P.Hal. 1                                                                                            rnid-third century

Ptolemaic royal legislation is known from a comparatively large number of documents, some long, some short, a number of them translated in this book (see  53, 85, 95, 103, 108, 118, and 138). The civic laws and institutions of Alexandria and the other Greek cities of Egypt, on the other hand, are poorly known; this papyrus provides the only really extensive selection from the Alexandrian city laws. It apparently constituted the dikaiomata for a court case, the legal texts called upon to support one side, and it ranges over a number of subjects in the extracts. There are also some passages from royal decrees, which would have supplemented (and in cases of conflict supplanted) the civic laws. On the Alexandrian context generally, see P.M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria (Oxford 1972).

About perjury. Anyone challenging testimony shall challenge it at the point when the information is read out by the dikastai or diaitetai or kritai, and he shall challenge all those who have testified to the same effect, and, taking copies of the testimony if he wishes, he shall bring the charge on that day or the next for an amount of one and a half times the value of that which is in the complaint. He shall also be able to challenge a part of the testimony, in which case he shall make it clear in his complaint what part he is challenging. But if anyone cannot find the persons who have given testimony, the charge shall be transferred to the one who called them as witnesses. If anyone acts contrary to these regulations, his complaint shall be inadmissible.

The proof-texts of a case, in which someone is challenging testimony, shall be produced in a case of false testimony from the dikasterion by the clerk, from the diaitetai by the appointee of the nomophylax, and in the kriteria by scribes, insofar as they are available.

If anyone, when the case is decided against him, challenges the witnesses, he shall file his complaint in accord with the ordinance, and the praktor or his assistant shall take sureties for his presence from him, but shall not carry out the execution (on his pledges) until the case of perjury is brought to an end. And if he defeats the witnesses, he shall be released from the damages and the agreement of surety shall be invalid, but the witnesses shall have the penalty fully exacted from them. But if he is defeated, the praktor or his assistant shall carry out the exaction.

If anyone after the case has been decided for him challenges the witnesses and after laying a charge of perjury is successful, the witnesses shall have the damages exacted from them in accordance with the ordinance and the one who called them shall pay the winner the amount at stake in the case in which the latter was acquitted, and for which he furnished the witnesses, and an additional tenth or fifteenth.

But if both parties to the suit challenge the witnesses and are convicted of perjury, the witnesses shall have the damages exacted from them in accordance with the ordinance, but the judgment from the original case shall be legally valid unless it is appealed.

The person who called the witnesses shall be permitted to defend them.

Those who call testimony from non-residents or from those on behalf of whom others take the oath, shall be liable to accusation themselves for perjury and the parties opposing them shall file their suits against those who called the witnesses. If anyone in a case before the dikasterion or before a kriterion furnishes testimony sworn by someone in another place- -.

From the city law about planting, building, and excavation. If anyone builds an embankment [by] the land of another, he shall not cross the [boundary marker]. If he builds a wall or dwelling outside the city, if a wall [he shall leave] a foot, [if a dwelling] two feet. If he builds inside the city he shall - - - of the expenses or he shall leave half [of what is prescribed to be left by those] building [outside the] city. If he excavates a grave or [trench], he shall leave [as much as the depth is], and if a cistern, six feet; in planting an olive tree or [fig tree, he shall plant nine feet from the] neighbor, and for other trees five feet.

If anyone plants [contrary to these rules, he shall dig it up within five] days from when the injured party complains, and if he digs it up, he shall make it level again. But anyone who does not [act according to the] regulations shall be liable to judgment for the damages, and the injured party shall be allowed to remove the building and plantings and to level out the digging without penalty---. (Lines 103-107 are omitted as too fragmentary.)

[Cutting and cleaning] of graves. If anyone wishes to cut a new grave or to dig up an old one - - - to the neighbors of the land and each shall contribute a share toward the expense, and he shall cast up half of the excavated [earth] on each side. If anyone does not wish to contribute, the person cutting the grave or digging it up shall cast up [the dirt] for his side onto the land of whichever one is willing (to contribute), and if successful in a suit he shall exact twice [the expense].

If a grave on someone's own land [is choked they shall contribute to him for the cleaning of the grave - - - each according to his share, and anyone who does not contribute shall be [liable to the person doing the cleaning] for thrice the expense if he is defeated in a suit.

If anyone [after bringing suit for outrage] or blows is defeated, he shall pay to [the winner] an additional tenth of the value of the suit and the praktor or his assistant shall exact it from his property [in accordance with a court decision]. If he does not completely do this, from his person also.

Anyone who after bringing suit for [assault or] bodily harm is defeated shall pay to the winner an additional fifth of the [value of the suit), and the praktor or his assistant shall exact payment from his property in accord with a court decision, [and if he does not completely do this, from his] person as well.

If any persons file suits [against one another] in different courts, an equal number of judges [shall be chosen by lot] from each court for them and there shall not be more than ten of them and their president shall be the one who drew the lot, and the (suit) that draws the first lot shall always be brought into court first---.

No one shall bring into court a suit against persons who have been sent on service by the king, either against themselves or against their sureties, nor shall the collector of debts or his assistants arrest these.

Likewise if any persons bring suits against the dependents (of the absentees) or against their sureties concerning matters of complaint which took place when those who left them behind were still at home, these suits shall not be brought into court, unless it happens that though classed as dependents they have themselves obtained legal satisfaction from others concerning matters of complaint which took place at the said time; if the suit is against such persons, it shall be brought into court.

If any persons claim to belong to the class of dependents, the judges shall decide the point, and if they are recognized to belong to the class and if the matters of complaint are proved to have taken place when those who left them behind were still at home and they have not obtained legal satisfaction from others as stated above, the suits shall be adjourned until those who left them behind return, but the depositors shall recover their cautions of one-tenth or one fifteenth.

All cases in which the dependents are accused by other persons of having wronged them after the departure of those who left them behind or in which the dependents accuse other persons, claiming to have been wronged by them after they had been left, shall be judged before the appointed court.

