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date: 26 June 2022

Egyptian Law, Saite to Roman Periods

Abstract and Keywords

This article treats the development of the Egyptian legal system from the Saite to the Roman period (664 BCE to about 150 CE). It addresses the much-disputed question of whether one can speak about a codification under Darius I and presents the known sources for the Egyptian legal corpus, fragments of which are preserved in demotic and Greek manuscripts, and for its accompanying didactic manual. The formation and activities of judges and notary scribes are described, characteristics of demotic legal documents, the different types that were in use, and their development over time are explained, and the best attested areas of Egyptian law—property transfer by sale, matrimonial property settlements and maintenance obligations, tenancy, credits and indebtedness, and heritage—are outlined through evidence from primary sources.

Keywords: Egyptian indigenous courts, Egyptian law collection, notary style / letter style legal documents, notary scribes, property transfer, marriage settlements, legal order of succession, transfer of inheritance by document, loans and mortgages, land leases

From Laws to Law: The Egyptian Legal Corpus

In their efforts to reunite Egypt after a period of political division during the Third Intermediate Period (ca. 1050–664 BCE), the kings of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty (664–526 BCE) imposed a number of administrative and legal reforms, which included the propagation of a new cursive script (demotic) for documentary and legal texts.1 Juridical terminology changes, new types of legal documents appear, and the phrasing and makeup of already existing document types is modified, which implies new legislation and the distribution of new official templates to the notaries by the central administration.

However, the legal measures of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty seem not to have been put into the shape of a single legal corpus until Darius I ordered a collection of Egyptian law. According to a report on the verso of pBib.Nat. 215, col. c.6–16,2 Darius I in his third regnal year sent a letter to his satrap at Memphis commanding him to unite “the wise men … from among the soldiers, priests, and scribes of Egypt” and to write down “the earlier law of Egypt (pȝ hp (n) Km(.t) n (tȝ) ḥȝ.t), until regnal year 44 of Amasis,” that is, 527 BCE. In spring 526 BCE, after a reign of only a few months, Amasis’s son Psammetichus III had been defeated by Darius’s predecessor Cambyses II.3 It is not stated how far back this collection was supposed to go, but one may assume that the legal reforms of the early Twenty-sixth Dynasty were fully included, and perhaps even the legislation of preceding kings. “Temple matters” were added “in the manner of the law of Egypt,” and a translation of the Egyptian text was drawn up in Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Persian empire.

The redaction of the collection is said to have taken sixteen years, which shows its enormous scope, and it was divided into eight4 subsections called ỉpt: literally, “beaker,” possibly designating a cylindrical metal sheath as protection for papyrus scrolls.5 The old translation, “tablet,”6 clearly influenced by the biblical “tables of the Law” or the Roman “law of the Twelve Tables,” was recently defended by Quack,7 but his argument that Egyptians occasionally did write important documents on metal tablets is not conclusive. The tablets he refers to contain short religious texts and were held in the hand by the priests as an aide-memoire during their service, and it is very unlikely that the complete legal collection would have fitted on just eight tablets, even if inscribed recto-verso. Besides, in all the cases that Quack evokes, the Egyptian word used for “tablet” is not ỉpt, but ʿn. What is more, Diodorus I.75.6 likewise relates that the Egyptian law was redacted in eight volumes, which were posed before the judges during the trial, and the word he uses is βιβλίοι “scrolls” and not πίνακες “tablets.”

Despite this report, some scholars still do not believe in a “codification” of Egyptian law under Darius. Following Frei,8 the report in pBib.nat. 215 verso c.6–16 had been used by biblical scholars to bolster the theory of the imperial authorization of the Torah; as a consequence, those who reject this theory tend to reject the historicity of pBib.nat. 215 verso c.6–16 in the same breath, usually without any background knowledge of Egyptian legal history.9 Others admit that there was some kind of redaction activity under Darius, but object to the term “codification.” Redford, for example, argues that the Saite legal and administrative system was sufficiently elaborate to have brought forth a law collection (or even several) before the Persian period, so that there would have been no need of a codification, pretends that there is no evidence for Egyptian courts using a “codification” or similar systematic law corpus in their judgment; and doubts that Darius could have stopped Egyptian judges using Egyptian law if he had wanted, so that one should not speak of an “imperial authorization.” According to Redford, Darius’s order concerned only the translation of Egyptian laws into Aramaic, with a focus on those laws that concern economic aspects, especially within the temple sphere.10 However, all these arguments can be refuted: seeing that the Saite period was a formative era, it is more plausible that new legislation was first sent out from the chancellery piecemeal, as it was issued. Even if it is likely that compendia of these laws were redacted from time to time, for example at the ascension of a new king, this does not contradict the claim that exactly such an update was ordered by Darius, especially as the probably quite significant number of laws enacted during the forty-four-year rule of Amasis might never have been included in a compendium. Thus, even if partial collections probably existed already, Darius might still have perceived a necessity to reunite them in a single comprehensive and better-organized corpus. Moreover, when looking at the post-Persian period, as is necessary if we want to evaluate whether a law collection that might be the one ordered by Darius was used by Egyptian judges, we find that there actually are strong indications for such a use. Greek and Demotic texts of the Ptolemaic periods refer to a corpus known as “the law(s) of the country” (ὁ νόμος/οἱ νόμοι τῆς χώρας),11 “the law of Egypt” (pȝ hp n Kmy(.t)),12 or just “the law” (pȝ hp)13 as being the juridical basis of Egyptian legal documents and of judgments by the indigenous courts (wpṱ.w / λαοκρίται; see below). This corpus was still referred to in the Roman period14 when Egyptians tried, not always successfully, to convince Roman officials acting as judges to apply “the law(s) of the Egyptians” (ὁ νόμος/οἱ νόμοι τῶν Αἰγυπτίων).15 The use of the singular—occasional in Greek, but regular in Egyptian—is significant, as this shows that at least for the Egyptians, this was a single, unified composition, representing not just a more or less haphazard collection of laws, but “the law.”

What is more, there are fragments of several demotic manuscripts of a law collection: the two best-preserved manuscripts16 are known under the names Zivilprozeßordnung17 and Hermopolis Legal Code.18 In addition, fragments of a second-century CE copy of a third-century BCE Greek translation have been discovered.19 Fragments of two different demotic copies of a didactic legal manual that was obviously used in the training of judges are equally known20—some of the laws cited there are also preserved in the law collection fragments, proving its dependence on the same legal corpus.

The collection contains legal precepts in three different forms:

  1. 1) Fundamental legal positions phrased as statements, for example: “No-one will be able to say ‘These things belong to me because they used to belong to my father’ except the eldest son; he will have power of disposal (solely) by claiming ‘These things belong to me because they used to belong to my father’.”21

  2. 2) Instructions for the judges on how to conduct the examination and how to decide a case by using hypothetical (not anonymized!) cases that take into account various possible starting points and further developments, for example: “If someone leases the fields and the owner of the fields gives him the seed grain and the lessee does not cultivate the fields and takes away the seed grain after the fields have been inundated, leaving them fallow, they [scil. the judges] oblige him nevertheless to pay the harvest rent and the seed grain. If someone leases a field and the owner of the fields gives him seed grain, but the fields are not inundated because it is a year without water, they do not oblige him to pay the harvest rent, but just to give back the seed grain.”22

  3. 3) Templates for legal documents (title deeds, complaints, receipts, etc.), usually introduced by “This is a wording (literally ẖ.t, ‘body’) for the … which one will make” or similar,23 and patterns for oaths. These are inserted in the instructions at the appropriate place, for example: “If someone sues another person saying ‘He took such and such a document from me’ and the other says ‘I did not take it’, they will oblige him to swear an oath: ‘The document of which he says that I took it from him, I have not taken it, I have not caused anyone to take it, I did not do anything at all to have it taken. I did not tear it up [etc.], I did not wipe it out [etc.]’. ”24

Even though by chance none of the laws cited in the preserved process protocols survives in one of the fragmentary law collection manuscripts as well, their terminology and phrasing are identical to those of the laws in the law collection and didactic manual fragments, and their citation method shows that the same corpus is meant.25

No copies of the Aramaic translation of the corpus have hitherto been discovered, but indirect evidence for its existence comes from Aramaic legal documents of the fifth century BCE found at Elephantine, which contain numerous expressions (e.g., šmh “his/her name” for Egyptian (n-)rn=f/=s “(of) his/her name,” i.e., “the aforementioned”26; “You have made my heart content with … ,” “I am far from you concerning … ,” “I will clean it for you”; cf. also the standard description of real estate) that are direct translations from the Egyptian27 and thus most likely were inspired by the document templates in the Aramaic version of the Egyptian legal corpus.28

The earliest preserved copies of the demotic version of the corpus of Egyptian law and of its didactic commentary were written down in the early Ptolemaic period, but internal evidence shows that at least some of the laws recapitulated there date to the Saite period, if not even earlier times.29 Moreover, in one of the manuscripts a subheading containing an Old Persian loan word survives, which indicates that these Ptolemaic period copies do not go back directly to Redford’s hypothetical Saite period law collections, but rather to a text redacted in the Persian period.30 Despite their very fragmentary character, the manuscripts testify to the wide variety of legal domains addressed in the law collection (see the next section), which contradicts Redford’s claim that Darius’s purpose was basically to assure Persian economic and fiscal interests. That Darius would not have been able to stop Egyptians from using their laws is irrelevant, as he obviously did not want to anyway, and in fact quite the opposite: often taken as evidence for the Persian administration’s intrusion upon the internal affairs of an Egyptian temple,31 the satrap’s exhortatory answer to the priests of Elephantine concerning the election of unsuitable candidates for the post of temple administrator32 more likely demonstrates the Persian official’s displeasure with the priests’ not keeping to their own rules and regulations (i.e., the “temple matters” mentioned above), recently included as laws in the royal collection and thus accessible to him via the Aramaic translation.33

Thus, it seems difficult to argue that the corpus of Egyptian law copied and referred to in the Ptolemaic and Roman periods is not the corpus of laws redacted at Darius’s behest, and even more so, to deny this legal collection, which obviously united the claims of exhaustiveness and future validity, the designation “codification.”

