I've developed a peculiar interest in transitional periods in history (for my own country anyway).
I think I started out wanting to know 'what really happened' because we never really studied any details in school. And people tend to have really biased opinions when it comes to anything Islam-related (it's either mindless evil, or flowers and roses).
I'll probably post some stuff about the Islamic period later, but I want to start with Greco-Roman stuff.
The death of ancient Egyptian culture probably started during the Ptolemaic period (323 BC - 30 BC), and accelerated during the Roman times (30 BC - 641 AD). Though the original decline in relevance had to be earlier than that. (*)
I like to read about the tensions between those cultures at the time, and how they tended to view one another, with native Egyptians being third class, after citizens of Greek cities and Roman citizens of course.
The relationship between the Greeks and the natives seems the most complex, since they did have more interest in the history and culture. Ptolomaeic Egypt is my favorite (though that's mostly for "the library" than anything else).
And upper-class natives were treated well, apparently. Which means that given enough centuries, the differences would've probably faded away.
Generally ignored in older studies of Ptolemaic society compiled by classicists, the Egyptian elite was sharply distinct from the rural fallahin, and hardly a second-class citizenry cowed by the perception of a Greek "master race." Taking these privileged Egyptians into consideration, the very notion of official ethnic discrimination becomes quite dubious for the Ptolemaic period. Upper-class Egyptians often were fluent in the administrative language of Greek, an expediency that should not be mislabeled "assimilationist," as the same individuals did not need to forsake either an Egyptian identity or a fluency with native Demotic, also accorded official recognition as an administrative language.
Mixed marriages between Egyptians and Greeks were increasingly common, particularly in the countryside, and the resulting families maintained conscious connections to both ethnicities, often expressed in the form of double names (one Greek, one Egyptian) accorded their children. By late Ptolemaic times, a number of such Hellenized Egyptians - or Egyptianized Hellenes - had risen to prominence in civil and military positions, and the accelerating process would surely have continued but for the harsh decrees of social separation imposed by Octavian himself.
[The Cambridge History of Egypt]
That decree is sort of interesting in itself. It gives you a good indication of three classes of people and their relative worth (from the Roman point of view, at the very start of Egypt's career as a Roman province):
§43. If Egyptians after a father's death record their father as a Roman, a fourth (of the estate) is confiscated.
§44. If an Egyptian registers a son as an ephebe [of a polis], a sixth is confiscated.
§45. If an urban Greek marries an Egyptian woman and dies childless, the fisc appropriates his possessions; if he has children, it confiscates two thirds.
But if he has begotten children of an urban Greek woman and has three or more children, his possessions go to them . . .
§49. Freedmen of Alexandrians may not marry Egyptian women.
§53. Egyptians who, when married to discharged soldiers, style themselves
Romans are subject to the provision on violation of status.
But even in Ptolemaic times, there were obviously tensions too, and revolts, and the Greeks were considered foreign invaders definitely, by some anyway.
One particular piece I like was a prophecy called "Oracle of the Potter" created during Ptolemaic times and kept circulating even during the Roman period:
And then the Guardian Spirit will desert the city which they founded [Alexandria] and will go god-bearing Memphis and it will be deserted. That will be the end of our evils when Egypt shall see the foreigners fall like leaves from the branch. The city by the sea will be a drying place for the fishermen's catch because the Guardian Spirit has gone to Memphis, so that passers-by will say, "This was the all-nurturing city in which all the races of mankind live."
Ancient 'propaganda' is sort of cute ...
I find it ironic that even though Alexandria did end up falling, culturally (to Christianity), and militarily (to the Arabs). By the time those things happened ... whatever Memphis represented at one point was probably long gone.
Also somewhat related, I was reading this paragraph and I almost laughed out loud, but then I realized that this was something that probably actually happened. Poor cat.
The historian Diodorus records that he personally witnessed an unfortunate member of a Roman embassy lynched in Alexandria by an angry mob after having accidentally killed a cat.
These quotes are pretty random though, just stuff that got caught in my memory while I was reading. I like knowing how cultures interacted in the past, even though it's not always easy, especially if one side became more dominant.
The way the Egyptian, Greek and Roman religions intermixed is sort of confusing to me, so I won't even talk about it. My favorite place to represent this is the Philae island where there three different eras left their temples.
There was also a church apparently:
The temple was closed down officially in AD 537 by the local commander Narses the Persarmenian in accordance with an order of Byzantine emperor Justinian I. It then became a church of Saint Stephen. Ruins of a church have been discovered and more than one adyton bore traces of having been made to serve at different eras the purposes of a chapel of Osiris and of Jesus. [Wikipedia]
The second big shift was the spread of Christianity, and this also seems so complicated, and you could divide it different phases.
The third is the Arab conquest (646 AD) and the fourth and final significant contact with the outside world only came with Napoleon's campaign (1798 ).
I could talk in more detail, but I don't want to make this super long. I'll probably post some more quotes I find interesting later.
(*) The last Egyptian dynasties were sandwitched between Nubian and Persian conquests. So it's not like they were doing very well at the time Alexander came anyway.