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Last Updated on 04 Jan 2019

Author: Mario C.D. Paganini

CAPInv. 1292: hoi nekrotaphoi


i. Geographical area Egypt
ii. Nome Oxyrhynchites (U19)
iii. Site Oxyrhynchus (?)


i. Full name (original language) οἱ νεκροτάφοι (P.Ryl. II 65, l. 3)
ii. Full name (transliterated) hoi nekrotaphoi


i. Date(s) 95 (?) - 67 (?) BC


ii. Name elements
iii. Descriptive terms ἔθνος, ethnos
Note Ethnos: P.Ryl. II 65, ll. 3 and 6.


i. Source(s) P.Ryl. II 65 (24 Mecheir = 1 March 67 BC)
Note The year (67 BC) is uncertain, as the reigning Sovereign is not specified.
Online Resources P.Ryl. II 65
TM 5284
i.a. Source type(s) Papyrological source(s)
i.b. Document(s) typology & language/script Greek judicial proceedings and sentence of the chrematistai (i.e. Greek court of justice) against some members of the ethnos of the nekrotaphoi who did not abide by the provisions of the rules of the ethnos concerning the division of shares for the burial of bodies. The ethnos had petitioned the authority in order to seek justice against their wrong-doing members.
i.c. Physical format(s) Papyrus.


ii. References to buildings/objects Αἰγυπτία συγγραφή, Aigyptia syngraphe l. 3
σώματα, somata l. 9


iii. Members The members of this group are called οἱ ἐκ τοῦ ἔθνους νεκροτ̣[άφοι, hoi ek tou ethnous nekrotaphoi (l. 3). If we are to take the expression literally, we would have to conclude that: 1) the ethnos was formed by nekrotaphoi and members coming from other backgrounds; and/or 2) there were some nekrotaphoi who did not (have to) belong to the ethnos.
vi. Laws and rules The nekrotaphoi belonging to the ethnos signed a contract or group's regulations written in Demotic (Αἰγυπτία συγγραφή, Aigyptia syngraphe, l. 3). The document regulated the division of shares of each member in the business of the burial of corpses which had been agreed upon by the members themselves and was registered in the local grapheion or record office on 9 Phamenoth of the nineteenth regnal year of an unmentioned Sovereign (it should be Ptolemy X Alexander I and Cleopatra Berenice = 23 March 95 BC. Ll. 3-5: ἦσαν πάντες οἱ ἐκ τοῦ ἔθνους νεκροτ̣[άφοι τε]θ̣ειμένοι Αἰγυπτίαν συγγραφὴν | [ἀναγραφεῖσ]α̣ν̣ [τῶ]ι̣ ιθ (ἔτει) Φαμενὼθ θ διὰ τοῦ ἐν τ̣ῆ̣[ι αὐτῆι] πόλει γραφίου περὶ ἀποδιαστολῆς | [τ]ῶ̣ν̣ [ὑπʼ αὐτ]ῶ̣ν̣ σ̣[υμ]φωνηθέντων μερισμῶν, esan pantes hoi ek tou ethnous nekrotaphoi tethemenoi Aigyptian syngraphen anagrapheisan toi 19 (etei) Phamenoth 9 dia tou en tei autei polei grapheiou peri apodiastoles ton hyp'auton symphonethenton merismon). Some members did not abide by the shares agreed and refused to pay the relevant fines. Therefore, almost thirty years after the registration of the contract/regulations, on 24 Mecheir of the fourteenth year of another unmentioned ruler (it should be Ptolemy XII Auletes = 1 March 67 BC), the ethnos wrote a petition (l. 8: ὑπόμνημα, hypomnema) to the authority to ask for justice. The proceedings of the judicial sentence state quite clearly how the injunctions and dispositions had been agreed upon by the members of the ethnos in the contract/regulations which had been entered voluntarily by the members; these regulations were considered valid and binding by the authority: συνεκρίναμεν τὰς διὰ τῆς τεθειμένης ὑπὸ τ[ούτων] | ἑκουσίως πρὸς ἀλλήλους Αἰγυπτίας συγγραφᾶς διαστολὰς καὶ τἂλλα τὰ διʼ αὐτῆ[ς δι]|ωρισμένα μένειν κύρια καὶ ἀπαράβατα, synekrinamen tas dia tes tetheimenes hypo touton hekousios pros allelous Aigyptias syngraphes diastolas kai ta alla ta di' autes diorismena menein kyria kai aparabata (ll. 16-18). The fact that the ethnos had to petition the authority shows how difficult internal enforcement of the regulations sometimes was.
vii. Judicial system Fines (ἐπίτιμα, epitima ll. 6 and 11) are to be paid to the ethnos and to the state in case of breach of the dispositions regarding the shares of work agreed upon in the contract/regulations: ἐπάναγ̣κες τὸν παραβησόμενον ἢ ἀντι|ποιησόμεν[ο]ν τῶν ἀποδιεσταλμένων ἑκάστωι ἀποτεῖσαι τῶι ἔθνει ἐπίτιμον χαλκοῦ | νομίσματ[ος ̣ ̣] ̣ ̣ καὶ εἰς τὸ βασιλικὸν τὰ ἴσα, epanankes ton parabesomenon e antipoiesomenon ton apodiestalmenon hekastoi apoteisai toi ethnei epitimon chalkou nomismatos [ ] kai eis to basilikon ta isa (ll. 5-7).


i. Treasury/Funds The ethnos must have had a treasury where the funds levied from fines were kept.
iii. Income The ethnos could avail over fines by those who did not abide by the regulations – these fines were not always easily exacted from the members, as the present case testifies. Other sources of income are also possible.


ii. Gender Men
Note The two names of the members preserved (Petosiris and Paris) are male names.
vi. Proper names and physical features τοὺς περὶ τὸν Π[ε]τοσεῖριν καὶ Παρεῖν


iv. Honours/Other activities The nekrotaphoi belonging to the ethnos were busy in the funerary activities of burial of corpses (somata) and as a group they had agreed upon the different shares (merismoi) that each member was entitled to.


i. Comments The group may overlap with CAPInv. 1230.


i. Private association Probable
Note The ethnos displays a well-organised structure and durable intent. It had the ability to interact with the authority and had regulations entered voluntarily by its members which were recognised as valid and contractually binding by the authority too. A system of fines to be exacted in favour of the ethnos (and of the Crown) was in place too: how difficult this may have been appears clear in the present case. All this shows that it is very probable that the ethnos to which the nekrotaphoi belonged was a private association, either grouping together different people involved in funerary proceedings and related activities, or some nekrotaphoi only. However, there is also the possibility that the group was in fact a mere business enterprise.