Disputing an inheritance in Hellenistic Egypt: An Egyptian family goes to the Greek courts

Seminar | April 18 | 2-4 p.m. | 479 Bancroft Library

 Katelijn Vandorpe, KU Leuven

 Center for the Tebtunis Papyri

The Erbstreit papyri are a bilingual (Demotic-Greek) dossier that was assembled, as their name indicates, as a result of inheritance disputes. They were once part of a family archive kept in the Upper Egyptian town of Pathyris (modern Gebelein). The disputes started after the death of a woman called Tamenos, when her sister and her nieces claimed the large plots of land that she had bequeathed to her own children. A series of lawsuits ensued, and arguments were made before a range of officials, from the local “mayor” (epistates) to the “viceroy” (epistrategos); the case was eventually settled before the Greek high court from the city of Ptolemais in Middle Egypt. The dossier consists of petitions, written evidence produced by the parties, court minutes, court decisions, copies of temple oaths and amicable settlements; the Greek translations of the Egyptian pieces of evidence presented in the Greek courts are an especially interesting feature.