BMCR 2002.03.30

Essays and Texts in Honor of J. David Thomas (American Studies in Papyrology 42)

, , , Essays and texts in honor of J. David Thomas. American studies in papyrology ; no. 42. Oakville: American Society of Papyrologists, 2001. xxi, 287 pages, 24 pages of plates : illustrations ; 29 cm.. ISBN 0970059132. $65.00.

The single unifying factor in this collection of essays and texts lies in the unequivocal appreciation of Thomas’ work within the whole community of papyrologists. The diversity of themes and approaches found in this book shows how people of sometimes very different backgrounds could agree on honoring a much beloved figure.

Diversity is achieved in several ways. Not only does the book offer essays, original texts and reconsideration of previously published texts, but those texts, mostly fragmentary, are preserved on papyri, potsherds, stone and wooden tablets. Beside Greek, the reader will find some Latin, Demotic and Coptic, in monolingual or bilingual form.

Starting with a useful list of Thomas’ publications, the book then consists of two main parts, the first holding nine essays (ἐ, and the second thirty-one texts (T). Finally, the reader will find the standard indexes, as well as plates, some very sharp and legible, others of more dubious quality. The texts appear in chronological order. Because of the great variety of themes treated in the book, however, it seems preferable to review the material in thematic order, following three main categories: official affairs, private affairs, and studies on small technical matters.

Two contributions stand out of those categories. Let us mention first a fragment from a rhetorical handbook (P.J. Parsons; T15; Oxyrhynchus, II A.D.). It comes from an exceptionally tall roll. Although the content of the passage is rather obscure, one should note that it refers to the four staseis of Hermagoras of Temnos, a scholar from the Hellenistic period whose work was decisive for later rhetorical theory. Second, there is E6, in which W.J. Tait reflects on the ability of an illiterate Egyptian to recognize some Egyptian names in writing. Although Tait offers no conclusion, the reader himself can understand that the amount of recognizeable names is rather limited.

In official affairs, we find new prosopographical material in T10 (A. Lukaszewicz; Alexandria, late I A.D.), an inscription that records the name of Tiberius Claudius Isidorus, Alexandrian gymnasiarch and epistrategus of the Thebaid. The block was reused in the Roman baths of Kom el-Dikka in Alexandria. Isidorus’ father, a gymnasiarch probably named also Tib. Claudius Isidorus, could be identified with the gymnasiarch Isidorus who appears in the Acts of the Alexandrian Martyrs and who was executed at Claudius’ orders.

Prosopography is further improved with T19 also on a stone slab (H. Cuvigny; Didymoi, ca. A.D. 190), where we find Claudius Lucilianus, praefectus alae and of Berenike. This prefect can probably be identified with Claudius Lucilianus in P.Bas. 2, which allows Cuvigny to offer a finer interpretation of the latter document. It seems that the prefect has sent back some camels which had been used in Berenike.

T1 (B. McGing; Arsinoite nome, III B.C.) is a small fragment from the Petrie collection, apparently a letter to the King. Its main interest lies in a reference to elephants.

Among letters sent at a high level of the administrative hierarchy in Egypt, one should note T11 (G. Bastianini; Oxyrhynchus, recto I-II A.D., verso A.D. 150-153). On the back of a list of names, presumably drafted to record those liable to poll-tax, a scribe made a list of official letters sent to the city and the magistrates of Oxyrhynchus by the prefect of Egypt Munatius Felix.

In T2 (J.F. Oates; Arsinoite nome, 4 December 180 B.C.), the strategus Ptolemaios writes to his royal scribe, asking him to measure out kleroi for three men designated as Thracians. The text bears witness to an effort to encourage further Hellenic settlement in the chora late in the reign of Epiphanes and early in that of Philometor. One should also note the exceptionally long tenure of Ptolemaios as strategus (24 years).

In T5 (A.E. Hanson; Philadelphia, 24 July A.D. 46), the centurion Cattius Catullus receives through his agents the sworn declaration from an inhabitant of Philadelphia, who performs as surety for his parents, and who swears that he will present them to Nemesion, tax-collector of the village. This papyrus belongs to the largely unpublished archive of Nemesion. Some aspects of the text are explained by reference to other texts in the archive. The intricacy of the dealings makes one wish that the full archive will soon be published in a comprehensive volume.

In T13 (Oxyrhynchus, A.D. 183), M. Manfredi publishes a petition sent to the overseers of the xenike praktoreia. The petitioner is trying to secure the release from permission to seize pledged land.

