Paintings: Myopic Tribute

One of the most cosmopolitan outposts of the Roman Empire during the 1st to 4th centuries A.D. was Egypt's Faiyum region, about 60 miles south of Cairo on the Nile. A fertile farming and business community, it was settled by many retired Roman legionnaires, along with emigrant Greeks, Jews and native Egyptians. It became, according to Egyptologist William Peck, 34, a "prosperous, highly civilized region with a well-developed bureaucratic system of local government, and an elaborate social structure, fairly comparable to Detroit." By a fluke of custom and climate, the residents of...

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