Saturday, October 9, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Maren Schentuleit, Günter Vittmann (ed.), "Du hast mein Herz zufriedengestellt ...". Ptolemäerzeitliche demotische Urkunden aus Soknopaiu Nesos. Corpus Papyrorum Raineri Bd. 29. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009. Pp. vii, 203; xiv p. of plates. ISBN 9783110207415. $154.00.
Reviewed by Peter C. Nadig, Freie Universität Berlin

M. Schentuleit and G. Vittmann have produced a high quality edition of nine demotic papyri from Soknopaiu Nesos (CPR XXIX). These Ptolemaic documents were found in 1891, partially acquired by Erzherzog Rainer three years later, and are now in the National Austrian Library in Vienna. Except for text 8 (= P. Wien D 6846 = P. Zauzich 535-549), none of these papyri dating from 142 to 42 BC has been published before. The editors concentrated on some of the poorly preserved or less legible papyri, with a view to providing a firm foundation for future scholars (VII). The book's title "Du hast mein Herz zufriedengestellt" ("you have satisfied my heart") is from a formula often found in demotic documents.

An introduction (pp. 1-13) summarizes the discovery of the papyri and the previous scholarship on them. Schentuleit and Vittmann point out that demotic documents from this town have not yet been published in great numbers.1 A list of the texts with their catalogue- and inventory-no., date, object, people involved in the transactions, scribe, and additional commentary gives a helpful summary (pp. 3-6). In a further section the clauses in these documents are explained along with charts to provide an overview of their use (pp. 7-11).

The texts are published with the usual high standard for papyrological editions: The demotic text is given in transliteration along with a German translation followed by an extensive commentary. Some texts have a Greek hypographe. Each chapter concludes with a genealogical chart of the people involved in the transactions and (except for nos. 1 and 5) with a schematical map of the houses and sanctuaries mentioned in the documents. Some texts are extant in their customary double form with the contract of payment and the cession (nos. 2, 3, 6, 7, and 9), or the contract of endowment and the contract of payment (such as text 1).

Text 1 (P. Wien D 10099 [a and b]), dating from 142 BC is a marriage document about an endowment which Segathis, the wife of Psenos, could claim from her husband at a time of her choice; especially if the marriage would come to an end in divorce. Both persons come from priestly families: he is the "lord of purity and chief of the lake 'Great Green'" while she is the daughter of a priest with the same title. Another marriage document (from the time of Ptolemy X Alexander I [95/94 BC]) is text 5 (P. Wien D 9). Only the contract of payment is preserved, though very fragmentary. The wife in this transaction is also the daughter of a "lord of purity and chief of the lake 'Great Green'". It is noteworthy that the endowment settled upon here is the same sum, 21 Deben in silver, as in the document 48 years earlier.

Texts 2 (P. Wien D 10098 [122 BC]), 3 (P. Wien D 6844 [119 BC]), 8 (P. Wien D 6846 [42 BC]), and 9 (P. Wien D 3 [42 BC]) concern the partial sale of service days at the sanctuary of Harpsenesis (an incarnation of Horus, the son of Isis). Texts 4 (P. Wien D 10102 [99 BC]), 6 (P. Wien D 6855 [85 BC]), and 7 (P. Wien D 6863 [70 BC]) concern property sales. Text 4, only the cession document is extant, is the sale of a house with a court. The seller, Haryothes, also carries the title "chief letter carrier (fj-šc3.t) of Soknopaiu Nesos", which so far has not been documented in the sources before. Very unusual for such a transaction is a reference to the measurements of the house (line 3: 20 by 60 cubits = 324,48 square meters). The editors make it clear that such an information is rarely provided. Text 6 is the sale of 2/5 of a house with a court and text 7 the sale of a share in a three-story building with a gate.

The demotic prescripts of texts 1-3, which date from the years 28, 49, and 52 of Ptolemy VIII, Cleopatra II, and Cleopatra III, list the eponymous priesthoods appointed in Alexandria, but unfortunately not the names of the office holders as well. Under Ptolemy VIII the convention of naming the priests and priestesses continued, but was rarely practiced during the reign of his successors. The prescript of the contract of payment of text 3, however, differs from the usual listing of the Ptolemaic kings in such texts: Not only is Theos Eupator (normally listed before his father Theos Philometor (Ptolemy VI), but the Theoi Philometores are wrongly listed before the Theoi Euergetai. That this seems to be a scribal error is evident from the cession which has the correct order (cf. pp. 55-58). All later documents in this edition (with the exception of text 5, where the prescript is not fully preserved) therefore list only a short formula that refers to the priest of Alexander in Alexandria and those who "are enrolled there". This or similar abbreviations were often used for smaller documents, but became the standard during the later Ptolemaic period.

An interesting chapter about the location of the Harpsenesis temple concludes the body of the book (pp. 119-121). This is followed with a bibliography and a demotic glossary complete with the usual paleographical variations (pp. 129-189). A concordance of Greek and demotic names, a subject index as well as a concordance of the inventory, catalogue and plate numbers conclude the monograph. Fifteen plates with various black and white photos on nine loose sheets are inserted in the back of the book.

Schentuleit and Vittmann can be congratulated for making these documents accessible to further research not just for demoticists, but also to scholars of Greco-Roman Egypt as well as ancient historians and classicists. Legal historians will benefit from further references to sale documents as will the scholars of Greek and Egyptian names for that period. But this publication will also deepen our understanding of life in Soknopaiu Nesos.


1.   They list the few publications available (cf. pp. 1-2). The largest so far was by E. Bresciani, L'archivio demotico del tempio di Soknopaiu Nesos, Vol. (P. Oxf. Griffith. Nr. 1-75), Milan 1975.

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