Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.12.37

Ruth Duttenhöfer, Griechische Urkunden der Papyrussammlung zu Leipzig (P. Lips. II). Mit einem Beitrag von Reinhold Scholl. Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete, Beiheft 10.   München/Leipzig:  K.G. Saur, 2002.  Pp. xxii, 261; pls. 33.  ISBN 3-598-77544-X.  EUR 94.00.  

Reviewed by Arthur Verhoogt, University of Michigan (
Word count: 1329 words

The present book publishes 29 papyrus texts that belong to the collection of the Karl Marx University of Leipzig. All texts are documents, and with the exception of three (Ptolemaic) texts all belong to the Roman period. Each text is provided with introduction, translation, and philological and historical commentary. At the end follow black and white plates of all the papyri published in the volume. The papyri represent well-known types of documents (contracts, petitions, tax receipts, a census return [no. 144], and a libellus). They illustrate many aspects of life in, especially, Roman Egypt, with a notable presence of "real" Roman elements (as is apparent, for example, from the index of personal names).

When Claudio Gallazzi asked the papyrological community in 1992 whether we still would find papyri in 2042,1 he obviously was not thinking about Leipzig. This collection reportedly contains some 5000 papyri (p. V), and although many of these are (very) fragmentary, a fair number are publishable and there are even (unexpected for such an old collection) some literary texts (which will be published in the next volume of Leipzig papyri). Of these 5000 papyri only 170 texts have been published previously (largely in P.Leipz. [1885] and P.Lips.I [1906]).2

The papyri were purchased for the University of Leipzig in the nineteenth and the early twentieth century. In 1913, for example, a group of texts was purchased by the German Papyruskartell. Papyri from such lots were divided amongst the various German collections, whereby the main objective was to give each institution some nice stuff rather than to keep together papyri that obviously belonged together. In consequence, the papyri published in this volume offer many links to papyri kept in (former) German institutions. In addition there are a number of connections to be made with other collections, such as the papyrus collection of the University of Michigan, which bought papyri from the same Egyptian dealers.

The texts published here offer a firm basis for further study on various topics. With one or two question marks, the readings presented by the editor are sound, and her interpretations are the best that can be offered in the current state of scholarship. What could be said, perhaps, is that the editor remains very close to the texts and does not leave the texts for an occasional larger historical view, for which, surely, a number of texts published here offer ample opportunity. In the remainder of this review, therefore, I would like to point out some of these which are of interest to a larger than sheer papyrological audience. Papyrology has more to offer than Posidippus.

The first text in the book, no. 124, provides welcome information about the soldier-settlers (katoikoi) of Ptolemaic Egypt, although the uniqueness of the text makes much of the interpretation speculative. It is a long text containing copies of a number of different documents which all date to the end of the second century before our era. Interestingly, the documents were copied on a roll which had previously been used for a text in Demotic Egyptian, suggesting that what we have are copies made for personal use. Clearly the texts deal with matters of taxation and frequently mention a "Reiterkasse" (hippike prosodos).

The volume publishes five texts from the early Roman period which have ties to the grapheion archive of the village Tebtunis (nos. 127-131). The bulk of this archive is currently in the papyrus collection of the University of Michigan (published in, in particular, P.Mich. II and V), but parts of this archive were also purchased by other institutions (among which the Papyruskartell) and dispersed to various other collections (among which Leipzig). The Leipzig texts are earlier than the bulk of the archive (reign of Augustus versus reign of Claudius) and offer valuable prosopographical information about families known from texts from other collections. The fact that these texts trace these families back to the beginning of the Roman rule is of special importance since here we may have the "missing link" between the village elites of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt. I intend to look more closely into the larger context of this process elsewhere.

