Thursday, June 2, 2011


Federico Morelli, L'Archivio di Senouthios Anystes e testi connessi: lettere e documenti per la costruzione di una capitale. Corpus papyrorum Raineri Archiducis Austriae 30. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 2010. Pp. ix, 281; pls. 24. ISBN 9783110228878.

Reviewed by Amphilochios Papathomas, University of Athens (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This volume is the thirtieth in the series of Corpus papyrorum Raineri (CPR), an established and very successful series devoted to the publication of papyri and ostraca housed in the Collection of Papyri of the Austrian National Library. With twenty-five published volumes in the last thirty-five years, CPR ranks as the second most productive papyrological series world-wide, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri of the Egypt Exploration Society (P.Oxy.) coming first with thirty-two volumes in the same period.

The present book brings to light thirty-two new Greek letters and documents preserved on papyrus. The great majority of them date from the first years of Arab rule in Egypt (in all probability, around AD 643/644) and come from the Hermopolite nome. For a few pieces the exact date and/or provenance cannot be determined with any certainty, but they all belong to the seventh century and seem to be connected with the rest of the texts published in this volume. The new papyri have been edited by F. Morelli, a scholar already familiar with this kind of material, being the author of several studies dealing with Greek documents of that period.1

The new texts belong to or are related to a large archive that the editor calls "the archive of Senouthios anystes", since the notary and anystes Senouthios appears to play the central role in it. Apart from him, several other persons are attested, many of whom appear in other papyri which form smaller, separate satellite archives related to the present one. In this volume, Morelli has gathered papyri of different textual types, such as official correspondence, lists, and orders, as well as a writing exercise. All of these share a common element: they shed light to the efforts of the new, Arab rulers setting up the new Egyptian capital of al-Fustât (modern Old Cairo).

The volume opens with a lengthy introduction (pp. 1–47), which contains many useful preliminary observations about the character and history of this archive. Morelli provides a sketch of its contents, and examines why these texts can be regarded as an archive, and to whom this archive once belonged. Moreover, he deals with various administrative and prosopographical issues, as well as a series of pertinent topics, such as the date and provenance of the texts, the Arabs who are attested there, the scribes, scripts, codicology and the languages of the texts published. At the end of the introduction there is a short discussion of the letters in the archive, their forms and functions, their folding, and the addresses on their versos.

After a concordance of the inventory and publication numbers (p. 48), there follows the main part of the book with the editions of the papyri (pp. 49–266). Each text is provided with a palaeographical and codicological description, a transcription with an apparatus criticus, translation, introduction to the text, and detailed notes. Indices to the texts follow (pp. 267–281), including a catalogue of the unpublished documents of the archive mentioned in the volume and a useful list of the symbols and abbreviations employed in the edition. A complete set of plates with black-and-white images of all edited papyri round off the work.

The editing of the papyri is of high quality and the accompanying commentary very rich. There is no doubt that these texts will be studied intensively by the papyrologists for years to come. In the following lines, I note a few minor editorial errors that came to my attention while studying the volume:

- 1.76: καὶ ἐάν εἰσιν μικρὰ {μικρὰ} χωρία κτλ. ("e qualora siano piccoli {piccoli} villaggi …"). Perhaps there is no dittography here, if the repetition is intensifying, "very small"; cf., e.g., the honorific title θεὸς μέγας μέγας, which applied to some Egyptian gods, like Soknopaios, Soknobraisis and Souchos in the Roman period.

- 4 The phrasing of the passage could have been something like: θέλησον ἀποστεῖλαι ὑμῖν ἐνταῦθα (or τὰ προγεγραμμένα) πλινθάρια, ἐπειδὴ οὕτως ἐκέλευσεν ὁ ἐνδοξότατος ἰλλούστριος ("please, send us here the bricks (or send us the bricks mentioned above), because the most glorious illustris ordered so"). This proposal is of course tentative. The exact phrasing as well as the distribution of dots and brackets cannot be determined due to the bad preservation of the fragment.

- 7.1 μὴ ἔασο̣[ν. An η seems more probable than ο (see the η of ἐκελεύσθην in l. 3), I would suggest the reconstruction of a subjunctive, i.e. μὴ ἐάσῃ̣[ς, μὴ ἐάσῃ̣, [ or μὴ ἐάση[τε.

