Old dead people are neat

Epigraphy is probably my favorite discipline within the fields of ancient history and religion. The glimpses we get of our ancestors’ lives through letters, inscriptions, tax receipts and other ephemera are utterly fascinating and usually leave me wanting to know more about the particulars. Consider, for instance, this trio of texts from my last post:

In fact, divorce was fairly common in Greco-Roman Egypt, and women were frequently the ones who sought it.

The cause could be violent abuse:

“Concerning all the insults uttered by him against me: he shut up his own slaves and mine together with my foster daughters and his overseer and his son for seven whole days in his cellars, having insulted his slaves and my slave Zoe and almost killed them with blows, and he applied fire to my foster-daughters, having stripped them completely naked, which is contrary to the laws.” – P.Oxy. 6.903

Infidelity:

“I am informed, being ill-disposed toward me and the child, that he has joined himself with another woman in Alexandria, from who he has also produced a child, and he has told his father by letter to sell his house and allotment for cash. I ask you, if it seems appropriate, to order him to be summoned before you and to help compel him to return to me for life’s necessities the dowry, so that I may receive it back. Farewell.” – BGU 8.1848

Or even the work of an evil spirit:

“We agree with each other as to the matters set forth below. Since some time ago we were joined with each other for a legitimate marriage and community of life, with good hopes and for the procreation of children; but now, a dispute having grown up between us because of an evil daimon, we have separated from one another. We agree that each party has received back its personal property in full, and that we have and will have no cause against each other in the future.” – P.Lond. 5.1712

Each one of these would make for a very engaging movie, no?


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