What Were the Effects of Imperialism in Egypt?

The effects of imperialism in Egypt have been a mixture of positive and negative, including the development of education, culture, infrastructure and economy on the one hand, and political disruption, armed conflict and exploitation on the other. Among the many imperialist forces that have leveraged control in Egypt are the Greeks, the Romans, the Turkish Ottoman empire and the British, who helped to arrange the construction of the Suez Canal.

Egypt was established as the Ptolemaic Kingdom by Ptolemy I Soter, a follower of Alexander the Great, in 305 BC. This dynasty ruled Egypt as a Hellenistic (ancient Greek) state, rising to power by assimilating Egyptian traditions. They referred to themselves as legitimate pharaohs, for example, and adopted local styles of dress. While the House of Ptolemy undoubtedly transformed Egypt’s economy for the better, along with establishing the renowned Library of Alexandria, these improvements were mostly channeled for the benefit of the Greek ruling classes; native Egyptians saw little improvement to their quality of life.

Little changed during Egypt’s time as an early Roman province under the last of the Ptolemies, the vassal Queen Cleopatra.

Later waves of Arab imperialist invasions, however, had a far more transformative impact on Egypt, and on its religious traditions in particular, which both Greece and Rome had been contented to leave alone.