Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2013.07.14 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.07.14

Patrick Sänger, Veteranen unter den Severern und frühen Soldatenkaisern: die Dokumentensammlungen der Veteranen Aelius Sarapammon und Aelius Syrion. Heidelberger Althistorische Beiträge und Epigraphische Studien (HABES), Bd 48.   Stuttgart:  Franz Steiner Verlag, 2011.  Pp. 413; xiv p. of plates.  ISBN 9783515099042.  €59.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Peter van Minnen, University of Cincinnati (

Table of Contents

This is a decent papyrological text edition masquerading as a monograph. Scholars interested in the changing position of Roman veterans in the late second and early third century will find something of interest in the pages of this volume, but it is strictly limited to two legionary veterans, Aelius Sarapammon and Aelius Syrion, both residing in the Heracleopolite nome, where they do “papyrological” things such as writing petitions and leasing land. Papyrologists interested in the 19 texts included in the volume will have a hard time locating them. The texts are in “chapter” 6 on pp. 123-339, but the page headers there do not identify the text numbers, so that it takes a while before one locates the text one is looking for.

The Dokumentensammlungen of the subtitle are what papyrologists call “archives,” papers kept by their respective “protagonists” (so Sänger 116). Aelius Sarapammon, the protagonist of texts 1-8, is somewhat older than Aelius Syrion, the protagonist of texts 9-19. Not all texts are new: seven are re-editions1 with numerous improvements (these are also listed separately on pp. 365-368). The previously unpublished texts are with one exception (text 7 = the unpublished verso of P.Heid. 3.244) from the papyrus collection of the Austrian National Library. See the concordance on pp. 120-122 (not included in the index of sources at the back of the volume). All texts are illustrated on black-and-white plates. Some had to be reduced in size (even to 35%), but apart from the first two from the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria they are mostly legible.

The introductory “chapters” dwell at length on some issues. The two archives command interest because they are from the Heracleopolite nome, more specifically the village of Ankyronon, the subject of chapter 3. Texts 6-7 were actually found in excavations at Ankyronon, whereas the other texts were acquired earlier on the antiquities market. Previous studies have focused on veterans from villages in the Arsinoite nome (Karanis, Philadelpheia) and from the city of Oxyrhynchus.2 The two archives also command interest, because they show that as far as we can now tell there was continuity in the prosperity of veterans between the second and third centuries. Aelius Sarapammon may have been a veteran signifer of legio II Traiana Fortis already in 183, when according to text 1, a petition to the archidikastes from 195-212, he acquired confiscated property from the res privata, and is attested until 223/4 (or even 232/3). In text 2, a petition from ca. 206-212 to the prefect of Egypt by someone else, the petitioner claims that Aelius Sarapammon owes an accumulated debt of over four talents. Aelius Syrion is attested as a veteran optio of legio II Traiana Fortis from 222/3 until ca. 250-255 and appears more than modestly wealthy for a former junior officer. In text 15 he bids to lease extensive tracts of imperial estates in the Heracleopolite nome. If he is the Syrion in Rom.Mil.Rec. 2.13 he would have been recruited in 194. Both Aelius Sarapammon and Aelius Syrion are literate in Greek. Chapter 5 discusses aspects of the petitioning process and the leasing of imperial estates, which each occur in more than one text, but also a variety of issues raised by a single text. For instance, in text 10 Aelius Syrion claims that veterans enjoy special treatment in legal matters and that the prefect of Egypt himself deals with their cases. The chapter is a hodge-podge and comes with the usual “papyrological” tables on pp. 340-364.

In line 11 of text 2 it is better to read/articulate εικοσειδυ.[ as εἴκοσει (for εἴκοσι) δύω̣ than as εἰκὸς δυν̣[. Text 3 is a promise made ca. 219-220/1 to the strategos of the Heracleopolite nome to appear within 30 days in Alexandria before the prefect. In lines 11-12 I would distribute the text over the lines differently: instead of π̣[έρας λ]ά̣[βῃ] / [καὶ μηδὲν διεψεῦσθαι] I would read π̣[έρας λά̣βῃ κ]α̣[ὶ] / [μηδὲν διεψεῦσθαι]. Text 4 requests another strategos of the Heracleopolite nome to forward the approval of a petition from Aelius Sarapammon by the archidikastes to four sons. The unread father’s name at the end of line 5 is probably Ἀσκλ̣η̣[πι-. Text 5 is a copy of a census document of ca. 217/8 for two women whose guardian is none other than Aelius Sarapammon. In line 2 read ἀγορανομ(ήσαντι) instead of ἀγορανομ(ήσασι). The use of red ink shows that this is an official copy. Text 6 is a declaration of uninundated land from 222/3 or 232/3. In lines 15-16 the correct syllabification is ἄ̣[βρο-]/[χον rather than ἄ̣[βροχ-]/[ον]. Text 7 is the draft of an offer to lease addressed to Aelius Sarapammon on the back of text 6 and shows that the front of the papyrus must have contained more than one text. Lines 9 and 11 are inserted, but the editor has numbered the lines consecutively. Text 8 is an undated letter addressed to Aelius Sarapammon.