Legal Situations Treated in the Surviving Parts of the Law Corpus

Only a small part of the original law corpus is known so far, due to the manuscripts’ fragmentary conservation. The subjects treated in those fragments nevertheless provide a glimpse of the enormous breadth of the original work and thus support the claim that the collection of laws might have been considered comprehensive. They cover (although not necessarily in full): leases and their use in connection with contestations of property titles34 (see “Leases,” below); sʿnḫ documents35 (a special type of maintenance document; see “Matrimonial Property Settlements and Maintenance Obligations,” below); contestations of property titles for real estate and other neighborhood related disputes36; inheritance37 (see also “Transfer and Division of Inheritance,” below); sale of tombs (see “Sales,” below)38; handling of claims based on different types of documents, oral depositions, and so forth, in court39; rules and regulations pertaining to priests and priestly offices40; loans and interest (see “Loans and Other Forms of Indebtedness,” below)41; and servitude (see also “Sales” below).42

Perhaps by pure chance, no laws about how to deal with assault, manslaughter, murder, rape, abduction, and other major crimes survive in the law collection. A selection of such criminal laws is mentioned by Diodorus I.77–78, and evidence from Egyptian sources may one day come forth to confirm or challenge the exactness of his report. It is still uncertain which legal institution was competent to deal with crimes and how this may have changed over time. As in the New Kingdom, it is possible that local judges only dealt with comparatively minor offenses: a case of double murder was brought before the king in the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, and in the Ptolemaic period cases of theft and assault are on the one hand attested in petitions to the police and lower civil administrators, and on the other hand in temple oaths (see the section “Legal Procedure”), and thus seem at least sometimes to have been judged by Egyptian local courts.43 Due to the character of these sources, little is known about punishment. Convicted thieves had to make restitution for the stolen objects or at least their value; an additional fine was not always demanded.44 Victims of assault usually demanded a monetary compensation in their petitions, but it is unclear how the amount was determined; interior regulations of religious associations often contained a catalog of fines payable in cases of offenses committed by members against each other (e.g., injuries, defamation, or adultery with a colleague’s wife), but these cases were obviously dealt with before the assembly (see also the section “Courts and Judges,” below).45

Egyptian Law in Practice

Courts and Judges

In the New Kingdom the jurisdiction had been divided in two levels. Courts (qnb.wt) existed on a regional level, probably in all towns and even villages, and were constituted from local dignitaries: according to a decree of Horemheb (Eighteenth Dynasty, 1319–1292 BCE), of high priests, mayors, and priests. The number of judges seems to have been flexible, with three being a minimum, and they were probably convoked anew (by drawing lots from the number of eligible persons?) for each single session. On a higher level, there were two or three “great courts” (qnb.wt ʿȝ.wt or qnb.wt wr.wt) based in the royal capitals (Thebes, Memphis, and/or Heliopolis), presided over by the vizier(s) or even the king himself; only these great courts had jurisdiction over crimes that were punishable by mutilation or the death penalty, and they also had jurisdiction over cases about land property and those involving officials.46

With the shift from abnormal hieratic to demotic during the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, the local qnb.t courts changed their name: demotic texts now call the local judges nȝ wpṱ.w and the court house pȝ ʿ.wy wpy(.t) “the house/place of judgment” or pȝ ʿ.wy nty ỉw nȝ wpṱ.w n-ỉm=f “the house/place in which the judges are”; the word qnb.t does not survive in demotic except for idiomatic expressions like ḏd qnb.t ỉrm NN “to litigate with NN” or qnb(y).t “legal document to be used as proof in a lawsuit.” Due to a dearth of published process protocols from the Late Period, the earliest known sources for the exact composition of these local wpṱ.w courts date to the Ptolemaic period; at least by this time, they consist of three priests of the local temple.47 It should be recalled here that the Hermopolis Legal Code, the only manuscript of the law collection of which the original archaeological context is known, comes from a temple archive.48 With the didactic manual mentioned above, we have some indications about the modalities of the formation of judges: the text is a sequence of questions and answers covering a wide range of legal knowledge and using citations of laws and legal clauses from the document templates contained in the law collection. Its structure implies that it was used by those studying for the bar to prepare for some sort of exam.49

Muhs claims that the high courts (qnb.wt ʿȝ.wt) no longer existed in the Saite period50; this is certainly true in the sense that the term no longer appears. However, there are indications that the institution itself continued to exist until at least the mid-Twenty-sixth Dynasty. In pRylands 9 XI.18–19, a court session held by Psammetichus I at his residence in a case of double murder is related,51 but this might also refer to direct royal justice without the assistance of other officials as judges. However, in XV.8–11 mention is made of a second plea before the king at his residence, this time Psammetichus II, concerning a priestly position and the corresponding income. The plaintiff was sent off because the king was ill, then decided to file his suit before “the vizier and the judges” by having his deposition taken in “the house of judging.”52 That the vizier is mentioned as well might indicate that the plaintiff is not simply pleading before the local court of the residence town, but before the successor institution of the New Kingdom qnb.t ʿȝ.t.

During the First Persian period (Twenty-seventh Dynasty), an Aramaic document from fifth-century Aswan mentions dyny mdntʾ “judges of the province,”53 who might correspond to the local courts of three judges (wpṱ.w)54: in the same document three persons with Iranian and Babylonian names are explicitly labeled “the three judges.” As the context is extremely broken, it remains unclear whether this means that the Saite court system was extended in the Persian period to non-Egyptian communities, in this case, the garrison town of Aswan, which accordingly appointed the statutory three judges from their own elite, or that the Egyptian local courts of priestly judges were completely replaced by officials of the Persian administration, as maintained by Fried, who points out that all judges known from Aramaic documents bear Iranian (or Babylonian) names.55 Strictly speaking, this is no argument against purely Egyptian communities still having Egyptian judges, as there are, of course, no Aramaic documents preserved there. The information from pBib.Nat. 215 verso c.6–16 about the Aramaic translation of the Egyptian law collection (discussed above) also cuts both ways: the collection in itself implies, on the one hand, that Darius wanted Egyptian law to be applied under his rule (at least, presumably, by and to Egyptians), and on the other hand, that this law was also supposed to be accessible to Persian officials who did not read demotic, and thus that they might at least occasionally have been called upon to judge indigenous Egyptians. Since no demotic process protocols of the Twenty-seventh Dynasty are known (or at least edited), Fried’s claim that the Persians completely abolished Egyptian courts is an argumentum e silentio.

Another problem is posed by the dyny mlkʾ “judges of the king,” who might correspond to the earlier high court(s) in the capital(s).56 Given the evidence of pBerlin P 13489,57 they might (also?) have been active locally, as their court session with the garrison commander of Aswan probably took place there. Either one has to follow Fried’s opinion that in the Persian period there were two kinds of local courts—one of judges appointed by the province (however that was supposed to work), the other of judges appointed directly by the king58—or one might assume that the central high courts became mobile courts of royally appointed magistrates in the Persian period, which would make them forerunners of (or even the inspiration for?) the Ptolemaic χρηματισταί (see below). In any case—and even if one remains skeptical about the complete replacement of the Egyptian local judges by Persian officials—it is likely that these “royal judges” were non-Egyptian functionaries, and it remains questionable whether they were bound to apply Egyptian law when judging Egyptians.59 An allusion to a central high court of the Late Period might be found in the report of Diodorus about pre-Ptolemaic juridical practice (I.75.3–6), describing a court of thirty men from Thebes, Memphis, and Heliopolis presided over by a high judge wearing a precious stone pendant of “Truth” (i.e., a figure of the goddess Maat, often shown to be worn by viziers), but it is not clear at all to which period exactly he (or rather his source, Hekataios of Abdera) refers.60

No primary sources about either local or central courts are available for the period from the Twenty-eighth Dynasty to the Second Persian period. As the wpṱ.w reappear in the better documented Ptolemaic period, it is probable that they simply had continued to be active.

After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, more and more Greek settlers appeared in the country, and with them the juridical systems of their hometowns. The three Greek poleis Alexandria, Ptolemais, and Naucratis undoubtedly had their own full set of Greek juridical institutions, those of Alexandria being calqued on the Athenian legal constitution.61 But larger Egyptian towns with significant Greek populations also possessed Greek courts (δικαστήρια) of usually ten judges (δικασταί), who were chosen from among the local elites by drawing lots. The Ptolemaic king was the highest judge; to initiate a lawsuit, Greeks and Egyptians alike had to address a petition (ἔντευξις) to him.62 Of course the king only rarely became active himself, and generally these petitions did not even reach him personally, but were handed to a district level functionary, usually the nome governor (στρατηγός), who either decided on the spot or ordered one of his subordinates to attempt an arbitration to reconcile the parties. If this did not succeed, the functionary decided whether to hand the case to a Greek magistrate to be judged or to assign it to the appropriate Greek or Egyptian court.63 Greek documents call these last λαοκρίται “judges of the people” (with λαός in the slightly deprecative sense of “common people, indigenous population” as opposed to Ἕλληνες), which has led some scholars to doubt that their adjudications were legally binding, because they pretend that there was a difference in meaning between κρίνειν and δικάζειν, with the first supposedly meaning “to arbitrate” and the second “to judge.”64 But not only can no such distinction be discerned in the Greek material from Ptolemaic Egypt—κρίνειν and δικάζειν are used interchangeably for “to judge,” while “to arbitrate” is expressed by διάλυσειν65—the choice of κρίνειν over δικάζειν is easily explained by the fact that κρίνειν, like wpy (and its pre-demotic equivalent wḏʿ), has the basic meaning “to separate, divide, split up,” and κρίται is thus a more literal translation of wpṱ.w. The claim that the judgments of wpṱ.w/λαοκρίται had no real authority because they supposedly could not be implemented immediately and depended on the losing party’s agreement to draw up a “document of being far” (see “Legal Procedure” and “Sales,” below)66 misconstrues the basic workings of Egyptian jurisdiction: it was exactly by forcing the losing party to draw up this document that the Egyptian judges implemented their judgment.67

In order to fully integrate these Egyptian tribunals into the Ptolemaic legal system, they, like the Greek courts, were each assigned a Greek official (εἰσαγογεύς), who was charged with preparing the cases and summoning the parties and also made sure that the documents adduced as evidence were valid.68 At some point before 258 BCE, Ptolemy II69 introduced mobile courts (χρηματισταί),70 whose three members were chosen for a comparatively short term of office from among the polis elites. They were considered direct delegates of the king; as such, no appeal was possible against their judgment.71 In the second and first centuries BCE, the χρηματισταί became permanently installed in different districts.72 Cases in which Egyptians pled against Egyptians before the χρηματισταί are attested,73 and one wonders why these were not brought before an Egyptian λαοκρίται court, as a trial before the χρηματισταί meant that all Egyptian documents had to be translated into Greek first. The problem of which court was competent—hitherto seemingly decided on an ad hoc basis by the officials who dealt with the ἔντευξεις—was finally decided by a decree of 118 BCE: the language of the document on which the claim was based now determined whether the χρηματισταί or the λαοκρίται courts were to judge the case.74 Curiously enough, the decree in question is actually the last securely dated attestation of the Greek word λαοκρίται; while this has been taken by some scholars as a sign that, despite this decree, the λαοκρίται were soon superseded by the χρηματισταί,75 this could equally well be explained by the immediate effect of the decree: if the decision to pass a case on to the Egyptian courts was no longer made on a case-by-case basis by a Greek official, but was regulated by law, this would of course significantly diminish their mention in the Greek documentation. However, it has to be noted that in 51 BCE a case concerning an Egyptian marriage settlement document was indeed decided before the χρηματισταί and not the λαοκρίται.76

It is interesting to note that many Egyptian religious associations, from at least 223 BCE onward, stipulate in their rules and regulations that members had to sue each other before a court formed by “those of the ‘house’” (i.e., the priests of the temple with which they were associated or even their comembers within the association?) instead of before the predominantly Greek administrative authorities (ṯs sḥn rmṯ ỉ.ỉr sḫy “commander, administrator [or other] man in power”), and that they were not to appeal against a judgment from the temple authorities before these administrative authorities, or they would incur sometimes quite heavy fines.77 In one case, there was also a fine for anyone who appeals against a judgment from “those of the house” before another religious association—but only if he loses his case again.78 This shows that the underlying motivation was probably not simply to keep one’s problems within the community, but perhaps also to bind the members of the associations to Egyptian law, which was not necessarily applied by Ptolemaic officials acting as judges.79 It might be from these internal courts of religious associations that the last temple oaths came (see the section “Legal Procedure”),80 as it remains doubtful whether Egyptian courts officially survived into the Roman period. All juridical activities seem to have been taken over by Roman officials, the foremost being the prefect as representative of the emperor, who either gave judgment on his yearly visits to selected towns in the countryside (χώρα) or delegated decisions to subordinates. The iuridicus Alexandreae (Greek δικαιοδότης) and the responsible (curator) for the imperial exchequer (ἴδιος λόγος) also held judicial responsibilities.81 None of these Roman officials were in any way bound to apply Egyptian law, although they occasionally did so; several Greek process protocols of the Roman period make reference to the corpus of Egyptian law, presumably using the Greek version, copies of which still circulated in the mid-second century CE (see the section “From Laws to Law”).

