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A New Understanding of the State Auction Process(es) in Egypt

Andrew Hogan

Yale University

The Ptolemaic ‘Auction of Pharaoh’, whereby rights of possession were transferred between parties has seen increased scholarly attention over the last two decades (Cf. Manning, 1999; Armoni, 2007, 2009, 2012; Jakab, 2013 [twice]; Arlt, 2015; inter alia), but much work and revision remains to be done with respect to both the workings of the auction processes and how this institution played a larger role within the Ptolemaic state and broader trends within the long-term history of the Mediterranean. As part of an ongoing project for my dissertation research, I have assembled a comprehensive corpus of internal auction documents and documents testifying to the Ptolemaic auction recorded in both Greek and Demotic. Though the institution originated in the Greek sphere, auctions were employed by the Ptolemaic state bureaucracy to allocate the right to manage state monopolies, farm taxes, and purchase abandoned (or seized) land or property, along with several other less prevalent uses. By combining the Greek and Demotic texts for the first time in a holistic manner, a more refined understanding of the step-by-step nature of auction process itself emerges. This paper will demonstrate the functional differences that may be reconstructed in the auction processes of these three separate kinds of state sale by auction process (monopolies, tax farming, and sale of abandoned land and property), which both nuance and go beyond P. Elephantine 14, which is traditionally cited as the exemplar for how the auction functioned. Furthermore, this paper will establish how these processes were adapted over the centuries of Ptolemaic rule as a response to local elite competition and immediate needs of the state. The implications of these processes inform a more thorough understanding of the operation of the Ptolemaic bureaucracy at both the local and state level.

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Culture and Society in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Egypt

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