Three of the texts published here add to another papyrological classic, the archive of the strategos Apollonius (nos. 136-138). This archive too was acquired through the Papyruskartell and was dispersed to various collections (in particular Giessen). The first text (no. 136; 9 January 118 AD) is a re-edition of SB XVIII 13246 with a new fragment, making the text complete. The text (with no. 137) is yet another offer to lease state lands at a reduced rate, for which the archive of Apollonios provides a number of examples. The third text (no. 138; between 114 and 120 AD) is a letter from one Kastor to Apollonios (not the strategos), and was written by the same hand as another letter from Kastor to Apollonios (P.Brem. 48).

The book also contains a very interesting receipt for sales tax (no. 142: Ptolemais Euergetis, 26 November 148 AD). The sale consisted of no fewer than thirteen slaves (at least eight of which female), bought by Longinia Petronilla from her minor son Lucius Herennius Valens. Both parties are known from other documents (BGU VII 1581; P.Gen. II 103; P.Flor. III 316), where their names can now be securely read. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that we have here the sale of thirteen slaves. It is generally maintained that in Greek and Roman Egypt slavery was relatively unimportant,3 so that the presence of such a number of slaves in this family would warrant more commentary than the editor gives us. This number can be compared to a copy of a census return from the Family Archive from Tebtunis (P.Fam.Tebt.), SB XIV 11355 (the copy was made ca. 208 AD, but the actual census was that of 187/188 AD), in which a total of nine slaves are registered with their owner. It would seem that if slavery indeed was relatively unimportant, there were families in Roman Egypt who owned considerable numbers of slaves. This too warrants further investigation.

There are three texts that belong to the archive of one Antonius Domnus alias Philantinoos (nos. 145-147). This man was a Roman citizen and citizen of Antinoopolis, but owned property in the Fayum and was still residing there. The three texts all deal with the same case and are a wonderful, textbook example of the "do-it-yourself" justice system of Roman Egypt. They show Domnus in the process of trying to get his right against the abusive behavior of the village scribe of Philadelpheia (Horion), first to the dioiketes, then to the prefect (no. 145; 15-18 January 189 AD), then to the epistrategos (no. 146; between 18 January and 5 April 189 AD), in whose presence the case was finally presented (no. 147; 5 April 189 AD). Apart from illustrating the justice system of Roman Egypt, this little archive also offers comparative material for the study of Antinoopolis and its citizens and should be studied together with the archive of Marcus Lucretius Diogenes (P.Diog.), and the above-mentioned family archive from Tebtunis (P.Fam.Tebt.).4

The book ends with the publication of a libellus (no. 152; Euhemeria; 16 June 250 AD) by Reinhold Scholl (S.). This text is the 46th libellus from Egypt, and S. provides a systematic overview of all these texts with discussion of the various elements of this type of document (pp. 226-241). To me, one of the striking aspects of this list still is that of these forty six texts, 34 were drafted in the village Theadelphia before the same committee (Aurelius Serenus and Hermas) during a period of at least 32 days (Payni 18-Epeiph 20).

In sum, the papyri published in the current volume offer many leads for further research. The overall interest of the documents makes one eager to see more from the Leipzig collection soon, and on the basis of the quality of this publication one would hope that the present editor will be involved in that project again.


1.   C. Gallazzi, 'Trouvera-t-on encore des papyrus en 2042?', in: A. Bülow-Jacobsen (comp.), Proceedings of the 20th International Congress of Papyrologists (1994), pp. 131-135. Of course, Gallazzi was talking about finding papyri in the sands of Egypt. Nonetheless, the case of the Leipzig papyri makes clear that the possibilities of "museum archaeology" for discovering "new" papyri should not be underestimated.
2.   See for more information about this papyrus collection on the Leuven Homepage of Papyrus Collections.
3.   See Dominic Rathbone, Economic rationalism and rural society in third-century A.D. Egypt. The Heroninos archive and the Appianus estate (1991), pp. 89-91.
4.   In the case of the archive of Marcus Lucretius Diogenes, the connection between both archives is also supported by the fact that both sets of papyri were bought from the same dealer (as mentioned on p. 163).

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