Music for the Masses

Mark de Kreij In this time of social distancing, enjoying music in public seems a distant memory, and since social get-togethers and musical events are all currently off the table, the study of song and festival in the ancient world can at least provide us with vicarious cultural experiences! The following texts all offer glimpsesContinue reading “Music for the Masses”

Jesus Christ before me, Iao Sabaoth Adonai behind me: A Prayer for Good Luck and Protection

Ágnes Mihálykó What would you ask from God in a morning prayer? Success for your business? No fights with your husband/wife/children/boss? Or, quite simply having God in front of you, behind you, by your left and by your right, to guide you and protect you throughout the day? A Christian by the name of Besodoros,Continue reading “Jesus Christ before me, Iao Sabaoth Adonai behind me: A Prayer for Good Luck and Protection”

Struggling to Provide

Jennifer Cromwell In early December, one year in the seventh century, a man called Damianos from the Fayum asked for a cash loan and was given it from another man, Shenoute. Short loan contracts such as this one are pretty common, although the amount and type of details provided vary from case to case. WhatContinue reading “Struggling to Provide”

An Army Family at a Time of Revolt

Jennifer Cromwell In 297 CE, the usurper Lucius Domitius Domitianus led a revolt against the emperor Diocletian, proclaiming himself emperor and ruling Egypt for almost a year. From this same time survives an archive from an army family, consisting of nine letters written on papyrus. All nine texts were found at the village Philadelphia inContinue reading “An Army Family at a Time of Revolt”

A Confirmed Bachelor Wishes to Marry

Jelly Bruning “My first words to you are those of a tradition on the authority the Prophet—God bless him and grant him peace—, which relates that …” With these quite unusual words begins P.Khalili I 18, an Arabic letter written on papyrus in the late ninth century CE. Arabic letters of this time usually start withContinue reading “A Confirmed Bachelor Wishes to Marry”

A Coptic Mother-in-Law’s Curse

Ágnes Mihálykó Adam and Eve were the luckiest couple in the world: neither of them had a mother-in-law! Many of us would heartily agree with this joke – not just in our times, but also in antiquity. Yet, among the many harpies of mother-in-laws, few are as mean as the unnamed Coptic woman who castContinue reading “A Coptic Mother-in-Law’s Curse”

On A Document Signed by Cleopatra

Jennifer Cromwell On 23 February 33 BCE, the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra VII, issued a royal ordinance granting financial privileges to a Roman absentee landlord. These privileges include tax exemptions and protection of his workers and other property from various impositions. More than the economic implications of this document, and the role of absentee RomanContinue reading “On A Document Signed by Cleopatra”

Mob Rule and Personal Relations in an Egyptian Village

Jennifer Cromwell One night, an angry mob marched across the Egyptian village Deir el-Medina with the intention of beating up a woman. The woman’s crime? She had been sleeping with a married man for the past eight months.  “Your people – their old and their young, both men and women – were on the move atContinue reading “Mob Rule and Personal Relations in an Egyptian Village”

Blessing a Baby Against Every Illness

Ágnes Mihálykó Christians of Egypt received blessing from the church in many forms: as prayers of inclination at the end of the Eucharist, when the celebrant blessed the congregation before their departure, as private blessings issued by holy monks, or as material blessings (eulogiai), such as oil from a pilgrimage centre. There were blessings forContinue reading “Blessing a Baby Against Every Illness”

Police Brutality in Ptolemaic Egypt

Jennifer Cromwell On 14 September 194 BCE, the chief of police of the Polemon district and several other men raided the workshop of Petermouthis son of Peteësis. Forcibly removing him from his workshop, they dragged him through his village, Oxyrhyncha, physically abusing him and ultimately taking from him money and even the shirt off hisContinue reading “Police Brutality in Ptolemaic Egypt”