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ddbdp.2015.1 = HGV P.Got. 54 (DDbDP 2015 1) = Trismegistos 36154 = gothenburg.apis.45 =

DDbDP transcription: ddbdp.2015.1 [xml]

[Reprinted from:] P.Got. 54


A Letter from Athanasios the Scholastikos Mentioning Constantinople

Rodney Ast - Lajos Berkes

P.Got. 54 (=P.Got. inv. 38) was published in 1929 by H. Frisk as a descriptum without commentary or translation. The address on the back was not transcribed at all. We therefore offer here a full edition of the complete papyrus.

What survives is the upper left part of a business letter measuring 13 (w) x 11 (h) cm. Writing runs against the fibers, transversa charta, on the front and along the fibers on the back. Given the fairly clean break on the right side of the document, we suppose that the papyrus broke along its central fold, meaning that ca. half of each line is lost on the right. This would give us a reconstructed width of 26 cm for the document, a reasonable height for the original roll from which the sheet came. Blank spaces are visible in several lines (see especially l. 5), apparently employed as punctuation. The script points to a date in the late 6th, cf. P.Heid. 3 247 (5 - 25 Nov. 598), or first half of the seventh century, cf. P.Oxy. 16 1843 (623); the address on the back is in a stylized script also typical of the period. The mention of Constantinople in l. 7 implies that the letter was written before the Arab conquest (641) and not under Persian occupation of Egypt (619-629). The papyrus’ provenance may well be the Arsinoite nome, but we suggest this only because the majority of the Gothenburg papyri come from the Fayum. There is nothing in the text itself that hints at where it was written.

Two people are mentioned, a man called Hypatios (l. 6) and the sender, a certain scholastikos named Athanasios (cf. l. 8n.). The addressee, whose name is no longer extant, was a high-ranking person, perhaps a dux, as suggested by the reference to him as ὑπεροχή (cf. 3n). The high register of the word points to a context in the upper echelons of the Byzantine administration, and the involvement of a scholastikos fits this scenario. In preparing for his career, Athanasios will have received training in rhetoric and at least an elementary law education (see CPR 24 4.4n., with further bibliography). We presume, therefore, that he was either a professional lawyer or a high-ranking administration official.

In keeping with the high register of the document, there is a reference in line 7 to the city of Constantinople in the phrase κατὰ τὴν βασιλίδα τῶν π[όλεων. Designation of the city as ἡ βασιλὶς τῶν πόλεων is found in other documents, see, e.g., PSI 1 76.5 (6 May 572 or 573) and P.Eirene 3 15.3 (2nd half of 6th c.), and there are numerous examples in late authors, as a search in TLG of κατὰ τὴν βασιλίδα τῶν πόλεων demonstrates. Although he considered βασιλίδα, H. Frisk opted in the to print κατὰ τὴν ̣ ̣σιλίδα τῶν ν[; he abandoned the reading presumably because the first letter of the word does not look like a typical beta. Dieter Hagedorn, however, also proposed κατὰ τὴν βασιλίδα τῶν π[όλεων, stating in an email that "Beta hat in der Spätzeit oft ein abenteuerliches Aussehen." We have tracked down a number of good parallels for the form, which resembles a modern cursive 'd', see especially the beta in συλλαβῶν in P.Oxy. 16 1936.5, with image here. Further examples can be found in A. Jördens, ZPE 92 (1992) 221 and N. Gonis, ZPE 123 (1998) 191. We have found no evidence, however, to substantiate the idea that the 'd'-like form of the beta could reflect interchange of the two sounds (Gonis, ZPE 123 (1998) 191): it seems rather to be a paleographical phenomenon. While showing similarity to delta, the beta of βασιλίδα in our papyrus is still fundamentally different in form from the delta in, e.g., δεδωκότο[ς] (l. 5) and μεθοδίας (l. 6). Also in P.Oxy. 16 1936, the shapes of the two letters cannot be called identical. Often the beta joins the subsequent letter by means of a sharp horizontal ligature (as in P.Got. 54.7, P.Oxy. 16.1936.5, and P.Harris 1 112.8), but it does not always do so (cf. SB. 20 15184.2). Despite the fact that the document clearly concerns high-ranking individuals with connections to Constantinople, the exact content of the letter remains obscure because of significant textual loss. The language, particularly the reference to a dispute (l. 1), to possible judgments or decisions (l. 3), to proper procedure (l. 6), and perhaps to the initiation of claims or a lawsuit (l. 4: κινηθέντας), point to a legal matter.

(This papyrus was discussed in a class on digital papyrology offered in the summer semester 2014 by R. Ast, L. Berkes, and J.M.S. Cowey at the University of Heidelberg's Institute for Papyrology. The authors express their gratitude to all those who took part in the course and to the referees who commented on this edition. Thanks is also due to Anders Larsson, Senior Librarian in the Gothenburg University Library, and Karin Kulneff for supplying the digital images and catalog records that made this edition possible, to Josh Sosin, Hugh Cayless and Ryan Baumann at the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing for technical support, and to Heidelberg's SFB 933 Materiale Textkulturen, which is sponsored by the DFG, for support of Ast's research into ancient letters.)

