Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook 0521588154, 9780521588157

This book makes available to students and other nonspecialists a varied collection of over three hundred translated text

248 90 15MB

English Pages 406 [215] Year 1998

Report DMCA / Copyright


Recommend Papers

Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook
 0521588154, 9780521588157

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

Women and society in Greek and Roman Egypt A sourcebook A wealth of evidence for the lives of ordinary men and women - from texts (including personal letters) written on papyrus and other materials to objects of everyday use and funerary portraits - has survived from the Graeco-Roman period of Egyptian history. But much of this unparalleled resource has been available' only to specialists because of the difficulty of reading and interpreting it. Now eleven leading scholars in this field have collaborated to make available to students and other non-specialists a selection of over three hundred texts translated from Greek, Latin and Egyptian, as well as more than fifty illustrations, documen~ing the lives of women within this society, from queens to priestesses, property-owners to slavegirls, from birth through motherhood to death. Each item is accompanied by full explanatory notes and bibliographical references. Jane Rowlandson is Lecturer in Ancient History at King's College London and the author of Landownersand Tenantsin Roman Egypt:The SocialRelationscifAgriculturein the OxyrhynchiteNome (1996).

Women and society in Greek and Roman Egypt A sourcebook

Edited by



with the collaboration of Roger Bagnall, Alan Bowman, Willy Clarysse, Ann Ellis Hanson, Deborah Hobson, James Keenan, Peter van Minnen, Dominic Rathbone, Dorothy J. Thompson, and Terry Wilfong

Mummy portrait of Eirene



PUBLISHED BY THE PRESS SYNDICATE or THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, United Kingdom ' CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2Ru, UK 40 West 20th Street, New York, NY roou-4211, USA 10 Stamford Road, Oakleigh, VIC 3166, Australia Ruiz de Alarcon 13, 28014 Madrid, Spain Dock House, The Waterfront, Cape Town 8001, South Africa



List of maps List of figures List of plates Preface Acknowledgements Abbreviations Notes for the reader Glossary

© Cambridge University Press 1998 This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 1998 Reprinted 2000 Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge Typeset in 1r/12pt Bembo



A cataloguerecord for this book is available fro111the British Library

Introduction The purpose of this book l 2 Greek and Roman Egypt: historical background 3 The nature of the source material


Royalty and religion Introduction Ptolemaic Queens (1-15) I Roman Imperial women (16-20) 11 Goddesses (21-26) Ill IV Priestesses (27-36) Religion and the Individual (37-48) V VI Christianity (49-68)


Family matters Introduction Perspectives on the family (69-75) I Archives II A. The archive of Zenon, Philadelphia (76-77) B. The Serapeum archive, Memphis (78-83) c. The archive of Dryton and Apollonia alias Senmonthis, Pathyris (84-87) D. The archive of Tryphon, Oxyrhynchos (88-91) E. The archive of Apollonios the strategos and Aline (92-99) F The archive of Kronion, farmer of Tebtynis, and his family (100-103)

ISBNo 521 58212 1 hardback ISBNo 521 58815 4 paperback

Vll Vll Vll lX Xl Xll XIV XVll



24 25 41 46 55 62 70

84 87 95 98 105 II2 II8 125 V



G. The archive of Taesion/Taesis (104-105)

H. The archive of Gaius Julius Niger (106-107)


The archive of Satornila and her sons (108-110) K. The archive of Paniskos and Ploutogenia, Philadelphia (111-115) L. The archive of Flavius Dioskoros, Aphrodite (116-117)




133 139 143 1 47 151

Status and law Introduction The Egyptian background (118-121) II Greek and Egyptian in a colonial society (122-130) III Roman transformations (131-144) IV Freedom and responsibility in developed Roman society (145-156) V Continuity and change in the Coptic texts (157-161)

195 212

Economic activities Introduction Women and agricultural land (162-181) II Women in the non-agricultural economy (182-217)

218 218 245

Being female Introduction Birth, infancy and childhood (218-235) II Education (236-246) III Marriage and married life (247-263) IV Sickness, death and burial (264-279) V Weaklings or viragos? The ambiguities of womanhood (280-289) List and concordance of texts Bibliography Index


155 156 162 174

Egypt in the Graeco-Roman Period The Arsinoite nome (Fayum) The Eastern Mediterranean

I 2


Family Family Family Family f;amily Faniily Family



354 369 382 398


Figures J

280 282 299 312 335

page xix

5 6


of of of of of of of

Taous alias Hcriobastis Dryton and Apollonia alias Senrnonthis Tryphon and Thamounis/Thamounion Apollonios an ·- ~•);, i '·'.,c.., ""- ' q,, ~A:,uum ~---~- t,...,_'.:::::::, Ml~ I




l,.r'\,r... r, '•J "-~ !,





./41.,_ ~o









= ,..,-""";'; -~ KARJA

o 'H,!,can1.;:,su'M . :, •",°':--? Kos'!t'~~-~ "' -•. I? Kmdos/i

' •

' · 1-JL'-="'-4 CRETE









,....,; C/ __.u•~N

/1•• '





I ))



/~ ~

~fl 1 1

,._ I ff


,-/(' CYPRU.,....,S. > '\ ---..r,-/













~'up~ndo,/$, ll~Kolo_!:')Qn

o • '-'p

C:::S,5:;onmho·1;; \j,



l,ru .•





Comtumnoplt (Bv,,.ncmm,


1 ,/






~ ""'o ~-•~ ' .,;;_,---.., ,✓.,,~ ~~ '--








11,it(So). . youngest brother Apo 11 · ... eventu,: · ·11y J_omco .. ,J t·11111 · t I1e Ptolematos' omos Ptolema1os. arranged tor lum to enrol m the 'i ·nP(·'.tii·i· . 1 ·, ,·tfter ,a few . rnonths . .. · t ' · Apollonios was also interested in the twins, and they appeared in his arnIY·s.. 1s well (82). The brothers had enjoyed a Greek education, for both L re·ttl 1, ' , . . , 1 ~ , . d wrote Greek with ease, and the archive contains several literary · . . reau -111 ·works. But they presumably sp'.)ke Egyptian "vuh rnany _atth~ Serapeun:, including the twms, and some of the dre~m reports arem Egyptian Demotic (SI, g2). Of Ptolcmaios' brothers, only Sarapmn seems to have married and




The Serapeum archive, Memphis, mid-second century BC

The cult of Serapis was introduced by Ptolemy I, and in Alexandria, or when the ~ult subsequently spread outside Egypt, Serapis, together with Isis appea~ed in_ _anthropomorphic, hellenised, guise. In a more traditional Egyptian milieu, however, the god had much in common with the othe Egyptia~ deities, and the Serapeum (the temple complex of Serapis nea: Memphis), was largely peopled by Egyptians. This archive of more than a hundred p~pyri, :"ritten in both Greek and Demotic over some twenty years, consists mamly of the papers of Ptolemaios, eldest son of the Greek soldier Glaukias, his brothers, and his friends. 1 Although this archive, like the last, could scarcely be said to depict a 'normal' set of family relationships, the family of Glaukias began traditionally enough. He lived with his wife, perhaps an Egyptian woman, and four sons - Ptolemaios, Sarapion, Hippalos, and Apollonios - in a village not far south of the Serapeum. After Glaukias' death, his sons were left to fend for t~emselves. It was a disturbed period, of civil war between Ptolemy VI and his younger brother, invasion from Syria, and of repeated rebellions (see pp. 8-9 ~bove). Some nine years before the archive begins, the eldest son Ptoler~1a10s came to the Serapeum for an indefinite stay of divine service, choosmg to be 'detained', as the Greek puts it, at the Astartieion (the shrine of the Phoenician goddess Astarte). Ptolemaios chose the life of a religious reclus~, yet because he was a Greek living in a milieu dominated by Egy~tians, he sometimes felt himself an outsider, and brief outbursts of ~nrn_itybetween him and some Egyptians serving in the Serapeum appear m his ?apers. He does seem to have enjoyed a cordial relationship with the Egyptian Harmais, his closest associate in the Astartieion. Service in the temple prevented Ptolcmaios from leaving the area, and so his contacts with tht'. ot~ts1de ~vorld consisted largely of exchanges by letter, or occasional Vl~l~s bro.thers. l!is fother Glaukias had had an Egyptian friend, 1Lugynout1s, the tather of twin daughters, Tages (her name is sometimes


settled down (83). 1



The texts arc published mostly in Ul'Z t; tr,mslations discussion by Thompson (1988), , , ..-6,, alld Lewi~ (1986). C,9-87; contemporary Demouc documents m Ray (17(>). 1 Ll:i,kinc,ath Ptolcrnaio,' copy of the opening verses of Euripides' Jclcplws, spoken by " Greek who ruled over barbarians. l\pollonios wrote: 'I .1111 a Macedo1rnm. I :mi a Macedoni,1n.'