Legal Procedure

It remains unclear how one approached the Egyptian court in the pre-Ptolemaic period. As mentioned above, a petition to the king was necessary in the Ptolemaic period, at least in the third and second centuries BCE. The procedure proper started with the deposition of a written statement of one’s claim that was handed to the defendant. The latter answered with a writ of his own, to which the plaintiff responded again; the plaintiff then wrote a final statement, and all four documents were handed to the judges.82 The Egyptian legal system knew no lawyers83; the parties were expected to simply state their case, and the judges were supposed to identify the applicable laws—for this, they had been formed to find their way around the law corpus (see the sections “From Laws to Law” and “Courts and Judges”). As many Egyptians, and especially women, were illiterate, most parties probably needed (and could get) some kind of unofficial legal help through the scribes who wrote down their statements for them, even if just by putting their reports in coherent form.

The parties were then summoned to the “house/place of judgment,” which could be a building or an open air space in the shade of a temple gateway or similar public place.84 Their writs were read before them, and they were asked to confirm their statements. Even though women, according to Egyptian law, had full legal capacity and did not need a guardian to act for them, it seems to have been common that they chose to be represented by a man who spoke for them in court; compare the judges’ question to the female claimant at the beginning of a process in 170/171 BCE: “Is there a man who makes your plea?”85 The parties were questioned by the judges, and the documents on which their claims were based were brought forward, authenticated, and read in court; claims that could not be corroborated by a document had to be sworn to. The judges had comparatively little leeway in conducting their instruction, as the procedure to be followed for a given scenario, down to the phrasing of oaths, was established in detail by the regulations of the law corpus.86 If the outcome of a case depended on one of the parties’ agreeing or refusing to swear the oath preformulated by the judges, the session was interrupted, and the party in question was sent to the place in the temple precinct where oaths usually were taken (hence the appellation “temple oath”), together with witnesses and an ostracon (inscribed pottery sherd or stone flake) or piece of papyrus on which the oath was written.87

In their final decision, the judges cited the laws they were basing their verdict on; a protocol of the proceedings, including copies of all documents read in court, was drawn up and presumably filed in an archive. In cases of disputed property, the judges obliged the losing party to have a “document of being far” (see “Sales” below) drawn up, through which the winning party could later prove its title.

Notary Scribes

It is possible that notaries’ offices were already attached to temples in the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, as it is attested in the Ptolemaic period. It is, however, difficult to know whether the notary scribes (sẖ or sẖ qnb(y).t) had to be priests, since they rarely mention other titles in their signatures; if they do, these are in fact priestly.88 The Greek expression μονογράφος implies that there was only one single notary scribe per notary office, but as Arlt has shown, in practice two notary scribes could be employed at the same time in the larger offices, and quite often notary scribes were surrounded by family members or apprentices as helpmates or even official representatives.89

In the Ptolemaic period, notary scribes in Upper Egypt and some Fayum villages tended to have long office terms and often passed the office on to a son, who before this had usually been their representative, resulting in veritable dynasties of notary scribes. In Lower Egypt and parts of the Fayum, shorter office terms, sometimes just one year, were the norm, and there are cases of notary scribes getting back into office after an interval during which other, unrelated scribes had held it.90 These differences can be explained in two ways: either regional traditions prevailed in the absence of legislation on the matter, or the strong southern tradition of hereditary offices simply overruled a legal obligation to appoint notary scribes for a year only, so that outsiders never had a chance to be chosen as long as there were candidates from the established families.

In the Roman period, Egyptian notary scribes, now called νομογράφος, “law scribe” or sẖ qnb(y).t (sẖ mtn) “document scribe (and registration scribe”), often no longer signed.91 At least in the Fayum (and after the reign of Augustus, no demotic legal documents are known from other parts of Egypt)92, the notary’s office (γραφεῖον) was still assigned on a yearly basis,93 and the same incumbent (ὁ πρὸς τῷ γραφείῳ “the one of the notary’s office”) could be reappointed several years in a row or again after several years of absence from the position.94 The new obligation to write not only demotic legal documents, but also the lengthy Greek subscriptions (see “Forms of Legal Documents,” below), initially called for joint ventures between a Greek ὁ πρὸς τῷ γραφείῳ and an Egyptian sẖ qnb.t, but it is likely that in the first century CE Egyptian notary scribes emerged who knew enough Greek to draw up both parts of a document.95

Little is known about the notaries’ training. As model documents were included in the corpus of Egyptian law and questions concerning the typology of legal documents and the correct understanding of document clauses are part of the didactic manual (see the section “From Laws to Law”), one might expect notary scribes to have been schooled together with the judges, that is, at the temple. But while at least in some smaller towns the uniformity of the handwriting used for notary documents and religious texts shows that basic scribal training for candidates of different professions took place in a single school, most likely that of the local temple,96 there are indications that in the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, at any rate, the apprentices’ further formation consisted mainly, if not entirely, of hands-on training in a notary office. By the Ptolemaic period, distinct local variations in the phrasing of the most common document types had emerged.97 Nevertheless, a good notary’s apprentice did not just copy his seniors’ documents, but also learned how to adapt the basic document forms to the parties’ individual requirements.

Forms of Legal Documents

Two forms of demotic legal documents need to be distinguished: the sẖ-document, which has to be drawn up by a notary scribe and authenticated by witness signatures and/or an official registration (see below), and the “letter style” šʿ.t-document, which is drawn up by the party himself (or any other literate person in his name) and also may bear witness signatures, but is not usually registered.98

The form of the document influenced the phrasing of the document frame (introduction and conclusion), but not necessarily the phrasing of the document body. Some kinds of transactions—for example sales, donations, or matrimonial property settlements—needed to be documented by sẖ-document; others, like leases, agreements, work obligations or loans, could be either one or the other. A special subtype of the šʿ.t-documents, known as “double document,” appeared in the Ptolemaic period. It was modeled on the Greek “six-witness-document” (ἑξαμάρτυρος συγγραφή), with a sealed inner part and an open outer part, and was usually used for obligations toward the state authorities, notably warrantor’s guarantees, leases of state monopolies, and loans, often including a promissory oath on the king.99

A specific feature of demotic legal documents is that they are generally unilateral, with the document body phrased as direct speech of the obligated party (issuer of the document) to the beneficiary (recipient of the document). This unilateral statement of obligation became a “contract” between the two parties through the acceptance of the document by the second party. Thus, a demotic legal document, despite bearing a date of issue to which the text referred back as the date from which it was valid (“from today onward, until eternity”), was not in force until the beneficiary actually received it. As a consequence, sales documents could also be used conditionally, that is, as security for loans or maintenance obligations or even as testamentary property transfers. In these cases, the issuer simply handed the document to a trusted third party (ʿrbṱ “document keeper”) instead of the beneficiary or left it with the notary; the beneficiary only received it if—or when—the condition (nonfulfillment of the loan repayment/maintenance obligations or death of the issuer) came to pass.100 It has to be underlined that theses conditions were usually not made explicit in the document text; thus, conditional sales, when found out of context, are often indistinguishable from normal sales. However, certain Ptolemaic period mortgage documents conflate the loan and the conditional sale as security into a single text.101 On the other hand, Roman period mortgage documents sometimes combined the two separate documents—a Greek loan and a demotic sale of real estate (consisting of a sẖ ḏbȝ ḥḏ and a sẖ wy)—on a single sheet of papyrus; if the loan was not repaid in time, the document keeper or notary could simply cut off the loan document and hand what was now a normal sales document for the mortgaged real estate to the creditor102.

The usual, and originally the only, way to guarantee the authenticity of a sẖ-document was through witness signatures—at least four, sometimes also multiples thereof: eight, sixteen or exceptionally even thirty-six, either on the recto underneath the text or on the verso of the papyrus. Seidl thought that the term qnb(y).t designated specifically a sẖ-document with sixteen witness signatures,103 but evidence from the didactic legal manual shows that documents with only four witness signatures could also be labeled as qnb(y).t,104 and possibly even šʿ.t-documents with witness signatures fell under this heading105; the meaning of qnb(y).t seems simply to be “a document that can be used as evidence in court,” as the word is etymologically connected to the pre-demotic word qnb.t “law court” (see above). Until the end of the third century BCE, sẖ-documents could also contain witness copies; that is, some of the witnesses recopied the complete document text in their own handwriting on the recto of the papyrus, which accordingly had to be quite large.106 When the authenticity of the document was contested in court, the witnesses, or if they were deceased, their children, were called upon to testify under oath—in the case of the children, that they recognized their fathers’ handwriting.107

In its efforts to harmonize the coexisting Egyptian and Greek legal systems, the Ptolemaic administration introduced new ways of authentication for the demotic documents. From about 264 BCE onward, copies of legal documents had to be deposited in an archive (κιβωτός, literally “box”); in 146 BCE a decree stipulated that short Greek abstracts had to be added to the demotic legal documents and the key data added in Greek to a register in the local notary office. Only documents that contained the Greek registration note (ἀναγραφή) underneath the demotic text and on which, accordingly, taxes had been paid, were henceforward accepted as evidence in court. In the early Roman period, the registration process became even more sophisticated, as copies now not only had to be kept in the notary office, but also had to be sent to a central archive at Alexandria (Ναναῖον); from 72 CE onward an additional archive in the district capital (βιβλιοθήκη ἐγκτήσιον) watched over property rights that had to be entered in a register.108 During the first years of Roman rule, the Greek subscriptions under the demotic documents were extended: first the issuer, then also the beneficiary now had to add a substantial first-person statement in Greek (the second party, under certain circumstances, could also sign in demotic), either personally or through a writing assistant, presumably because in Roman law unilateral documents were not recognized as valid contracts. These parties’ statements preceded the notary’s Greek abstract of the contract and the registration notice.109 Thus, the demotic legal documents became bilingual documents, although not in the sense that the demotic and Greek texts were completely congruent.110 With these innovations, witness signatures on demotic documents became useless and disappeared completely by the end of the first century BCE, although the phrase “and I have instructed the witnesses to write and the notary official to hand over the document after registration” curiously lingered in the first party’s Greek statement for at least another fifty years.111

Documented Legal Transactions

Since only a comparatively small part of the once quite extensive collection of laws has survived (or been identified and edited), we do not possess the legally prescribed document templates for all types of transactions. Information about the legal minimum requirements and the development of a given document type can also be gleaned through a comprehensive diachronic study of all extant examples, but this has not been done for all types, and new editions continue to add material. Only the most common transaction types are treated here.