⳨ τὰ ἀμφισβητηθέντα ἕνεκεν τ̣[⁦ -ca.?- ⁩]
τῇ εἰκάδι τοῦ Χοίακ μη̣[ν]ὸς εἰς τὴ̣[ν ⁦ -ca.?- ⁩]
ὑ̣περο̣χὴ(*) τὰς δ̣[ι]α̣λίψεις(*) καὶ το[⁦ -ca.?- ⁩]
κεινηθέντας(*) ἐν τῷ κεφαλαίῳ τ[⁦ -ca.?- ⁩]
5σημᾶναι, ⁦ vac. ? ⁩ πλὴν θεοῦ δεδωκότο[ς ⁦ -ca.?- ⁩]
τῆς μεθοδίας(*) κατὰ Ὑπατίου τοῦ ἐν[⁦ -ca.?- ⁩]
ἐκπέμψαι κατὰ τὴν βασιλίδα τῶν π[όλεων⁦ -ca.?- ⁩]
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
[⁦ -ca.?- ⁩] † Ἀθανάσιος σὺν θ(εῷ) σχολ(αστικὸς) ὑμέτερ(ος)


^ r.3. or ὑ̣περο̣χῇ
^ r.3. l. δ[ι]αλήψεις
^ r.4. l. κινηθέντας
^ r.6. l. μεθοδείας


  • 2.

    Cf. D. Hagedorn, APF 59 (2013) 123–137, esp. 127-136.

  • 3.

    ὑ̣περο̣χή (or ὑ̣περο̣χῇ) was probably proceeded by ἡ ὑμετέρα in the previous line, either in the nominative or dative case, see, e.g., CPR 14 9.10 (Arsinoite, July - Nov. 607); P.Münch. 3.1 79.5 (prov. unknown, 6th/7th c.); P. Oxy. 63 4397.192, 219 (March 17, 545). The word refers to high-ranking persons, usually duces, cf. J. Gascou, [Review of] P.Mich. XIII, CdÉ 52 (1977) 360–368, at p. 363, and G. Agosti, AnalPap 10-11 (1998-1999) 7–15, at p. 13. Instead of διαλήψεις, διαλείψεις ("intervals") might have been intended. We prefer the former, however, because it is more consistent with the prevailing theme of legal procedures (see intro above).

  • 4.

    κινηθέντας: for the meaning "Forderung stellen" or "Klage in Gang bringen," attested in late papyri, see Preisigke, WB, s.v. A dispute settlement like P.Lond. 5 1707.4f. is somewhat reminiscent of our fragment (ἀμφισβητήσεως κινηθείσης μεταξὺ τῶν μερῶν περὶ φανερῶν κεφαλαίων ἀνηκόντων αὐτοῖς ἔδοξεν αὐτοῖς διαίτῃ χρήσασθαι). Whether τὸ κεφάλαιον refers in our papyrus, as it does in other documents, to a sum of money, the principal in a loan, or a summary report cannot be determined from the context; another possible meaning is "a point of negotiation" or "Verhandlungspunkt"--on the latter definition, see D. Simon, Untersuchungen zum Justinianischen Zivilprozess (1969) 21-24.

  • 6.

    μεθοδεία refers to proper procedure, see Preisigke, WB, s.v., particularly in the area of tax collection; LSJ defines the word as "method of collecting taxes or debts," and in some cases, it denotes a right of exaction (this is the translation given of P.Oxy. 63 4397.173). Unfortunately, we have too little context to know what is meant here. At the end of the line, one might read τοῦ ἐν[δοξοτάτου. A certain Hypatios appears in the Senuthios archive and seems to have been a high-ranking person in close contact wih the Arabs, cf. F. Morelli, CPR 30, p. 19. It is unlikely that he is identical with our Hypatios, since our letter predates the Arab conquest of Egypt, cf. intro above. Furthermore, there are no late documents from the Hermopolite nome in the Gothenburg collection.

  • 7.

    For discussion of this line, see intro above.

  • 8.

    P.Ant. 2 104, a 6th c. loan of money from Antinoopolis, is addressed to † Φλαυίῳ Ἀθανασίῳ υἱῷ vac. τῷ λαμπροτάτῳ καὶ σοφωτάτῳ σχολαστικῷ φό̣[ρο]\υ/ [Θ]η[β]α̣ί[δο]ς̣. It is written in a hand that may be contemporaneous with that of our papyrus (our thanks to Daniela Colomo for kindly providing us with a scan of the papyrus), but there is nothing in the two texts to suggest either way whether we are dealing with the same scholastikos. We would expect δοῦλος to have been written below ὑμέτερος, but we cannot verify it on the existing photo, and it is possible that the word was omitted, cf. P.Oxy. 16 1936.16-17 (6th/7th c.)

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HGV 36154 Translation (English) [xml]


1  ⳨ The dispute about 2 . . . on the 20th of the month of Choiak to the . . . . 3 . . . [your] eminence the judgments(?) and . . . 4  set in motion in sum . . . 5  to state; but since God has granted . . . 6  the proper procedure against(?) Hypatios the gloriosissimus(?). . . 7  to send out to the queen of cities (i.e. Constantinople) . . . .


8  [To . . .] † Athanasios, your scholastikos by the grace of God.