If any persons after bringing a suit are sent on service by the king before their suits have been brought into court, they shall, if they choose, take back their cautions of one-tenth or one-fifteenth, but the suits shall be adjourned until they return, and they shall not be brought into court [before] those who have recovered their cautions [of one-tenth] or one-fifteenth [deposit them anew].

If persons residing in [the country bring] a suit and are sent on service by the king before it has been brought into court, their suits shall be adjourned in like manner until they come back.

Of persons enrolled in the army all those who have been admitted to the citizenship in Alexandria and bring complaints concerning salaries and grain allowances and the amounts of money or grain credited to them, if their adversaries also are in the army and have been admitted to the citizenship, shall receive and give satisfaction in the courts for foreigners, and execution shall take place in conformity with the ordinance.

King Ptolemy to Antiochos greeting. About the billeting of the soldiers, we hear that some undue violence is used, as they do not receive lodgings from the oikonomoi, but themselves break into the houses and ejecting the inhabitants occupy them by force. Give orders therefore that in the future this is not to be done; if possible, let them provide accommodation for themselves, but if indeed it is necessary that quarters should be given to them by the oikonomoi, let these give them what they strictly require. And when they depart from their quarters, let them give them up after putting them in order and not leave them as theirs until they return, as we hear that they now do; for it seems that when they go away they let them to others or seal up the rooms before leaving. Be particularly careful about Arsinoe near Apollonopolis, to see that, if soldiers come, none of them shall be billeted there, but that they should reside in Apollonopolis. But if they have any urgent reason for staying in Arsinoe, let them erect for themselves mud huts, as did those who came formerly. Farewell.

Threatening with iron. If a freeman threatens a freeman with iron or copper or stone or... or wood, he shall forfeit a hundred drachmas, if he is defeated in the suit. But if a male slave or a female slave does any of these things to a freeman or a freewoman, they shall receive not less than [a hundred] stripes, or else the master of the offender, if he is defeated in the suit, shall forfeit to the injured party twice the amount of the penalty which is prescribed for a freeman.

Injuries done in drunkenness. Whoever commits an injury to the person in drunkenness or by night or in a temple or in the market-place shall forfeit twice the amount of the prescribed penalty.

For a slave striking a freeman. If a male slave or a female slave strikes a freeman or a freewoman, they shall receive not less than a hundred stripes, or else the master, if he acknowledges the fact, shall pay on behalf of his slave twice the amount of the penalty which is prescribed for a freeman. But if he disputes it, the plaintiff shall indict him, claiming [for a blow] a hundred drachmas, and if the master is condemned, he shall forfeit three times that amount without assessment; and for a greater number of blows the plaintiff shall himself assess the injury when he brings the suit, and whatever assessment [is fixed] by the court, the master shall forfeit three times that amount.

Blows between freemen. If a freeman or a freewoman, making an unjust attack, strikes a freeman or a freewoman, they shall forfeit a hundred drachmas without assessment, if they are defeated in the suit. But if they strike more than one blow, the plaintiff in bringing the suit shall himself assess the damage caused by the blows, and whatever assessment is fixed by the court, the accused shall forfeit [twice] that amount. And if anyone strikes one of the magistrates while executing the administrative duties prescribed for the magistracy, he shall pay the penalties trebled, if he is defeated [in the suit].

Outrage. If any person commits against another an outrage not provided for in the code, the injured party shall himself assess the damage in bringing the suit, but he shall further state specifically in what manner he claims to have been outraged and the date on which he was outraged. And the offender if condemned shall pay twice the amount of the assessment fixed by the court.

The legal oath. When anyone administers an oath, the one to whom the oath is administered shall swear in the market-place in the swearing place, pouring out libations on the offerings, and the challenger shall provide the offerings. He shall swear by Zeus, Hera and Poseidon. No one shall be permitted to swear another oath nor to administer one nor to produce his offspring (and swear by them).

About citizens, that they are not to become slaves. An Alexandrian man shall not be a slave to an Alexandrian man [or woman] nor an Alexandrian woman to an Alexandrian man or woman.

Summons to testimony. They shall summon (witnesses) to testimony in the presence of two witnesses to the summons, being present and on each point announcing about what it is necessary to testify. The summoner shall write down the testimony on a tablet. The person summoned shall testify before the magistrate and court to the things at which he was present or of which he knows, swearing the legal oath to testify truthfully about the things written on the tablet, and he shall offer no other testimony.

But if he asserts that he was not present or has no knowledge about the matters on which he is ordered to testify, he shall swear the royal oath immediately that he does not know or was not present at the things about which he is summoned to testify. If he says that he knows some of the matters of the requested testimony but not others, he shall testify to what he says he knows and take an oath concerning what he says he has no knowledge of.

Apollonios to Zoilos, greeting. We have released the [teachers] of letters and masters of gymnastic and [performers of] the rites of Dionysos and victors in the [Alexandrian contest] and in the Basileia and Ptolemaia from the tax on salt, them and their (descendants, as the king] has ordered. Farewell. Year---.


No complete edition after the editio princeps exists; sources for texts and translations of some individual sections are indicated severally below. For textual emendations see BL 11.2 and 111, but these mostly affect untranslated portions (largely Column XI) and most restorations are uncertain.

Proof-texts: Legal regulations collected for a particular case; the present papyrus is probably a collection of this sort.

Unless it is appealed: That is, convictions for perjury do not automatically invalidate the original decision based on perjured evidence if the perjury took place on both sides.

Those who called the witnesses: These witnesses could not be tried themselves, not being in Alexandria; thus any penalties for perjury could be exacted only from the Alexandrian party who had called them.

Outside the city: The word used (asty) designates the densely built and walled urban center; polis generally includes the entire territory of the city, inside or outside the walls.

Additional tenth:Beyond what he had deposited at the start as a pledge, which was forfeited to the

No one shall bring: Translation of the seven paragraphs following is from Sel.Pap. 201.

Sent on service: Primarily on military service, that is.

