“If God saves him from death”: Donation of a boy to a Coptic monastery

Jennifer Cromwell On the 29 August 766 CE, a woman named Tachel daughter of Sophia from Luxor (ancient Apê) donated her son Athanasius to a local monastery, the monastery of Apa Phoibammon at Deir el-Bahri. “In this current 5th indiction year, an infant boy was born to me, the woman and free person Tachel, inContinue reading ““If God saves him from death”: Donation of a boy to a Coptic monastery”

Camel, O Camel: On Camels in Ancient Egypt

Jennifer Cromwell I recently bought my first ever Playmobil set: Egyptian Warrior with Camel. It’s only taken me thirty odd years. But I can’t resist a camel. And this kit evokes one of the key images that comes to mind when we think of ancient Egypt: the quintessential image of camels in front of theContinue reading “Camel, O Camel: On Camels in Ancient Egypt”

How to be Successful in Life (Fourth-Century Style)

Ágnes Mihálykó What did a young man in the fourth century CE wish from life? Not much different from what young men today might desire: professional success, favour with others, and, of course, women.His means of attaining his goals were, however, not that familiar to the modern reader. He resorted to a long roll filledContinue reading “How to be Successful in Life (Fourth-Century Style)”

Jealousy, Bullying, and Broken Thumbs

Jennifer Cromwell While texts from day-to-day life provide immediate insights into the very personal concerns of individuals living in the ancient world, literary works also give glimpses into different aspects of daily life, even if their accounts may be embellished. In the Life and Martyrdom of two saints, Panine and Panew, the story begins withContinue reading “Jealousy, Bullying, and Broken Thumbs”

Renting, Tenants, and Landlords in Egypt

Jennifer Cromwell There are several constants in life. Taxes, prostitution, death, and renting. Whether moving to a new city or new country, you need a place to live and for many this means navigating the vagaries of letting agents, landlords, and contracts. Having just moved to a new city – in my third country in sevenContinue reading “Renting, Tenants, and Landlords in Egypt”

Bee Stories

Jennifer Cromwell In honour of World Bee Day: 17 August Whether it was for consumption, offerings to the gods, or for healing wounds, honey was important in ancient Egypt and so were bees. The honey bee is one of the earliest known hieroglyphs and was a symbol of kingship itself – together with the sedge sign,Continue reading “Bee Stories”

Potential Paternity Problem

Jennifer Cromwell Where in the ancient world could you turn when you had a serious family scandal to talk about? Well, in western Thebes in the early 7th century, one option was to write to local church figures. A papyrus preserves a letter from a man, seeking advice about another man’s paternity problem. The beginningContinue reading “Potential Paternity Problem”

A Runaway Child Bride

Jennifer Cromwell How early was too early to marry in the ancient world? If the answer is connected to being an adult, then what is an adult? And does that question differ for men and women? Is it simply a question of reaching sexual maturity (puberty), which was older in the ancient world than itContinue reading “A Runaway Child Bride”

An Angry Tax Man

Jennifer Cromwell Following the Arab conquest of Egypt in 641 CE (or Islamic conquest, it’s frequently referred to as both or either), a new tax was added to the growing list of impositions placed on the country’s population: the poll tax, payable by all non-Muslim adult males. For over two centuries after the conquest, theContinue reading “An Angry Tax Man”

“My milk being good from both breasts”

Jennifer Cromwell In a Coptic letter from the 7th century CE, a wet nurse Maria expresses her grief and condolences over the death of a young girl (P.Amh. II 188 desc.; edition by Alain Delattre et al., 2018). “My heart grieved when I heard about my daughter, that she had died.” Maria then goes on to wishContinue reading ““My milk being good from both breasts””