Settling Disputes, Casting Lots

By Jennifer Cromwell Families in late antique Egypt regularly fought over property rights. At least, that’s the impression given by the textual record from some villages, among which a common category of legal documents is those that record settlements of disputes. It is not always clear, though, if the disputes were hostile or simply thatContinue reading “Settling Disputes, Casting Lots”

A Fake Patchwork of Genuine Fragments

Jennifer Cromwell At a quick glance, a Coptic document today in the collection of the Università di Genova (Italy) looks pretty standard. There is some damage at the edges and a few small holes in the middle. But, otherwise, it looks quite well preserved. However, on closer inspection, things aren’t as they seem. While theContinue reading “A Fake Patchwork of Genuine Fragments”

A Woman Doing Business

Jennifer Cromwell A short letter from Antinoopolis (Sheikh Ibada) in central Egypt gives a glimpse into the life of a woman living in a major city sometime around the 7th century CE. In this letter, Tagape the daughter of Tromres (or possibly Tagape the woman from the south, as her mother’s name here could be readContinue reading “A Woman Doing Business”

Ancient Same Sex Love Spells

Jennifer Cromwell Magic in the ancient world provided one means to help people deal with what life threw at them, whether health, money, or love, among the whole gambit of human day-to-day experiences. In some cases, spells were written for certain people, with the object of the spell as well as the spell’s user namedContinue reading “Ancient Same Sex Love Spells”

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”

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”

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”

Caring for Cows in Ancient Egypt

Jennifer Cromwell Tomb scenes and models show how important cattle were in ancient Egypt. From birthing to butchery, we see the experiences and uses of cattle. Not only did they provide food (for the living and the dead, as well as the gods) and leather, they were also essential for agriculture. We see them depictedContinue reading “Caring for Cows in Ancient Egypt”