Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.09.08

P. Schubert (ed.), Vivre en Égypte gréco-romaine. Une sélection de papyrus.   Vevey:  Editions de l'Aire, 2000.  Pp. 200.  ISBN 2-88108-562-8.  

Reviewed by Pieter W. van der Horst, Utrecht University (

This charming booklet will be reviewed here only briefly since its target audience is not the scholarly world, but a wider Francophone readership with little or no knowledge of Egypt after the time of the pharaohs. Paul Schubert, who is both professor of Greek in Neuchatel and professor of papyrology in Geneva, read and translated quite a number of papyri with students (and some colleagues, among whom is André Hurst) of both universities. Of the translations made and discussed by this group Schubert selected 70 more or less representative ones that shed light on matters of everyday life in Graeco-Roman Egypt. The stated purpose is to make the general reader acquainted with material that is little known outside scholarly circles because of lack of French translations and non-technical introductions. In a 50-page introduction Schubert informs the reader briefly about the history of Egypt in the period between Alexander and Muhammed, the mixed population of the country, the administrative systems, the various languages, papyrus, the rediscovery of papyri, ending with a useful list of abbreviations for the most important papyrological corpora.

Each of the lemmata consists of data about the place(s) of publication, indication of the time when the document was written, a very short introduction to the contents, and the translation with occasionally very succinct and elementary footnotes. The ordering of the papyrus texts is more or less topical, and a wide variety of topics are covered in the 150 pages, with reliable French translations. There are not only the well-known 'classics' such as Claudius' famous letter to the Alexandrians (no. 60; here, curiously, the important re-edition as no. 153 in the Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum goes unmentioned), the invitation to the meal in honour of Sarapis (no. 16), and the Gnomon of the Idios Logos (no. 59, in excerpts), but also many lesser known texts (charms, love letters, petitions, deeds of various nature, contracts etcetera). There is a list of texts translated, but there are no indexes. To the short bibliography could now be added the important monograph by W. Husz, Ägypten in hellenistischer Zeit (München: Beck, 2001). This booklet will serve its readers well.

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