The document usually used for sales112 was called sẖ ḏbȝ ḥḏ “document of paying money.” The seller declares that he is content with the money he has received from the buyer (although the amount is not mentioned); describes the sold object; states the transfer of the title to the buyer; and guarantees to act against third-party claims, notably by personally furnishing any kind of proof by document or oath that could be demanded of the buyer to clear his title. Sales documents may contain third-party agreements from persons who have an interest in the sold object, usually the seller’s wife or children, but also of creditors or co-heirs.113

The fact that demotic “documents of paying money” did not state the purchase price allowed the use of this type of document for property transfers for which it may seem doubtful that more than a nominal sum or any money at all was paid, such as between parents and children. If one adds to this the fact that demotic documents became valid in practice only when the beneficiary actually received them, it becomes clear that many of these “sales” between family members might actually have been property transfers mortis causa (see “Transfer and Division of Inheritance” below), although due to a strong aversion to alluding to one’s own death, the issuer did not state this expressly.114

The most common demotic legal documents are those concerning the sale of real estate (e.g., houses, fields, gardens, building plots); the earliest known example is pBM EA 10117 (542 BCE),115 the latest pVienna D 10086 (85 CE).116 From the early Ptolemaic period onward117 a “document of being far” (sẖ wy) was added to the “document of paying money” for sales of real estate.118 This type of document was originally conceived (and up to the Ptolemaic period exclusively used) as an acknowledgment of lack of title resulting from an amiable agreement, a compromise, or a lost process.119 Instead of documenting the transfer of property as a necessary second step in the sales transaction after the agreement on the price in the “document of paying money,” as was formerly believed, the “document of being far” joined with a “document for money payment” is in fact a document anticipating a judgment in favor of the buyer.120 The selling party thus could no longer contest the sale by filing a lawsuit, unless by proving that both documents were forgeries. Occasionally the texts of the “document of paying money” and the “document of being far” were executed on the same papyrus (e.g., pBerlin P 3146, Thebes, 194 BCE; pBerlin P 3101, Thebes, 118 BCE121), and this might even have become the standard practice in the Roman period.122

Sales documents for animals are comparatively frequent in the Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh Dynasties123 and become rarer during the Ptolemaic period124; the last known examples date to 17 BCE.125 Demotic sales documents for slaves are only attested in the pre-Ptolemaic period (earliest example: 517 BCE126; last example: 342–338 BCE127), whereas during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, sales of slaves are exclusively documented in Greek, which might be the effect of an otherwise unattested decree. A special category is the sale of one’s property and of oneself as a slave, presumably to work off debts128—a practice that might be a legal circumvention of the forceful seizure of the debtor’s person by the creditor, which according to Diodorus I.79.3, had been forbidden by Bokchoris (Twenty-fourth Dynasty, ca. 720–716 BCE). This document type was adapted once for an adoption,129 and in the Ptolemaic period quite frequently for self-dedications130—by paying (!) a monthly fee to become the slave of a divinity, the issuer expected to be protected against demons and diseases.131 Demotic sales documents can also concern charges and the income therefrom, for example “temple days” (i.e., income from priestly offices), one “temple day” corresponding to 1/360 of the temple’s yearly income. Occasionally the documents somewhat misleadingly phrase sales of “temple days” as sales of a part of a sanctuary, that is, as a real estate sale.132 Equally, sales concerning offices and income of funerary priests are usually phrased as sales of the tombs for which the service was performed; however, the actual sale of already occupied tombs as real estate was forbidden by law133: The tomb sales documented on two Memphite stela of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, which bear hieratic (Louvre C 101) and hieroglyphic (Florence 1639)COMP “Florence 1639” is not an (author date) citation, but, like “Louvre C101”, an inventory number.?> transcriptions of demotic originals, concern newly built, unoccupied tombs134; pBM 10388 is the sale of a plot on which a tomb was going to be built.135 The sale of “water days,” that is, the right of access to irrigation for a day, was a specialty of the Western Oases.136 It is to be presumed that the sale of moveable objects generally did not have to be recorded, as this would have rendered daily commerce too cumbersome. The few examples of demotic sales documents for movables concern comparatively large and valuable objects (e.g., a loom)137 or involve prepayment (e.g., for wine shipments).138

Matrimonial Property Settlements and Maintenance Obligations

No document was necessary for a marriage as such to be valid139; the common accord of the spouses to live henceforth as man and wife was sufficient. However, to guarantee the woman maintenance and to secure the children’s inheritance right to their father’s property, it was possible to draw up a document either on the day of marriage or later. Following Pestman, three different types can be distinguished.

In documents of type A,140 attested between 535141 and 60 BCE,142 the man states that he has made the woman his wife, that he has given her money as a “woman’s gift,” and that he will give her maintenance in money and kind; in case of a divorce on his initiative, he promises her a further payment of money and/or a third of their joint property, but in case of a divorce on her initiative, she has sometimes to pay back part of her “woman’s gift.” There are two known exceptions to this: pBerlin 3078143 and pLibbey144 are both made by the wife for the husband, and in them the woman promises to pay back part of the “woman’s gift” in case she divorces him and acknowledges that she will lose all rights to her share of their common property in this case; there is no stipulation that the husband has to pay something in case he divorces her. Usually, the eldest son or all the children of their marriage (even if not yet born) are appointed as sole heir(s). Occasionally, the document includes a list of personal objects that the woman has brought into the new household, which the man promises to hand back to her (or to replace if lost or broken) if she leaves him.

Type B145 is the type that is attested the longest (earliest example146: 517 BCE; last known example147: 43 or 53 CE). Here, the man acknowledges that the woman has paid him a sum of money, usually called “money to become wife,” and that he has to pay this money back in case of a divorce, usually within a thirty-day period; the earliest example adds, like some of the documents of type A, that the woman in this case also receives a third of their joint property. Ptolemaic and Roman period examples add to this the obligation to pay the woman maintenance during the marriage and/or in case the man does not pay back the “money to become wife” within the stipulated period; some documents state explicitly that the woman can ask for the money back on her own initiative. The entire possessions of the man are given as security for the fulfillment of these obligations.148

Pestman’s type C149 is called sẖ n sʿnḫ in demotic—a term that often is misleadingly translated as “annuity document.” The earliest surviving example is quite late (365 BCE),150 but documents of this type are attested for the Twenty-sixth Dynasty,151 and a template of a sẖ n sʿnḫ is actually preserved in one of the fragmentary copies of the law collection.152

As in type B, the issuer acknowledges receiving a sum of money, this time called sʿnḫ; he promises to give this money back if he is asked for it, but until then, or if he is unable to pay it back within the stipulated time, he has to provide maintenance (ʿq-ḥbs, literally, “ration (and) clothing”) to the woman. Thus, sʿnḫ does not mean “annuity,” as it is often translated, but refers to the basis on which an annuity can be obtained, as can be seen in O.Manawir 6997, a sales document for one “water day” per month to a woman, possibly the seller’s daughter: the “water day” is described as “your private sʿnḫ,” meaning that by leasing her irrigation rights, she can obtain a permanent income.153 As in type B, the man acknowledges that his entire property serves as guarantee, but at least from the third century BCE onward, it became customary to go one step further by actually mortgaging this property through a conditional sales document (see “Sales,” above), drawn up at the same time as the sʿnḫ document; occasionally, this sale was even written on the same papyrus as the sʿnḫ document.154

While the first two types are explicitly limited to marital situations between issuer and beneficiary, type C could also be (but in practice only rarely was) used to settle maintenance on a daughter-in-law155 or even one’s mother.156 That the broad context of this document type was nevertheless that of a marriage is argued by Johnson, and indeed all “anomalous” cases can be explained by the husband being replaced by either his father (which might have been necessary when the maintenance engaged also his son’s future inheritance as guarantee) or his son, probably after the husband had died.

According to the template and the Saite period attestations, sʿnḫ documents were originally made by a man to another man, with the woman only being mentioned as beneficiary of the maintenance, and the last example for this practice dates to the early Ptolemaic period.157 However, from at least the Thirtieth Dynasty onward, it was also possible to address the woman directly,158 and with the exception just mentioned, this was the usual model in the Ptolemaic period. As women in Egypt had full legal capacity, one might wonder why sʿnḫ documents were originally not addressed directly to them. Johnson argues that this is a relict of a pre-demotic practice, as in abnormal hieratic marriage documents the groom always addressed the father of the bride and never the bride herself,159 but while this is certainly true, the question remains why the father (or another male parent—the template leaves this open) was addressed in the earlier periods and why this practice changed during the fourth century BCE. A possible answer could be that this was caused by a slow rise in the average age at which girls were married: if most of them had been minors and thus unable to act for themselves in the sixth century BCE, by the third century BCE most women might have been adults (according to antique standards) at their marriage. Even though there is little direct evidence for this theory, it might be significant that, while the age of majority in Egypt was probably thirteen or fourteen years in the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, evidence from census lists of the Roman period shows that comparatively few women married under age eighteen.160

Whatever the underlying reasons, the adaptation of the document form to the new custom of addressing the woman directly was unproblematic from a legal point of view, as the law already foresaw that, if the male relative died without having made over the document to someone else, the woman herself could sue her (ex-)husband for eventual arrears of her maintenance.161 Other changes from the original template are the inclusion of a clause about the inheritance rights of the children of the two parties (taken over from document type A), which of course only appears when the woman herself is being addressed by her husband, and of a clause that, without saying so directly, pertains to an eventual divorce: whereas the law seems to have allowed the issuer of a sʿnḫ document to give back the sʿnḫ money of his own accord if he wanted to stop the maintenance payments,162 this option was explicitly excluded in those documents drawn up directly for a woman by adding a clause that gave her alone the right to end the maintenance by asking for her sʿnḫ money. Thus, even if the man wanted to divorce the woman or the woman herself divorced, he still had to pay her maintenance until she herself chose to receive the sʿnḫ money back instead.


