BMCR 2001.02.13

The Herakleopolite Nome. A Catalogue of the Toponyms with Introduction and Commentary

, The Herakleopolite Nome : a catalogue of the toponyms. American studies in papyrology ; no. 37. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998. xvii, 324 pages : illustrations, map ; 29 cm.. ISBN 0788504126

The Herakleopolite nome was one of the administrative divisions of Egypt under Greek and Roman rule. Situated in Middle Egypt, it adjoined the two regions that have produced the bulk of published papyri, viz. the Arsinoite (Fayum) and Oxyrhynchite nomes. The book, whose origin lies in a London PhD thesis (1987) on the Herakleopolite nome in the Ptolemaic period, is, as the author puts it, “essentially based on the Greek papyri, dating from the third century B.C. to the eighth century A.D., which mention Herakleopolite place-names. It aims both at mapping the nome territory and at investigating the provenance of these papyri, the vast majority of which can be traced back to a limited number of sites.’ This is done in the introduction (pp.3-34) and the map that completes the book. The core of the monograph (pp.37-271) is made up of an annotated catalogue of Herakleopolite place-names. Herakleopolis, the capital of the nome, is excluded, on the ground that it deserves ‘a special study.” (p.xiii)1

Chapters 1 (“In insula Nili”) and 2 (“Toparchies and Pagi”) discuss the location of the nome and its internal borders in the light of textual and archeological evidence. In spite of their brevity, these two chapters are a mine of topographical information, much of which is new. Chapter 3 (“Documents mentioning Herakleopolite toponyms: Time-distribution, provenance and contents”) occupies the largest part of the introduction. The lion’s share goes to the papyri of the Ptolemaic period. Most come from the dismantling of mummy cartonnage found in a number of Egyptian necropolises—rarely as a result of controlled or authorised excavations—and later scattered all over the western hemisphere. This makes fascinating reading, with detective stories unraveling before one’s eyes: Ptolemaic documents in collection X relate to others in collection Y, hence they must have once belonged to the same cartonnage. F.’s findings not only have a bearing on the topography of the Herakleopolite nome but also advance our knowledge of excavations, papyrus collections, archives and the history of papyrology.

Much though I enjoyed and learned from the introductory parts, something that I felt was missing was a more detailed treatment of issues of terminology as well as of the administrative geography of the nome. The mere reference to earlier works by Drew-Bear and Pruneti on the Hermopolite and Oxyrhynchite nomes respectively (p.xvi n.1) does not suffice. Not all the topographic terms used in the Hermopolite nome were in use in the Oxyrhynchite and vice-versa; one would like to know more about the Herakleopolite. Furthermore, we hear of the toparchies, and briefly also of the pagi, but there is no mention of any of the developments after the fourth-century. Not surprisingly, the main victim is the period following the Islamic conquest, that so crucial but so neglected period of Egyptian history.2 A case in point is a shift in terminology which takes place at this time. It generally passes without notice, and this book makes no exception, that in this period the word χωρίον is used for most settlements in rural areas, especially in Middle Egypt, having become a generic term for separate fiscal districts in the hinterland of the pagarchies (the old nomes).3 This is amply illustrated in the Herakleopolite documentation. Another development, similarly unnoticed, concerns the internal borders of the region: the pagarchy appears to have been divided into a northern and a southern part. A similar division is attested in the Hermopolite nome. On present evidence, it does not seem possible to determine the time of its creation nor the approximate geographic latitude of the dividing line.4

The book will be mainly used for the catalogue. Here, one could hardly wish for more. The layout is generous and the arrangement clear. Each entry contains a full listing of the evidence arranged in chronological order and notes on points of detail. Wherever possible there are also notes on etymology, the location of the village within the nome and its modern equivalent. F. has prudently avoided calling a settlement a κώμη, ἐποίκιον, etc. It is also important to note that many readings have been improved, by F. or others who checked papyri on her behalf.

Naturally, any catalogue is bound to accumulate addenda and corrigenda; without any intention of being systematic, I append a few (some of the additions are subsequent to the publication of the book):5

ΑΚΕΕΙΣ. One may mention that this is the first instance of a named mechane, viz. an artificially irrigated unit of cultivation, in a non-Oxyrhynchite text.