A P etition from Ptolemaios'

fellow recluse Harmais

about a

sister of the twins

UPZ I 2 (BL VIII 499) Memphis, March 163


The hostile behaviour of Nephoris toward her Egyptian husband and her twin daughters Tages/Thaues and Taous is evident in the petition Ptolemaios submitted on the twins' behalf (2.33; 79). In this text. dated to the same year as that pem1on, their younger sister 'f;it:hemis has also been deposited in the Serapcum under prott'ction of Ptolemaios' Egyptian colleague, Hanna is. Whether nr not Nep~om was responsible for abandoning the girl, slH·took a not mconsiderable sum ot tl1c


money her daughter had collected at the temple, but did not carry out the busmess 1 for which she claimed to take it - circumcision, then clotlung and a dowry for Tathemis, as the girl looked forward to nurriage. Fenule circumcision p_rnbably involved excision of part or all of the clitoris. 'This is the only 1m:nt1n11 ot female circumcision in the Greek papyri, and, in this instance, the operation is to be per6 1 fonned as the young Egyptian girl was re:iching puberty (sec Montserrat, 99 , · I · ·· · I · [JI me 11enod it 41-3). We are better mfonned about ma e cirn1111c1s1on:Ill t 1c 1ar~n .. · ·· th was performed on both infants and older boys of royal and priestly fanuhes. In e j · tl f: ·1· · · , It ·1·""ltI1l•-ise thell' sons (sec · · · · Greek and Roman pccno, s, pnes · y a!lll 1es contintH;L o c 1c , ·


13GU XIII 2.,16). Str:ibo, the geog1:.1p!1Crwho vimed Egypt :hmtly afi:cT Ro111;i1 seems to e1J11Jhas1scthe d1fkrcnc.e m the extent ol the operat1n11 on 111 ,I 1 t·..·il·t•nver , 'i. . . ., . · .. t . . . . . . _ . (l t:s ;.isOJJpmcd to li:111ales,by using different fimns of the verb 'to cut': males they , . ' 1· · but· tema . Ies t I1ey · ' cut ol!l·' (e1Unds_atMem~h1s, Nephons has, ~tntil now, not bad the courage to bury bun. His possessions that were confiscated by the crown Nephoris has redeemed, after she sold half the house belonging jointly to us and to her for 7 bronze talents, and she carried off property worth 60 bronze talents and she rents to te~ants for znd hand)and she doesn't share any of this with us. 1400 b ronze d rac h mas am Onth • ( f Not satisfied with all this, she cast us out so that we are in danger O per· one of the recluses . . from starvation. . · d p to 1ema1os, 1shmg W h en we notice

~~ea~ Serapeum

The Serapeurnarchive,Meni . Phis


at the great Serapeum who was a friend of our father, we, went up to h' . • 1111 and we were from then on £e d by h 1m. When the lamentation for the Apis bull took place, they brought Us to mourn for the god. Then friends of onr mother persuaded us to take her, 011 . happ_ene(:l, !1e watc I1ecl us [or .. some tin1e ·fi)1• as our attendant, an d once t hlS an opportunity and he took our wntten (w l1a11d)token (2 11dlia111/)from 111 chargeof thesematters to the man in charge of oil distribution fi:H·one measure of oil (2nd hand) the customaryamount to be m by y~u ([so d'.at we might get our yearly amount]] and once he secretly made of! with tlm and plundered from us the bronze money we used to have (211dham{) and nthcr tlrn1gs, he Went off to his mother, with the result that we do not even have the necessities We therefore beg you to send our petition to Dionysios, of the friends (of the King) and strategos, so that he may write to [[Mennides]J {21 11/ hm1d) Apolloniosthe epimeletesand to Dorion the ant(qrapheus;'so that they not pay to her either the oil and kiki (castoroi0 that belongs to us, or anything else of ours, and that he should compel her to return whatever of our father's she holds illegally, so that we are helped through you. May you prosper. (On the back;1st hand) Nephoris (On the back;2nd hand) Nephoris and Pachrates 1

The translationof this text :1.1 Lefkowitzand Fant (1992), no. 407 was based on an early versionof the Greek, not that by Wilckcn in UPZ I. See also Thompson (1988), 239-4 2 for a translationof Apollonios'n;,port.1boutthe twins'allowanceof oil and kiki (castoroil) on 14 December 162 1lC (= UPZ 1


Cf. 2.37.


The epimeletes and the a11tigrapheus were officialswho monitored distributionsof supplies.


Seven dream reports recorded by Ptolemaios

UPZ I 77 (BL Memphis,June


2,172; IX 363) 161 andjune 158


The dream that Thges the twin saw on Pachon 17. She seemed in the dream to be walking down the street, counting nine houses. I wanted to turn away and I said, 'All these are no n1ore than nine (houses).' They say: 'You are free to go.' I said, 'It is too late for me.'

h·it Ptolemaios savv at the festival of the Moon on Pachon 25.


·1·1icdream t. gnc l'ather sweetly singing (?), and well disposed, and I see to see aL,,., ·. .. . . L . 1 I ,ec 111 ng and her frJot is big and pure. · 11 · 1·11tg · , ' ·1;10US ' . . . . T O men are working in the vestibule, and Taous 1s s1ttmg.on (Pach0 ~; jo:ing with them. And as soon as she hears Chentosneus' voice d' 1 t ms black. They said they would teach her a lesson ... the st. ep, rne rate y u she 1111 .


f Ptolemaim,




"I~vomen came to me and said to me,

prc,1n1r Dryton'.s fir,t wi!I, sec Messeri S;ivorelLi (t990): Im second will is l!Grm{ 1 12 Sl:i 1 4('.37 l'Ca1ro JO.l49 (perhaps armth~•r ,:opy ill PBad. fl 5 = S~holl, 1990, 56); for the notirc of . to Apollonia Semnonthis, SJJxvm 1.1330 and Cbrysse (1986). l'he practice of rnakmg :1 will on the o,Tasion nf- a man's lll,1rriage rnay have bci,n a foirly common plwnomenon, cf, BGl.l 1v 10.10 (re1gu of Augustus).