Two texts relate to the cultivation of land and the relation of farmers towards the state. The first (T12; G. Messeri Savorelli; Isieion Panga, after A.D. 167/8) deals with the process by which an individual could purchase land belonging to the state: offering ( kyrosis) and official certification ( paradeixis). This text shows that paradeixis came after kyrosis and also shows that the latter was performed by the strategus and the former by the royal scribe. In the other text (T22; A. Martin; Hermopolis (?), early IV A.D.), an official seems to be discussing the case of a farmer who wants to give up farming but has neglected the usual procedure: he must first pay any outstanding taxes, then apply for leave from the prefect.

Latin is present, among other texts, in a bilingual report of a court hearing (T24; U. & D. Hagedorn; origin unknown, late IV/V A.D. ?). The main interest of the fragment lies in the person presiding over the hearing, namely the defensor Alexandreae, on which the authors provide a rich discussion.

In contrast to the previous document, which was bilingual, Latin is the sole language used in T6 (D. Rathbone; Oxyrhynchus, A.D. 47/8), a revision of PSI XI 1183. It belongs to a small archive relating to Lucius Pompeius Niger, a legionary veteran. Rathbone argues that this text is a certified copy of the declaration Pompeius made for Claudius’ empire-wide census of Roman citizens in A.D. 47/8. He also discusses duplicate documents on papyrus and the registration of Roman citizens in the provincial census of Egypt.

We find soldiers again in T21 (R.A. Coles & R.S.O. Tomlin; provenance unknown, III A.D.), a list of soldiers to whom are paid 296 drachmas each. Some soldiers of the cohors I Apamenorum are listed, and the authors provide a summary on this military unit. Having discarded an explanation of this list as the stipendium of Roman soldiers (in which case third-century soldiers would be receiving first-century pay), the authors suggest that the money was intended for the viaticum (travelling expenses) paid to recruits. They offer a generous discussion of the process of enrollment, including viaticum.

Another payment to soldiers took the form of kalandarika, i.e. customary New Year emoluments (T27; J.R. Rea; Hermopolis, V/VI A.D.). This receipt mentions also another allowance, possibly a contribution to the maintenance of horses ( epibatikou ?).

The last of the texts pertaining to official affairs is a schedule of prices (recto), with a shipping list on the verso (T26; P. van Minnen; provenance unknown, V A.D.). It makes a tiny contribution to our knowledge of prices in late Roman Egypt.

Let us now turn to private matters, starting with an antichretic loan, by the same author as the previous papyrus (T4; Tebtunis, 23 May A.D. 41-54). The creditor, a woman, instead of receiving interest enjoys the right to stay in a house in Tebtunis. The interest of the text lies in the fact that the house does not actually belong to the debtor: he himself has taken it on lease.

Our knowledge of land traffic between the Western Oases and Panopolis is further enhanced by the publication of four contracts of transportation (T23; R. Pintaudi; Panopolis?, 7 September A.D. 338).

T28 (L. Koenen; Aphrodito, ca. 514-547), a deed of exchange, does not offer groundbreaking new material but is of interest in that this large Cologne fragment joins with a previously published papyrus, P.Michael. 51, which belongs to the Dioskoros archive. The new piece confirms many reconstructions made by D.S. Crawford in P.Michael. 51.

The next item, T20 (T. Gagos & P. Heilporn; Oxyrhynchus, A.D. 269-270) brings us back to a bilingual papyrus, with one column written in Latin and the next in Greek. The first text is a petition submitted to the prefect of Egypt, requesting that the petitioner and his two half-brothers be allowed to come into possession of their property. The other is the Greek translation of the Latin text. The brothers are to inherit from their sister, who died without children and left no will.

Family matters are to be found also in E4, where N. Lewis untangles a complex court case involving two sons and their father (P.Mey. 8; Arsinoite nome, 16 August A.D. 151). The father has apparently diverted his sons’ inheritance that came from their mother, to pass it over to his second wife.

Presumably the most lively item in the whole collection consists of T8-9 (A. Bülow-Jacobsen; Didymoi, late I A.D.), a pair of letters, one from Numerius to Longinus, the other being the answer from the latter to the former. Longinus is in Didymoi, and Numerius in Phoinikon, two stations along the road from Koptos to Berenike. Longinus’ reply was never sent, which explains how we have both sides of the exchange. Numerius is trying to bring Longinus to bear witness to the truth of his claim in a litigation concerning a loan of 60 drachmas made to a certain Quadratus. Longinus cannot remember much, and seems to have been under the influence of heavy drinking; he is nevertheless willing to testify in order to help his friend.

