Alexander the Great as Pharaoh

Greco-Roman Egypt
ca. 300 BC (?)

Pink granite
Height 162.5 cm
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.



Modern visitors to Egypt are often unaware of just how many of the ancient sites on their itinerary were constructed not by Egyptian pharaohs but by the Greek and Macedonian foreign powers, or later by the Romans. The beginning and end of the period of Greek domination are marked by two especially famous personalities, Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) and Cleopatra (ca. 69–30 BC), who—despite her affairs with high-ranking politicians—ultimately lost her Egyptian kingdom to Augustus (63 BC–14 AC) and thus to the Roman world power. When Alexander conquered Egypt and the East, he adopted a considerate attitude toward the existing cultures and religions. His staff included philosophers, scholars, and scientists. Already three thousand years old, Egyptian art—its beauty but also its overwhelming physical dimensions—exerted a power that no one could resist.

Thus, pharaonic art retained its existing formal character but also proved capable of absorbing new influences. New cities were founded entirely under the sign of acculturation. The Greek world merged with the Egyptian one, producing an exciting stylistic mix. This beautiful, smaller-than-life-size pink granite statue displays a lassical Greek face in the body of a pharaoh. It is therefore a representation of Alexander the Great or one of his successors. The thick tresses peeking out from beneath the headcloth and the asp, as well as the period style of those formal elements of the head that are typically Greek, speak in favour of interpreting this statue as Alexander.