Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Charikleia Armoni, Das Archiv der Taricheuten Amenneus und Onnophris aus Tanis (P.Tarich). Abhandlungen der Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste, Sonderreihe Papyrologica Coloniensia, 37. Paderborn; München; Wien; Zürich: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2013. Pp. vii, 129. ISBN 9783506779342. €16.90 (pb).

Reviewed by Marja Vierros, University of Helsinki (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This book is an edition of 18 papyri written in the Arsinoite nome of Hellenistic Egypt between ca. 189–184 BCE. One of the texts was written in Demotic Egyptian (edited by H.-J. Thissen in this volume) and the rest were written in Greek and are edited by Armoni. The texts deal with a dispute among embalmers (taricheutai) over the privilege of performing their occupation in the village of Philadelpheia. The papyri of the dossier present the point of view of two (occasionally three) embalmers from the village of Tanis. Their opponents are three embalmers in Philadelpheia. The case concerns the geras (right, privilegium) to collect and/or salt bodies (the exact contents of the duties of the taricheutai are not known) previously held by a certain Psenephmus, son of Paos, who had died during the Great Revolt, apparently while taking part in the mutiny (at least that is what the case is built upon). The papyri in question place us in the middle of a period of unrest in Hellenistic Egypt, the so-called Great Revolt of Haronnophris and Chaonnophris1 which began in the last year of Ptolemy IV Philopator (206/205) in the South and continued for 20 years. The texts are mostly petitions to officials, but there is also, e.g., correspondence between officials (text 12). These texts are an important addition to our knowledge of legal disputes, especially because we have several related petitions spanning many years. There is also some insinuation of bribery, and the embalmers spend some time in prison.

Armoni starts with 27 pages of introduction, where she discusses the contents of the texts, persons involved, and different officials attested as well as the Great Revolt. The author's expertise in Hellenistic administration is an asset in this discussion. Some of the officials are known: the dioiketes Bakchon (only attested twice before); a certain Ptolemaios carrying the court title τῶν φίλων, probably the strategos of Arsinoites; and the epimeletai Alexandros and Argeios. Previously unknown officials appear as well e.g. the epimeletes Hephaistion and the royal scribe Petosiris. A new official title is also attested: a certain Drimylos carried the title ὁ πρὸς τῶι παρασφραγισμῶι. He resided in Krokodilon polis. The title implies participation in sealing, and Armoni suggests that he had jurisdiction over imprisonment. Another police official is archiphylakites Demetrios, a previously unattested holder of that position.

The petitions are addressed to many different people, but they all seem to be connected to the court of chrematistai (the judges handling Greek cases, as opposed to the laokritai, the Egyptian judges). Armoni discusses the officials (πρὸς τῆι ἐπιμελείαι τῶν χρηματιστῶν and εἰσαγωγεύς) and the court to some extent, but does not discuss why the court of chrematistai (and, as a consequence, the Greek language) is chosen for this matter. Probably this is because the matter of geras belonged to the state and the royal treasury; and thus the embalmers had to write petitions in Greek, even though their names and profession were Egyptian. Therefore the traces of their own language are important. The Demotic text (15) was apparently a draft for a Greek petition, and traces of Demotic are found in the verso of text 14, which itself was a Greek version of a Demotic division contract.

After the introductory chapters the texts follow. The numbers run from 1 to 15, but in three cases there are two versions of the same text (A and B). A photograph of each papyrus is provided at the end of the book (except for 6B verso). All texts have an introduction and a commentary, as well as a translation. The commentaries are thorough and helpful in providing references.