ΑΛΗ. The source is SPP X 200.5, cited as χ’ω’̔ρίον̓ προσχ’ω’ αλη without further comment. In the index to the volume, Wessely tentatively suggested resolving χῶμα Αλη. This produces the only acceptable text: χὡρ́ιον̓ πρὸς χῶ̔μἀ Αλη, literally ‘the village by the dyke (of?) Ale’ (for a similar construction cf. SPP X 258.2).

ΑΜΜΩΝΙΑΝΟΨ. A further attestation in G. Khan, Arabic Papyri. Selected Material from the Khalili Collection (1992) text 1.7, an eighth-century Arabic-Greek document. Ammonianou is equated with Amyan.6

ΒΟΡΡΙΝ ?) ΑΛΛἉΓΗ?) has not been included in the catalogue, apparently on the assumption that the resolution βορριν) (BL IX 76) rules out the possibility that it is a toponym (cf. p. 147 n.2, p. 178 n.2). But it is certainly a settlement. CPR XIV 40.3 mentions a boethos connected with βορριν); the text also refers to two other boethoi, both associated with Herakleopolite villages (cf. also SPP X 5).

ΒΟΓΣΙΡΙΣ. Another example in P.Vindob. G 15153 (ed. J. Diethart, Tyche 9 (1994) 39).

ΔΙΟἉΤΟΣ?). This village occurs in CPR IV 2.17, but has been omitted from the main catalogue, apparently by oversight, since it is mentioned on p. 311 as διον). (The new reading is by F. Mitthof.)

ΘΜΟΙΑΜΟΨΝΕΩΣ. has been identified with modern Al-Maimun on topographical and phonetic grounds. But the phonetic argument is not cogent: Maimun is a common Arabic personal name, and need not be associated with an Egyptian toponym (cf. p. 7 n. 8).

ΘΜΟΙΝ). There are several toponyms with Θμοιν as their first component. When the name of the village is abbreviated resolution is not easy, but there was no need to have four separate entries under Θμοιν). Further, one misses a reference to CPR IV 2.14 (although contrast p. 311), where the village occurs after two villages of the Mese toparchy. Given that we know a Θμοινῶθις situated in the Mese, we may consider resolving χ).

ΚΑΙΝΗ. Some time in the late Byzantine period we first hear of a Heracleopolite ἐποίκιον Καινοῦ, thought to be identical with κῶμη Καινή. The catalogue entry includes references to Καινοῦ Νοτίνου and Καινοῦ Βορρινοῦ, but these villages must have belonged to the Fayum, since they occur with Arsinoite toponyms in SPP X 169 and 292 (the papyri attesting the two villages are not listed in the ‘Reverse Index’). Incidentally, in SPP XX 90.4 we find a person originating from a κώμη Καμίνου resident ἐν κώμῃ Καινῆς; Καμί possibly ‘refers to a village in the Heracleopolite nome, not to [the Arsinoite] Κάμινοι’ (P.Tebt. II pp. 382, cf. 416).

ΚΑΛΑΜΟΥΡΙΟΥ and ΟΣΤΡΑΚΙΝΟΨ. There is no way of telling whether the two villages were Herakleopolite or Oxyrhynchite (F., p. 72, places them ‘both in the Oxyrhynchites’).

ΚΑΣΑΝΟΥΠΕΩΣ. A further example in SPP X 200.2, where the papyrus reads χὡπίοὐ Κασανούπ (F. Mitthof).

[*κ. A kleros, attested in SPP VIII 1183.2, as re-read by F. Morelli, ZPE 129 (1999) 168-69.

ΚΟΛΛΙΝΤΑΘΥΡ. A new example in P.Oxy. LXVI 4530.2, 16.

ΚΤΗΜΑΤΟΣ. It is unlikely that the Oxyrhynchite mechane called Τοῦ Κτήματος had anything to do with this Herakleopolite village.

ΜΕΣΣΑΛΙΝΙΑΝΗΣ. There is no proof that P.Bodl. I 61(g) refers to a Herakleopolite locality.