This family tree, and those that appear for the more complex archives below includes those family members mentioned in the introduction to the archive, or i~ the texts themselves. A reference to a more extensive family tree, if one has been

Hermokrates Ptolemaios Esthladas



Sarapias (1)



= (2) Apollonia 1


alias Senmonthis

Ammonia alias Semminis

Herakleia alias Senapathis

Arista alias Senmonthis

Nikarion alias Thermouthis

Herais alias Tasris


Esthladas Apollonia alias Senmonthis


= NN


Aphrodisia alias Tachratis

Apollonia the younger alias Senpelaia

Famjly of Dryton and Apollonia alias Senmonthis

pg woman has been betrayed by her lover and she gives voice to her sorrows, A yot1·,w ·, alone before • h.1s · c Iose d cIoor. ·1·1 . 's emotions . . ..Ill an 1e song exp lores a wontan 1 l " j . fi J · ·I . . . '··t·HH-• . encounter (cf. 6.285-6, 289). Lt 111ay l enve rom a onger, cramat.lc nmne, or cr(}ttc · ' • ··1 k · I I II 13' · :l ~ l . rlrnvebeenanmdependentpoem(ci .. I 1eo·ntos, 1y 2,trans .. mganc Co1en, rJl,lj ' l ' I . 1 l J ' 1· ' ' t' I ' I. · J ')!, 149-57). A poem lll W UC1 _'lf(;)CCtec1over. amenfte c, Ill TO_lfl\ 0 11SLlCOVCt' l' S 19 1 .11· ·ed door was c1lled a pmnk/1111s1thynm, and versions o t 1c motI 1ecame mcrcasj


popular among Hellenistic and Roman poets. 1 1'his is the only poem we c uigscss in which the poet pictured a woman in the role of rt'jccted lover, :ilthough 0 '1;,. ·irguc that C/L rv ,;296 is also a par11kl1111sith)lro1t P in , a wmnan 's voice. This text SOI .~ ' , · . • is p;ick" 1743; sec also I. U. Powell, Collat1111ealllcxm1dm1r1 (Oxtord, !()70)_177·-Ro. This text is in Dryton's ovv·n hand. In the fragmentary contract on the lront side of the papyrus (P.Grenj r ro; a loan of wheat, dated 174 BC) the description differs from that given in Dryton's second will - Dryton in the loan of wheat had a fancy, brushed-up hair-style, and was 'sallow-complexioned' (literally, 'honey-coloured'), while he was bald and probably 'fair-complexioned' in r 50 B c .2 But the passage of time and the different perceptions of scribes can account for these discrepancies; much greater divergencies in physical descriptions of undoubtedly a single person are not uncommon; cf. the case of Nahomsesis, an Egyptian woman who was a contemporary of Dryton at Pathyris (5. 184).

The choice was from us both, we were yoked together - the lady of Cyprus, Aphrodite, is surety for love. Pain grips me, whenever I remember how he used to kiss me, all the while treacherously intending to desert me, both the inventor of my unsettledness and the creator of my love. Eros took hold of me, I don't deny that I have him in my mind. 3 Beloved Stars and Mistress Night, my partner in passion, now escort me once again to him toward whom Aphrodite drives me, I who am betrayed - and also strong Eros, in his turn. I have a mighty fire as guide along my path it burns also in my soul. In this he wrongs me, in this he pains me, that deceiver of hearts: before this so haughty and denying that Aphrodite

The archiveefDry ton and Ap // o oniq


was the cause of our passion, he has done me an extraordinary injustice. I am about to go mad, for jealousy grips me. I burn to a crisp at being deserted. Indeed, (I ask) only this: Throw your garlands my way, for they will cheer me when I am alone. My lord, do not push me away, locked out, but take me. I am content - even eager - to be your slave. Maddening passion (?) involves much hard labour, for one's got to be always striving, bearing, and patient. If you cling to one man, you will only get crazy, because a single-object passion drives you mad. Be warned - I have an unconquerable will when I quarrel. I ani enraged when I remember I shall sleep alone. But you, you are running away elsewhere to cheer yourself up. If we are angry now, right away we ought also to be reconciled. Is this not why we have friends, who will decide who is the one doing wrong?

(This is the end efthefirst column in the papyrus.The poem continuesfor at least one morecolumn,only small bits efwhich arepreserved.) 1



Copley (1956) remains the fullest discussion of the parakla11sithyron in English. Other examples: Theokritos Idyll 3 (trans. Bing and Cohen, 1991, 157-60); Anthologia Palatinav 2 3, 103, 145, 164, 189, 191, 213, 281 (The GreekAnthology 1, Loeb Classical Library); for Latin examples, Barsby (1973), 70-81. The editor's restoration [leuk]ochros; but also possibly ([melan]ochros), a misspelling of 'darkas in PSix1v 1402.12. Lewis (1986), 88-9, argues that the poem complexioned', mela11chros, did not belong to Dryton, son of Pamphilos. Or, perhaps, 'I don't deny it', with 'that I have him in my mind' as a later addition to the poem.


Petition of Apollonia Santobithys

SB I 4638 (BL



alias Senmonthis

CopY of Dryton's third will ro 9 86- . entioned father Ptolemaios, son of Hennokrates, who was an ;if(:rcn~ynian (in the troop) of Diodotos, died and lefr his property to us int:ilnll us •because \"t' .t iou'c·.,1 will ' the al.:cused, being overhearing . 1 . . .and despisin I", . • 1 \\11 been left as under-age young girls, as 1f 111 accordance with kinship, ]1:1t , w;ainst us with his accomplices and others. Although they were c,nti}tl··•reg• istcred as next-of-kin, nor named as our guardians in.acc(;rdance eit 1e . . .. . . . . u . 1 .1 will, they secretly seized the house that belongs to us m Pathyns and 1 \\l!t · openmg · t 11e.. l10use · . . t 11c • · 1 • . . :ibly occup1co 1t, ancI, atter a1H·i appropnatmg f?tl •·hinl+'isc.1 4 am J turt ISCllssctI rn ,agos et a I., 1')92 ) . 110---#, . · , · .... ('red; and Roman astro.logH;;,Ipracuces and horoscopt·s, sec Barton (1\,

!/ r.; • ] · o f" gram· taxes· m · t 11e same these same offic1a s am:i t ]1e co 11 ectors a_g~;: ,e I made a report on the facts of the case. As a re~ult, I. compelled by ity sub1nit this petition and I ask that it be put m the record so that pet:css , . . I. . I , right to proceed agaimt them before htS('XCellency t 1e epistrategos may r;~ 1ai;1 for me in regard to the l?old actions perpetrated ~1ythem and as conr . . tl1e public rents for the helds owed to the 1mper1al treasury, because ..



In his petition Gemellus alias Horion complains that attackers. had been harassing him and his property for some time, invading his fields when the harvest was at hand. On at least two occasions, they tried to cast a spell on his fields and on those working in them, using a brephos.Brephoshas the general meaning 'infant', but this brephoswas more probably a still-born child or aborted foetus. 1 The repeated phrase 'to encircle ... with their envy' seems to refer to casting a spell on the unwitting party. Gemellus alias Horion did not write the body of his document, but he signed his name at the bottom.

To Hierax alias Nemesion, strategos of the Herakleides division of the Arsinoite nome, from Gemellus alias Horion, son of Gaius Apolinarius, Antinoite. I sent a petition, my lord, to the most glorious prefect, Aemilius Saturninus, informing him of an attack made against me by a certain Sotas, who despised me because of my poor eyesight and who with violence and audacity wanted to seize my property, and I received in return his sacred subscription 2 directing me to petition his excellency the epistrategos. Then Sotas died and his brother Julius, who also proceeded with their characteristic violence, invaded my cultivated fields and carted off not only a not insignificant amount of hay, but also cut off dried olive shoots and heath plants from my olive orchard near Kerkesoucha. When I was there at the time of harvest, I learned what he had done. Not satisfied with this, he again

"ii.~ ce1ns •

they want011,ly gatheret: up m~ crops. . .. _ . . .. , , (211d /wnd) C,emellus ~has ~Ionon, about ~6 years ol_d, lll;ln~l Ill Im eyes. Urd /r,md) Year 5 of Lucms Septum us Severns Pms l ertmax Augustus, Pachon 27. 1



. ,,otl . cJ10 s· and ·


As argued by Aubert (1989), 437. .. . The prefect's response to Gemellus alias Horion written on the pet1t10nh~ had submitted.


