For many classicists, particularly in North America, H. Maehler (M.) is perhaps most closely associated with critical editions of ancient poets like Pindar and Bacchylides and not with documentary papyri from Egypt dating as late as the seventh century A.D. With the publication of the edition under review (BGU XIX = Berliner griechische Urkunden, vol. 19), M. has now in fact produced his third volume of documentary texts from Roman and Byzantine Egypt. This particular edition continues a series of publications, all appearing in BGU, which are devoted to largely late documents from Hermopolis Magna (modern el-Aschmunein). The papyri were acquired through excavations and purchases for the Egyptian Museum in Berlin during the early part of the twentieth century, and the first volume in the series (BGU XII) was edited by M. himself in 1974,1 with the second (BGU XVII) appearing in 2001, edited by G. Poethke.2
The city of Hermopolis was located on the west bank of the Nile in Upper Egypt, just across the river from Antinoopolis, a city founded in A.D. 130 by Hadrian in honor of his young friend Antinoos, who drowned under mysterious circumstances on a trip up the Nile with the emperor. Though not the provincial capital, Hermopolis was the capital of the Hermopolite nome and home for many years to the Roman numerus Maurorum, a unit of equestrian troops. BGU XIX presents us with 80 papyri from Hermopolis, 75 of which are published for the first time. Although most papyri date to the fourth through the seventh century, several come from Roman times and one from the late Ptolemaic period, dated October 19, 52 B.C. The edition comprises petitions, official notices, accounts, tax receipts, delivery orders, leases, sales, loans, etc.—standard fare for a volume of documentary papyri. One papyrus is written in Latin and the rest are in Greek. Each text is preceded by a brief introduction and followed in most cases by an apparatus, translation, and commentary. The commentaries and introductions to the texts tend to be bare, and with the important exception of the introduction, BGU XIX is meant for specialists well acquainted with related documents. The general introduction (pp. 1-14), however, has broader appeal, and all interested parties should profit from it. There M. discusses the value of individual documents and how they aid our understanding of Hermopolis, the Hermopolite nome, and society in late Roman Egypt.
What follows is a very brief survey of a few of the highlights of the edition, some of which M. notes in his introduction. BGU XIX offers seven (possibly eight, if we include 2773) new papyri from the well known Taurinos archive.3 Most of them (2803, 2804, 2816, 2826) are from the second half of the fifth century and pertain to Taurinos’ son, Johannes I. The volume also contains a lease contract (2808) involving the female landowner Aurelia Kyra, daughter of Abraamios, who appears in five Hermopolite documents published elsewhere and whose property in the eastern part of the city may by the end of the fifth century have fallen into the hands of Taurinos II (p. 2). Aurelia Kyra is not the only female landowner attested in the volume: 2810 mentions a hitherto unknown lessor named Flavia Sibylla, whose name can be added to a growing list of female landholders encountered in Hermopolite contracts (in addition to Aurelia Kyra and Flavia Sibylla, we know of, for example, Aurelia Eutropia, daughter of Heliodoros, Aurelia Eucharistia, daughter of Hermogenes, Aurelia Eucharistia, daughter of Theodoros, Aurelia Aphthonia, daughter of Hypsistos, etc.).
BGU XIX contributes two new names to the list of known Hermopolite strategi: 2765 shows that Aurelios Herakleios, strategos of the Oxyrhynchite nome in 266, held the office in the Hermopolite in 263/264, and a certain Spurios Iulios Thrasyllos is identified as a Hermopolite strategos in a petition from the second century (2763). The volume also offers further evidence for the activities of several well known officials. In an undated document (2778), Klaudios Chouis, financial director (
Several documents offer valuable insight into mundane activities of the Church and some of its agents. In a rent agreement for a smithy from the year 526/527 (2822),4 the renter is identified as both a smith and a deacon, which M. cites as evidence of the great reach of Christianity, particularly among the poorer population. In 2808, a priest leases from Aurelia Kyra a substantial amount of land, including irrigation devices, on behalf of the Church of Hermopolis. 2795 offers new evidence for a monastery of Saint Kyriakos located in the Hermopolite; monasteries named after Kyriakos are known from the Arsinoite, Panopolite and Thinite nomes, as well as Apollonopolis and Djeme. The fragmentary wheat account published as 2786, which appears to have been written in a church or monastery and records amounts of wheat distributed to beggars (
Another papyrus that involves members of the Church is an intriguing fifth century summons (2773) issued by a Hermopolite officium to the
Papyrologists will certainly welcome these new documents from Berlin. They are generally well edited,9 although in a couple of cases transcriptions diverge from modern editorial practice. One example of this can be seen in 2768, where abbreviations on the papyrus are simply replicated by means of symbols in the printed edition: there is no translation, no apparatus, and nothing in the commentary that might explain what the symbols represent. The importance of 2768 lies in the geographical names that it contains, but one wonders why the papyrus was not either edited fully, as is customary, or reported briefly, in the manner of the descripta of older volumes of papyri. As it is, such a text is of little use even to some specialists. An even greater misfortune, though, is the fact that not all papyri have been reproduced in the plates at the back because of the prohibitive cost of including them (p. vii). We can only hope that the Egyptian Museum, which houses one of the most important papyrus collections in the world, will follow the lead of institutions both in Europe and North America and make images of its published papyri available on the web.
The volume includes a few minor editorial and typographical errors, which I note here. In 2764.5, 7, and 9, there is a typographical mistake in the name
1. Papyri aus Hermupolis. Ägyptische Urkunden aus den Staatlichen Museen Berlin. Griechische Urkunden, XII Band (Berlin 1974).
2. Griechische Papyrusurkunden Spätrömischer und Byzantinischer Zeit aus Hermupolis Magna (BGU XVII) (Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete, Beiheft 7) (München/Leipzig 2001).
4. For discussion of the date of this document, which the editor records as August 31, 526, see ZPE, 157 (2006), 163.
5. J.R. Rea (ed.) The Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Volume XL (London 1972).
6. The other is in a sixth century account from Aphrodito, P.Cair. Masp. III 67287, col.IV,1 = J. Maspero (ed.) Papyrus grecs d’époque byzantine. Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire, vol. III (Cairo 1916).
7. J. Maspero assigns the warden mentioned in P.Cair. Masp. III 67287, col.IV,1 to the ducal office.
8. The office of the praeses was called the
9. Some proposed improvements can be found in my “Notes on BGU XIX,” ZPE, 157 (2006), 162-164.