ΜΙ. This is an impossible formation. In CPR X 135.10, where I would read ἐν τῳ, the toponym (a kleros?) is either treated as indeclinable, or Μικροῦ is a mistake for Μικρῳ.

ΜΙΚ). SPP X 209.3 has Μικ, which in the context can only be taken as an abbreviation of μικρός (cf. ed. pr.); further, it is certainly a place-name (F.’s scepticism on p. 129 n.2 is unwarranted).

ΝΕΙΛΟΠΟΛΙΣ. Pace F. (p. 137), in P.Oxy. XLVII 3362 the Nilopolite nome does not appear as ‘part of the Herakleopolites’; the text clearly shows the Nilopolite as an independent nome. It is possible, as F. points out, that ‘by 538 A.D. the Nilopolites had been reintegrated into the Herakleopolite nome’. The basis is P.Michael. 126, but there are several uncertainties in this text that invite caution. One may note the area formed a separate administrative district by c. 800, cf. Khan, op. cit., text 2.7

ΝΙΝΩ. A new occurrence in P.Oxy. LXVI 4530.2, 15.

ΝΟΗΡΙΣ. The example in SPP X 59.2, quoted on p. 146. n.1, could have been included in the main catalogue (incidentally, the papyrus reads Νωηρις).

ΠΑΠΠΑ ΜΕΓΑΛΗ. Two further attestations in P.Vindob. G 30209 of 452 (ed. Diethart, Tyche 9 (1994) 40), and P.Vindob. G 18880.12 (ed. Diethart, APF 45 (1999) 62-63, cf. Morelli, Tyche 14 (1999) 222).

ΣΩΒΘΙΣ. A new instance in P.Oxy. LXVI 4530.36.

ΤΑΛΗ. Another occurrence in SPP X 200.1, where read ] Ταλη (F. Mitthof).

ΤΕΧΘΩ. P.Vindob. G 18880.7 (cf above, on ΠΑΠΠΑ ΜΕΓΑΛΗ) and SPP VIII 1082.3 (re-edited by Morelli and the reviewer in ZPE 132 (2000) 193-95) provide two further attestations.

ΤΟΚΩΙΣ. Another possible example in P.Vindob. G 36699 (ed. Diethart, Tyche 9 (1994) 38).

ΤὩὈυ. Etymology: same as ΤΟΟΥ, cf. the relevant entry. Further attestations in PERF 77.2 (ed. A. Grohmann, Archiv Orienta/lni/ 6 (1934) 377-79), and P.Oxy. LXVI 4530.14.

ΦΙΛΟΝΙΚΟΥ. The village is described as a κώμη in two texts dating to 155 and 344 respectively, but it is designated as a χωρίον in documents of the late seventh and eighth centuries, in conformity with the usage of the period. It also appears to be called χωρίον in two earlier texts, SB XVIII 13260.7-8, 21-22 (328) and SB XII 10939.7 (V), but this is false: in SB XVIII 13260.7, 21 the reading depends on restoration, and in the lacunas we may substitute χωρίου for κώμης; as for SB XII 10939.7, the plate accompanying the ed. pr. ( StudPap 11 (1972), opposite p. 36) suggests reading [κώ]μης instead of [χωρ]ί[ο]υ.

ΦΝΕΒΙΕΩΣ. It is doubtful that SPP X 8.7 reads χ; in this list of villages of the fourth (ed. pr.: fifth) century, the X written in the margin opposite the entry looks like a mere checkmark.

ΧΑΡΜΙΚ). The lemma should be deleted, since the papyrus has Χαρᾶ), also attested in SPP X 233.ii.7 (as re-read by Mitthof).

ΧΟΡΤΑΣΩ. The phrasing of P.Berol.inv. 25009.4-5, ‘he sailed upstream to Chortaso’, suggests proximity to a river.

ΧΩΜΑ. The examples quoted by F. indicate that this is not a proper toponym.