The archive of Satornila and her sons, late second century AD

This dossier of letters was purchased by a group of institutions in Europe and America buying papyri 011 the Egyptian antiquities market in the 1920s, 1 and the papyri were divided among the contributing institutions. Satornila, the mother and grandmother of this family of Roman citizens, boasted five grown sons: Sempronius, Maximus, Valerius, Satornilus, and Longinus. Satornila herself may be a widow (no husband is mentioned), but whether she and her extended family inhabited a single house, or adjacent ones, is unknown. She had nurtured the boys in their infancy and childhood, and now her sons, especially Seinpronius, were rep;iying the debt that children owed their parents 2 through concern for her health and happiness, expressed by letter when they were away from the family home in a_Fayum v11l'.1ge, p1:rhapsKaranis. Sempronius was frequently in Alex:md:·ia, for he, mentmns making obeisance on his mother's behc1lf every day before lord Serap1s, no doubt in the Serapeum there, commonly mentioned by correspondents from Alexandria (108-9, cf. Scl.Pap.1 121), Longinus also wrote a let:er to Maximus, informing him that their brother Sernpronius was currently con-

The archiveof Satornilaand h

er sons

I 44

veying bread to the -~oldiers'.ir~the _vicinit;. of Taposiris i1~~he l?elta, a day\ journey by boat h~1111Akxandn~ (P.M1c/1.m 206). Semp10nn1s Ofte addressed letters to lm 61:other Ma:--imus (see the backs of 108-9; 8e/.J.i/ ), including notes tor Satormla, but one letter (110). also with a I) /i. 1 121 to Satornila, was addressed to his brothers Valerius and Sat:ornilus. ot,, These letters underscore not only the difficulties of maintaini cornmlmication with one's farnily, but also the importance of fin/lg . . , . .. . 111g someone reliable to carry a letter. Sempronms 1etters were Wntten t' ditlerent hands, m1e of which might be his own; but the lett:rs tr::uislat{~~ below do not exlnbtt a change of hand between body and dosmg greetin . if he made use of a scribe, it was not his habit to pen a closing greetin~' Various motives have been suggested for Sempronius' practice of sendii~: several letters on a single sheet of papyrus (not unparalleled; cf. Sel.Pap. ~ r62, P Brem. 61). Was he a penny-pincher? Or was he seizing the opport 11 _ nity to send several letters with a traveller heading toward home? Or Was Sempronius, knowing that his mother Satornifa would demand that a letter from bim be read to her immediately upon its arrival, trying to control what would reach her ears hy carefully placing his communications to her before (I09), or after (110), his letters to his brothers? The inclusion of letters to Satornila in communications addressed to her sons suggests that Satornila herself was illiterate. The letters are undated, but a relative chronology can perhaps be reconstucted by following what is said to and about Maximus' wife, a woman never named in the correspondence as preserved.


1 The archive was first identified by Bell (1950); additional texts in Sijpesteijn (1976), republished as P.Mich.xv751-2, P.Mich. III 206 (Longinus Celerto Maximus) and 209 (Satornilus to Sempronius), and P.Heid. vn 400 (Sempronius to Satornila). We follow Sijpesteijn in excluding PSI VIII 943 from the archive. Bell's argument that the archive came from Karanis

was based on a false connection between Sempronia Gemella (71) and this family. A connection with Karanis might possibly be re-established, however, through the Sokrates who forwarded a letter to Sempronius (108; cf. the contemporary Sokrates in 71 and 104). 2 Sempronius wrote to Maximus in Sel.Pap.r 121.27-30: 'for we ought to honour as divine the lady who gave us birth, especially since she is so very good. I wrote this to you, brother, knowing the sweetness of one's revered parents.' The Greek concept of gerotrophia,the child's nourishing of an aged parent in return for care received during helpless infancy, is explicitly enunciated in P.Oxy. VIII I 121.11-12 (AD 295); for the virtue, see also 73, 5.209, 6.273,



to his mother

PMich. xv 751 Alexandria, late second century


Sempronius to Satornila his mother and lady, very many greetings. Before everything, I pray that you are well, and at the same time I make obeisance

7J,volettersfrom Sempronius




vour behalf evt?Y day before .l~rd Serapis. I ;un surprised that you did r'writc to me, either through (,ekr or through Sempronius, for when 1 11 '' •ned fi:om my Journey I encountered them and kept asking them what rct~lldie reason they did not bring a letter for me, T'hey said it was because bei,ng away. Afi:er I did learn about yo_ur well-bl·.ing, I was less . vbkd. So now I beg you, my lady, do not hesitate to wntc to me about 1 nt:ur ,,.vdl-bein~. I received a letter through Sokrat:es and another short one ;1iroughAntomanus . : . 1 Now I _:vrite to you so that you rernember. Up to . his letter to you fell on deal ears, and you wrote your second letter to 11nv\· · , ;1[Jout these matters. I write about these things, because I too kept 1 t . ting to do all I could :md to come to you - first of all to give thanks for \V,l11 vour good and ch1ld-lovmg nature and second also concerning these ;natters. Even now I have not found an opportunity, but while I was away did write to you concerning these sarne matters. Greet Maximus and his 1 wife and Sernpronius Kyrillos and Satornilns and Gemellus and Julius and his fornily and Helene and her family and Skythikos and Kopres, Chairemon, Thermouthis and her children. Farewell my lady, ahvays. (Address011 the back) Give to Maximus from Sempronius his brother. I





The next twelve lines are very fragmentary. We sometimes translate suppkments suggested in the notes.


Two letters from Sempronius

P.Mich.xv 752 Alexandria, late second century


Although Sempronius seemed at first to postpone telling Satornila about his clothing ('going to write another time' was supplied by the editor), he appareritly changed his mind, adding the note in the margin.

Sempronius to Satornila my 1nother and lady, very many greetings. Befi)re everything I pray that: you are well and next that my sweetest brothers are also well, and at the same time I make obeisance on behalf of you all every day befrire lord Sernpis. When I discovered a man sailing upcountry toward you all, [ felt compelled to greet you by letter. I beg you, my lady, do not hesitate to write to rne about the well-being of you all so that I may live with less worry. I am going to write to you another time (?) about my clothing., _I (Inthe margin) The garment you are making for me with the purple border on which you added ... having ... of purple at the hem and on both the collar and the sleeves ... there should also be ... on the ... Sempronius to Maximus his brother, very many greetings. Before everything else I pray that you are well. I received your letter in whicb you writ:e that you have dispatched two letters to me. Know, brother, that I received

Three lettersfrom Sempronius

The archiveof Satornilaand h


er sons

only one. Yim write ro rnc about Lobotes, how he is ., .. It is not please every man ... don't blame rne as though I were being carel easy ta but I have carried out all the thingrs you have told me to do · · · I gr eet ess · .. wife and your children. l~arewcll to you, brother. Yal1r (Addresson the back) Deliver to Maximus his brother from Sempronius. 1


11 ably the name (a very short one) of Maximus' recently deceased wifie h as b een 1ost prest11

[Jere,-·utllill•' with the editor that the feminine ending on 'unable'was a mistake,. ()r,,,s:, , •·" ,.,.., .. _ .. ·~ . ·. . 1ora1nas, ·· line endwg, I herefo1e, regard us as not bemg able to do anythmg, but do not be humble 11 t" vanou~ . .' ·_n_ 1s 1 r,oin·111 .194). The remaining scalers: Caius Longinus Akylas (he acknowledged); Julius Volusius, Marcus Antistius Petronianus, Julius Gemellus, veteran. Translation of codicil tablets. I, Gaius Longinus Kastor, honourably dis-


Ro1111111 trm 1~t·i

r 90

·. !



charged veteran of the praetorian fleet of Misenum, have made c 0 i· . - Sempromanus · · · I an·· d a man of· wonbv re < le 1l~. Marcus rfora -kl· · 1anus, a tnen( · ·I f' · · my k" · ·Ser,,_ · Ptll'e· , I have made trustee on Ius own goo( a1t I1. To ·msman, Julius 1 l I . . I I . I . · give ano 1equeat 1 4000 sestcrtltlS cams. rnve written t us tn my own'-lltis l .' I 1 on the 7th day befi)re the Ides of ["ebruary (7 1-eb.). Longim1s Akyla/a 11d Valerius Priscus h~vc sealed then\ Scalers: ( ;aim_ Longinus Akylas and acknowledged); Juhus Pbtloxenos, (,ams Lucretrns Saturmlus (he ackn. (he edged); Gains Longinus Kastor; Julius Gcmcllus, veteran. O\yj_ Opened and read on the same day on which the will was unsealed. (2nd hand) I, Gaius Lucius Geminianus, expert in Roman law, translated 11 above copy and it is in conformity with the original will. t. e 1 2 3


Prapetheus is identified only by his mother's name; he thus had no legitimate father For burial. · A calque of the Latin dolus ma/us. A mistake for 'December', if the Egyptian date is correct.