Unless it happens: Such action would suggest that they were not helpless dependents and that they could handle lawsuits in the absence of the head of the family.

Cautions:  Money deposited against a possibly unfavorable outcome, in which case it would be forfeited to the winner.

King Ptolemy to Antiochos: Translation of this paragraph is from Sel.Pap. 207; the most recent text, with extensive bibliography, is C. Ord. Ptol. 24.

Threatening with iron: Next five paragraphs translated in Sel.Pap. 202.

Swear by offspring: A common practice in some Greek cities.

[or woman]:  This is not a restored lacuna but Schubart's supplement to replace what he believed the copyist omitted.

Write down the testimony: The points about which the witness must give information.

What he says he has no knowledge of:  Lines 234-259, which follow here and deal with the law governing sales, are incomplete, and the many - often conflicting - restorations that have been offered do not have sufficient certitude to justify presenting them here.


BGU XIV 2367                                                                                  Late third century

Ptolemaic Egypt rested on the careful classification of its inhabitants, who were either Egyptians or Hellenes, a category that included almost all foreigners with even the slightest claim to Greek culture. As the privileges and tax burdens varied by status, exact recording of identity was important. The following extract comes from a systematic set of regulations for the drawing up of loan contracts, but a closely parallel text in P.Hamb. II 168 gives similar orders for those engaging in litigation, and no doubt there were similar regulations also for other types of contracts.

Those who are lending and borrowing shall be described in the contract. Those who are holding appointments in the military forces shall declare their places of origin, to what units they belong, and what ranks they hold. Citizens shall declare their fathers’ names and their demes; if they are also in military service, they shall also give their units and ranks. Other persons shall give their fathers’ names and their places of origin and to what category they belong.


Places of origin: For Greeks who were not citizens of one of the three Greek cities of Egypt, this most commonly meant the city in which they held citizenship or the region from which they came (e.g., “Thracian,” “Judaean,” “Cretan”).

Category: From actual documents we can see that this is the information the phrase tes epigones, “of the descent” is intended to supply in the case of Greeks who were not in any kind of official service.


P. Col. Zen. II 83                                                                                            245-244

This petition is part of a group of documents about the troubles of Antipatros.

His wife for some reason had borrowed from Nikon 70 drachmas at the extraordinary interest rate of 6 per cent per month, which was after some 10% months totalled up in a loan contract for 115 drachmas, in which the petitioner himself was the security. For unexplained reasons apparently not part of this case Antipatros found it advisable to move to Upper Hermopolis, but when Nikon offered a contract for interest-free repayment of the original principal, Antipatros was lured back to Philadelphia. Nikon, however, appeared in Hermopolis and with threats of execution through a praktor managed to shut Simon the wife up in some friend's house, her son being detained elsewhere. Simon escaped to Philadelphia, where she and her husband made depositions against Nikon. Whether their case was as sound as they say is uncertain; it may be noted that their son may well have been pledged in the contract, and his freedom might thus be jeopardized. But it is the lack of legal process in Nikon's actions that is at stake in this petition.

To King Ptolemy greeting from Antipatros, resident of Philadephia. I am wronged by Nikon. For having lent seventy silver drachmas to my wife Simon at an interest rate of six drachmas per mina each month and having totalled (the interest) with the principal he drew up a contract of loan with her for 115 drachmas in which I myself was entered as security. After I had gone away from Philadelphia because I was being falsely accused by Artemidoros, agent of Apollonios the dioiketes, and had opened a shop in Upper Hermopolis, Nikon wrote a letter to Philadelphia, to a certain Menestratos, our servant, in which he includes the statement, made upon royal oath, that he will draw up an agreement with us for the principal by itself, namely, the seventy drachmas. When Menestratos wrote me at Hermopolis to come to Philadelphia and I sailed down there, Nikon sailed up to Hermopolis and said that he would hand my wife over to the praktor in the matter of the loan unless she followed him of her own accord. Simon, impelled by fear, sailed down with Nikon together with her boy, and Nikon led them to Herakleopolis and shut them up with certain persons, apart from each other. Then Simon escaped and came away; but the boy he holds in detention even now. And when we demand that he give him back, sometimes he acknowledges that he has seized him as pledge for the debt, and is still holding him, sometimes he denies it. I beg you therefore, 0 king, to send my petition to the chrematistai, and if I prove that the allegations set forth in the petition are true, I beg that Nikon may meet with fitting punishment both in the matter of the interest which he has contracted for contrary to the ordinance and because by his own authority he has placed in detention and holds (the boy) a free person; and I beg that the boy be restored to me in order that 1, having fled to you for help, O king, may meet with justice.


Loan of 115 drachmas: He did this presumably in order to avoid actually making a written contract specifying such usurious interest; the maximum legal interest at the time was apparently 24 per cent per annum.


P.Mich. I 87                                                                                        mid-third century

The extensive powers - formal or informal - exercised by Zenon in Philadelphia are seen here in a request from a herdsman and farmer of Zenon who asks the latter to get him out of jail, where he was being held indefinitely and without bail pending trial.

To Zenon greeting from Kalippos. Have [you] fallen asleep, regardless of me in prison? Think of your flocks and herds. Know that if the goats of Demetrios remain here, they will perish; for the road down which he drives them to the pastures is enough to kill them. Think too about the hay already cut in Senaru, that it not be lost; for not small is the profit you will gain from it; I reckon there will be as many as 3000 sheaves. I pray and beseech you, be not unmindful of me in prison. Much loss have I suffered since I was led to jail from the allotment which I leased, trusting in your support. No little loss have you suffered since I was led to jail; and the sheep which I have acquired since I came to you have been carried off by the shepherds since I was led to jail. And if it seems good to you, I will leave my wife in prison to be answerable for me, until you inquire into the matters about which they accuse me. Farewell.


P.Eleph.Wagner 1                                                                                                 241/0 (?)

