“Carrying on the art”: Hieroglyph Carvers in Roman Egypt

The year 2022 marks the 200-year anniversary of the modern decipherment of hieroglyphs by Jean-François Champollion. While hieroglyphs are synonymous with ancient Egypt, they continued to be used throughout the centuries of Ptolemaic and Roman rule, although in increasingly restricted areas of use and with fewer and fewer people bearing the knowledge to produce them.Continue reading ““Carrying on the art”: Hieroglyph Carvers in Roman Egypt”

Death of a Slave Boy

Jennifer Cromwell Cymbals struck as festival performers wound their way through the village’s streets . But then tragedy struck. Leaning over the balcony to view the players below, a young slave boy Epaphroditos fell and died. Was it an accident? Was it murder?This tragic event took place in year 23 of the reign of the emperor CommodusContinue reading “Death of a Slave Boy”

A Cow by Any Other Name

Jennifer Cromwell An archive from the Fayum dated to the 340s CE opens a window onto the life of a Roman garrison commander in Egypt. Flavius Abinnaeus was appointed to the command of the cavalry unit (ala) at Dionysias in the western part of the Fayum, and his professional and private activities are known from a numberContinue reading “A Cow by Any Other Name”

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”

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”

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”

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”

Deep Purple: Dyeing Egyptian Textiles

Daniel Soliman The oldest preserved textiles from Egypt, woven in linen, date back to around 2900 BCE. Because it is difficult to dye linen, the Egyptians preferred their linen clothing bright white and sometimes translucent. Colours were used sparsely to decorate clothes, mostly with black, blue, red, yellow and green dyes. Influenced by Greek andContinue reading “Deep Purple: Dyeing Egyptian Textiles”

Kittens for Bastet

Jennifer Cromwell and Luigi Prada On 20th April, either 202 or 178 BCE, an embalmer named Onnophris wrote to Machatas, an official (epistates) in the village of Tanis in the Fayum semi-oasis, concerning kittens he had donated to the cat-goddess Bastet (also known by her Greek name of Boubastis), or at least had intended toContinue reading “Kittens for Bastet”