140. Women ask the governor for male guardians The two frJllowing dornments both rdlcct the growing use of fully Roman legal forn~s in third--century E_gyptThe /ex Julia et Titia, of Augustan date (apparently confirmed by a l1 i.igog o f th e Jews through Aurelius _ . ll_L' 2 . •' llllc1l] . S . f O o no 111 ynan Palestine, father of the synagrog,ue . . And tb,· t·J · . ur_ t1est1G bemg put, we have acknowledged that we have manumitted and discf • 11 1 h r. h b · · d h t em, an t at 10r t e a ove manunussion and discharge of them w. ,lrged I-_ b een pai'd th ea b ove-mentioned . . t lave money, a_nd that we have no riohts •·it ·ill b . ' . •-d .'1l!d no powers over them from the present day, because we have been 11 • . ·•11- and h ave received _for t~em the above-m~ntwned money, once and for all through Aure~rns D~oskoros and Aurelms Justus. Transacted in the illustri~ ous ~nd most 1llustnm~.~city of Oxyrhynchos ... in the second consulshi ofTi?enanus am_lthe hrst of Dion, year 7 of Emperor Caesar Gaius Amel it~ Valer~us D1ocle:1anus and year 6 of Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Valen_us Maxmuanus, Germanici Maximi Pii Felices Augusti, Phannouthi ... mneteenth day. •





. . . Paramone and her children ... and Jacob ... (I witness) the agreement as stated above. I, Aurelius ... (wrote for him) as he is illiterate. Aurelius Theon also called ... of the money ... rights ... of Dioskoros ... Justus ... the (talents) of silver ... manumit ... illiterate. 1 2

Latin inter mnicos,an informal mode of manumission. A city in the region of Lydda, inland from the Levantine coastal city of Joppa.


Woman claims her due from parents' slave

POxy.Hels. 26 (BL vm 274) Oxyrhynchos, 13 June AD 296 This petition records a woman's complaint about the failure ofa man, who slit· says '.s her slave, to pay her an apophora(contribution). The sbve was part of her mhcritance, J01nt~y with her sister, from their parents. Despite T:1pam111011 's terminology, ho~ever, it 1slikely that the 'slave' had been manumitted by the will. Freedmen did ~pically have duties toward their patrons, and the dispute here probably concerned Just what was due to Tapammon. . It is interesting that, although Tapammon

claims the right to act without a


I1e 6t I1 • lords the Emperor Diocletian Augustus fort I , cot1st• 1L,,hin - r of our ., 11 it . l Constantius the most noble Caesar for the .:me!. 11 11 c a:il~~liiDionysios also called Apollonios and D~met1:ianos. son of ·ro 11 botb former gymnasiarchs and counc1llors of the 11\ustnous and ' ; · } :-1· . . ) k l 11t1° 11 illustrious city of the Oxyrhynclutes, t 1~ most_ t 1stmgu1s 1eo1 ~1y'· 10st 11 , • 2 from Aurelia Tapan1111011 daughter of Thomos and Allous from 1 01 ·· · · 1:•• --frv - c111·1ciren, 1 fl'-'·1m1•-acting without a guardian m VIrtue o t· 11er t 11roug l1 I1e salllt. t ·1• • . - .. 'd ..1.. · 11.J H', • r ,. foster father Aurelms Sar~p1ades son ot Dt ymos c.l eu _terax, ht.t l , same city. I own bv mbentance from my parents along with my f1·o!!l t Jt ·' . .· ' ·- - • ·, .. 1• a slave whose name 1s S,mnat.es, house-born from t 1e • , • f)ioskounama ,iittl · . nnn Thaesis And from the time of the death of my parents he sup,l~ve wo · ' · ·· · · lf ·11 · · · '. 1 . with his contribution. But now he abscnts hnnse . , w1 not stay m plies. st~~ice ancl will not 1Jrovide us with any contribution, with what object oulr ow Ther"fm:· since I cannot endure the insolence . of a houseI co ntr)t k·ri·-. . ~--. ., .. . . . - . . ., ~ 11•lave I present this wntten petition requestmg that through yom cart, \1:~e 1;1aybe. compelled to pay contribution he owes and that it rnay be arranged (?) that he should stay Ill our s~rv1ce: . _ . Year 12 and 1 1 of our lords the Emperors D10det1an and Maxmuan Au~ust1 d year 4 of Constantius and Maximian the most noble Caesars, Paum 19. :urelia Tapammon has presented through me, Aurelius Sarapiades. I, Aurelius Ischyrion, wrote it for her .









For the practice of male relatives representing women who enjoyed the ius liberorum,see generally Beaucamp (1992), 193-267. City officials in charge of law and order.


Freedom and responsibility in developed Roman society

Despite restrictions on women's private-law independence in b?th Greek customary and Roman civil law, the papyri create a sense o~ growmg extension of women's freedom in both the private and the public spheres as the Roman passes into the late Roman period (Bagnall, 1993a, eh. 5). _This freedom was furthered by the 'right of three children' that became available to some Roman-citizen wives from the time of Augustus onward (see preceding section), but went beyond it. The third to the sixth centuries provide examples of some extraordinarily 'high-class' and wealthy female landlor?s (151; 5.174-5, 179, 192-3). Women possessed wide propri~tary pow~rs_111 disposing of their property after death (145-8), and neither Christian


Prl'edo111 d r•• 1111

. . .ll .l . C1pol/siiJ///1 d octnne nor 1mpena eg1s at10n appear in practice _to have cun- . . )' gr?~nds for divorce. (154, ~56; Clark,_ 1993, 17-27; Evans (hubb;111ed tJi,,i,, I he governmenrs growmg financral and liturg:ricil t}resst.... ' 199r) , t cJ• -m Lu lJ1e Ptnlema1c



Woman gives house to daughter, provides for funeral

SB vru_9642(1) (BL VII 213-4, VIII 353) Tebtyms, c. AD 112 An alternative to dispo 1·t 1011 · 0f b . mortis .fi ffi s. property Y will was the document type called donatio causa,a g~ t e ective upon the death of the giver (cf. 5.217, and 148 for a donatio


141" , . ,. .JiHt'renl form). One-third

of the survivmg agreements

of this tyiie were

· vci) . I1er SIlare· t lmu ol_· 1· ill ,le by women,_a nm: Il !11g orrna l WI'11 S (see P1'1lcrt. Ill I 0:5A). The 111•:dofthis legal _lorm I.or the trans1rn~s1011 ot pr~Jperty allows the giver to separate 11" .. 1, 11ct 1011 from the d1spos1t1onol: the rest of the estate (avo1d111g any threat tlnt 1 1h1' ~,ecaused by the failure of the will) and to attach conditions to the gift (here, 1 11 11 ~ . ~i:ertk;,th). In this document, T,unystha, ;i fifry-,year-old woman, gives her h:.tlf'...


1 . '. Clf n

house in the village of Talei, together with its contents, to her daughter. il.1" 1 1,1 retains the use of the house fr)l" the remainder of her life, and 1111 ·1· v · • receipt · n t· t 11t.· 11ousc 1s · cone t·1tmna · 1 upon 1ier payment o.r twenty , : .;cnmiph1s



IJ. '. ;nias to lwr brother Ht:ron and to her provision of a proper burial fr)r her 1 ,ltJt.l is not said if the twenty, drachmas for Heron arc bis sole share of the estate. or Jt.,1,. It . 11 / entirely possible that T\unystha has bndcd property disposed of by another 1 15 ji, ortis i:a11saor through a will, and that Heron has received or will receive a 111 doi1111 . - ) o f t Ius. . 'l'l - witnesses . J :l o f· g1·1·· ·tion levcn a m;uonty . 1e usua.l six attest to t l1c uec, t.




