BGU I 16 (P. 6889)


Long hair, woolen robes? This is not how a priest was allowed to walk around in Roman Egypt. This papyrus tells us about the charge of a Pasis against the priest Panephremmis. But beyond the case of conflict described above, we also learn about rules and regulations within the Egyptian cult as well as about the control of these by official administrative authorities.

The papyrus comes from the private collection of the Egyptologist Heinrich Brugsch, which came to the Berliner Papyrussammlung in 1891. It was found in Fayum, a large oasis southwest of Cairo. The 15 preserved lines are written in Greek. As the 23rd regnal year of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius is mentioned, the text can be dated between 30 August 159 AD and 28 August 160 AD.

It is a sworn declaration of the five elders of the priests in the temple of the god Soknopaios in Soknopaiu Nesos on the northern edge of the Fayum. It is addressed to two high Roman officials: the strategos Hierax and the Royal Scribe Teimagenes. Unfortunately, nothing has survived of the declaration itself, because the papyrus is broken off at the bottom. However, the oath is preserved in the upper part. We also learn about the content of the accusation and some aspects of the proceedings up to this document. The accusation concerns a priest of the temple of Soknopaios called Panephremmis, who was accused by a certain Pasis at the Idios Logos of wearing unshaven hair and woollen robes.

The habitus of priests was controlled strictly by the administrative authorities. This is shown through reports of village authorities to their superior district officials, in which they had to tell them routinely, not just in case of special incidents like in this case, about the behavior of the priests. This leaves the impression that the fines not only served their original purpose, which is the preservation and the order of the religious cult, but furthermore it served the political purpose to keep the priesthood in check.

About the prosecutor Pasis we only learn that his father was called Neilos. Whether he also belonged to the priesthood of the temple or was a state official remains unknown. But his accusation to the Idios Logos did at least provide this text. The Idios Logos was a special account for special revenues of the state and in Roman times also an administrative office. In addition to questions of inheritance and personal status law, the Idios Logos was also responsible for the allocation of priest posts and the supervision of the often traditional religious rules and purity requirements of priests. Misconduct was punished with fines. The accusations against the priest Panephremmis which have been handed down here were punished with a very high fine of 1000 drachmas.

After the strategos Hierax and the Royal Scribe Teimagenes had received a dossier from the Idios Logos and a call for an inquiry, they ordered the five oldest members of the temple of Soknopaiu Nesos to go into the matter and to send this sworn declaration. Due to the fragmentary state of preservation of the papyrus we do not know the content of this declaration. We also do not know the result of the ordered examination and its course and end.

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