This attractively written papyrus gives only the gist of a decision by the court of the chrematistai, according to which two men are sent “to the works”—to hard labor in the quarries, probably around Elephantine (modern Aswan), where this text was found. The reason for the first man’s punishment is not given, but obviously the extract was copied because of the second, who had put himself forward as a woman’s legal representative (kyrios) even though he had no right to do so. It is clear enough that father or husband occupied this position not only by custom but by law, others coming into the picture only where neither was available, and that taking on this role without official permission was subject to penalty. We have thus another example of the seriousness with which the Ptolemaic government took individuals’ legal self-identification (cf. ##) and some suggestion that the role of the kyrios was not purely nominal.

Portion of a decision rendered in year 7 by the chrematistai Pausistratos (and) Lophios: On the basis of all of the above, we give judgment for Mousaios to be transported to the “works,” and for Nikias son of Nikanor, Macedonian, also to be transported to the works, whose whereabouts are unknown at the moment, because he was recorded as the legal representative (kyrios) of Biote, even though her father is still alive, without having received an order from the king or from chrematistai, but putting himself forward for this purpose contrary to the laws which contain a royal proclamation concerning the requirements for marriage, and (we give judgment) that anyone who wishes is to bring him before Ainesidemos.


See on this text G. Nachtergael, Cd’É 78 (1998) 116-118 and J. Cowey-D. Kaltsas, ZPE 123 (1998) 149-50 with essential corrections. We have adopted the date suggested by Cowey and Kaltsas. We accept Nachtergael’s view that Pasistratos in the text is an error for the known name Pausistratos.

Ainesidemos: Possibly attested elsewhere with a responsibility for quarries, probably the “works” to which the convicted men were to be sent. Aswan produced a famous pink granite.

Regulation: As it is not claimed that Nikias married Biote, we may suppose that the regulations in question described as normative the assumption of the role of kyrios by the husband.


P.Hib. I 92                                                                                                         263

Defendants in civil suits or even criminal charges were usually set at liberty until trial provided that they furnished persons acceptable to the court who could guarantee that in case the defendant did not appear they would pay on his behalf the full amount hinging on the trial, plus penalties. This is a contract for two men to offer themselves as such sureties for a defendant, who is evidently the brother of one of them.

In the reign of Ptolemy son of Ptolemy and his son Ptolemy, the twenty-second year, the priest of Alexander and the Brother and Sister Gods being Pelops son of Alexandros, the canephore of Arsinoe Philadelphos being Mnesistrate daughter of Tisarchos, on the fourteenth of the month Xandikos which is Mecheir of the Egyptians, at Mouchinaro in the Oxyrhynchite (Nome), Mnason son of Simos, Thracian of the Epigone, and Hegemon son of... imos, Cretan of the Epigone, are sureties for Timokles son of Simos, Thracian of the Epigone, on the condition that they shall deliver him up at Herakleopolis before the strategos Krisippos until the decision of the suit in which Apollonios placed him on bail according to the contract for a principal of 300 drachmas and interest of 100 drachmas; and if they do not deliver him up as above written, they shall forfeit the 300 drachmas and the extra tenths and other charges, and Apollonios or any one besides of the attendants of Krisippos or of the collector shall have the right of execution in accordance with the decree.


Ptolemy the son: From 267-259 a son of Ptolemy II ruled as co-regent with his father, until he revolted in Asia Minor in one of the less well-documented but most discussed episodes of Hellenistic history; cf. 21.

Pelops: A prominent military commander, probably at this time actually on duty in the Aegean in the Chremonidean War. His son Pelops served as governor of Cyprus.

At Herakleopolis: The editors note that this contract signed in the Oxyrhynchite Nome nonetheless refers to a case to be tried in the neighboring Herakleopolite Nome.

300 drachmas: One would expect 400 (including the interest), as T. Reekmans has pointed out (BL 111, 84).


P. Mich. I 70                                                                                                       237

This proclamation of Ptolemy III was issued in response to a request on Zenon's behalf by a military officer named Heniochos 307 for a clarification of a judicial problem: is a surety for the appearance of a defendant to be freed from his bond and excused from tardiness if he produces the defendant after the originally stated time? The answer is affirmative, and the reply to Zenon is then made into a universal rule.

By order of the king, announced by Aischylos agent of Sostratos to Zenon, on behalf of whom Heniochos of the troop of Anthippos, taxiarch, presented a petition. If he has become surety for the appearance of Kallias as defendant against Eukles, on producing his person let him be released from the penalty of exceeding the term (or, released from his bond and not debarred from exceeding the term), and in like manner let all who become surety for the appearance of another be on producing his person released from their bond and not debarred from exceeding the term. Year 10, Audnaios.


We follow Edgar's interpretation of lines 3-5 in P.Mich., not that of his first edition (adopted by Lenger) regarding the person who was the surety.

Sostratos: Evidently an official in charge of promulgating royal ordinances, who had held that office for more than 30 years; see C.Ord.Ptol. 27 with discussion of the juristic questions involved here and a bibliography.

Or, released from his bond: The editor suggests on the basis of the phraseology of the generalized application of the rule in this text that a line has been dropped by the copyist and the bracketed reading is probably the true one; Lenger and most others follow this interpretation.


P. Tebt. I  14                                                                                          114

Aside from discovering the facts of a case the government sought to ensure the appearance of the defendant and to freeze his assets so that there would be, if he were convicted, a source from which to exact penalties. Menches here reports on the rather small property of an accused murderer.

Menches, komogrammateus of Kerkeosiris in the division of Polemon, to Horos, greeting. You wrote to me that I was to give notice to Heras son of Petalos, an inhabitant of the village, who is arraigned on charges of murder and other offenses, to appear in three days' time for the decision to be made concerning these charges, and that until the matter was concluded I was to make a list of his property and arrange for it to be placed in bond, and was to send a report stating the measurements, adjoining areas, and values of it in detail. Accordingly I gave notice to the said Heras in person on the 14th of the current month at Ptolemais Euergetis that he was to appear for the decision upon the aforesaid charges, and I report that he owns the sixth part of the shrine of the Dioskouroi in the village, of which the adjacent areas are on the south and west the free space around the village, on the north and east a canal, and of which the total value is one talent of copper. Farewell. Year 4, Phaophi 14.