A smaller catalogue groups together ‘Fossil Kleroi’ (pp. 273-88), while there is a list of ‘Other Kleroi’ (p. 289). The latter is chiefly made up of τόποι, all of which occur in SPP X 206 and 214. But the attribution of the two papyri to the region is extremely uncertain.8

The volume is closed by indexes: one of villages arranged by toparchy (1); another of the papyri attesting Herakleopolite toponyms arranged by century (2); another listing the texts in alphabetical order, curiously designated as ‘Reverse Index’ (a proper reverse index is not included) (3); and a list of ‘Variant Spellings’ (4).9

Whatever criticisms I may have made should not overshadow the fact that F. has mastered a vast and often daunting subject with success. The Herakleopolite Nome will remain the standard work of reference on this Egyptian region for years to come; it is a major contribution to the topography of Egypt, and an invaluable tool for papyrologists and other students of things Egyptian. For all this, F. deserves our gratitude.


1. Another exclusion concerns the few Herakleopolite toponyms known exclusively from Coptic sources (cf. pp. xi-xii and n.1). These may have been included in S. Timm, Das christlich-koptische A+gypten in arabischer Zeit (1984-92), but Timm’s lack of indexes would have made their appearance in The Herakleopolite Nome all the more desirable.

2. Consultation of A. Grohmann, Studien zur historischen Geographie und Verwaltung des fru+hmittelalterlichen A+gypten (1959) would have been useful.

3. See J. Gascou, ‘De Byzance a l’Islam. Les impo=ts en E/gypte apres la conque=te Arabe’, JESHO 26 (1983) 101, and F. Morelli, PSI Congr.XXI 19.1 n. with references. The term had already been in use in Egypt before the conquest, but it seems to have lacked the fiscal connotations it was to acquire later. (But outside Egypt χωρίον had started to be employed in this fiscal sense much earlier.)

4. See A. Grohmann, ‘Der Beamtenstab der arabischen Finanzverwaltung in A+gypten in fru+harabischer Zeit’, in Studien zur Papyrologie und antiken Wirtschaftsgeschichte Friedrich Oertel zum achtzigsten Geburtstag gewidmet (1964) 125. In the Hermopolite the division antedates the Islamic conquest, see J. Gascou, Un codex fiscal Hermopolite = P.Sorb. II (1994) 160.

5. At this point I should mention two important articles by F. Mitthof who kindly showed them to me in advance of publication: ‘Zur Pagusordnung des Herakleopolites’, Tyche 14 (1999) 211-18; and ‘Neue Texte zur Topographie des Herakleopolites’, forthcoming in Analecta Papyrologica.

6. I am discussing this text in a forthcoming article in Chronique d’E/gypte.

7. But it is to F.’s credit that SB XVIII 13266.6 is taken to refer to the Heracleopolite Nilopolis, not to the Arsinoite (p. 138 n.1). The travelling curiosus of this text first stops at Tacona, which has a mansio, then visits Oxyrhynchus, continues south to Cynopolis and then moves up to Nilopolis: the trip from Cynopolis to Nilopolis will have been a river voyage, since both cities were situated by the Nile. This cannot be envisaged with the Arsinoite Nilopolis.

8. F. writes: ‘In one case, the denomination τόπος is employed for what is elsewhere called a κλῆρος (see s.v. Ψαννἐ’ (p.289), the reference should be to Ψανατι. But is Ψαντι the same as Ψανατι( ) (the word is abbreviated)?

9. Some minutiae: pp. 47 n.1, 66 n.4, 262. n.5: SPP VIII 1309 is certainly not a ‘Quittung’, and there is no need to change the original dating; p. 108: the article (not monograph) by Crum on the martyr Colluthus was published in ByzZ 30 (1929/30) 323-27; p.125: ‘Flavius Apion jr.’ is an unfortunate way of referring to Fl. Apion III; pp. 156, 168, 212: P.Ko+ln VII 318-26 has been assigned to the Arab period, see F. Morelli, Olio e retribuzioni nell’Egitto tardo (1996) 194 n.7; p. 165: the date of SB VIII 9773 has been corrected to 540 (BL). Orthographica (Greek) and misprints are relatively few; I have noticed only one that results in a different meaning from that intended, in a German quotation on p.14 n.7: for Vortra+ge read Vertra+ge.