Text 9 is the latest dated text from Aelius Syrion’s archive where he is still alive. It is a petition from ca. 250-255 to the prefect of Egypt against a certain Sarapammon (not the veteran). According to the supplement in lines 3-4 Aelius Syrion writes in his capacity as landowner in Ankyronon, but other supplements than γεουχοῦν-]/τος are conceivable. It is unavoidable to supplement lines 4-5 as τοῦ ὑ̣[πὲρ Μέμφιν Ἡρακλεοπολί-]/τ̣[ο]υ given that the text is addressed to someone in Alexandria. In line 6 πρά̣ξ̣εω̣ς μᾶλλον̣ [ ± 3 ἐρ]γο̣λα̣β̣ίας should be supplemented as πρά̣ξ̣εω̣ς μᾶλλον̣ [δὲ ἐρ]γο̣λα̣β̣ίας and translated “(tax) collection or rather extortion” (for ἐργολαβία “extortion” see Sänger, p. 217). Text 15 is the earliest dated text from the archive and all other texts are dated ca. 222/3 – 250-255. Only text 17 falls outside these extremes, because in it Aelius Syrion is already dead. It is a receipt from 262/3 (?) for the settlement of a debt left by Aelius Syrion, and the inclusion of text 17 in his archive is justified by the assumption that his papers were taken over by his heirs.

Text 10 is another petition from Aelius Syrion to the prefect, this time written in a stylistically rather recherché manner: ἡγεμονία is used instead of ἡγεμών in line 7; imperial constitutions are called προσκυνητέα twice (lines 8 and 25-25), the only times this adjective is used in papyri; and πρω̣[το]β̣αθριτῶν θεάτρ[ου] “those who sit up front in the theater” is unattested anywhere else. In line 22 καὶ πο̣ιοῦσιν at the end of the sentence is better translated as “and they are in fact doing it” (Sänger: “und sie machen”). Text 11 is a petition to an army officer on the back of text 14, which contains correspondence between officials. The text breaks off at διό, where the actual request would have followed: “therefore I ask that you …” Text 12 is a record of legal proceedings.

Text 13 is a request to the archidikastes to archive in Alexandria (through a procedure called demosiosis) a receipt made out to Aelius Syrion through Niketes, his freedman, by a former gymnasiarch and councilor of Heracleopolis for having repaid his debt. Text 15 is a bid by Aelius Syrion to lease an imperial estate formerly owned by Messalina at a higher rent than someone else: 3,000 instead of 2,900 artabas of lachanospermon, whereas the 1,900 artabas of wheat remain unchanged. These are substantial amounts, implying an estate of over 1,000 arouras total. Text 16 is a lease of part of what Aelius Syrion subleases from the imperial estate formerly owned by Messalina. In lines 21-22 read εἴ]/κοσι instead of ] / καί.

Text 18 is a letter to Aelius Syrion and one Kyrillous (the address on the back is printed on p. 335 with text 19, two letters written by Aelius Syrion to his son Syrion and his daughter Eudaimonis on the back of text 18). In lines 10-11 ἐλθεῖ-/ν ταχέ̣ως ἀντιγράψαι should be ἐλθεῖ[ν] / ταχέ̣ως ἀντιγράψαι. In line 41 the articulation of the text cannot be right: [ἀ]λ̣λ̣ὰ μὴ̣ μελήσῃς ὅτι πορθους με. γὰρ ἀσπαζόμεθα ὑμᾶς̣ … should probably be [ἀ]λ̣λ̣ὰ μὴ̣ μελήσῃς ὅτι πορθοῦς (for πορθοῖς or πορθεῖς?) με γάρ. ἀσπαζόμεθα ὑμᾶς …̣ ἀσπαζόμεθα ὑμᾶς̣ begins the greetings. The preceding may be translated as, “Pay attention, because you (may) destroy me.” Either ὅτι or γάρ is superfluous, but cf. the frequent use of ὅτι γάρ.

The indexes on pp. 400-413 include sources and subjects. The texts are reliably read, and the commentary is exhaustive.


1.   Text 1 = PSI 8.928, text 2 = PSI 9.1052, text 5 = SPP 2, pp. 27-28, text 6 = P.Heid. 3.244, text 10 = Ch.L.A. 3.201, text 13 = SPP 22.70 = SB 16.12837 = SB 22.15383, and text 16 = CPR 1.243 = SB 16.12836.
2.   R. Alston, Soldier and Society in Roman Egypt (London-New York 1995) for Karanis, and P. Schubert, Philadelphie (Basel 2007) for Philadelpheia; J. Whitehorne, “Soldiers and Veterans in the Local Economy of First Century Oxyrhynchus,” in M. Capasso, G. Messeri Savorelli, and R. Pintaudi (eds.), Miscellanea papyrologica in occasione del bicentenario dell’edizione della Charta Borgiana, 2 vols. (Firenze 1990) 2:543-557 for Oxyrhynchus.

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