We saw in Chapter 2 that the Greek army of Alexander conquered Egypt in 332 bce and that his general Ptolemy founded a dynasty of Greek-speaking pharaohs who ruled Egypt for the next 300 years. The Greeks viewed their new conquest as a crucial, pivotal point in a vast trading network. Egypt linked the northern world of Mediterranean Europe with the riches of the African interior and the Indian Ocean. The valley of the Nile also had the agricultural potential to support a large and wealthy merchant class. One of the first actions of the new Greek rulers was to found the great trading city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast of the Nile Delta. From there, the ancient Egyptian trading system was developed and expanded – northwards into Mediterranean Europe and southwards through the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. We have already seen how the expansion of Red Sea trade at this time probably stimulated the growth of the Kingdom of Meroe in the African interior of the Upper Nile. By 250 bce, the Greek rulers of Egypt had built up a trading fleet of some 4,000 ships there.
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