Most surviving demotic lease documents are for land (fields, gardens, or orchards).163 Templates for leases of various objects (a field, weaver’s workshop, brewery, poultry farm, shop, garden, etc.) are conserved in the Hermopolis Legal Code,164 although as a sort of parenthesis in the broader context of contestations to a property title: if an object has been leased out for three consecutive years by its possessor (who thus renders his claims to the title public) without anyone having contested him, his title becomes clear.

The demotic documents’ one-sided phrasing, from indebted issuer to beneficiary recipient, poses some problems when the transaction concerns obligations from both parties, which is usually the case in leases: on the one hand the lessor had to guarantee the lessee unmolested use of the object during the time of the lease, and on the other hand the lessee had to promise the payment of the rent and sometimes also of taxes. Nevertheless, most demotic leases followed the traditional unilateral phrasing, but while Upper Egyptian leases were normally issued by the lessee, in the Fayum, the issuer could also be the lessor.165 One option for binding the second party more strongly was the inclusion of a first-person statement of the second party, adapted from the formula originally intended for third-party agreements (see above), and/or an autograph signature of the second party under the document body.

Leases always mention the length of the occupation: in land leases, this was often not a year, but just the “growing period” from sowing to reaping, with the possibility to tacitly renew the contract sometimes being excluded.166 Demotic land leases for 99 years are also attested.167 Land lease documents are quite flexible: they can stipulate that the taxes have to be paid directly by the lessee or be added to the rent payment (if the lessor engages himself to pay them),168 that the rent is to be paid as a fixed sum in advance or as a percentage of the harvest,169 and so forth. Penalties in case one of the parties did not fulfill his obligations were usually symmetrical, but the amount varied from lease to lease, and they could either profit the royal cult (“for the burnt offerings before pharaoh”) or the damaged party, or even both.170

Loans and Other Forms of Indebtedness

When documenting a loan,171 one could either phrase this as a receipt followed by the commitment to pay back, or as a promissory note, that is, an acknowledgment of debt that did not necessarily state how this debt was contracted. In the second case, it is sometimes difficult to know the interest rate, as only the overall debt is ciphered (“capital and interest” or “with its interest included”). Loans in kind were always submitted to 50 percent interest per year, a rate that was clearly meant for grain loans used for sowing, as is also shown by a problem in the didactic manual, where it is explained that the interest of a long-term grain loan is to be calculated not on overall length, but by counting how many times the due day corresponding to the end of the harvest has passed.172 However, the same interest rate of 50 percent is also applied to wine loans, which made buying wine on credit a costly undertaking. Interest rates for money loans were initially very divers, but the compound interest was capped at 100 percent of the capital;173 this law is also mentioned by Diodorus, who ascribes it to Bokchoris.174 Under Ptolemy II, the maximum interest for money loans was limited to 24 percent per year,175 and at least in the first century CE, to 12 percent per year (1 percent per month).176 Failure to repay the loan at the stipulated time resulted in a fee of 50 percent of the amount owed (demotic pȝ 1 r 1 ½ “the one to one-and-a-half,” Greek ἡμιόλιον).

At the end of the second century BCE, demotic notarial documents for money loans disappear177; demotic money loans of the first century BCE are all šʿ.t documents.178 In the Roman period there may even have been a prohibition against using demotic documents for money loans, which led to bilingual loans on mortgage combining a demotic sales document as security with a Greek loan document on the same papyrus.179 However, demotic šʿ.t documents for grain loans were still in use in a temple context until at least the end of the first century BCE.180

Recent research shows that only larger sums were actually lent against mortgages, while smaller sums often were secured by pledges (moveable objects left with the creditor) or through personal warranty of a third party.181

Transfer and Division of Inheritance

Drawing up a document for the transfer of property mortis causa was not obligatory, but if a person died without having made a will, the legal succession was regulated by law182: the property was immediately taken into possession by the deceased person’s eldest son as main heir, or if the deceased had only daughters, the eldest daughter. However, as soon as the younger children demanded their share (if not immediately, probably at the latest when the second eldest sibling reached majority and could act independently), the eldest son had to divide the inheritance or, if he had already sold part or all of the property, the resulting profit. The law corpus presents two possibilities for this division: if the inheritance consisted of various mobile and immobile objects, it could be split into lots that were, necessarily, not of perfectly equal worth; the eldest son then chose his lot first and the other children after him by order of birth, with sons preceding daughters. The second possibility was to divide the property virtually, that is, to split the usufruct among the co-heirs, with the eldest son receiving a double share as well as the shares of all siblings who had died childless between their parent’s death and the division. The law collection prescribed this method explicitly in cases where a single house was the only inheritance.183 The division among the co-heirs would have had to be documented in order to give them full title, and indeed such documents are attested: they often took the form of either donations or fictitious sales from the main heir to each of the co-heir(s), with the co-heir(s) in turn setting up a “document of being far” (see “Sales,” above) for the others’ shares.184 If the division was among several co-heirs, it was also possible to draw up a shareholders’ agreement for each co-heir by the others as a group. These are often referred to as “division documents” because of their characteristic introductory formula: “We have divided with you, you have divided with us .” This type of document is still attested in the first century CE.185

If a person did not want his property to be transferred according to the legal order of succession, he could actively attribute his inheritance or parts of it through notarial documents. By inserting the appropriate clause in a marriage settlement document (see “Matrimonial Property Settlements and Maintenance Obligations,” above), one could designate the eldest son from this marriage as sole heir even before he was born; in this case, the younger siblings later were not able to claim shares from him. However, usually all children from the marriage were designated as heirs in the settlement, thus excluding children from a later marriage unless the first wife and/or the eldest son from the first marriage agreed to their inclusion. This is the moot point of the process reported in pBM 10591 recto, where the judges ruled that, as such an agreement had been made, the younger half-brother of the claimants’ husband did have the right to inherit.186 In any case, without further specifications, the simple mention of the children being heirs in a marriage settlement did not change the division pattern from the one defined by law. If for whatever reason a man did not have this clause included in his marriage settlement, he could have another document drawn up later, for example upon the birth of his first child.187 A person other than the eldest son could also be designated sole heir through a notarial act,188 but nonrelatives probably had to be adopted first: indirect evidence is the adoption document mentioned above, which, however, only states that the adopted is to be considered the adopter’s son and has to act accordingly.189

If a person wanted to divide his property among several heirs, but according to his own designs, he could either assign specific objects to each one of them through fictitious sales documents (see “Sales,” above) or virtual shares of his property through either fictitious sales or share allocation documents; these last are often also referred to as “division documents.”190 In each case, a separate document was made for each beneficiary. As mentioned above, the effectiveness at the death of the issuer was practically never spelled out in these documents.191 A share allocation document is basically a donation that, instead of a specific object, allots a share of one or several objects (e.g., “I have given to you my 1/x part of …”); its phrasing can, however, also follow that of promissory notes instead (“To you belongs a 1/x part of my …”). Often the legator specified the other shareholders and the size of their shares—this also happened sometimes in fictitious sales documents about shares.192

Virtual division was often practiced even if the object was not just a single house, at least as a first step. However, co-heirs sometimes decided later to split up the joint property into distinct lots, such as by separating a field or building ground into plots or dividing a house into apartments.193 If, however, the number of heirs was too large or the property too small, this would have resulted in lots that were of little use to anyone; one of the co-heirs could instead decide to buy out the others, or a third person could successively buy up the co-heirs’ shares.194


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(1) C. Martin, “The Saite ‘Demoticisation’ of Southern Egypt,” in Literacy and the State in the Ancient Mediterranean, ed. K. Lomas, R. Whitehouse, and J. B. Wilkins, Specialist Studies of the Mediterranean 7 (London: Accordia Research Institute, University of London, 2007), 25–38; K. Donker van Heel, “The Lost Battle of Peteamonip Son of Petehorresne,” Egitto e Vicino Oriente 17 (1994): 115–24. (Acta Demotica: Acts of the Fifth international Conference for Demotists, Pisa, 4th–8th September 1993).

(2) W. Spiegelberg, Die sogenannte demotische Chronik des Pap. 215 der Bibliothèque Nationale zu Paris, Demotische Studien 7 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1914). Recent translations of the passage in question are D. Agut-Labordère, “Darius législateur et les sages de l’Egypte: Un addendum au Livre des Ordonnances,” in Élites et pouvoir en Égypte ancienne: Actes du colloque Université Charles-de-Gaulle—Lille 3, 7 et 8 juillet 2006, ed. J. Moreno Garcia, Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille 28 (2009/2010), 353–358; and S. Lippert, “Les codes de lois en Égypte à l’époque perse,” in Legal Codification in Ancient Greece and Ancient Israel, ed. D. Jaillard and Chr. Nihan (Proceedings of the Conference “Codes de lois et lois sacrées: La rédaction et la codification des lois en Grèce et dans l’Israël ancien,” Lausanne, May 5–6, 2011), Beihefte Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz).

(3) J. F. Quack, “Zum Datum der persischen Eroberung Ägyptens unter Kambyses,” Journal of Egyptian History 4 (2011): 228–246.

(4) For the reading of the slightly damaged number, see Lippert, “Les codes de lois en Égypte à l’époque perse.”

(5) C. Nims, “The Term hp ‘Law, Right’ in Demotic,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 7 (1948): 244n13.

(6) H. Thompson, A Family Archive from Siut from Papyri in the British Museum (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934), 53n6.

(7) J. F. Quack, “Das Diktum des Tutu über die Eingabe an Numenios,” in Ägypten zwischen innerem Zwist und äußerem Druck: Die Zeit Ptolemaios’ VI. bis VIII. Internationales Symposion Heidelberg 16.–19. 9. 2007, ed. A. Jördens and J. F. Quack, Philippika 45 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2011), 273–274.

(8) P. Frei, “Zentralgewalt und Lokalautonomie im Achämenidenreich,” in Reichsidee und Reichsorganisation im Perserreich, ed. P. Frei and K. Koch, Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 55 (Fribourg/Switzerland: Universitätsverlag, 1984), 7–43; 2nd ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996), 5–131 (re-edition augmented by a discussion); P. Frei, “Persian Imperial Authorization: A Summary,” in Persia and Torah: The Theory of Imperial Authorization of the Pentateuch, ed. J. W. Watts, Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series 17 (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2001), 5–40.

(9) For example, U. Rütherswörden, “Die persische Reichsautorisation der Thora: Fact or Fiction?” Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 1 (1995): 52–53 [47–61]; for counterarguments, see S. Lippert, “Begegnungen und Kollisionen—Das ägyptische Recht von der Spätzeit bis in die römische Zeit,” Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 16 (2010): 160–161 (Proceedings of the Conference “Konkurrenz und wechselseitiger Einfluß divergenter Rechtsordnungen im Alten Orient,” Münster, March 12–14, 2008), 157–171.

(10) D. B. Redford, “The So-Called ‘Codification’ of Egyptian Law under Darius I,” in Persia and Torah, ed. Watts, 135–159.

