BMCR 2023.03.12

Griechische Papyri aus der Sammlung des Louvre (P. Louvre III)

, Griechische Papyri aus der Sammlung des Louvre (P. Louvre III). Papyrologische Texte und Abhandlungen, 47. Bonn: Habelt Verlag, 2022. Pp. xxii, 436. ISBN 9783774943506

This very welcome volume, published on the occasion of the international papyrology congress in Paris last summer, offers a diverse and interesting selection of well-edited new texts. There are 79 entries (numbered 171–249 to continue the numbering of P.Louvre I and II), nearly all Greek documents. There is one Latin text, a military report from the second century AD contributed by Fritz Mitthof (no. 179), and one with both Coptic and Greek contributed by Lajos Berkes (no. 192). Berkes also contributed nos 225–7, and Maria Nowak contributed 192; all other papyri were edited by Andrea Jördens, who is also the volume editor. In terms of modern languages, entry 192 is in English and the rest of the volume in German.

Most texts are documents from the Roman and Byzantine periods (from the first century AD to the late eighth or perhaps early ninth), but a single Ptolemaic text is also included, a fragmentary land lease from 120 BC (no. 189). There is also a medical text: a recipe for eye salve from the fourth or fifth century AD (no. 171) that has previously been published as P.Sijp. 6 and as GMP I 14. That is not the only papyrus in this collection to have already appeared elsewhere; in total 27 of the entries are not completely new. Some of these are simply republications of earlier editions, but others have changes, in some cases substantial improvements on the previous versions. Another four (nos 246–9) are descripta, leaving 48 new editions.

The entries are long and detailed, with extensive introductions and very thorough commentaries citing many parallels and modern studies; this volume will be useful not only for the texts it contains but also for its collections of the latest information on the words and expressions in those texts (easily locatable thanks to good indexes). Translations are provided for the more complete texts, and the commentaries on less complete ones often include translations of individual segments. Although some translations seem surprising at first glance, the interpretations chosen are well defended in the commentaries, which also explain alternative possibilities. All papyri are provided with photographs, even the descripta. The photographs are excellent and for many of the smaller fragments are clearly legible, but inevitably (given that the volume is of a normal size and does not have fold-out pages for the photographs) the writing on the larger fragments appears too small to be read with ease. In general these texts and readers interested in them have been well served by this volume, though occasionally readers may wish that clarity of exposition had been more highly prioritized.

Among the more interesting of the new texts is no. 190, a banker’s order and receipt attesting the purchase of one slave by another. The purchaser, Kyperos, belonged to Tiberius Claudius Moschos, himself a freedman of the emperor Claudius. In AD 58 Kyperos bought Tnephersois Eure- (only the beginning of her name is preserved), a native Egyptian woman in good health; the editors suggest that she may be the mother of a Thaseeus ‘daughter of the slave Tnephersois’ elsewhere recorded as becoming a freedwoman. The amount paid here, 800 silver drachmas, was a mid-range price for a slave in the first century AD and was conveyed to the seller, Heliodorus son of Dionysios Didymos, in two installments of 90 and 710 drachmas, of which this text concerns the second. The document is in the form of a letter from Kyperos to his bankers asking them to pay the money, to which Heliodorus then added a note confirming that he had received it.

Number 192 is a draft (or, less likely, a copy) of a will drawn up according to local law probably towards the end of the second century AD. The testator was probably a woman, and the beneficiaries seem to have included both her future children (if any) and another woman, named Claudia Apollonarion and therefore probably a Roman citizen. Since the testator herself cannot have held Roman citizenship (Roman citizens were obliged to make wills that followed Roman rather than local laws), this text may be evidence of close connections between those with and without Roman citizenship in the period just before citizenship was extended to all in AD 212. It is also evidence of women’s rights at this period: the property involved included lands, buildings, and farm animals and so must have been substantial. The mention of future children indicates a young testator and causes one to wonder whether the hazards of childbirth made women think it prudent to ensure their wills were in order before undergoing it.

Numbers 235 and 236, from the seventh century AD, shed light on the ways members of the ecclesiastical establishment tried to obtain what they needed to build and maintain a network of churches and monasteries. The writer of 236, Sambas, was responsible for repairing or perhaps constructing the roof of a church, a task that required large beams. He addressed this problem not by buying them from some regular supplier, but by hunting around locally to see who might have some. Four suitable beams were located in the vineyard of Iustus, a comes and pagarch whose servants not unreasonably refused to let Sambas take them without Iustus’ permission. (Exactly how the beams were being deployed in the vineyard is unclear. Sambas describes their situation with the unusual word ῥερημμένα, which Jördens convincingly argues to be a perfect passive participle of ῥίπτω, here meaning ‘thrown aside’ and suggesting that the beams are lying unused and unwanted. But would valuable large timbers have been left on the ground to rot, and would a church builder have wanted to use them once that had happened? One suspects that, whatever Sambas said, the beams were actually in use.) Sambas therefore wrote to Iustus asking permission to take the beams, on the grounds that he could not otherwise get ones large enough for the church roof, and promising to replace them with others later. This promise suggests that large beams were in principle obtainable in Egypt at this period, though evidently not in a time frame appropriate for the church roof; perhaps the repairs were urgent. The request is phrased more firmly and directly than might be expected for this period, particularly given the high rank of the addressee; the editors therefore suggest that Sambas must also have had a high rank.

Papyrus 235 shows how such requests could be refused – very politely. This letter is addressed to ‘My master the holiest in everything, worthy of all honor and adoration, spiritual father, Bishop Abba Petros’. It begins, ‘I received the writings from your paternal holiness, and having learned from them about you being well in Christ, I rejoiced. I ask your guardian angel to make mention of me for you in your holy and effective prayers to God, so that through them I may receive mercy,’ and concludes, ‘Having written this, I kiss the footprints of your paternal holiness as if I were present, (asking you) with all your honored clergy to pray for me, the sinner. Master, most sacred father.’ Although this type of politeness looks strange today, it was not unusual in early Byzantine Egypt; Jördens’ commentary provides references to extensive parallels for almost every element. Sandwiched between the polite phrases is a refusal to send the bishop the workmen he requested, on the grounds that the writer, who is responsible for building a monastery, currently has a team consisting only of two plasterers, both of whom are urgently needed for the monastery work. He promises, however, to send workmen later if circumstances change.

In sum, these texts are worth reading, and this volume handles them well.