Also M.Chr.42.

Horos: The basilikos grammateus.

Ptolemais Euergetis: The nome capital, about 14 miles from Kerkeosiris; since Menches dates the report on the same day as the announcement to Heras, he may have handed the report in to the basilikos grammateus in Ptolemais Euergetis; or this (his copy) may be backdated.


UPZ II 162                                                                                                      117

This text is the culminating document of an archive concerning the house property in Thebes owned by an Egyptian family engaged in the funerary service of the dead: pouring libations, making offerings, maintaining funerary foundations, caring for tombs, and carrying out various other priestly functions. Their ownership of this property was repeatedly challenged in the last decade of Euergetes II's reign by a Greek military officer, Hermias, who lived in another nome.

Here we have the final trial in which Hermias' last effort to assert ownership is completely blocked. It seems that his claim goes back to the reign of Epiphanes, but it is shown that no one of his family had ever lived in the house or, it seems, made claim to it, rented it, or maintained it over the many decades since that time. The Egyptians, on the other hand, have documentation plus occupancy, and Hermias' case is very weak. We find the court giving the decision therefore not to their fellow Greek and military officer - a man of some rank, in fact - but to Egyptians citing Egyptian (Demotic) contracts, who make their living performing a quintessentially Egyptian service to the dead. The papyrus also presents us with a fine example of a complete trial (insofar as it was recorded) before an administrative/judicial tribunal in a time when the bureaucracy is supposed to have been badly out of order; it appears here to good effect. For the general state of the Theban region in this period see A. Bataille, Chronique D’Egypte 26 (1951) 325-353.

(1) Year 54, Hathyr 22, in Diospolis Magna before Herakleides, one of the chief bodyguards (of the king) and epistates of the Theban Nome and superintendent of revenues of the nome, in the presence also of Polemon of the chief bodyguards, Herakleides of the same and gymnasiarch, Apollonios the son of Apollonios and Hermogenes, of the friends, Pankrates of the diadochoi, Komanos of the hegemones, Paniskos son of Ammonios of the settlers, and many others.

After Hermias son of Ptolemaios, resident of the Ombite (Nome) stood forth against the choachytai from the place (the Theban Nome), Horos and Psenchonsis (and Panas) and Chonopres and their brothers, the memorandum submitted by Hermias to Hermias the kinsman and strategos and nomarch, and then sent on to us, and of which the following is a copy, was read:

"To Hermias, kinsman and strategos and nomarch, from Hermias the son of Ptolemaios, one of the diadochoi at the court and hegemon over men. In Mecheir of the 53rd year, when Demetrios the kinsman (of the king) and epistrategos came to Diospolis Magna, I delivered a memorandum against Horos the son of Harsiesis and Psenchonsis the son of Teephibis, Panas the son of Pechytis, Chonopres son of Harsiesis and their brothers, who furnished services in the cemetery, called choachytai, in which I reported that, there belonging to me ancestral properties in Diospolis, which my ancestors owned for as long as they lived there, the accused, who live in the Memnoneia (where it has been granted to them and their ancestors to live), in the circumstances of the times did not respect me because I lived elsewhere, but came to one of my houses, which is on the south and west of Diospolis, to the north of the road leading to the river of the very great goddess Hera,"' and to the south of that leading to the sanctuary of Demeter,"' and which is surrounded by walls, and took possession of it with their own force; (2) they reconstructed the broken-down parts and live in it, occupying it illegally. When I was informed of these happenings, I went to Diospolis in the 45th year and when I had words with them they claimed that they had bought it from Lobais the daughter of Herieus. Therefore, in the same year I submitted a petition to the chrematistai in the Thebaid, whose clerk was Dionysios, in the pot set out by them in Diospolis, against Lobais, in order to deprive them of all excuse; and when I brought an action against her to trial in the month of Pachon of the aforesaid 45th year when she learned that she had no secure title, because neither she nor her ancestors had any part of the land, she gave me an agreement in which she stated that she did not have a claim to the house either formerly or now.

" Since things were so, the accused, being utterly crushed by having no legal claim, went away to the Memnoneia, but 1, being severely harmed, after a considerable number of days was compelled, since the men did not come to me in person, to go away to my command. And after that as often as I went into Diospolis they continued on every occasion to avoid me.

"But not satisfied with living in my house, they even buried corpses there without paying the fines incumbent on them, and this although the house lies on the road of Hera and Demeter the very great goddesses, to whom dead bodies and those who care for such are unlawful. And even when Aineas the former strategos wrote to Ptolemaios, then the epistates, to transfer the clan to the Memnoneia as formerly," 'I based on what Tatas the royal physician reported to him that the king had decreed, and Diasthenes the former strategos also wrote about the same class to transfer them (and I will deposit copies of these documents for the proceedings);

"And when it was announced to them by the agents of Demetrios to come to the tribunal until our affairs should be settled, they stayed away and did not appear. Since Demetrios had gone away, I asked that the memorandum about their case be handled by you, and I delivered the dispatched document in Latopolis in the month of Phamenoth. And when you wrote to Ptolemaios, who was then epistates, to send them up so that our business should be settled, and they were not sent up, in Pauni of the same year (3) when you went to Diospolis with Demetrios for the crossing of the very great god Amun and I gave you the aforesaid memorandum about the persons named, and when it was announced to them to appear before the tribunal, they became fugitives from justice and did not appear, because I had to sail back up to my district with you.

