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Oxyrhynchus: A City and its Texts, Virtual Exhibition: A Millenium of Documents

Receipt for taxes in gold coin: April-May, AD 624

This item dates from a period when Egypt was occupied by the Persians, and is a receipt addressed to one Marinus for the payment of a large quantity of gold coin, perhaps £500,000 at today’s prices, in part-payment of the taxes for one year levied on Oxyrhynchus and a smaller neighbouring town.

This is one of the very latest dated Greek texts to survive from Oxyrhynchus. Around twenty years later, it is conjectured that the city was attacked and sacked by the invading Arab forces. At any rate, the collection contains no texts, whether Greek or Arabic, from the next two hundred years, suggesting that Oxyrhynchus became a ghost town until its rebirth as the Islamic town of Bahnasa at the end of the ninth century.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri vol.LV no.3797

Report of high court proceedings: mid-fourth century AD

This handsomely-written sheet, lacking its line beginnings, preserves part of a report of proceedings perhaps before the provincial governor. The report is bilingual, Latin with Greek, the framework (date, place, speakers’s names) being in Latin and the words spoken being in Greek (the language in which they were doubtless spoken), a regular format for reports of proceedings before higher authorities in the fourth and fifth centuries.

The hearing was held in the city of Pelusium, at the north-east angle of the Delta: the name is clearly visible abbreviated as pel. in the top line. Answers to the court’s questions could be short and to the point: the little group of letters seven lines down was eventually deciphered as R with an abbreviation stroke, for r(espondit), ‘he replied’, followed by Greek nai, ‘yes’.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri vol.LXIII no.4371