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
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
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
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
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
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
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.