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A First-Century Receipt from the Receivers of Public Clothing in Tebtunis (P.Tebt. UC 1607c)

C. Michael Sampson and Matt Gibbs

University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg

Amongst the many liturgies of Roman Egypt catalogued by Naphtali Lewis, various ‘receivers’ (παραλῆμπται) were tasked with the collection of goods and services from the communities. The requisition of these goods and services most frequently took the form of compulsory purchase between the customer (the Roman administration or military) and the manufacturers, a practice perhaps based on Republican or Ptolemaic precedents. As regards the procuration of vestis militaris, documentary evidence derives from the second century (Sheridan, esp. pp. 81-86), with the earliest known receipt (P.CtYBR inv. 1590) dating to 116 CE.

In this paper we present a preliminary edition of P.Tebt. UC 1607c, a receipt for vestis militaris from the receivers of public clothing in Tebtunis to a group of weavers. It is a fascinating text for a number of reasons. Palaeographical analysis places it firmly in the first century (cf. P.Oxy. 8.1124, from 26 CE; P.Mich. 5.232, from 36 CE), making it the earliest such receipt—potentially by half a century (or more). A number of details within the text, moreover, are curious: a pair of assistants (χ̣ιρισ̣τ̣[ῶν, l. 5) are named, and we also restore mention of a garrison (πραι]σ̣ι̣δίων, l. 6) though the relationship of each to the receivers (παραλῆμπται, l. 2) and the weavers (γερδίοις, l. 3), as well as to the compulsory purchase remains unclear.

Because of its curiosities, the papyrus raises a number of questions about the system of compulsory purchases, particularly on the relationship between the Ptolemaic/Republican and the Imperial mechanisms for requisitioning supplies. Even when making allowance for the imprecision of palaeographical analysis, the text’s comparatively early date suggests that the process differed little from that which appears a century or so later, at least as far as this particular receipt reveals (cf. P.Oxy. 19.2230, from 119 CE; BGU 7.1564, from 138 CE). Thus, in the second part of our paper, we analyze it vis-à-vis our understanding of the liturgical system and the requisition process in Egypt during the first two centuries of Roman rule. In light of this, we will consider the changes in the administration of these institutions over the possible century or more that are reflected in the extant documentary evidence, and the nature of the relationship between the state administration and the craftspeople engaged to fulfill these requisition orders.

Session/Panel Title

Culture and Society in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Egypt (organized by the American Society of Papyrologists)

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