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Last Updated on 06 Jan 2019

Author: Mario C.D. Paganini

CAPInv. 1370: to en Herakleous polei politeuma ton Ioudaion


i. Geographical area Egypt
ii. Nome Herakleopolites (U20)
iii. Site Herakleopolis


i. Full name (original language) τὸ ἐν Ἡρακλέους πόλει πολίτευμα τῶν Ἰουδαίων (P.Polit. Iud. 8, ll. 4-5)
ii. Full name (transliterated) to en Herakleous polei politeuma ton Ioudaion


i. Date(s) 144 - 132 BC


i. Name in other forms The group is also simply called πολίτευμα, politeuma
ii. Name elements
Geographical:en Herakleous polei, Herakleopolis
iii. Descriptive terms πολίτευμα, politeuma
Note Politeuma: P.Polit. Iud. passim


i. Source(s) P.Polit. Iud. 1-20 (144/3-133/2 BC)
Note All the texts published in P.Polit. Iud. deal with the affairs of the politeuma.
Online Resources All the texts are available online: P.Polit. Iud.
TM 44617 to TM 44636. See also TM Arch 197
AGRW ID 20630
i.a. Source type(s) Papyrological source(s)
i.b. Document(s) typology & language/script Petitions and official correspondence in Greek, relating to the politeuma of the Jews of Herakleopolis (and other Jewish communities in the neighbouring villages and nome). The petitions are normally addressed to the politeuma, their officials or leader.
i.c. Physical format(s) Papyrus.
ii. Source(s) provenance The texts were found in mummy-cartonnage from the Herakleopolite nome.


ii. References to buildings/objects An ἀρχεῖον, archeion is mentioned in P.Polit. Iud. 3, l. 12. However, the passage is fragmentary and it is uncertain whether the archive in question belonged to the politeuma, to another organisation, to a private individual, or to the state.


ii. Leadership At the head of the politeuma there was a πολιτάρχης, politarches (P.Polit. Iud. 1, l. 1; 2, l. 1; 17, l. 5); he was probably also the head of the politeuma's officials, as primus inter pares. Like the other officials of the politeuma, the office of politarches probably lasted for one year (although there are no clear indications of this in the texts). We have evidence of two men holding the office of politarches: Euphranor (P.Polit.Iud. 17, l. 5, 143 BC) and Alexandros (P.Polit. Iud. 1, l. 1; 2, l. 1, 135 BC). Furthermore, if the term kritai in P.Polit. Iud. 18, l. 2 and verso (142 BC) indicates the officials of the politeuma it is likely that the Straton mentioned as their leader (seemingly) was in fact the politarches.