"I ask you therefore to look upon the disaster that has happened to me at the hands of these impious men, and if it seems good to you, to order a letter written to Herakleides, who is in charge of the Theban Nome, to send the culprits and to inquire about these things, so that, if I demonstrate that things are so, they may be compelled to move out of the house and if, having been brought to trial, they confess to having buried corpses in the said house, that they be sent to you, so that they may receive the proper punishment. If this is done I shall have received justice. Farewell. (Subscription of strategos): To Herakleides. Year 54, Phaophi 2 1. "

Since this was the state of things, the attorneys for both parties also argued their cases - Philokles for Hermias, Deinon for Horos and his associates - and the proof texts deposited by them were read, as selected by each; Philokles introduced material similar to the information from the memorandum and also read from the appended proof-texts the petition, in connection with which he said that Hermias had deposited it in the pot publicly set out by the chrematistai who are concerned with Diospolis Magna, whose clerk was Dionysios, against Lobais the daughter of Herieus, one of those who had sold the house to Horos and his associates; and that Lobais had thus given him an agreement in which, as he said, she stated that she did not formerly and did not now have any claim to the house, in order to leave (Hermias') opponents without pretext and with no claim to legal satisfaction. And he said that in this manner he had driven them out of possession of the house -

And he likewise read out a report of the basilikos grammateus, according to which, he said, the trial had been carried on (4) before the chrematistai against Harmais son of Nechthmonthes, one of the priests of Ammon from Diospolis, about 20 arouras of grain-producing land, which he stated that Apollonios the son of Damon had sold illegally to Harmais although they were his own ancestral property, and after Apollonios assumed the case on behalf of Harmais, when the report was made to the chrematistai by the basilikos grammateus on the basis of reports from the topogrammateus and komogrammateus about the registration of the land in the name of Hermon son of Hermias, the grandfather of Hermias' mother, Apollonios gave him a deed of cession, surrendering the land; he (the attorney) said that in accordance with this decision a great piece of evidence was contributed to the case being pursued at present against Horos and his associates about the house. I I I

And he likewise (read) a copy of a proclamation about the invalidity of unwritten Egyptian contracts, and he said that the contracts produced by Horos and his associates in regard to the house were useless.

And he (read) sections from the native law about disregarding it if anyone produces to the court a contract that has not been guaranteed by oaths, and if anybody produces a false contract it is to be torn up, and a portion from the law of guarantee according to which he said it was necessary for those sued to seek an accounting from those who sold (the property) to them, and other administrative acts of Hermias the kinsman and strategos and nomarch, to which was appended the letter written to him by Diasthenes the strategos, followed also by the letters sent to him by the priests of Ammon and the report of Pamonthes the former topogrammateus and the letter of Aineas the strategos, about moving the taricheutai from Diospolis to the Memnoneia, and he claimed that from these also a valid right of possession accrued to him.

And he read royal ordinances about statutes of limitations, for which he was waiting ... not having acted beyond the past time, and from which he reported and read in his brief; he asked that the defendants be expelled from the house and that it be given back to himself.

(5) Taking the floor, the attorney for Horos and his associates, Deinon, charged that Hermias had idly disturbed Horos and his associates with all the slander and extortion and caused them extraordinary trouble with no reasonable grounds. He said that the house belonged to them, in accordance with the subjoined copies of Egyptian contracts, translated into Greek, one which was made in Pachon of the 28th year of Philometor, in which the father of one of the accused, Psenchonsis and Chonopres, Teephibis, purchased from Helekis and Lobais and Tbaiais and Senerieus and Herieus and Senosorphibis and Sisois also called Herieus, seven in all, seven and a half cubits of building property from the south part of the ten cubits of vacant land belonging to them; and the others, according to which the father of the accused Nechoutes and Asos and another Nechoutes and their sister Nechoutis, Asos, purchased from the same persons two and a half cubits in the same year and month, and another of the 35th year, Mesore, under the same king, by which Pechytes the father of the others, Panas and Patous and Pasemis and Harpchemis and Senamounis, bought from Ammonios and Zbendetis the one-fourth portion that belonged to them of the same house, three and a third cubits, for which the taxes were also paid to the contract of the sales tax. . and that they have owned it for thirty-seven years up to the present without any contest or anyone making any disturbance. He also produced sections of the royal amnesty decrees about those who have owned property, that even if they cannot furnish the documentation for it they are to be allowed to keep it.

Then returning to the proof-texts of his opponent, and after reading the previously read petition, he said that although his opponent claimed to the sovereigns that his father had set out from Diospolis with other soldiers to the upper country in the past rebellion under the father of the sovereigns, the Manifest God, and he said, reckoning the time, from Epiphanes, 24 years, Philometor, 35 years, the God Euergetes from the 25th to the 53rd years, 29 years, that the years thus came to 88, so that confessedly by his own testimony he had made it clear that neither he nor his father had lived in Diospolis, nor was there any basis for refutation left to him at all about the house, in making a claim after so many years, and neither he nor his father had had possession or ownership of any landed property from the earliest times up to the present.

(6) And he stated additionally that since Hermias could produce neither a deposit ticket"' nor any other evidence of ownership, but was without any demonstration of his case, that he had wickedly and knavishly pressed the cession; and since the sellers were nine and Horos and his associates were living in the house and had possession of it, it was necessary first to submit a petition against them, so that they might themselves either defeat Hermias in the suit against them by bringing investigative action against the sellers and defending the case against Hermias, or, turning to the guarantors, start a suit on account of the guarantee, with the legal proceedings open and known to every person and with everybody brought before the tribunal, if he really reckoned by proceeding truthfully on the way according to the laws to bring an action of a direct trial, and not to use stealthy subtleties to carry out some evil scheme, with his opponents kept in ignorance, or to work up some collusion with Lobais alone, who did not have the power to lay claim to the house since she had sold only the seventh part falling to her share of the seven and one-half cubits and the one cubit that belonged to her according to one of the aforesaid contracts.

And he also pointed out, to establish that things were such as he alleged, starting from what Hermias appended about the other suit which he said that he had prosecuted against Harmais and Apollonios, (he said that he [Hermias] had reported about the sale by Apollonios to Harmais, of land which he said that a part was his own, making an accusation not against the seller Apollonios but against the purchaser and owner, Harmais); but Harmais after filing suit against Apollonios, the seller, had yielded the case to him and he (Harmais) had vindicated the case against Hermias from the suit formerly instituted against Harmais the purchaser and owner, that there is no argument left to him about the agreement with Lobais nor are Horos and his associates "completely crushed" by it.