(11) E.g., BGU VI 1214 l. 5 (2nd c. BCE); P.Tebt. III.1 776, l. 7–10 (2nd c. BCE); P.Tebt. I 5, l. 216–217 (118 BCE); P.Tor.Choach. 12, 4.16–17 (117 BCE).

(12) pBM 10591 verso, 3.17 (H. Thompson, A Family Archive from Siut from Papyri in the British Museum [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934], 52–53; Quack, “Das Diktum des Tutu,” 272–273).

(13) pCologne 7676, 2.21; 2.24 (H. J. Thissen, “Zwei demotische Prozeßprotokolle,” Egitto e Vicino Oriente 17 [1994]: 286–287).

(14) BGU IV 1148 l. 17 (13 BCE); P.Oxy IV 795 (81–96 CE).

(15) P.Oxy II 237, 7.33 (186 CE); P.Oxy XLII 3015, l. 2–4 (2nd c. CE); Stud.Pal. XX 4, l. 16 (124 CE).

(16) For less well-preserved manuscripts, see S. Lippert, Ein demotisches juristisches Lehrbuch: Untersuchungen zu Papyrus Berlin P 23757 rto, Ägyptologische Abhandlungen 66 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2004), 162–165.

(17) = pBerlin P 13621 + pBerlin P 13621a-d, f + pCairo CG 50108a+b + pGießen UB 101.3 II, III, IV, VIb+VII recto (S. Lippert, “Die sogenannte Zivilprozessordnung: Weitere Fragmente der ägyptischen Gesetzessammlung,” Journal of Juristic Papyrology 33 [2003]: 91–135).

(18) = pCairo JE 89127–89130+89137–89143 recto (editio princeps: G. Mattha, The Demotic Legal Code of Hermopolis West, Bibliothèque d’Étude 45 [Cairo: IFAO, 1975]; K. Donker van Heel, The Legal Manual of Hermopolis [P.Mattha]: Text and Translation, Uitgaven vanwege de Stichting “Het Leids Papyrologisch Instituut” 11 [Leiden: Papyrologisch Instituut, 1991]).

(19) P.Oxy XLVI 3285 (J. R. Rea, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri 46, Graeco-Roman Memoirs 65 [London: 1978], 34; P. W. Pestman, “Le manuel de droit égyptien de Hermoupolis: Les passages transmis en démotique et en grec,” in Textes et études de papyrologie grecque, démotique et copte, ed. P. W. Pestman, Papyrologica Lugduno-Batava 23 [Leiden: 1985], 116n3).

(20) pBerlin P 23757 recto, Akhmîm, 3rd century BCE (Lippert, Ein demotisches juristisches Lehrbuch); and pFlorence Istituto papirologico G. Vitelle s.n. fragm. 1–71 + pCarlsberg 301 fragm. 1–28, Tebtunis, 1st century BCE (E. Bresciani, “Frammenti da un ‘prontuario legale’ demotico da Tebtuni nell’istituto papirologico G. Vitelli di Firenze,” Egitto e Vicino Oriente 4 [1981]: 201–215; M. Chauveau, “P. Carlsberg 301: Le manuel juridique de Tebtynis,” in The Carlsberg Papyri I—Demotic Texts from the Collection, ed. P. J. Frandsen, Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications 15 [Copenhagen: Carsten Niebuhr Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies, 1991] 103–127).

(21) Hermopolis Legal Code 9.32–33 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 107).

(22) Hermopolis Legal Code 2.9–11 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 12–15).

(23) E.g., Hermopolis Legal Code 4.30 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 49).

(24) Zivilprozeßordnung pBerlin 13621+pGießen UB 101.3 VIb recto, 2.16–18 (Lippert, “Die sogenannte Zivilprozessordnung,” 99, 119).

(26) The meaning of this expression was misunderstood by B. Porten, “B33—TAD B2.11 Cowley 28 (Sayce-Cowley K)—Apportionment of Slaves,” in The Elephantine Papyri in English: Three Millennia of Cross-cultural Continuity and Change, by B. Porten et al., Documenta et Monumenta Orientis Antiqui 22 (Leiden, New York, and Köln: Brill, 1996; 2nd edition Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), 200n12.

(27) Cf. R. Ritner, “Third Intermediate Period Antecedents of Demotic Legal Terminology,” in Acts of the Seventh International Conference of Demotic Studies Copenhagen, 23–25 August 1999, ed. K. Ryholt, Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications 27 (Copenhagen: Carsten Niebuhr Institute for Near Eastern Studies, 2002), 343–359, with B. Porten, “Aramaic-Demotic Equivalents: Who Is the Borrower and Who the Lender?” in Life in a Multi-Cultural Society: Egypt from Cambyses to Constantine and Beyond; Fourth International Congress of Demotists, the Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago, September 4–8, 1990, ed. J. H. Johnson, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilizations 51 (Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1992), 259–264, who tries to argue that much of the Demotic legal phrasing was inspired by Aramaic legal terms.

(28) S. Lippert, “Begegnungen und Kollisionen—Das Recht in Ägypten von der Spätzeit bis in die römische Zeit,” Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 16 (2010): 163–164.

(29) Lippert, Ein demotisches juristisches Lehrbuch, 152–153, 155–157, 172.

(30) A. Azzoni and S. Lippert, “An Achaemenid Loanword in the Legal Code of Hermopolis: ȝbykrm,” Enchoria 26 (2000): 20–30.

(31) E. Seidl, Ägyptische Rechtsgeschichte der Saiten- und Perserzeit, Ägyptologische Forschungen 20 (2Glückstadt: Augustin,1968), 2.

(32) pBerlin P 13540: year 30 of Darius I = 492 BCE (C. Martin, “C1—P. Berlin P 13540—Procedures for Appointing a Lesonis,” in Elephantine Papyri in English, ed. Porten et al., 290–291; M. Chauveau, “La chronologie de la correspondance dite ‘de Phérendatès’,” Révue d’Égyptologie 50 [1999]: 269–271).

(33) Cf. S. Lippert, Einführung in die altägyptische Rechtsgeschichte, Einführungen und Quellentexte zur Ägyptologie 5 (2Münster: LIT-Verlag, 2012), 132.

(34) Hermopolis Legal Code 1.1–4.6; addendum in 9.26–29 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 2–39, 104–107).

(35) Hermopolis Legal Code 4.6–5.31 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 38–63).

(36) Hermopolis Legal Code 6.1–8.29 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 64–93). (NB: there is at least one column missing between columns 5 and 6.)

(37) Hermopolis Legal Code 8.30–9.26; addenda in 9.29–30 and 9.32–10.10 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 92–105, 107–109).

(38) Hermopolis Legal Code, 9.30–32 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 107).

(39) Zivilprozeßordnung pBerlin P 13621+pGießen UB 101.3 VIb recto 1.1–2.28 (Lippert, “Die sogenannte Zivilprozessordnung,” 96–119).

(40) Zivilprozeßordnung pGießen UB 101.3 II recto, pGießen UB 101.3 IV recto, pCairo 50108a recto, pGiessen UB 101.3 III+pBerlin P 13621d recto, pCairo 50108b 1.x+1–x+4 recto (Lippert, “Die sogenannte Zivilprozessordnung,” 123–129).

(41) Zivilprozeßordnung pCairo 50108b 2.x+1–x+2 recto, pBerlin P 13621a recto (Lippert, “Die sogenannte Zivilprozessordnung,” 129–132); pBerlin P 23890 fragm. a+b, d+e recto (Lippert, “Fragmente demotischer juristischer Bücher (pBerlin 23890 a-b, d-g rto und pCarlsberg 628),” in Res severa verum gaudium: Festschrift für Karl-Theodor Zauzich zum 65. Geburtsag am 8. Juni 2004, ed. F. Hoffmann and H. J. Thissen, Studia Demotica 6 [Leuven, Paris, and Dudley, MA: Peeters, 2004], 390–399).

(42) pCarlsberg 236 (J. Tait, “P. Carlsberg 236: Another Fragment of a Demotic Legal Manual,” in The Carlsberg Papyri I—Demotic Texts from the Collection, ed. P. J. Frandsen, Carsten Niebuhr Institute Publications 15 [Copenhagen: Carsten Niebuhr Institute for Near Eastern Studies, 1991], 96–99).

(47) E.g., pBM 10591 1.1–6 (Thompson, A Family Archive, 3, 12n4); cf. also E. Seidl, Ptolemäische Rechtsgeschichte, 2. Auflage, Ägyptologische Forschungen 22 (2Glückstadt, Hamburg, and New York: Augustin, 1962), 71; S. Allam, “Egyptian Law Courts in Pharaonic and Hellenistic Times,” Journal or Egyptian Archaeology 77 (1991): 121.

(48) Cf. G. Mattha, The Demotic Legal Code of Hermopolis West, Bibliothèque d’Étude 45 (Cairo: IFAO, 1975), xi.

(50) B. Muhs, “Egyptian Legal Texts,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law, ed. B. A. Strawn (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), I:255, 257.

(51) G. Vittmann, Der demotische Papyrus Rylands 9, Teil I, Text und Übersetzung, Ägypten und Altes Testament 38 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1998), 51–52, 152–153.

(53) pCairo JE 43468 l. 7 = pCowley 16 = TAD I A 5.2 (B. Porten and A. Yardeni, Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, vol. I, Letters [Jerusalem: The Hebrew University, Department for the History of the Jewish People, 1986], 84–85).

(55) L. S. Fried, The Priests and the Great King. Temple-Palace Relations in the Persian Empire, Biblical and Judaic Studies from the University of California, San Diego10 (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2004), 87n183, 91–92, 213.

(57) = pCowley 1 = TAD II B 5.1 (B. Porten and A. Yardeni, Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, vol. II, Contracts [Jerusalem: The Hebrew University, Department for the History of the Jewish People, 1989], 118–119).

(59) Pro: E. Bresciani, “La satrapia in Egitto,” Studi Classici e Orientali 7 (1958): 157. Contra Fried, The Priests and the Great King, 216–217.

(63) P.Enteux. 50, P.Enteux. 83, P.Enteux. 96.

(69) According to the “letter of Aristeas” (N. Meisner, “Aristeas-Brief,” in Jüdische Schriften aus hellenistisch-römischer Zeit 2.1 Unterweisung in erzählender Form, ed. W. G. Kümmel and H. Lichtenberg [Gütersloh: G. Mohn, 1973], 35–88).

(70) Earliest securely dated attestation: P.Rev. Laws (259/258 BCE). P.Enteux. 8, the document dated by Seidl, Ptolemäische Rechtsgeschichte, 75, to 285/284 BCE, is now ascribed to the reign of Ptolemy IV (i.e., 221 BCE).

(72) J. Wolff, Das Justizwesen der Ptolemäer, Münchener Beiträge zur Papyrusforschung und antiken Rechtsgeschichte 44 (Munich: Beck, 1962), 65–66.