Yet another private dispute led to more writing (T14; J.E.G. Whitehorne; Karanis, second half of II A.D.). The writer and the recipient of the letter have not been able to agree on the lease of a house. Consequently, someone else removed the door bar and emptied the house of its furniture. Another person secured the house. The sender shows his impatience to reach a settlement.

Three documents share in common the fact that they come from wealthy families, albeit in different periods. E7 (D.J. Thompson) is a reconsideration of P.Lille I 27 (= W.Chr. 199 = Scholl, Corpus 87; Arsinoite nome, before 234 B.C.). Starting with the salt-tax liability of slaves, Thompson suggests, on the basis of an examination of the original papyrus, that it does not provide any specific information on the salt-tax rate, but rather that it informs us on the well-to-do family of Leptines, a Greek of Pisidian origin.

In E2, A.K. Bowman summarizes the prosopography of the Calpurnii, a wealthy family of the bouleutic class in third-century Oxyrhynchus. Their estate is reminiscent of the Appianus estate in the Arsinoite nome in the same period. Bowman sees the foundations set up by the Calpurnii as a deliberate attempt to make a statement about pro-Roman attitudes and loyalties.

T29 (T.M. Hickey & J.G. Keenan; Oxyrhynchus, A.D. 572 or 573 ?) is a small Giessen fragment showing the name of Flavia Christodote. This could be part of yet another copy of an affidavit, already known by two fairly well-preserved copies (PSI I 76 a/b). Christodote seems to have inherited a considerable fortune from her father.

This long list of papyri dealing with private matters ends with three mummy labels (T16-18; T.G. Wilfong; Thebes / Upper Egypt ?, II A.D.).

We may now finally turn to some contributions on small technical matters. R. Bagnall reconsiders G. Wagner’s interpretation of the topography of Hibis, the site of a military camp in the Great Oasis of the Western Desert. Those unfamiliar with the topography of the site must follow the argument using map 79 in the Barrington Atlas, in conjunction with digital images provided by Bagnall on the Internet. Bagnall suggests a location for the military camp of Hibis on the hill of Nadura. He also discusses the use of the singular kastron and shows that evidence brought forward by Wagner from a passage in John Moschus’ Pratum spirituale is no evidence at all. Finally, he provides the text of a new Coptic graffito (T31).

In the field of chronology, T7 (P. Prunetti Piovanelli; prov. unknown, A.D. 69), a contract of sale of a small animal, is of interest mainly because it is dated in the short reign of Vitellius, for which we have few papyri. In E3, J. Gascou dates a pater noster deposited in Vienna to the beginning of the VII A.D. by using the remains of a protokollon on the back. In T30 (Hermopolis, 30 August – 28 September 603), N. Gonis publishes a new papyrus dating from the reign of Phokas, with three additional short essays on dating from the same reign.

Taxation is discussed in E7 (see above), but also in T3 (W. Clarysse; Philadelphia, 132 B.C. or A.D. 9), a custom house register, where the uncertainty regarding the date of the document is all the more remarkable since, if the date of 132 B.C. is correct, this would be an isolated instance of the well-known tax of 3% ( r kai n) 150 years before the next attested case. This would show a far greater continuity between the Ptolemaic and Roman periods than was previously recognized. In the Byzantine period, customary supplements were sometimes paid under the heading hyper synetheias. In E9, K.A. Worp offers a survey of the practice, with lists of attested cases.

The history of Christianity is represented in E8, where E. Wipszycka discusses P.Coll. Youtie II 77 = P.Col. VII 171 (Karanis, A.D. 324), often said to be the earliest record of the word monachos in the papyri, and reaches the conclusion that this text has been overinterpreted by previous scholars. In E5, T.C. Skeat corrects the reading of Mark 3, 20.

A few texts have been revised or reinterpreted, as for instance T25 (ChLA III 217; origin unknown, A.D. 437 ?), offered as an appendix to T24 (see above). Gonis’ thoughts on the reign of Phokas (T30, see above) bring him to a revision of the heading of SB XVI 12604. Likewise, Rathbone’s contribution on the census declaration of 47/8 (T6, see above) is based on a revision of PSI XI 1183.

In conclusion, any reader who will have been persistent enough to read this review will have spotted the book’s chief shortcoming: it is a collection of many parts, but it does not display unity in a way other than the desire to honor a great colleague and the fairly vague focus on Greco-Roman Egypt. Each chapter will make a small contribution to filling a very large puzzle, but the book does not open many new paths in the field of papyrology. To be fair, the editors’ ambition was probably not to make a revolution in a single book, but rather to show the scientific community’s appreciation for the work of a scholar who has himself made a huge contribution to papyrological studies.