And about the royal decree about registration he remarked that it was no use to him (Hermias), since he agreed in the same petition that Lobais with her brothers and sisters sold the house to Horos and his brothers, and that on receiving (7) this information he filed the petition against her; that the same defense was valid also about the sections which he adduced from the national laws about sworn guarantee of contracts, showing that if they were judged before the laokritai by the laws which he cited, he had to prove first that he was the son of Ptolemaios and the mother whom he named and that his ancestors whom they claimed were of the kinsmen, before his claim could be heard at all about any matter, and that after these proofs he could ask for proofs about the house;"" and that in the same way he had also to give the same proofs according to the common law and the decrees, and to declare his inheritance and pay tax on it or pay ten thousand drachmas and have all the arrangements which he had made be invalid and not be allowed to enter into the property of the deceased; I"

And that since the very great sovereigns released everyone under their rule from all offenses up to Thouth 19 of the 53rd year,"' they established that the contracts deposited by him are unassailable and that the possession and ownership of the house are guaranteed for Horos and his associates from the same amnesty and also according to the decrees issued by them and by their ancestors about those who have come to have ownership, even if someone should establish that they can produce no contracts, even more that they did not produce title-deeds and they claimed the right and amnesty from the decrees, our opponent has introduced no proof himself.

And about the ordinances regarding statutes of limitations which were cited, he said that if one concedes to one's opponent and attacker the right to claim the goods of another, not more than a year or two or three is to be conceded for the grace-period and this by no means to everyone, but to those who have some legal claim, and is not to be given for the entire time since the father of Hermias up to the end of his life and Hermias himself had passed the years and come to extreme old age... and neither of them ever lived in Diospolis at all, so that he has no claim to ownership of any land, making this attack after so many years and furnishing no proof at all.

And he also deposited a subscription, reporting that it had been made on Pauni 8 of the 51st year, 322 in reference to which he said that Hermias was defeated in his suit against them before Ptolemaios, who was epistates before us: that he was not to be permitted to harass Horos and his associates constantly on every point, but that they were to be permitted to retain possession.

(8) Returning to what Hermias testified about the suit which Hermias said he had prosecuted against Harmais and Apollonios, he reported that what he had introduced was an entirely different business, and that he was not to be allowed to transfer onto another question the contest between himself and other men about any matter which had no pertinence to him in his suit against Horos and his associates about their house.

And likewise about the administrative documents which he deposited about moving the taricheutai from the place to the Memnoneia, he said that these documents were entirely separate, and that it was rather very easy to recognize that he realized that he had no legal claim and had occupied the role of informer and accuser, concluding that his opponents could be easily crushed; but that Horos and his associates were not taricheutai but choachytai, and did not perform the same tasks, but that their services were different; and that on the public and legally established and named feast days they brought dust to scatter on the road of Ammon and through the sanctuary and went to the sanctuary of Hera to do the same thing, and in the yearly crossings of Ammon to the Memnoneia they precede the procession to perform the services proper to them and they pour out libations to the dead and they have priestly offices. But the taricheutai too have a decree, by which they are to be unmolested. But even if someone should establish that which is not true, that the taricheutai have been moved, no one would have any authority, nor would Hermias, to confiscate any land of theirs; and that each of them was master of his own property, and that in selling or ceding it to another he would take the price;

But Hermias, introducing complications that have nothing to do with the present case and are not part of his decision, and like a busybody arrogating to himself the power that belongs to the strategos, has made it obvious that since he has no evidence at all he has decided to assume the guise of an informer and to depose the documents concerning the taricheutai, and also the documents concerning Harmais and Apollonios and the others as if they had greatly supported his case; and if he really thought he had some legal claim by merit of which he might persuade the court and not to boast of the (9) previously read documents, he would never have had it arranged for other dispositions with no pertinence to him to have been deposited.

Since"' he had presented a brief along these lines, and more besides, and Hermias had introduced no title deed or other document showing that the disputed house was his ancestral possession, but with arguments and speeches claimed that the house was his,

And since Horos and his associates had deposed that their ancestors had bought the said house from Helekis and Lobais and the others named above, nine in number, in accordance with an Egyptian contract, for which the proper taxes had been paid to the contract of the sales tax, and after they had shown in addition that their ancestors had owned the house from the times of the contracts for the entire time they had been there; and that after their deaths they themselves had possessed it up to the present time with no contest, and no one had made a claim for all of these years, and since they deposed a section of a royal decree issued in the 26th year about amnesty and those who had had possession; and also a copy of the subscription of Ptolemaios who was epistates before us pertinent to the suit between them ... It was ordered, "Do not make a claim";

We also, in accordance with the contracts introduced by them and the decrees of the sovereigns about possession, since no document has been produced against the contracts, give sentence: to Hermias, to refrain from forcible entry; and to Horos and his associates, to have possession as they have had from the beginning.


(1) Diospolis Magna: Thebes, "the great city of Amun".

Hera: I.e., Mut.

Demeter:  I.e., Epet.

(2) To Memnoneia: As we shall see below, this applied only to the taricheutai, not to the choachytai.

(4) Deed of cession: See below, where the defendants argue (successfully) that this has nothing to do with their case.

(6) Deposit ticket: That is, a document of his having deposited the purchase price into the bank.

(7) Proofs about the house: That is, if Hermias was to force every detail of court procedure and proof on his opponents, he would be subject to similar demands before the laokritai.

Not be allowed to enter:  Action before the chrematistai is apparently meant.

Thouth 19 of the 53rd year:  See 45 for this amnesty, which was evidently extended several months beyond its original cut-off date.

Pauni 8 of the 51st year: See UPZ II 161 for this, the earlier victory by Horos et al.

(9) Since: Here we have the summing up by the epistates preparatory to sentencing.


