Some cases of food pension paid by women?

Published under the direction of Marie-Pierre Chaufray et Stéphanie Wackenier, the recent edition of papyrus fragments bearing texts in Demotic (Papyrus de la Sorbonne (P. Sorb. IV) n° 145-16, Presses de l’Université Paris Sorbonne, 2016) brings to light interesting material on women of Hellenistic Egypt.

Some mothers are cited as such, according to recurrent practice: Shemti, mother of Horos the peasantKomoapis (P. Sorb. IV, 146); Nakhtesis, mother of Horos, servant farmer from Souchos and son of Imouthes  (P. Sorb. IV, n°147); Tithyris mother of Ta-; Tetosiris, mother of Teos (P. Sorb. IV, n°156), etc.

Simarion, daughter of Isocrates and kanephoros before Arsinoë Philadelphus, appears in a tenancy agreement (P. Sorb. IV, n°146).

Tapiomis, daughter of Horos (whose mother is Tasis), is one of the parties on a contract for a monetary loan; as is Eserempis, daughter of Ameneus (whose mother is Ta-…); as are Rempnophris and Tereous.

According to Déborah Vignot-Kott, editor of the papyrus (P. Sorb. IV, n°156), “the mention of rationing contracts by women in section 156a is problematic. Indeed these contracts are generally interpreted as forms of food pension paid monthly by the husband to his wife. This interpretation becomes invalid as soon as the sponsor of the contract is a woman (l.13). Similarly the mention of a small monthly sum to accompany one such contract (l.14) is unusual. Fr. de Cernival ventured that this sum might be used to cover modest household charges such as wet-nursing contracts. Perhaps these annual contracts ought to be considered as Verpfründungsverträge [note by VSC: contracts of pledge] in the same regard as the –sh document in line 15.” Papyrus de la Sorbonne (P. Sorb. IV) n° 145-160, p. 70 (in French in the text).

Thirty-two women are named in an exclusively feminine list (of a religious association?): P. Sorb. IV, 158. The women’s names listed (P. Sorb. IV, 159) are associated with functions such as “Arsinoe’s reciter”, “the troop leader of Souchos”, “the cat’s nurse”, “Superior of the female hawk”.


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