A Brief Account of Marriage

Jennifer Cromwell Marriage in Egyptian villages was a pretty informal affair. Few legal documents were written concerning marriage, and few texts discuss particulars – unless something goes wrong. The most important aspect of marriage was cohabitation. Early periods of Egyptian history refer to the entering and leaving of houses, while Coptic texts typically refer to spousesContinue reading “A Brief Account of Marriage”

Spell to Attract a Woman

Jennifer Cromwell “For a woman’s love: a really effective charm.You should write these things on a tin sheet.” So begins the text of a Coptic magical spell from the 6th/7th century. The things that should be written on the tin sheet are magical signs, drawn on the papyrus for reference and to be copied out whenContinue reading “Spell to Attract a Woman”

The Powers of Hell: A Deadly Curse from Medieval Egypt

Korshi Dosoo Somewhere in Upper Egypt, around the tenth century CE, someone wanted to destroy a man named Haron. They took a pair of rib bones from a large animal, perhaps a cow or a camel, still wet with gristle, and they wrote a curse three times, on both sides of one rib, and oneContinue reading “The Powers of Hell: A Deadly Curse from Medieval Egypt”

Warm Hoopoe’s Blood for the Eyes: A Coptic Remedy

Jennifer Cromwell Ever suffered from dry eyes? A late Coptic medical text may have the cure for you! Written on a small piece of parchment, probably in the 11th century CE, the remedy requires just two ingredients: the warm blood of a hoopoe and cardamom. “For eyes starting to cry salt: heated hoopoe’s blood andContinue reading “Warm Hoopoe’s Blood for the Eyes: A Coptic Remedy”

Protecting the Tax-Payer, Protecting the Tax Man

Jennifer Cromwell On 17 April 731, an Egyptian priest John son of the late Victor wrote a declaration for the state treasury, represented by the Muslim official Rashid. He had paid two gold coins (holokottinos in the document) for his village’s taxes, representing the headman, Peter. However, it turned out that he – and so hisContinue reading “Protecting the Tax-Payer, Protecting the Tax Man”

Thinking about Translations

Jennifer Cromwell What are we doing when we translate ancient texts and who are we doing it for? These questions have been on my mind for a while, and they lie behind a lot of my pieces for Papyrus Stories. Thinking about translation is not anything new. Texts have been translated into other languages sinceContinue reading “Thinking about Translations”

Parental Grief and Child Mortality

Jennifer Cromwell At birth, there was only a 66 per cent chance of celebrating your first birthday: one-third of all new-borns in the ancient world died before reaching that milestone. Once a child reached the age of five, their life-expectancy rose considerably, but the loss of at least one child was something that every parentContinue reading “Parental Grief and Child Mortality”

Sickness, Treatments, and Medical Books in Late Antique Egyptian Villages

Jennifer Cromwell “I greet my Father Athanasios. I spoke to you about the medical book. I often wanted to come south, but looking after here has not allowed me to come south. I wanted to come south, (but) the roads prevented me. Now, please send it to me, either (by) Pmoute or give it toContinue reading “Sickness, Treatments, and Medical Books in Late Antique Egyptian Villages”

The Governor’s Orders

Eline Scheerlinck *This blog post was originally posted on the website of the European Research Council project, “Embedding Conquest”, and was reposted on the Leiden Islam Blog. With many thanks to the author and the original hosts for allowing the story to be reposted here. Have you ever wondered what the Arab conquests of Egypt meantContinue reading “The Governor’s Orders”

Pay After Reading: The Cost of Education in Late Antique Egyptian Villages

Jennifer Cromwell In the ancient world, education – learning to read and write – wasn’t a right and was accessible by only a small number of people. Only 5–10% of the population was literate. But what does this mean, what constitutes being literate? Does being able to write basic sentences fit the bill, or do you needContinue reading “Pay After Reading: The Cost of Education in Late Antique Egyptian Villages”