P.Mert. I 59                                                                                                     154 or 143

This papyrus contains the decisions of the Greek court in Crocodilopolis in the Arsinoite Nome to accept a pre-trial settlement of a suit and counter-suit filed by a separate husband and wife. The woman Antigone had probably left her husband Asklapon, who started action against her in order to be able to keep her dowry; she in turn claimed that the fault was his, and that she should recover not only the dowry but an extra penalty. Evidently neither party had a very good case, for they settled it on the terms of her retention of her dowry, the dissolution of the marriage, and no penalties. The agreement had to be accepted by the court in order to be valid, however; instructions are then given to the xenikon praktor to ensure the carrying out of the agreement.

To the xenikon praktor of the Arsinoite Nome, the copy of the decision reached is now appended. Year 27, Tybi 17.

Year 27, Tybi 16, at Crocodilopolis in the Arsinoite Nome, the chrematistai who hear appeals to the king, Ptolemaios son of Ptolemaios of the Crateraean deme and Aristeus son of Ammonios, judges of cases which concern the crown, the revenues, and the private individual, in view of the fact that the third, Etearchos, has been attacked by a slight seizure (?) when the case of Asklapon son of Dizaporis against Antigone daughter of Alketas was announced, and the parties had appeared, Alketas son of Menandros being entered as Antigone's guardian, [before] the delivery of the pleas, they presented to us an agreement, of which the following is a copy:

To the chrematistai, whose clerk is Artemidoros, from Asklapon son of Dizaporis and from Antigone daughter of Alketas with [Alketas son of] Menandros as her guardian, concerning the case which we have before you, which is concerned with, on the one hand, the return of the trousseau and the [slave-girl called Opora], who is included in the same valuation, and, on the other hand, the thirty talents of bronze, if no [judgment] take the place of the present one (?), (we ask that) judgment be given to the effect that he be released from the terms of the marriage-contract and that she bring no action against him henceforth, on condition that the objects also be restored or their value, forty-six talents four thousand one hundred drachmas. We agree to a settlement with each other on the following conditions: the agreements which we made together on the fifteenth of Tybi in the twenty-seventh year are to be valid, likewise the declaration covering them and attested by the royal oath; Antigone, since she has recovered her dowry. is to bring no action against Asklapon originating from the terms of the marriage contract, but he is to be released from them, and also Antigone from all the charges brought against her by Asklapon in the petition; Asklapon is to meet Antigone's father, Alketas, at Busiris in the Herakleopolite Nome by the thirtieth of the present month, in whose presence - in order to prevent the aforesaid slave-girl Opora from being misrepresented as having run away - he is to produce her alive or, otherwise, to pay to Antigone her value, fifteen talents of bronze; if she is dead, Asklapon is likewise to pay for her the fifteen talents of bronze by the same time; but if, despite Asklapon's readiness to produce the slave-girl alive, Alketas does not meet him at the appointed time, or does meet him and receives her alive, then he (Asklapon) is to be released henceforth (?) from payment of her value; the copy of the agreement is to be sent to Theon, the xenikon praktor, so that, if either he does not pay her all that is required or Opora is dead or dies before the thirtieth of Tybi, then he (Theon) may grant [Antigone] right of execution against Asklapon upon the fifteen talents in the time appointed.


1, Asklapon, agree to the aforewritten.

1, Antigone, agree to the aforewritten.

I, Alketas, am entered as the guardian of Antigone, who agrees to the aforewritten.

We therefore decide that their agreement is to be valid and that a copy of it be sent to the aforementioned xenikon praktor, as they have agreed.

Through the clerk Artemidoros son of Isidoros.


Xenikon praktor ("collector of foreign things"): An official who executed court judgments; it is usually thought that his competence extended over cases where the parties to a dispute lived in different jurisdictions; Cl. Préaux, Chronique d'Egypte 30 (1955) 107-11, argues that they collected in cases not under the law of any Greek city.

Forty-six talents etc.: The trousseau is thus worth 1 talent, 4100 dr.


P.Münch. III 52                                                                                     Second century

Aggrieved creditors sometimes resorted to legal shortcuts. Petechon, tired of the evasions of a deadbeat wineseller, asks the chief of the local military garrison to lock the debtor up until he pays.

To Dioskorides, captain and garrison commander, from Petechon, merchant from the Harbor. I am wronged by Stotoetis, a wineseller from Herakleopolis. For he owes me, for the price of wine that he had purchased from me, 4 talents, 4,470 drachmas of bronze, and I have an acknowledgment of debt from him for this sum. But although I have often tried to collect from him, he avoids me. Therefore I ask, if you judge it right, that you order him to be locked up until he repays me…

(Docket on reverse) … Mesore 25, from Petechon … about wine.


P. Cair. Zen.  II 59202                                                                                       254

The problems of Zenon and Apollonios with their brewery at Philadelphia figure here. The accounts of the previous brewer Ammeneus were being audited, and the audit had evidently resulted in conflicting claims from the auditor and the brewer. Zenon had arrested the former, and Apollonios sends the latter so that they can confront one another before the chrematistes. It has often been thought that the conclusion of the text includes a threat to hang Ammeneus (i.e. capital punishment), but E.G. Turner, in Essays in Honor of C. Bradford Welles (New Haven 1966) 79-86, argues convincingly that this is wrong.

Apollonios to Zenon, greeting. You have done rightly in arresting the treasurer from the brewery. We have sent to you also Ammeneus the brewer, so that the treasurer may convict him before Peton the chrematistes on the matter about which you wrote that he had accused him. Bring both of them before Peton therefore. If it appears that Ammeneus has in fact spoken what you wrote to me, let him be strung up for a whipping with his hands tied behind him. Farewell. Year 31, Dystros 23, Phamenoth 30. (Address) To Zenon. (Docket) Year 32,  Pharmouthi 1. Apollonios about the brewer Ammeneus.


Year 32: It seems that the date was first written as year 31, but the writer realized that it was now year 32 and changed it; the Macedonian year changed at sundown on Pharmouthi 1.