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”

Law and the Art of Bookroll Maintenance

Mark de Kreij In 133 CE Herakleides-Valerius, inhabitant of Antinoupolis, which had only recently been founded, put his signature to a brief document renouncing his father Herakleides’ inheritance. He came to his decision because his father had become embroiled in a protracted dispute over the state of the public archives of the Fayum. By thisContinue reading “Law and the Art of Bookroll Maintenance”

Death Declarations: The Bureaucracy of Death in Roman Egypt

Jennifer Cromwell In year 7 of the reign of Emperor Claudius, a widow Tapapeis daughter of Pasis submitted a declaration of the death of her husband Abeis son of Horos. In accordance with Roman law, she acts with a male guardian, her relative Adrastos. “To the royal secretary Hermaios from Tapapeis, daughter of Pasis, actingContinue reading “Death Declarations: The Bureaucracy of Death in Roman Egypt”

Imperial Decrees, Animal Sacrifices, and Christian Persecution

Jennifer Cromwell On 17 June 250 CE, Aurelius Sakis had a certificate drawn up that proved he and his children Aion and Heras had participated in the sacrifice of an animal to pagan gods. Two other men, Aurelius Serenus and Aurelius Hermas witness the declaration, confirming that they had actually witnessed the sacrifice. “To thoseContinue reading “Imperial Decrees, Animal Sacrifices, and Christian Persecution”

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”

“… like he’s somebody …”: Runaway Slaves in Roman Egypt

Jennifer Cromwell At some point during the third century CE, a slave-owner wrote a notice of a runaway enslaved man. The tall, thin Egyptian man in his early thirties – a weaver by trade – had gone missing and a reward was out for his return. The description of him, given by his owners, is particularly unflattering:Continue reading ““… like he’s somebody …”: Runaway Slaves in Roman Egypt”

An Egyptian Christmas Carol

Ágnes Mihálykó What did late antique Egyptians sing about at Christmas? Angels, shepherds, and the Virgin Mary, of course.Angels have the main role in what appears to be the earliest manuscript of a Christmas carol, preserved in Greek on a papyrus from the city of Hermopolis (modern el-Ashmunein) in Middle Egypt, Berlin P. 11842. TheContinue reading “An Egyptian Christmas Carol”

Student Life in the 2nd Century CE

Some time around the turn of the 2nd century CE, a student – probably in Alexandria – wrote back to his father Theon to complain about various parts of student life. Unfortunately, the name of the student isn’t mentioned, so he remains anonymous. But his litany of complaints nevertheless will almost certainly strike a chord with manyContinue reading “Student Life in the 2nd Century CE”

Baby Exposed, Baby Snatched, Roman Egypt-Style

Katherine Blouin Babies being abandoned by or snatched from their family is, sadly, not a recent phenomenon. One papyrus from 1st-century CE Oxyrhynchus offers a glimpse into how these scenarios were legally dealt with when Egypt was ruled by the Romans. The document contains extracts from the court proceedings of Tiberius Claudius Pasion, who wasContinue reading “Baby Exposed, Baby Snatched, Roman Egypt-Style”

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”