'1:llllYStha,daughter of Apollonios (son of Herakleides) and Thenpet,nouphis, from the village of Talci, with as guardian] her brother on both ~ierfather's and her mother's side, Satabous, about fifty years old, with a scar his lefl hand, [acknowledges] that she, the acknowledging party 011 Tlunystha, has agreed that after her death there shall belong to her daughter T:iorsenouphis, born to her frorn her deceased husband, Sabion, son of Heron. the share that belongs to her of an old house and courtyard, amountirw in all to one-half, purchased from Ptolemais and Didis and Ta... and 1Je in common and undivided, with all tbe appurtenances, in the afi1resaid village of Talei, of which the neighbours and the other rights are set forth in the contracts relating to it; and also the furniture which shall be left by the same Tamystha and the utensils and the household gear and clothing and sums due her of any kind whatsoever, on condition that Taorsenouphis shall provide a fitting funeral and laying out for her mother Tamystha, an_dshall give to her brother, Heron, the twenty drachmas of silver which their mother Tamystha agrees has been given to him. For as long as she lives the acknowledging party, Tamystha, shall have complete power with respect to the possessions that are the subject of this agreement, to administer them as she wishes. The subscriber is Ischyrion, son of Ischyrion, about 26(?) years old, with a scar on his left knee. The witnesses are Eutychos, son of Areios, about 62 years old, with a scar in mid-forehead; Sagathes, son of Areios, about 39(?) years old, with a scar on his right shin; Ptollarion, son of Eutychos, about .. years old, with a scar on his left eyebrow; Pakebkis, son of Psoiphis, about 42 years old, with a scar on his right eyebrow; Onnophris, son of Panesis, about 21 (?) years old, with a scar on his right calf; Psenkebkis, son of Pakebkis, about 4[.]? years old, with a scar on his right eyebrow. I, Tamystha, daughter of Apollonios son of Herakleides, my mother being Thenpetenouphis, acknowledge that I have agreed that after my death there shall belong to my daughter Taorsenouphis the half share of the house and 1




Freedomand l'e· .1p(,11st·1' 11 court and the property that shall be Jefi:by 111 • ,. d 1 .. h1). --· I · .. f" . ·d , · e, MJ ,1grce t·0 . st1pu at.ions ,ls a. mesa, . lschynon son tJf ls I· • . _ the . . ,• , c 1ynon wrote fti . tl · otl· they are tlhterate. ' · t 1e11 1 be. 1t•1 I, Eutychos, son of Areios, , bear r:: . •l c~ll~e , w1·tr1ess · as ai:orcsa1c I, Sagath~s, son of Areios, bear witness as aforesaid .. I, Ptollan_on, son of E~tychos, bear witness as aforesaid. I, Pakebkis, _son of Psoiphos, bear witness as aforesaid. I, Onnophr~s, son of Panesis, bear witness as aforesaid. Ps~nkebkis, son of Pakebkis, bear witness as aforesaid egist~red through Lourios, who has charge of th . Tebtyms. e registry office at


Woman burdenedby responsibilityfor unproductivepublic land 19 ~ ·


. ) marel wit. h my h us b an d Lucretrns · Diogenes t (of. my marriage . . ' ;1p;Jt: · :he exception ot my two slaves and 500 drachmas of silver. These I ,vith. t_t·,,)ollrny husband, Lucretius Diogenes. I do not wish him to reclaim [Cl . . c011. 0 slaves, nor the 500 drachmas, smce I have allotted them to him in · Y,t,v:e J have a pair· o f". go 11 111 c b race lets weig· h"mg 2 nnnas, an d a pan· o f arm,1th';id!l~N~ighing 3 minas, and likewise other objects of gold weighing 5 quar11 S ' ,, ti;l _ nd dothing and bronze objects. I have bequeathed all these to my son. bequeathed the p;tir of gold bracelets to be sold and the proceeds to I ]l,i for my funeral. Let my mother lfarpokratiaina and my husband P·1\.etius Diogenes, father of my son, take charge of my son and provide to L:'.\1~1rse support on his behalf from all my possessions. I have bequeathed 1 things the presence of Sarapammon son of Valerius, lessee of the a_,_witness (document?) 2 for the village of Philadelphia, and of my mother ~~rpokratiaina and o_fmy sister ~N and of Aurelius ?gna:ius son of A-pollinariosand my atoresa1d guardian and husband Lucretms D10genes and Marcus Aurelius Serenus. The division is authoritative. . l lsidora daughter of Ptolemaios, have bequeathed to my son the aforesaid (;105 sessions)_ through the aforesaid witn~sses as aforesaid. I_, M~rcus Lucretius Diogenes her husband and guardian, wrote for my wife Isidora because she is illiterate, and I was present at the division. I, Sarapammon, lessee of the village of Philadelphia, wrote the division as ,

. -e11l0 11


\\\iiese in

A woman divides her property between her hush d son an and

P.Diog. II-12 Ptolemais Euergetis,



This document in which a . . after her death, 'is curious in :~:a:~r;·~nge_·~-f~;· the distribution of her Pniperty be considered a donatio mortis causa ;.l~1a! ,l e contents. Technically it n1ust specifications to be considered a will' b:it cta~t?' aff~~cumc,u nm_ meeting the force. It is, however, not written in h , . .g c ett at ~eath with retmactive o_fS·l:l!Chffitexts, but in JI) idiosy~cratic formula, and lacks regis~r;~ti!::: ment is drawn up short! fi G . " . '· . . . . IC recon o JCe. The docuIsidora does not yet bea; :h~~a~ra~U,1 s/1am_ um versa! Roman citizenship, hut of Roman legal practice. e ure 1,11101 oes the document show any signs



' to . ,Ii··ivl' uut onanon 1ecI to t I1e o fl-!Cla 1 11 mcnt (undoubtedly in excess of t,vo hundred anmras) suggests that. she ,l~s_ R' os,tss I enormous landed we:;:ilth;compulsory Jssignmems were usually pnmoniot : C'i . , , r · 1,lte t but on Iy a small ~r:ictHm of, a persons total Lmdboldmg, I Ier protestations ofb:in o, kruptcy an;: theretore probably rather overstated.




(r) [To his highness the dioiketesFlavius Studiosus, from Ap]ollonarion 1. called [Arista_• ndra, c_laughter of _Aristandros, her mother beino- Di_le.1a so b llYllle daughter ofl ... of Oxyrbynchos] city. I( lwo 11eryfmgn1e11/ary fines) ... J cultivate . •: ) 20 arouras near the ntctropolis,... aromas near Cbysis in the pas. tures o~ D1onys1as, and.' .. ar?uras near, .. and r 10 arm.1rasnear lsion Panga, and 381/,aromas near Scryplm, and . , . arouras near Senekeleu and Kc As long as I had the power I cultivated these and [paid ... j the taxe~, -6~1; since it has befallen m: as the r~s.ult l~oth of the extra :cvies ordained ... by his excellency the prdcct Aemilms Saturnmus and of other causes and to have perforce spent nearly the entire year on them, not only being h·a;·(l pressed ... but also in consequence [having sacrificed?] both my household stock, my pt'rsonal ornaments, and ... and a large quantity of other property worth a considerable ;11nount for quite a small sum ... I am hence reduced to extreme poverty. For which reason, in order that I may not become a wanderer ... as I have only ... to live on, I present this petition, and beg you [to take pity on] what has befallen me, and to release me from the cultivation of the aforesaid [lands, and to write to] the strategos of the Oxyrhynchite nome instructions that the official in each village shall provide for the cultivation being performed [by others]; for men Lare the persons suitable for undertaking the cultivation, as you yourself, my lord, know ... owing to your innate kindness, I have appended ... in order that I may be completely benefited through you. Farewell. '