The politarches and the (officials of the) politeuma seem to have had some jurisdiction or influence in the detainment of prisoners (perhaps in the fortress by the harbour?) and their release: P.Polit. Iud. 2 and 17. The functions of the politarches may resemble those of the phrourarchos, the head of the fortress in the harbour by Herakleoplis: the two charges however did not overlap (cf. P.Diosk.). Politarches and phrourarchos, however, may have in certain instances collaborated.
iii. Members Those belonging to the politeuma defined themselves as τῶν ἐκ τοῦ πολιτεύματος, ton ek tou politeumatos (P.Polit. Iud. 1, ll. 4-5; 4, l. 4; 7, l. 2). The members are also called πολῖται, politai, and opposed to non-members and non-Jews, called ἀλλόφυλοι, allophyloi (P.Polit. Iud. 1, ll. 17-18). However, it seems that not all Jews of Herakleopolis belonged to the politeuma: some in fact defined themselves Ioudaioi but not 'of those of the politeuma' (P.Polit. Iud. 2, l. 4; 6, l. 3; 11, l. 3; 12, ll. 3-4). It is likely that (some of) the members of the politeuma were connected with the fortress built in the harbour area by Herakleopolis: the garrison stationed there was also formed by Jewish troops. Although the membership (and officials) of the politeuma may have sometimes overlapped with those stationed in the fortress, the one did not obliterate or necessarily correspond with the other.
iv. Officials The officials of the politeuma are collectively called ἄρχοντες, archontes. The archontes are often indicated with the year in which they were in charge: for instance, τοῖς ἄρχουσι τὸ̣ λζ (ἔτος) τοῦ ἐν Ἡρακλέους | πόλει πολ̣ι̣τ̣ε̣ύ̣[μα]τ̣ο̣ς̣ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, tois archousi to 37 (etos) tou en Herakleous polei politeumatos ton Ioudaion (P.Polit. Iud. 8, ll. 4-5. Other instances of this are: P.Polit. Iud. 3, l. 1; 6, l. 1; 9, l. 1; 10, l. 1; 12, l. 1; 13, l. 1; 14, l. 1). The office was therefore yearly. Their number is uncertain.
Following Jewish linguistic practice (cf. P.Polit. Iud. p. 16), it is likely that the officials of the politeuma were also referred to as κριταί, kritai in P.Polit. Iud.18 (l. 2 and verso: Στράτωνι καὶ τοῖς ἐν Ἡρακλέους πόλει κριταῖς, Stratoni kai this en Herakleous polei kritais): the text was written by the kritai of the Jewish community of a neighbouring village and to be forwarded to the politeuma, as the fragmentary note in l. 1 seems to indicate (ἐπὶ τὸ πολίτευ(μα), epi to politeuma). The politeuma's archontes are also said to form a κριτήριον, kriterion (P.Polit. Iud. 12, ll. 23-24).

The functions of the officials of the politeuma resemble those of local public officials: they dealt with the solving of minor private disputes (default in contracts and agreements, violence and abuse) – however, they do not substitute the courts of justice. The petitioners who addressed their cases to the politeuma were not only the members of the politeuma themselves (P.Polit. Iud. 1, 4, and 7), but also Jews of Herakleopolis not belonging to the politeuma (P.Polit. Iud. 2, 6, 11, and 12), as well as Jews from neighbouring villages (P.Polit. Iud. 13, 18, 19, and 20) and neighbouring nomes (P.Polit. Iud. 8 and 9).

In one case only the prerogatives of the politeuma's officials seem to stretch beyond minor matters: in P.Ptol. Iud. 6 the archontes of the politeuma had delegated the inquiry over the death of a paidarion (child or slave) in a neighbouring village to the elders (indicated as kritai in the text) of the Jewish community of the village: their job was to decide about the circumstances of the death (accident or murder with possible further legal implications) and produce a verdict (σύγκρισις synkrisis l. 11, or ὑπογραφή hypokraphe ll. 15, 23) on the matter. However, the matter remains unclear as we do not know all the details of the case.
v. Other staff There is mention of λειτουργοί, leitourgoi (P.Polit. Iud. 8, l. 35) and of a ὑπηρητής, hyperetes (P.Polit. Iid. 9. l. 34) who appear to have been referred to by the petitioners in order to help the archontes of the politeuma in solving issues (especially in escorting people to places).
vii. Judicial system See functions of the officials under VII.iv 'Officilas'.