(73) E.g., the case taricheutes of Tanis (in the Fayum) vs. taricheutes of Philadelphia (C. Armoni, Das Archiv der Taricheuten Amenneus und Onnophris aus Tanis (P.Tarich), Abhandlungen der Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste, Sonderreihe Papyrologica Coloniensia 37 [Paderborn, München, Wien, and Zürich: Schöningh, 2013]).

(74) P.Tebt. I 5 (P. W. Pestman, “The Competence of Greek and Egyptian Tribunals According to the Decree of 118 B.C.,” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 22 [1985]: 267–269).

(76) BGU VIII 1827.

(77) Earliest attestation, 223 BCE: pLille 29, l. 22–23. Further examples are pCG 30606, l. 18–19; pCG 31179, l. 20-21; pCG 30605, l. 19–20; pPrague l. 17–18, all published in F. de Cenival, Les associations religieuses en Égypte d’après les documents démotiques, Bibliothèque d’Étude 46 (Cairo: IFAO, 1972); for a general discussion, see de Cenival, 194–197, as well as A. Monson, “The Ethics and Economics of Ptolemaic Religious Associations,” Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics (

(78) pLille 29, l. 23–25 (see note 77).

(79) Cf. however the case of a Greek district governor sending to an Egyptian priest for legal help after receiving a petition from Egyptian priests (pBM 10591 verso, col. 1–3: Quack, “Das Diktum des Tutu,” 273–274; G. Baetens and M. Depauw, “The Legal Advice of Totoes in the Siut Archive (P. BM 10591, verso, col. I–III),” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 101 [in press]).

(80) U. Kaplony-Heckel, Die demotischen Tempeleide, Ägyptologische Abhandlungen 6 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1963), 20 (most of which dated paleographically, but cf. no. 27, pp. 69–70, and no. 98, pp. 186–188).

(82) Cf. pBM 10591 recto (Thompson, A Family Archive, 1–33); see also pBerlin P 23757 recto fragm. F (Lippert, Ein demotisches juristisches Lehrbuch, 79–82, 84–88).

(83) Diodorus I.76 even claims they were forbidden.

(84) J. Quaegebeur, “La justice à la porte des temples et le toponyme Premit,” in Individu, société et spiritualité: Mélanges égyptologiques offerts au professeur Aristide Théodorides, ed. C. Cannuyer and J.-M. Kruchten (Ath, Brussels, and Mons: Illustra, 1993), 201–220.

(85) pBM 10591 recto, 6.11 (Thompson, A Family Archive, 7, 24).

(88) S. P. Vleeming, “Some Notes on Demotic Scribal Training in the Ptolemaic Period,” in Proceedings of the 20th International Congress of Papyrologists: Copenhagen, 23–29 August, 1992, ed. A. Bülow-Jacobsen (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 1994), 185–186.

(89) C. Arlt, “Die thebanischen Notare,” in Actes du IXe congrès international des études démotiques. Paris, 31 août–3 septembre 2005, ed. G. Widmer and D. Devauchelle, Bibliothèque d’Étude 147 (Cairo: IFAO, 2009), 29–38; eadem, “Scribal Offices and Scribal Families in Ptolemaic Thebes,” in Perspectives on Ptolemaic Thebes, ed. B. Bryan and P. Dorman, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilizations 65 (Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2011), 17–18.

(90) C. Arlt, “The Egyptian Notary Offices in the Ptolemaic Fayum,” in Graeco-Roman Fayum—Texts and Archaeology, ed. S. L. Lippert and M. Schentuleit (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008), 16.

(91) S. Lippert and M. Schentuleit, Demotische Dokumente aus Dime III: Urkunden (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010), 10, 49–50.

(92) K.-Th. Zauzich, “Demotische Dokumente römischer Zeit,” in Das römisch-byzantinische Ägypten: Akten des internationalen Symposions 26.–30. September 1978 in Trier, Aegyptiaca Treverensia 2 (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1983), 79.

(93) Cf. also P.Grenf. II 41.

(94) Cf. scribes D and E at Soknopaiou Nesos (Lippert and Schentuleit, Demotische Dokumente aus Dime III, pl. 9).

(97) Cf. K.-Th. Zauzich, Die demotische Schreibertradition in Aufbau, Sprache und Schrift der demotischen Kaufverträge aus ptolemäischer Zeit, Ägyptologische Abhandlungen 19 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1968), 113–128.

(98) M. Depauw, A Companion to Demotic Studies, Papyrologica Bruxellensia 28 (Brussels: Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth, 1997), 123–125; Lippert, Einführung in die altägyptische Rechtsgeschichte, 138–140.

(101) W. Spiegelberg, “Demotische Kaufpfandverträge,” Recueil de Travaux 31 (1909): 91–106.

(103) E. Seidl, “Zur Vorgeschichte der exceptio non numeratae dotis,” in Festschrift für Max Kaser zum 70. Geburtstag am 21. April 1976, ed. D. Medicus and H. H. Seiler (München: Beck, 1976), 610.

(104) pBerlin P 23757 recto fragm. A, col. 2, l. 7–15 (Lippert, Ein demotisches juristisches Lehrbuch, 22–23, 37–38).

(105) Zivilprozeßordnung pBerlin 13621+pGießen UB 101.3 VIb recto 2.1–3 (Lippert, “Die sogenannte Zivilprozessordnung,” 110).

(106) M. Depauw, “Demotic Witness-Copy-Contracts,” Révue d’Égyptologie 50 (1999): 67–105.

(107) pBerlin P 23757 recto fragm. A, col. 2, l. 7–15 (Lippert, Ein demotisches juristisches Lehrbuch, 22–23, 37–38).

(109) For the development of the Greek subscriptions of the Roman period, see M. Depauw, “Autograph Confirmation in Demotic Private Contracts,” Chronique d’Égypte 78 (2003): 66–111; and Lippert and Schentuleit, Demotische Dokumente aus Dime III, 4.

(111) Cf. Lippert and Schentuleit, Demotische Dokumente aus Dime III, 44 (last attestation: P.Louvre I 9 = P.Dime III 25, 48 CE).

(112) K.-Th. Zauzich, Die demotische Schreibertradition in Aufbau, Sprache und Schrift der demotischen Kaufverträge aus ptolemäischer Zeit, Ägyptologische Abhandlungen 19 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1968); M. Depauw, A Companion to Demotic Studies,, 140–142.

(114) Lippert, Einführung in die altägyptische Rechtsgeschichte, 147; eadem, “Inheritance,” in Encyclopedia of Egyptology, ed. W. Wendrich et al. (Los Angeles: University of California, 2013). ( pp. 4–5; 7.

(115) N. Reich, Papyri juristischen Inhalts in hieratischer und demotischer Schrift aus dem British Museum, Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien: Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, vol. 55, no. 3 (Vienna: Hölder, 1914), 9–25; M. Malinine/Pirenne, “Documents juridique égyptiens (Deuxième série),” Archives d’histoire du droit oriental 5 (1950/1951): 25–28.

(117) The earliest attestation of this use of the sẖ wy seems to be P.Phil. Dem. 4, 307 BCE (M. El-Amir, A Family Archive from Thebes [Cairo: 1959], 17–21).

(118) For the time being, no “document of being far” in connection of a sale of other types of property is known; pSorbonne 1277—thought by F. de Cenival, “Une vente d’esclaves de l’époque d’Artaxerxès III,” Révue d’Égyptologie 24 (1972): 32, to be either a copy of the sẖ ḏbȝ ḥḏ pSorbonne 1276 about two slaves, or the accompanying sẖ wy—was probably neither, as the contract body starts with a phrase that does not fit either of these document types.

(119) Cf. A. F. Shore, “Swapping Property at Asyut in the Persian Period,” in Pyramid Studies and Other Essays Presented to I. E. S. Edwards, ed. J. Baines et al., Egypt Exploration Society Occasional Publications 7 (London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1988), 203.

(120) S. Allam, “Bemerkungen zur Abstandsschrift,” Enchoria 13 (1985): 2.

(121) Examples taken from S. Allam, “Bemerkungen zur Abstandsschrift,” Enchoria 13 (1985): 2.

(123) Cf. E. Cruz-Uribe, Saite and Persian Demotic Cattle Documents: A Study in Legal Forms and Principles in Ancient Egypt, American Studies in Papyrology 26 (Chico, CA, Scholars Press: 1985).

(124) B. Menu, “Vente d’une vache de labour sous Ptolémée VIII Évergète II (P. Dém. Lille),” Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille 6 (1981): 238–240. See eadem, “Vente d’une vache de labour sous Ptolémée VIII Évergète II (P. Dém. Lille),” in Recherches sur l’histoire juridique, économique et sociale de l’ancienne Égypte II, by B. Menu, Bibliothèque d’étude 122 (Cairo: IFAO, 1998), 367–368 for an update.

(125) pLouvre E 10347a and b = pDime III 33 and 34 (Lippert and Schentuleit, Demotische Dokumente aus Dime III, 391–395).

(126) pTurin 2122 = P.Tsenhor 7 (P. W. Pestman, Les papyrus démotiques de Tsenhor (P. Tsenhor): Les archives privées d’une femme égyptienne du temps de Darius Ier, Studia Demotica 4 [Leuven: Peeters, 1994], 60–62.

(127) pSorbonne 1276 (Cenival, “Une vente d’esclaves de l’époque d’Artaxerxès III,” Révue d’Égyptologie 24 [1972]: 31–39).

(128) The examples are rare and difficult to understand; see E. Seidl, Ägyptische Rechtsgeschichte der Saiten- und Perserzeit,, 46–47. Cf. also PSI V 549 (late 2nd c. BCE), a Greek translation of a Demotic document that concerns the leasing of the issuer’s workforce and property for ninety-nine years.

(129) pLouvre E 7832 = P.Louvre Eisenlohr 13, 539 BCE (K. Donker van Heel, Abnormal Hieratic and Early Demotic Texts Collected by the Theban Choachytes in the Reign of Amasis, Papyri from the Louvre Eisenlohr Lot [Leiden: 1995], 177–182).

(131) Cf. H. Thompson, “Two Demotic Self-Dedications,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 26 (1940): 68–78; M. Chauveau, “Un contrat de ‘hiérodoule.’ Le P. dém. Fouad 2,” Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale 91 (1991): 119–127; H.-J. Thissen, “Demotische Urkunden,” in Griechische und demotische Papyri der Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg, ed. R. Daniel, M. Gronewald, and H.-J. Thissen, Mitteilungen aus der Freiburger Papyrussammlung 4 (Bonn: Habelt, 1986), 79–97s; W. Clarysse, “A Demotic Self-dedication to Anubis,” Enchoria 16 (1988): 7–10.

(132) E.g., pVienna D 6846 = CPR XXIX 8 (M. Schentuleit and G. Vittmann, “Du hast mein Herz zufriedengestellt … ”: Ptolemäerzeitliche demotische Urkunden aus Soknopaiu Nesos, Corpus Papyrorum Raineri 29 [Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2009], 98–107).

(134) M. Malinine, “Vente de tombes à l’époque saïte,” Révue d’Égyptologie 27 (1975): 164–174.