(2) Year I 8 of the deified Aclius Antoninus (Pi11_,c:,:A_D 154), Th[oth .. ., in the case of ... jetis daughter of Ptollion: Saturninos, advocate, said, 'Ptollion the father of 1ny client was fduring Ins lift·tirne?J appointed [to cultivate] crown and public land near the villages of Bousiris, Thinteris, and ... in the Herakleopolite nome. lk died leaving her as his heir, and since the village scribes of these villages are, contrary to the regulations (()rbidding



. osing her fath __ e_r'sassignment up__ o_nher_·,and it ..has b_cen decided hy . . i11111. , . . . . l rh1~: . s ;tnd ep1strateg01 from tune to mue t 1,H wome11 arc not to be forced ,tct.L · ··· · · l · . :! l requests, ntmg t: 1esc Jlll gements, t iat she 11ft ·lertake this . duty, she too ' . l·1 pertams . on Iy to men. ' ro Lt!l( , he released lrom the assignment, w Iuc 1il;I)' •

pannenion said,, :_Letthe judgements upon such cases l:e_,read.'There,was ;i decree of r1benus Alexander 111 the 2nd ye;1r of balba (AD 6ti/9), 1'i.';1d_··1inu-women to be 1nade cultivators, ... and (a decision of) Valerius . 11·bl( 1( ,, - '' . ' ' ' ' ' . ainion the prefect to the same eflect 1~1 the 5th year of_ Antomnus 111 L:: 12), ... and another of Minicius Corelhanus, ep1strategos l~th ( 1:. of Antoninus Caesar the lord (146/7); whereupon Parmemon said, In Y~~:irdancewith_ the judgements read out, 1~1th~111[ ... shoul~ ~e] r~'.eased "._ the cult1vat10n ... , and .. , other cult1vato1 s be appomted m her stead 111 tio I· \-11·1d' I Anollonarion also called Aristandra, have presented the pet1li1rt ie , ~ . ' i.. , . . . . • . cjg·ned the 7th year, Phamcnoth 6 (2 Mmrh 199). uon, ,, '



lll the


) So far the copy of the letter and the petition; acting conformity _with (~bidi the royal scribe of the nome an_d deputy strategos Ammomanos :vrote instructions to the officials of_the villages where the lands are situated :isfi.)llows:•Ammonianos, roY.al snibe am~ deputy strategos, the village ,cribe of Chysis and those of the othe:· villages. I send you a copy of the ietition presented to me by Apollonanon also called Anstandra, to which lsjoined a letter of his highness the afoiketes,and also a pctmon. concermng the cultivation for which she declared herself not to be habit\ Ill order tl_1at you may, in accordance with t:hejudgemtnts on the: subject, hold_ an mqmry ;mdreport to me. Signed, the 7th year, Pachon 27 (22 l\.,fay199).


(s)The transfer of obligation to other cultivators ought accordingly to take place in conformity with your letter, and the rents should ~e .exacted from those who have been cultivators; I therefore entreat you, 1f 1t please your 1:ortune, to order that stricter 111structions be written to the present strategos of the noine to compel tl1e officials to make the transfer in accordance with the orders they received, and the collectors to exact the dues from tl1e rcpbcement cultivators of the land, and not to harass me, a woman without a husband or helper, following your previous instructions in this matter, that also called I may obtain relief. l\trewell. Presented by me, Apollonarion 200). Signed. Signed by me Aristandra, Year 8, 1ybi l[.] (6--15 .J11111wry Aufidius Ammonias. (6) Thus far the petition, the list, and the letter; in accord:~nce ,wit!: which I entreat you to instruct the local officials to make the transfer of obhganon as I requested, and the collect:ors to exact the dues from the proper persons. Year 9, Thoth 1. I, Apollonarion also called Aristandra, daughter of Anstandros,

Frcrdo111 and re, "1}()llsi/"/•


I/ I/'

have presented (this). I, Cornelius son of Pekysis, have been appoin., .. l guardian. [, ... assistant, have brought the petition. Year 9, Thotb I (? he1-



-9 ,cJ//



f;Vealthywoman caught in cashsqueeze

t of the logisteiaof the 2nd indiction and all is satisfactory to me as iri~?ttenabove. I, ... son of ... wrote for him on request as he is illiterate w-11 • cor11Pletedby me, Justus, deacon. I




f 11e

term of office of the iogistes,lasting one year.

A wealthy woman serves the public

P.Oxy. XXXVI 2780 (BL VII 153, Oxyrhynchos, r6 July AD 553



Wealthy woman caught in cash squeeze

pSJI76 j\le){andria, AD 572 or 573

The late R.rnnan state only increased the pressun~ on well-to--do landowners . . , - · ,111t1es. . .Most civic · · o tt·ices were c1· c l1argt'. p11l:1IK 1scl1arged by wealthy men ·atto ldis• own expense. It may seeni paradoxical that the richest and most powerfol ..,'.• tlleii. ·l·· . • ~sicl'.IJt. of t 1e empire accepted a sys_tem that placed on them great burdens and risk· L s j I l I b . ' . ' . s, l1ltt " t I1ey gameo _t1ere JY o":".as1c rates o( taxa_tJO~land the polmcal and social power that went w1tl1 their vmble control ol public lunct10ns. 'fhese burdens rested essentially on the family property, but they were non . ll 1 discharged by the family's adult male members, regardless of in whose narut Y · . I · ·i· . . , t 11e property was reg1stere,, a s1gm :icant part ot Jt often m women's names in f . act, . 11y, l1owever, a wm:1an he ld the public. ofh-ces, . (). n:amma p.erhaps because her house had no d1?1ble male at the tnnc (cf. lewis, 19.90)_.Sue.bis Fl'.1v1aGabrielia, ;1 very h1gh-ra11kmg woman hoklmg at once all the pnnc1pal c1v1cofl1ces: h~11 , . ' · · · ,re ever p..l ea and. so . that Your Bnlhancy. may know that as a result of Its tJro .... • Y r -u astinatmn It 1s liable to me both for the expenses that naturally occur t•) 1. • ·· l Iaymg . and f:or . those that arc about to be taken from , nie oecause o f your cc 111 estate by my creditors because of my inability to pay my debts -1111.. y , · I• 1. .. . .. . . · · ' ' ounts eqwva cnt t_ow 1a~ I have 1_10: received from Your Bnlliancy, those agreed upon by It tor rne ll1 behalf al my most renowned brother therefore J I T . . ' -· · 1ave ut11scd th,: prese~1t afhdav1t, sent to It through the most eloquent de[c1150,. of the (c~ty) of (th~) ~lexandrians, with 111y subscription and His Eloquences, a copy of _wluch I have retained in n1y possession fr>r rny own protection with the atorementioned most eloquent defensor's signature. And I b~g It by the Holy a_nd Comubstantial Trinity and the victory and safety at our gloriously triumphant rulers, Flavius Justinus, the eternal Augustus, greatest benefactor and emperor, and Aelia Sophia. our most august empress, not to depart from the (city) of (the) Alexandrians until It makes satisfaction to me for the gold that was agreed upon for me by It, as mentioned above.



A municipal offical, concerned with justice. Use of the third person form of address (It = Your Magnificence = you) is characteristic of the floridly polite late antique style.


Father ends daughter's marriage to 'lawless' husband

P.Oxy I 129 Oxyrhynchos,

sixth century



my atore1nent1_oned most renowned brother entered into the s . _l .l t· I . J .• l ' . . ' C lt C11 1eiit wit 1 me or t ll' sarne sixty-one pounus ol go d. The fact that J alll . I J I: d · l · l I l I · Wrest!·1 Wit _1 JtS an_. am. 1our y l,~rasse~ 1y_my creditors IS kr~own to alJ; l~ 1lg addrnou, the 1eal ptoperty left bdund for 111e m the (provmcc) of A ... in from wbich r derive my essential nourishment is under the c-1·1. ••


See 55-6 and Ch.3 Arch. L; also MacCoull (1988), ch.2. 1


Father marries off daughter 157· CPR IV 23 Akhmim, 29 August AD 6ro . hort text from Akhmim (Shmin in Coptic; Greek Panopolis) is one of the us . Th earliest known Coptic marriage documents. It is not a marriage_ contract proper, but a contract in which a father agrees to allow a man to marry h~s daughter, specifying a fine to be paid if the father breaks the agreement. Marn~ges arra_nged by parents, often through an intermediary, are frequently allude~ to m C~p~i~ ~oc~ments· in other cases, however, the woman appears to exercise some_ m1t1at1vem the m~tter. The present contract gives little information ~bout t~e circumstances surrounding the marriage, such terseness being commo_n m Coptic docum~nts of the period. Its use of Greek and Coptic and its list of witnesses are very typical for any Coptic legal document.

