Matters of clothes and money

When dealing with papyri, it often happens that two fragments, previously catalogued independently, join together and provide new information about the nature and content of the original text. One example has already been discussed in a post published on November 7, 2014, in which the reunion of two papyrus fragments revealed the names of several tax payers in Roman Tebtunis ( ). A further example can be found in this post.

Another two pieces of the Tebtunis collection have been found to belong to the same papyrus sheet. At first glance they don’t seem to have anything in common, yet they have the same processing number. What is this number? Many of the Tebtunis papyri here at CTP are identified by a T-number, where T stands for Tebtunis. This number was assigned to them by Grenfell and Hunt, the two Oxford scholars who directed the archaeological excavation at Tebtunis in 1899/1900 and recovered the papyri which are now kept at CTP. The T-number served for internal references, so, conceivably, papyri bearing the same T-number are to be seen somehow in connection with one another (as belonging to the same sheet of papyrus, or found in the same place).

The two fragments in question are written on both sides and reveal (at least) two different contents.

The first piece, which we’ll call fragment no. 1, is unpublished. On its main side (so called recto, where the writing follows the same direction as the papyrus fibers), we find a list of numbers, which probably indicate the days of a month. On the far left there are traces of a few letters which do not seem to belong to the main text.

On the back of the papyrus there is a list of dates followed by other numbers, most likely payments. A name can be read in the first line, Diodoros, but his role is unknown.

The second fragment, which we’ll call fragment no. 2, is published (P.Tebt. II 405).

On the main side is a dowry inventory dated to the third century AD, that is a list of personal personal items belonging to a woman’s dowry. Interestingly all of the items, with the exception of a basket, are clothes. Here is a translation:

‘A green tunic worth [..] drachmas; a white outer cloak, worth [..] drachmas; a small mulberry-colored cloak, worth [..] drachmas; 2 veils, purple and scarlet, worth [..] drachmas; an Italian mantle, worth [..] drachmas; a white mantle, worth [..] drachmas; a new basket, worth [..] drachmas; a purple tunic, worth [..] drachmas; a sapphire Dalmatian vest, worth [..] drachmas; a Leontine mantle, worth [..] drachmas. And in parapherna: a sulphur-colored tunic [..]; a mulberry-colored tunic [..]’

The value in money (drachmas) of each item was indicated, as was common in this type of documents, but unfortunately the amounts are lost. What is really interesting to note is the presence of fine imported articles: an Italian mantle, a Leontine mantle (most probably from the Sicilian Leontinoi, modern Lentini), and a Dalmatian vest (from the province of Dalmatia, which included roughly modern Serbia, Croatia, and other areas of the Adriatic coast). In Egypt the main fabric used for clothes was wool, and a very active textile production is attested throughout the Roman period. Imported goods were expensive, and the presence of such articles in our papyrus suggests that we are dealing with a well-off woman.

On the left of the papyrus there are traces of another documents written in the opposite direction to the main text. These traces clearly match those that can be seen on the left margin of fragment no. 1 (main side).

On the back of fragment no. 2 there is part of an account – a few figures and the slanting check-marks can still be seen (for a comparison see the tax register in the post of November 7, 2014

What did this document originally contain? How do fragment no. 1 and fragment no. 2 fit together?

It is very likely that the document contained some of the affairs of a wealthy family, including a marriage. On the main side of the original sheet of papyrus was a draft including several administrative texts, one of which was a list of clothes belonging to a well-off woman’s dowry. The presence of possibly several days of a month suggests that the document also included some kind of payments. On the back there was an account, which involved a person called Diodoros. Now the questions is whether the two texts, the one on the main side and the one on the back, were connected to or independent from one another. The handwriting on both sides seems to be same, although this is not certain. In any case, what we have here is good example of a draft document which could have been either owned privately (in which case Diodoros could have been the owner) or produced by state officials for administrative purposes.