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ddbdp.2015.3 = HGV P.Got. 23 (DDbDP 2015 3) = Trismegistos 341716 = gothenburg.apis.16

DDbDP transcription: ddbdp.2015.3 [xml]


A Wife in Prison: A Letter from 7th Century Fayum Lajos Berkes

P.Got. 23 (=P.Got. inv. 4) was described by H. Frisk together with P.Got. 24–27 as "fragments indéterminés de trois à quatre lignes. Inv. 4–8. Prov. inconnue. VIe–VIIe siècle." I offer here a full edition of the text. The papyrus measures 36.3 (w) x 7.4 (h) cm. It is almost completely preserved, but there are several large holes, especially on the lower right side. The surface is often heavily abraded. The text is written transversa charta in black ink. Several vertical and horizontal folds are visible. The cursive hand points to a date in the mid-seventh century, as suggested for example by the characteristic forms of delta and pi, which might be considered precursors of the Greek minuscule, cf. CPR 30 3 (ca. 643-644). It is, however, unclear whether the letter was written before or after the Islamic conquest.

The heavy abrasion of the surface presents significant difficulties in reading the text, but the general content is clear. Markos writes to Neilammon, who is perhaps a grammateus and tells Neilammon not to arrest anybody who has paid his taxes, until Markos gives further instructions. Neilammon has apparently arrested the wife of a certain Ouenaphrios possibly because of the tax arrears of her husband. It appears, however, that Neilammon had already forwarded the tax payments that were due from Ouenaphrios, and Markos orders that the wife be released. After this point the papyrus is heavily damaged, but one may guess that Markos explains that Ouenaphrios has no debts and Neilammon should not have arrested his wife.

References to wives detained in prison are numerous in documents of the Byzantine and early Islamic period. Being essentially hostages for their husbands, they were expected to provide a guarantee that the men would fulfil certain obligations, see F. Morelli, P.Horak 66.2n. with further references. PSI 7 824 (provenance unkown, late 6th-early 7th century) presents a very similar situation to that of our papyrus: the wife and the equids of the letter-carrier were seized. The addressee is instructed to release the equids but keep the wife in custody until the letter carrier repays his debts. On this text see L. Berkes, ZPE 193 (2015) 241-243. P.Apoll. 42 (provenance unknown, second half of 7th c.) refers to a woman, who has been arrested because of the poll tax (διάγραφον) of her husband. P.Oxy. 16 1835 (Oxyrhynchos, late 5th or early 6th century) mentions the release of village officials’ wives from prison. Cf. also P.Apoll. 51.7-8 (see below l. 1n.). The provenance of the papyrus is almost certainly the Fayum. This is strongly suggested by the names Ouenaphrios and Neilammon, which are characteristic of this region (see below l. 2n. and l. 4n.). Furthermore, most papyri from the Gothenburg collection come from the Fayum.

(Work on this papyrus took place in two courses offered by R. Ast, L. Berkes, and J.M.S. Cowey at the University of Heidelberg's Institute for Papyrology during summer semester 2013 and 2014. The author expresses his gratitude to all involved in those classes for their assistance. Thanks is also due to Anders Larsson, Senior Librarian in the Gothenburg University Library, for providing the digital images that made this edition possible, to Karin Kulneff for APIS catalog records she supplied, and to Josh Sosin, Hugh Cayless and Ryan Baumann at the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing for technical support.)

