Greek Texts

An Army Family at a Time of Revolt
By Jenny 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. Read more here.

A Cow by Any Other Name
By Jenny 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 number of papyrus documents that have survived. As important as this archive is and as much as it has been studied for Roman military history, a sale contract from this group catches the eye for a completely different reason. Soldiers named their cows. … Read more here.

An Egyptian Christmas Carol
By Ágnes Mihálykó
What did late antique Egyptians sing about at Christmas? Angels, shepherds, and the Virgin Mary, of course. Read more here.

Ancient Same Sex Love Spells
By Jenny 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. Read more here.

Baby Exposed, Baby Snatched, Roman Egypt-Style
By 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. Read more here.

Bee Stories
By Jenny Cromwell
Whether it was for consumption, offerings to the gods, or for healing wounds, honey was important in ancient Egypt and so were bees. Read more here.

Death of a Slave Boy
By Jenny 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? Read more here.

Deep Purple: Dyeing Egyptian Textiles 
By 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. Read more here.

How to be Successful in Life (Fourth-Century Style)
By 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. Read more here.

Imperial Decrees, Animal Sacrifices, and Christian Persecution
By Jenny 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. Read more here.

Kittens for Bastet
By Jenny 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 to donate! Read more here.

Law and the Art of Bookroll Maintenance
By 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. Read more here.

“…like he’s somebody…”: Runaway Slaves in Roman Egypt
By Jenny 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. Read more here.

Music for the Masses
By 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! Read more here.

On a Document Signed by Cleopatra
By Jenny 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. Read more here.

Police Brutality in Ptolemaic Egypt
By Jenny 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 his back. Read more here.

Student Life in the Second Century CE
By Jenny Cromwell
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. Read more here.