Several of the first petitions from 189–8 are written from prison. In texts 1 and 2 Amenneus and Onnophris are asking to be released because they are being held there for no reason. Text 4 states that five months have passed and they are still in custody. Then there is a gap of two or three years and in 186 we hear of this dispute again: Amenneus and Onnophris are reporting (text 6A and 6B) to the dioiketes that their opponents have profited from the geras without paying a proper price. Apparently the Amnesty Decree of Ptolemy V, published in October 186, began a new phase in the dispute. Amenneus and Onnophris build their case that the property of those who have taken part in the rebellion should be confiscated and treated as adespoton. Therefore the geras should be freely made available to new owners through an auction. After the report (text 6), Onnophris alone sends several petitions, until finally in 184 Amenneus and Onnophris make an offer to buy the geras from the royal treasury (text 10). Then we have a petition complaining how this offer has been treated (text 11) and, most interestingly, some official correspondence (text 12) describing how the matter proceeded after April 184. Text 14 is a contract of division, but it is so fragmentary that we do not have proper dating or the details of what exactly is being divided. The last document in the edition, a Demotic draft of a petition, was also written after April 184 but is too fragmentary to give us details how this dispute ended.

These papyri deal with an intriguing topic and it is good to have this edition in our hands, shedding more light on the turbulent period of the revolt. However, as an editor of primary sources which other scholars (historians and linguists, for example) will later rely on, Armoni has left out some essential data. We are not provided with any information where, when, and how the papyri became a part of the Cologne collection.2 Discussion of how these texts came together and who was likely to be the keeper of the archive would make it easier to decide whether it is valid to call this an archive.3 Armoni does state in the beginning that these documents are drafts. Therefore it seems likely that they were stored together among the personal papers of one of the antagonists. However, the discussion of the grounds on which these papyri are said to be drafts is also lacking.4

Nor is there any discussion of the handwriting. It would be useful to know whether the editor, as the most qualified expert on the texts, thinks that some of the texts were written in the same handwriting; then we could make assumptions on how the drafting and writing processes went and whose language we are dealing with (the photographs make the comparison of hands difficult because the scale is not the same in all of them and you cannot place the pages side by side). The bilingual nature of the dossier makes the texts interesting for a linguist as well as someone studying scribal practices. We seem to have evidence that first a Demotic version was made, then a Greek draft — or even two — before the final version, which was then sent and has not survived. That tells us something about linguistic skills and literacy. Hence it would be good to have the editor's opinion whether some of the texts were written by the same hand.

There is some inconsistency in including the apparatus criticus in the editions. Text 1 does not have an apparatus: the suggested standard forms of words are presented in the commentary. Text 2 contains an apparatus, but not text 3 — and so on. Some hastiness is reflected also in the fact that the lacunae do not contain any estimation of the number of missing letters. Some minor typos exist, but they are not grave: the document number in the last photograph should be 15, not 14, and there are some letters in Greek font in the translation of text 12.

Despite these gaps, this edition is an important contribution both for the legal and administrative history of Hellenistic Egypt as well as for studying scribal practices and language through papyrological archives. One hopes that some of the aspects mentioned above will be discussed in separate studies.


1.   See A.-E. Veïsse, Les "revoltes égyptiennes": recherches sur les troubles intérieurs en Égypte du règne de Ptolémée III Evergète à la conquête romaine. Studia Hellenistica 41. Leuven: Peeters 2004.
2.   The inventory numbers (for which a concordance is not provided) are all between 21353–21379, so it seems the papyri were acquired at the same time. It would be interesting to know why some papyri within that inventory number range are not part of this publication.
3.   Later compilation of texts dealing with the same people and subject matter was not necessarily an archive in antiquity. See the discussion on definitions of archives and dossiers in B. Van Beek, "Ancient Archives and Modern Collections. The Leuven Homepage of Papyrus Archives and Collections" in Jaakko Frösén, Tiina Purola, Erja Salmenkivi (eds.), Proceedings of the 24th International Congress of Papyrology, Helsinki, 1–7 August, 2004. Two vols. Comm. Hum. Litt. 122:1–2. Helsinki: The Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters 2007, 1033–1044.
4.   Some of them have another text on the other side, but nine of them do not and for some we even have two versions. And many texts seem to have corrections between the lines. But all this is left to the reader to figure out, and the reader may not have papyrological training.

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