† ὁ παρέχω̣ν̣ τὰ̣ δημόσια αὐτοῦ μὴ κρατηθῇ, ἕως(*) ποτὲ γράφω ὑμῖν. καὶ διαβάλλετε
τ  ̣ν  ̣[  ̣]  ̣  ̣  ̣λ.[- ca.5 -]  ̣ε̣  ̣ Ο[ὐ]εναφ̣ρίο̣υ̣ πληρώσας κρατεῖς τὴν γυνα̣ῖκα αὐ̣τοῦ. ταύτην
ἀπο̣λύσατε ἁπλῶς, μὴ κρ̣α̣τηθ̣ῇ τ̣  ̣[- ca.2 -]  ̣  ̣  ̣ε  ̣  ̣  ̣[  ̣  ̣ρη[  ̣]  ̣[  ̣]  ̣γ̣α̣ρ̣  ̣  ̣α  ̣  ̣  ̣  ̣ χρεω̣σ̣τ̣ε̣ῖ †
(hand 2?) † ἐπίδ(ος) Νειλάμμωνι γ̣ρ̣( )  ̣( )   ̣απαπ̣  ̣[  ̣  ̣]  ̣[  ̣]  ̣ω ⳨ Μάρκου̣ †


^ r.1. corr. ex


  • 1.

    The phrase ἕως ποτέ is probably equivalent to ἕως ὅτε here. The phrase ἕως ὅτε appears in papyri from the 6th century, cf. DDbDP, but is already common in the New Testament, see E. Schwyzer, Griechische Grammatik 2 (1940) 551. For a similar use of ποτέ, cf. the usage ποτὲ μέν ... ποτὲ δέ (=ὁτὲ μέν ... ὁτὲ δέ) in Byzantine chronicles. See S. B. Psaltes, Grammatik der byzantinischen Chroniken (1974) 334. One could interpret διαβάλλετε as a phonetic spelling for διαβάλλεται. The interpretation of the verb is not straightforward. It occurs in a very similar letter to ours, P.Apoll. 51.7-8 (2nd half of the 7th c.): διέβαλεν δὲ ὁ αὐτὸς Ἰωάννης τὴν `σὺν Θ(εῷ)´ γυναῖκα τοῦ μακ(αρίου) Ἰωαννακίου νό(μισμα) α, κ[αὶ] ἐκ[έλευσ]εν ἀποκλεισθῆναι (line 8) αὐτὴν καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ μακ(αρίου) Ἰουστίνου εἰς τὴν φυλακήν, where the verb might mean 'to extort' ('frapper injustement', R. Rémondon ad loc.) or 'to defraud' ('betrügen', BL 5.7). In our papyrus the meaning of the word remains unclear, since the first part of the following line is fragmentarily preserved.

  • 2.

    Perhaps τή̣ν, but it seems to be impossible to read καταβολήν after it. Before Ο[ὐ]εναφ̣ρίο̣υ̣ one may consider ὑ]π̣έ̣ρ̣. The name Ouenaphri(o)s is attested exclusively in the Fayum from the second century AD onwards, as can be confirmed by a search in the DDbDP. It is worth pointing out that κρατεῖς is perhaps preceded by διαβάλλετε and followed by ἀπολύσατε: there is confusion between the second person plural and singular.

  • 3.

    Perhaps γ̣ά̣ρ̣ and ο̣ὐ χρεω̣σ̣τ̣ε̣ῖ.

  • 4.

    The name Neilammon is attested overwhelmingly in the Fayum from the second century AD onwards, but there are instances from the Heracleopolite, Hermopolite, and Panopolite nomes as well, as can be seen here. The word after Νειλάμμωνι is difficult to read. The traces suggest an open γ connected to a ρ with a superscript τ or α. This could point to γ̣ρ̣α(μματεῖ) or γ̣ρ̣(αμμα)τ(εῖ). The former is, however, more likely since there are no parallels for the later abbreviation of the word. Furthermore, the ω before the next cross may suggest a dative connected with Neilammon which renders it unlikely that his title is already given after his name. Instead of απαπ̣ one may consider απατ̣ο̣. There are two - perhaps connected - strokes, the function of which I do not understand: one starting from the cross before Μάρκου̣ and the other going diagonally through μ of the same word.

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HGV 341716 Translation (English) [xml]


† Let the one, who pays his taxes, not be arrested, until I write to you. And ... Ouenaphrios ... you, having paid ..., detain his wife. Simply release her, she should not be detained... owes †


† Give it to Neilammon ... (from) ⳨ Markos †