(135) C. Andrews, Catalogue of the Demotic Papyri in the British Museum, vol. IV, Ptolemaic Legal Texts from the Theban Area (London: British Museum Publications, 1990), 22–24, no. 2.

(136) M. Chauveau, “Les archives démotiques du temple de Ayn Manâwir,” Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology 2001.002, Cf. also D. Agut-Labordère and M. Chauveau, Les Ostraca démotiques de ‘Ayn Manâwir, Documents des Fouilles de l’IFAO (Cairo: IFAO, forthcoming).

(137) pBerlin P 23779+P 30009 = pDime III 35, 41 CE (Lippert and Schentuleit, Demotische Dokumente aus Dime III, 396–401).

(138) Cf. D. Devauchelle, “Pap. dém. Amiens nos. 1 et 2,” Enchoria 14 (1986): 61–65.

(139) E. Lüddeckens, Ägyptische Eheverträge, Ägyptologische Abhandlungen 1 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1960); P. W. Pestman, Marriage and Matrimonial Property, Papyrologica Lugduno-Batava 9 (Leiden: Brill, 1961); Lippert, Einführung in die altägyptische Rechtsgeschichte, 166–169.

(141) pBerlin P 13641 (C. Martin, “C27. P. Berlin 13614 Plate 5: Matrimonial Property Arrangement,” in The Elephantine Papyri in English, by Porten et al., 346–347).

(142) pCairo CG 50149 (Lüddeckens, Ägyptische Eheverträge, 136–139).

(146) pBM 10120A = P.Tsenhor 4 (Pestman, Les papyrus démotiques de Tsenhor, 46–49).

(147) pBerlin P 23883 = pDime III 41 (Lippert and Schentuleit, Demotische Dokumente aus Dime III, 445–447).

(148) S. Lippert and M. Schentuleit, “P. Wien D 6950—eine unpublizierte Ehefrauenschrift aus römischer Zeit,” in Basel Egyptology Prize 1: Junior Research in Egyptian History, Archaeology, and Philology, ed. S. Bickel and A. Loprieno, Aegyptiaca Helvetica 17 (Basel: Schwabe, 2003), 337–340.

(150) pChicago 17481 (Lüddeckens, Ägyptische Eheverträge, 142–45; G. Hughes and R. Jasnow, Oriental Institute Hawara Papyri: Demotic and Greek Texts from an Egyptian Family Archive in the Fayum (Fourth to Third century B.C.), Oriental Institute Publications 113 [Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1997], 9–15).

(151) Cf. pCairo CG 50059 l. 6–7 (W. Spiegelberg, Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du musée du Caire: Die demotischen Denkmäler III Demotische Inschriften und Papyri [Berlin: Reichsdruckerei, 1932], 42–46). Cf. also J. Johnson, “‘Annuity Contracts’ and Marriage,” in For His Ka: Essays Offered in Memory of Klaus Baer, ed. D. P. Silverman, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilizations 55 (Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1994), 113–128.

(152) Hermopolis Legal Code 4.7–9 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 38–39).

(154) E.g., the sẖ n sʿnḫ pCairo TR 24/11/62/2 and its sẖ ḏbȝ ḥḏ pCairo TR 24/11/62/3 (A. Farid, “Two Demotic Annuity Contracts,” in Studies in Honor of Ali Radwan, ed. K. Daoud, S. Bedier, S. Abd el-Fatah, and Z. Hawass, Supplemént aux Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte 34 [Cairo: Conseil Suprême des Antiquités de l’Égypte, 2005], I:323–346).

(155) In one of the two sʿnḫ documents mentioned in pCairo 50059 (see above).

(156) pCairo TR 24/11/62/2 (see n. 154). Cf. also pBerlin P 23757 recto fragm. G l. x+11 (Lippert, Ein demotisches juristisches Lehrbuch, 91–92, 95–96), in which just such a possibility is alluded to.

(157) pBibl. nat. 219A, 316 BCE (Lüddeckens, Ägyptische Eheverträge, 144–145): addressed to the father of the woman. Cf. also E. A. E. Reymond, “Papyrus no. 219 de la Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris,” Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 111 (1984): 18–24, who improved some readings but completely misunderstood the character of the document.

(158) Earliest example: pChicago 17481 (see n. 150).

(159) J. Johnson, “‘Annuity Contracts’ and Marriage,” in For His Ka, ed. Silverman, 114.

(160) S. Lippert and J. Rowlandson, “21. Family Identity and Life Cycle Transitions,” in Blackwell Companion Greco-Roman and Late Antique Egypt, ed. K. Vandorpe (Malden, MA, Wiley-Blackwell, in press).

(161) Hermopolis Legal Code 4.21–24 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 44–47).

(162) Hermopolis Legal Code 5.14–15, badly preserved (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 54–55).

(163) In general: H. Felber, Demotische Ackerpachtverträge der Ptolemäerzeit: Untersuchungen zu Aufbau, Entwicklung und inhaltlichen Aspekten einer Gruppe von demotischen Urkunden, Ägyptologische Abhandlungen 58 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1997). See also Lippert, Einführung in die altägyptische Rechtsgeschichte,, 157–159.

(164) Hermopolis Legal Code 2.23–3.22 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 19–31).

(165) Both possibilities within the same village: cf. S. Lippert, “Like Phoenix from the Mummies: Demotic Documents from Oxyrhyncha in Cartonnages from Tebtunis,” in Graeco-Roman Fayum—Texts and Archaeology, ed. S. Lippert and M. Schentuleit (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008), 170.

(167) E.g., pTebt.Suppl. 0,568 and pTebt.Frag. 12,000b+12,028 (to be published in C. Arlt and S. Lippert, Texts from Oxyrhyncha, in the Tebtunis Papyri series). The ninety-nine-year lease mentioned in P.Enteux 66 was certainly a Greek document.

(171) Depauw, A Companion to Demotic Studies, 146–147; J. Manning, “Demotic Papyri (664–30 BCE),” in Security for Debt in Ancient Near Eastern Law, ed. R. Westbrook and R. Jasnow, Culture & History of the Ancient Near East 9 (Leiden, Boston, and Köln: Brill, 2001), 307–324; S. Lippert, Einführung in die altägyptische Rechtsgeschichte,, 160–161.

(172) pBerlin P 23757 recto fragm. B l. x+10–x+13 (Lippert, Ein demotisches juristisches Lehrbuch, 53–55).

(173) pBerlin P 23890 fragm. d recto x+11–12 (Lippert, “Fragmente demotischer juristischer Bücher,”, 396–398).

(174) Diodorus Siculus I.79.1–2.

(175) P.Col. IV 83. See also H. Kühnert, Zum Kreditgeschäft in den hellenistischen Papyri Ägyptens bis Diokletian (Freiburg: 1965), 39–40; P. W. Pestman, “Loans Bearing No Interest?,” Journal of Juristic Papyrology 16–17 (1971): 9.

(176) Gnomon of the Idios Logos (= BGU V) § 105.

(177) Last known example: pHeidelberg dem. 770b + pLouvre E 10595 = P.Dryton 23, 124–116 BCE (K. Vandorpe, The Bilingual Family Archive of Dryton, His Wife Apollonia and Their Daughter Senmouthis, Collectanea Hellenistica 4 [Brussels: Comité Klassieke Studies, Subcomité Hellenisme, Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van Belgie voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten, 2002], 183–189).

(178) pHamburg dem. 13 = P.Hawara XX, 84 BCE; pCairo CG 50123 = P.Hawara XXIV/E, 51 BCE; pCairo CG 50119 = P.Hawara XXIV/A, mid-first century BCE (E. Lüddeckens and R. Wassermann, Demotische Urkunden aus Hawara, Verzeichnis Orientalischer Handschriften in Deutschland, Supplementbände 28 [Stuttgart: Steiner, 1998], 216–219, 243–244, 251–252, 256–260).

(179) Lippert and Schentuleit, Demotische Dokumente aus Dime III, 11–12, 50–55. Cf. also S. Lippert, “Bilingual Loans with Mortgage in Roman Egypt,” in The Loan Contract in Ancient Societies, by S. Démare-Lafont, Legal Documents in Ancient Societies 7 (forthcoming).

(180) Cf. pVienna D 6823 (4 BCE), misunderstood by A. Migahid, “Zwei spätdemotische Zahlungsquittungen aus Soknopaiu Nesos,” Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale 103 (2003): 328–332, to be a tax receipt.

(181) B. Muhs, “More Papyri from the Archive of Panas Son of Espemetis,” Enchoria 34 (2014/2015), in press.

(182) Hermopolis Legal Code 8.30–9.26; addenda in 9.29–30 and 9.32–10.10 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 92–105, 107–109). See also S. Lippert, “Inheritance,” in Encyclopedia of Egyptology, ed. Wendrich.

(183) Hermopolis Legal Code 9.19–21 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 102–103).

(187) Cf. marriage settlement pBM 10120A = P.Tsenhor 3 and the institution of an heir pBM 10120B = P.Tsenhor 4 (Pestman, Les papyrus démotiques de Tsenhor, 46–52) very little afterward.

(188) Cf. Hermopolis Legal Code 9.21–22 (Donker van Heel, Legal Manual of Hermopolis, 102–103).

(189) pLouvre E 7832 = P.Eisenlohr 13 (see n. 129).

(190) No distinction between shareholders’ agreements and share allocation documents is made in the database Demotic and Abnormal Hieratic Texts (DAHT: For an overview of the many subtypes, see Lippert, Einführung in die altägyptische Rechtsgeschichte, 154–155.

(191) The only known exceptions are pVienna KHM Dem. 9479 ex pInnsbruck (K. Sethe and J. Partsch, Demotische Urkunden zum ägyptischen Bürgschaftsrechte vrozüglich der Ptolemäerzeit, Abhandlungen der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig. Philologisch-historische Klasse 32 [Leipzig: Teubner, 1920], 737–740; Greek part: UPZ I 136) and pMoscow 123 (M. Malinine, “Partage testamentaire d’une propriété familiale [Pap. Moscou N° 123],” Revue d’Égyptologie 19 [1967]: 67–85; J. Bingen, review of “Partage testamentaire d’une propriété familiale [Pap. Moscou n° 123],” by Michel Malinine, Chronique d’Égypte 43 [1968]: 421–423).

(193) E.g., pRendell (G. Hughes and R. Jasnow, Oriental Institute Hawara Papyri: Demotic and Greek Texts from an Egyptian Family Archive in the Fayum (Fourth to Third century B.C.), Oriental Institute Publications 113 [Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1997], 63–70). See also Lippert and Schentuleit, Demotische Dokumente aus Dime III, 335.

(194) Cf. M. Schentuleit, “Satabus aus Soknopaiu Nesos: Aus dem Leben eines Priesters am beginn der römischen Kaiserzeit,” Chronique d’Égypte 82 (2007):113–114; Lippert and Schentuleit, Demotische Dokumente aus Dime III, 335.