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Legal Status in the Greek World

101. A marriage contract. Tebtunis, 92 B.C. (Tebtunis papyrus I 104. G)

This contract not only specifies the financial obligations of both parties, but explains what constitutes unacceptable behaviour. Both husband and wife are required to be chaste within the context of the household, but although nothing prevents the husband from having relations with other women or men outside the home, the wife cannot leave the house for longer than a few hours without the husband's permission.

(1) In the year 22, Mecheir 11, an agreement between Philiscus son of Apollonius, a Persian of the Epigone [32] and Apollonia also called [33] Kellauthis daughter of Heraclides, a Persian, with her brother Apollonius acting as guardian. Philiscus acknowledges that he has received from her in copper money the some of two talents and four thousand drachmas, as the dowry that had been agreed upon for the same Apollonia ... (some words missing) ... Dionysius is the keeper of the contract. (2) In the twenty-second year of the reign of king Ptolemy also called Alexander, who is the god Philometor, in the time of the priest of Alexander and of the others as recorded in Alexandria, in the month Xandikos 11, Mecheir 11, at Kerkeosiris of the Polemon division of the Arsinoe nome. Philiscus son of Apollonius, a Persian of the military settlement acknowledges to Apollonia also called Kellauthis, daughter of Heraclides, a Persia with her brother Apollonius acting as guardian that he has received from her in copper money the sum of two talents and four thousand drachmas as the dowry that had been agreed upon on behalf of the same Apollonia.

Apollonia agrees to live with Philiscus in obedience to him, as is appropriate for a wife to her husband, possessing with him the property that they have in common. Philiscus, when he is home and when he is away from home, is to provide her with every necessity and a cloak and other possessions customary for a wife at a level appropriate to their means, and Philiscus is not permitted to bring into the household another wife in addition to Apollonia or a concubine or a catamite nor is he permitted to beget children with another woman so long as Apollonia is alive, nor to set up another household unless Apollonia is in charge of it, and he promises not to throw her out or insult or mistreat her and not to alienate any of their joint property in a way that would be injurious to Apollonia. If Philiscus is shown to have done any of these things or if he has not provided her with the necessities or the cloak or the other possessions as specified, Philiscus must immediately return the dowry of two talents and four thousand drachmas of copper money.

Similarly, Apollonia is not to stay away for a night or a day from Philiscus' household without Philiscus' knowledge, nor is she to live with another man or to cause ruin to the common household or to bring disgrace on Philiscus in whatever brings disgrace to a husband. If Apollonia voluntarily wants a separation from Philiscus, Philiscus is to return her dowry intact within ten days from the time when she asks for it. If he does not return the dowry as specified, he must pay her the original sum plus one half. Witnesses are Dionysius son of Patron, Dionysius son of Dionysius, Heracles, son of Diocles, all six Macedonians of the military settlement. Dionysius is keeper of the contract.

(3) I, Philiscus son of Apollonius a Persian of the military settlement, agree that I have received a dowry of two talents, four thousand drachmas in copper money as specified, and have deposited the agreement, which is valid, with Dionysius. The said Dionysius son of Hermaiscus has written this on his behalf because Philiscus does not know letters. (4) I, Dionysius, have received the contract, which is valid.

Placed in the registry in the year 22, Mecheir 11. (On the reverse) An agreement between Apollonia and Philiscus ... marriage ... (names of principals and witnesses appended)


32. A 'Persian' originally meant a member of the Persian military settlement or their descendants, but starting in the first century B.C. it seems to have also been used to designate a legal status that required the person designated as Persian to be personally liable for any fault in a contract. Cf. Fraser, 1972, 58-9.

33. Both Greek and Egyptian names are frequently given, with the formula "also known as" or "also called', when two languages or cultures are involved, but unfortunately from the end of the third century B.C., names in the papyri are not reliable indications of origin. See Turner, 1968, 82-83.