ii. Gender Men
Note All the names of secure members of the politeuma are male names. This would be even more the case if all the members of the politeuma belonged to the military (which is likely, although not certain). However, women do appear in the affairs dealt with by the politeuma. In two instances, the petitioner who wrote to the politeuma's officials was a woman. In P.Polit. Iud. 9 the petitioner is Berenike, daughter of Archagathos, Ioudaia from Aphrodites Polis (in the Arsinoites or Aphroditopolites): she therefore did not belong to the politeuma. In P.Polit. Iud. 10 the petitioner is only identified by her first name (Ptolemaia): however, on the basis of the context and parallel texts, it seems obvious that she was a Jew from Herakleopolis. There is no evidence to maintain that she was a member of the politeuma.
iii. Age Adults
Note All the securely attested members of the politeuma seems to be adults. This would be even more the case if the membership were made up by men of army.
iv. Status The politeuma gathered (some of the) Jewish inhabitants of Herakleopolis (and possibly of the harbour area by the city, with its fortress with Jewish troops). The politeuma may have had (at least originally) a military character, being formed by Jewish troops actively employed in the Ptolemaic army and garrison. However, no securely identified member of the politeuma indicates their belonging to the army. In one instance only (P.Polit. Iud. 5) the petitioner, who was presumably a Jew of Herakleopolis not member of the politeuma, is identified as being a member of the army (namely, belonging to the unit of the Macedonian misthophoroi cavalrymen – the ethnic indicates here a military unit and not race): he is Μακεδὼν τ̣ῶν | Δημητρίου ἱππέων μισθοφόρων, Makedon ton Demetriou hippeon misthophoron (ll. 3-4).


i. Local interaction Non-Jews (namely, those living by the harbour, οἱ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὅρμου, hoi apo tou hormou: P.Polit. Iud. 1, ll. 7-8; 10, l. 4; 11, l. 5) also appear in the petitions addressed to the politeuma, normally as being sued by Jews. It therefore seems that the jurisdiction of the politeuma also stretched to the harbour by Herakleopolis (this area did not formally belong to the city of Herakleopolis): this would not be surprising if we were to accept the hypothesis that the majority of the people in the harbour was somewhat connected with the fortress, which was re-build around 156/5 BC (cf. P.Berlin. Zill. 1 and 2) and also manned by a Jewish contingent. The few non-Jewish (civilians) may therefore have fallen under the politeuma's jurisdiction insofar as they entertained business with Jews stationed in the area who would therefore address their politeuma to solve their private disputes.
The politeuma's jurisdiction over the harbour area may suggest that the politeuma was in fact based there, where it could have drawn from the Jewish soldiers stationed in the garrison for its members (so P.Ptol. Iud. p. 12). However, the fact that it is called to en Herakleous polei politeuma ton Ioudaion (and the harbour did not in fact officially belong to the city of Herakleopolis) seems to me to suggest otherwise.


iii. Bibliography Honigman, S. (2003), ‘Politeumata and Ethnicity in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt’, AncSoc 33: 61-102.
Kruse, T. (2015), 'Ethnic koina and politeumata in Ptolemaic Egypt', in V. Gabrielsen and C. A. Thomsen (eds.), Private associations and the public sphere. Copenhagen, 270-300.
Sänger, P. (2014), ‘The Politeuma in the Hellenistic World (Third to First Century B.C.): A Form of Organisation to Integrate Minorities’, in J. Dahlvik, Chr. Reinprecht and W. Sievers (eds.), Migration und Integration – wissenschaftliche Perspektiven aus Österreich. Jahrbuch 2/2013, Göttingen: 51-68.


i. Private association Possible
Note The politeuma displays a well-defined structure and clear organised internal hierarchy, with a leader and officials with clearly defined terms of office. The members had a collective identity and specific terminology, as well as a well defined common origin (they were all Jews). The group therefore shows durable intent and probably had funds. The prerogatives of the politeuma's officials, however, stretch beyond the limits of the membership of the politeuma and resemble those of public local officials. In fact, it seems that the politeuma and its officials represented a parallel local 'administration' for the Jews. It is therefore possible that we see here the development of what was once a purely private association formed by some Jews resident in Herakleopolis (most probably belonging to the army), which over time acquired importance and catered for the needs of the Jewish communities of the area: given the close-knit character of Jewish communities (like many other immigrant communities), as well as the desire of (and probably better trust in) dealing their own affairs internally (matters of propriety and religious norms may have also played a role in the matter), such a development may have occurred over a relatively short period of time. Royal permission for setting up such an 'organisation' may have been necessary and therefore obtained. At all events, the politeuma of the Jews of Herakleopolis never became a public body. Cf. Honigman 2003; Sänger 2014; Kruse 2015.