- 13.9 Instead of ἄ̣λ̣λ̣ων one should perhaps read κ̣α̣ὶ̣ τῶν, since the phrase without the article is grammatically incomplete. The restoration δὲ τῶν should be rejected for palaeographical and stylistic reasons (cf. the particle δέ at the beginning of the phrase).

- 15.6: στόλον. The papyrus has στό̣λ̣[ον].

- 17.3 Instead of πάντας, I would suggest the reading of the adverb πάντω̣ς.

- 17.5 Instead of περιβλ(έπτου), read περιβλέ(πτου) (pap. περιβλε).

- 17.6 The papyrus has ἀρκέσῃ, which is the correct form, not ἀρκήσῃ. - 17.8 Instead of περίβλ(επτον), read περίβλε(πτον).

- 19.13 Instead of Νευτερίας, which is unattested, I would suggest the reconstruction [᾿Ε]λ̣ευθερίας, gen. of the name ᾿Ελευθερία.

- 21.11–12: γ̣ν̣ω̣ ̣ ̣ [ | θ̣ ̣ β̣ού̣λομαι: The plate seems to confirm the reading γ̣ν̣ῶ̣ν̣α̣ι̣ (or γ̣ν̣ῶ̣ν̣ε̣, for which read -αι) | δ̣ὲ̣ β̣ού̣λομαι, the editor has considered this in the line commentary, without accepting it; for the form of δ, cf. the same letter, e.g., in δι᾿ (l. 5).

- 22.2: ἦλθεν ἐγγύς μου λέ̣[γων ὡς (as in F. Morelli, "Grammatêphoroi e vie della giustizia nell'Egitto tardo antico", in: E. Cantarella [ed.], Symposion 2005, Vienna 2007, p. 357, n. 15). In the first edition of the papyrus, the passage reads as follows (P.Eirene I 28 = SB XXIV 16116): † ὁ γραμματηφόρος πρεσβύτερος ἦλθεν ἐγγύς μου λα̣λ[ῆσαι -ca.?- ]. I think that the reconstruction of the verb λαλέω is correct. What has been read as an ε in this re-edition of the papyrus appears to me to be the lower left stroke of a second λ. Nevertheless, I would prefer to supplement a participle, namely ἦλθεν ἐγγύς μου λ[α]λ̣[ῶν ὡς], instead of the infinitive λα̣λ̣[ῆσαι.

- 31.9 Τλήθμεως → Τλήθμε(ως) (pap. τληθμε).

In the great majority of the present editions, punctuation is surprisingly minimal or even non-existent (e.g. text no. 13), even in cases in which the syntax is clear and there can be no doubt about the separation of the sentences. This practice makes comprehension more difficult for the reader. Unfortunately there are some technical shortcomings in the volume, for which the editor is not responsible and which could have been avoided if the publisher had taken a closer look at the manuscript before printing. In text no. 2, the order of fragments d and c is not the same in the edition and in the photographic reproduction of the papyrus. In the transcription fr. d precedes fr. c, whereas on the plate fr. c is placed before fr. d. Furthermore, the picture of text no. 10 (plate 9) is printed upside down. On p. 101 the author reprints a "map" of the Hermopolite first published by J.A. Sheridan in P.Col. IX, p. 130 after having marked the places attested in text no. 1 and in other lists of the seventh century A.D. A technical error of the publisher has regrettably led to the disappearance of these markings.

Of course, it goes without saying that such minor problems do not diminish the overall high quality of the current volume and its contribution to scholarship. Morelli's work keeps up the excellent quality of the Corpus Papyrorum Raineri series. The texts published here are well edited and offer many leads for further research. The writing is precise, engaging and accessible even to the non-specialist. The editor is to be thanked for undertaking the major task of dealing with this large archive and its perplexing problems, as well as for his reliable editions and his thorough analysis of the new material. In fact, this archive is one of our most robust bodies of evidence for the period it comes from. Papyrologists look forward to seeing further editions from this important archive, which gives insights into the crucial first years of the Arabic occupation of Egypt, a most important period of the history of Near East and the southern Mediterranean.2


1.   See, most notably, his Documenti greci per la fiscalità e la amministrazione dell'Egitto arabo. Corpus Papyrorum Raineri 22. Griechische Texte 15, Vienna 2001.
2.   The present review was written in the framework of an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship at the University of Heidelberg.

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