(Greek)In the name of the lord and ruler Jesus Christ, our God and saviour, (in) the reign of our most serene ruler Flavi_us~h?cas, eternal Augustus and . Emperor, sixth year, day I of Thoth, 14th md1ct10n. (Coptic) I, Pachom, son of Psate, the dye-selle~ and citi~en of Shmm, although now I live in Tin in the district of Pso1, make th~s ~ontract and write to Dioskoros, son of Arsenios, from this same town. I reJ01ce and agree that, if God grant that we live, from now on I give my ~aughter to you as wife. But if I deceive you and take her from you and give her to anothe~, then it is necessary for me to pay three gold solidi as a fine. This contract is firm and valid everywhere. . . (2nd hand) tI, Moses, son of Papnoute, the priest, am witness to this contract, as I was instructed.t

2 1,i

. ..o,n,t ,, 1

/)if/( 111,.


1,l'II /uwd) tI,Jobannes, l


son of Abraham, the priest from Tin, am wi·t .





this contract, as I was mstructed. l\\ ( 1st lwnd) I. Paulos, mn of Megas, from Tin, was instructed and [ 111.11 •.' e tl · contract .vith my hands and I act: as .vitness to it. ll, (Bilek) fI'he contract of Pahom the dye-seller and man of Shmin.



A daughter-in-law

KRU 67.13-46 Jeme, eighth century

is found not to be a virgin


. .c d



~i~i~:• 'i::·\t~:~



daughter of tl~e late A!1:one, mai~. ~-;~ 1: ;~ 1 . ·:l [ I the son of Creorge ot Shmom.1, s,1y.11 g. I . ] .· .. •.. W·. , jrns),lllc 1 · · ·' . •·. , [:l· ..· l,11 to leavt· lum. t . . . ,·D' I did not remam with hun am ... l cult., . . lum ,1s w1 e, i 1. , ·h other If you want to r •., , 1 v.ritb each other and were separate( rolll eac . . .. . .

I, Dophile,




l] ~;~~:\\nother! fwife, .l~t'.1i\1~~:~:~ ;~,;;:~t:~: ;~>::~ 5t;1~1~J:t:t:~,~~eb:o;~~;l:~~l take her as w1 e, name) · .. ' ' . _ . · .. ldi without (recourse to) If I ·want to prosecute you myself., lishali ~f those who !rule!over judgement or law. l3y al1111glHyC,ol anc t le 1 , . .us l. swe·u t I1at I. s I1aII• no ... t L.V • e1·t"kl' ·1ction acrainst vou. 0 " · ' · . .' .. f Sl · ·. · I tl, Dophile, daughter of' the [latel Antone man o . 1moun,


(~;,d lwn;l)

agree to this (?) as it is written.t f Sh un I am (3rd hand?) tI, Kosma, son of the late [Apa] Kyre man o . mo ' witness.t

(3rdhand?) tI, Shenoute,

h f [Shmoun] I am son of the late Jo annes man o '

witness.t 1

The Coptic name for Hermopolis.

Continuity and changein the C


1 60.


optic te::rts

over unpaid alimony


C. Till, 'Eine koptische Alimentenforderung; d'ArcheologieCopte 4 (1938), 71-8 Seventh century AD (?)





Be so good, by the glory which God granted you, and hear of my maltreat~ ment, so that God bless you. May your lordship hear of my maltreatment by Paul, my husband: I bore him tbree sons befbre I became sick and, God knows, since I became sick I bore another son. When he saw that God brought the sickness onto me, he cast me aside. He went off with another (woman) and he left the children abandoned. After plenty of quarrels between me, him and the other woman whom he took, [it was agreed] that he should give me yearly alimony, consisting of 4 artaba-mcas1n·cs of barley, 4 xestes-measures of oil and 4 [measures] of wine, mid a dress each year, and a cloak each year. But he also deprived me of the alimony and has not paid to me since last year, except for a mere artaba-measure of barley. I ask fr)f nothing except the alimony which he established for me, for I am sick and I live on it. God bless you.

Ep270 Sixth-seventh century

of a wife AD

The actual mechanics of (!ivon:c were fairly simple if there v,msno property settlement to consider. A spouse could leave or, depending on the ownership of the houst·, simply force the other spouse to leave. The rnost common reason for divorce, whatever its mechanics, was remarriage. In this brief text, a man divorces his first wife, marries his second and also marries his daughter to hi~ new snn-in-law, prc-s1m1nhly to secure the familial refatiomhip. An t•arlier fi:agmentary text on the smne



rman son of Peale, living in Pashme, has thrown out torn t h e fiishe , f f ~


H has married Teret, daughter o Komes, son o J?are,

ife J_ecos e. e . d' • 11isd:ehas given his daughter to her son. rnth m 1ct10n. JO


nslated here) seems to allude to an earlier separation between the

f ent (no t t ra doct1111. 11· h Tecoshe went to the nearby town o Jeme. le J11w ic cotlP

Bulletin de la Societe

Even with a settlement, divorce in the Coptic documentation was not free fr problems. The most frequent violation of divorce settlements appears to have the non-payment of alimony. In this text, an invalid woman begs an unsj}('c}f:cn • l lt'd official to help restore the alimony payment~ that her former husband has cca,ed . pay. In doing so, she gives a brief narrative of the break up of her marriage and subsequent events that led to her current predicament. The implicit interacti lt • on , .£" • between th e woman an d h er ex- h us b an d s new wr c 1, not uncommon m such cas ,. The person to whom the text is directed is not named, but the form of address sue~~ gests that it was probably a religious official, a local priest or bishop. Pleas to loc~ 1 religious leaders from abandoned or widowed wmnen are comm_on among Copti~ documentary texts; such officials were often an important part of women's suppon networks.



Repudiation of a wife


·uge in the district of Koptos. A v1 a



Economic activities

Introduction The documentary evidence of the papyri tells us far more about the economic lives of women than we can deduce from any literary evidence Although it would be difficult to maintain th:it m:iny women had 'careers; in die 111odcrn sense of the tern1, except in a very few specialised areas, the evidence from Egypt suggests that women's economic activities were not confined to circumstances in which they were either working as slaves or working because they needed to do so in order to survive. They must also have supplied nrnch routine labour in contexts which do not find description .in the written evidence. What we have in the papyri certainly suggests that the somewhat restrictive legal institutions and provisions did not inhibit independence and initiative as much as '"'e might expect. This chapter is divided into two sections. Section I traces in chronological sequence the devdoprnents in women's capacity to possess agricultural land, and to particip,ite in agricultural work or management. Section II looks at the range of women's other economic activities: property ownership, the use of 1noney, and types of e1nployment, particularly in weaving and prostitution. ln Section II, the texts are grouped by subject matter ,ls rnuch as by date.


Women and agricultural land

Tbe early Ptolemics were responsible for important agricultural 1mprovem,~nts in Egypt, introducing better strains of wheat and new varieties of vine, and extending and improving the quality of the agricultural land. Development 111ayhave been particularly intensive in the Fayum, bm w;1s dearly widespread througlio11t Lower and Middle Ei-,,ypt. However, women's participation in these developments, and access to the possession of arable land in their own right, was significantly restricted by the condir 99 5), Much land was :dlocated tional system of land tenure (Rowlandson, in temporary grants to groups who perf