia

Cleopatra VII had affairs with Roman dictator Julius Caesar and Roman general Mark Antony, but it was not until after her suicide (after Mark Antony was defeated by Octavian, who would later be Emperor Augustus Caesar) that Egypt became a province of the Roman Republic in 30 BC. Subsequent Roman emperors were accorded the title of pharaoh, although exclusively while in Egypt.

The last Roman emperor to be conferred the title of pharaoh was Maximinus Daia (reigned 311–313 AD).[2][110]

Link for photo - Saher.tarek The list even includes an Egyptian relief depicting the Roman Emperor Trajan (right, reigned 98–117 AD) in full pharaonic style.

Roman pharoah Roman pharoah - Wikipedia

As Wikipedia appears to be the source of choice for everyone else in the discussion, i will remain consistent and point to (Citation 2) "A ride in Egypt" to establish that the Roman pharoahs were initially officially recognised by the Egyptian people and the priesthood.

The Roman pharaohs,2 rarely referred to as ancient Egypt's Thirty-fourth Dynasty,[2][n 1] is the term sometimes used for the Roman emperors in their capacity as rulers of Egypt, especially in Egyptology. After Egypt was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 30 BC, the people and especially the priesthood of the country continued to recognize the Roman emperors as pharaohs, according them traditional pharaonic titularies and depicting them with traditional pharaonic garb, engaging in traditional pharaonic activities, in artwork and at temples throughout Egypt.


I understand the arguments against, and as written in Wikipedia "Most emperors probably cared little of the status accorded to them by the Egyptians, with emperors rarely visiting the province more than once in their lifetime. Their role as god-kings was only ever officially acknowledged by the Egyptians themselves. This was a sharp contrast to the preceding dynasty of pharaohs of Hellenistic Ptolemaic Kingdom, who had spent the majority of their lives in Egypt, ruling from Alexandria.". However there is little need for me to elaborate farther on this as it has already been well highlighted.

I think the best way to look at it, is that the Roman pharoah period was just the last stage in the decline of the pharoahship which perhaps debatably begins with the Bronze age collapse, and ending forever with the spread of Christianity.

Roman pharoah - Wikipedia

Though Egypt continued to be a part of the Roman Empire until it was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate in 641 AD, the last Roman emperor to be conferred the title of pharaoh was Maximinus Daia (reigned 311–313 AD). By his time, the view of Romans as pharaohs had already been declining for some time due to Egypt being on the periphery of the Roman Empire (in contrast to the traditional pharaonic view of Egypt as the center of the world). The spread of Christianity throughout the empire in the 4th century, and the transformation of Egypt's capital Alexandria into a major Christian center, decisively ended the tradition, due to the new religion being incompatible with the traditional implications of being pharaoh.

Were Roman emperors officially considered kings of Egypt? According to Citation 2 of Roman pharoah, yes, some were officially recognised by the relevant Egyptian officials


Emperors were treated and depicted as pharaohs for many reasons. The Egyptians did not know other forms of rulers, because they never had an emperor before. Augustus became emperor 3 years after Egypt was annexed.
Augustus wanted to be treated as pharaoh because he wanted a province not to rebel against him and he demanded a lot of grain from it.

  • 2
    Citations would strengthen this answer. As would a discussion of the lack of any meaningful distinction between the term "Pharoah" and "King"
    – MCW
    Jun 1, 2015 at 20:04

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