Transmission of Information


  1. Business Note
  2. Warrant
  3. Petition
  4. Prosangelma
  5. Statement
  6. Nomination to a Liturgy
  7. Declaration

The Type Transmission of Information encompasses all documents which convey information without the expectation of a reply. They are drawn up by the scribe in the form of a hypomnema, which appears in its most basic form in the business note (see below Business Note). This structure is adapted and expanded by the scribe to accommodate more formal documents, but is also used for private contracts, perhaps in imitation of official documents. The formulation of the content is usually subjective.

The figure shows all the sub-types and variations in the TI category,
                        displayed in a tree diagram.
Fig. 1: Transmission of Information Visualisation. Click to enlarge
The figure shows a table of the general structure for each category of
                        TI documents.
Fig. 2: Transmission of Information - Structural Elements. Click to enlarge

Business Note


A [business note] is a short communication, often concerning the management of an estate or some official business. In documents of the Ptolemaic period these notes were explicitly referred to as hypomnemata (memoranda), and the basic structure of the hypomnema is carried through all the sub-types of Transmission of Information, with some variations. The structural elements of the hypomnema from III BCE-III CE are as follows:

The figure shows a table of the general structure for the Business
                            Note Sub-Type.
Fig. 3: Business Note - Structural Elements. Click to enlarge


There are discernible differences in construction between early and late Ptolemaic business notes, with the more regular addition of a signature and date in the Roman period. Business notes from the III CE Heroninus archive display a mostly uniform structure where the scribes clearly worked from a model, with the use of windows between the end of the main text and the [date] allowing for a note of validation by way of a signature, usually in a second hand.


There is a clear resemblence between the III CE business note and the warrant of the same period as the latter evolved to become more characteristic of the short notes produced by the private scribes of an estate, cf. [warrant].



A warrant is an order from an official to have an accused person brought before him. Ptolemaic warrants, placed as an apostil at the end of a petition, have a short hypomnematic opening [to name <dat.>], no addressor, followed by a brief order [8810 , l. 40-42 199 BCE, Oxyrhyncha].


In the Roman period the apostil came to be written separately from the petition as individual warrants [25107 early I CE; 26779 II CE; 26701 II-III CE, all Oxyrhynchite nome]. For these warrants the scribe retained the horizontal appearance of the apostils at the end of petitions and wrote the text on transversa charta sheets [26779, 31276 III CE, Arsinoite nome].


In the mid-III CE influence from the [business note] led to a change in the opening address for warrants, opening now with the complete formula [from παρά official <gen.>][official <dat.>] [31339 l.1-2, III-IV CE, Oxyrhynchus], placing the issuing official at the top. Occasionally the recipient is moved to a closing footer [name <dat.>] as is often the case in business notes from the III CE Heroninus archive. With this change, there is often a signature to validate the document σεση(μείωμαι) “I have signed” [31339 l.6], similar to business notes of the same period e.g. [22671 III CE].


Other warrants could be drafted as an official letter, or as an apostil in letter form, see Epistolary Exchange: sub-type [official letter]: variation: [warrant].



A [petition] is a request addressed to an authority, often seeking redress for some wrong. From II BCE a petition addressed to an official was drawn up as a hypomnema.


Early Ptolemaic petitions have the explicit label ὑπόμνημα and open with the full address [ 1120 III BCE Philadelphia]. Later Ptolemaic petitions drop the label [316254 184 BCE, Tanis] and continue in this form into the Roman period [19506 62-66 CE, Hermopolis]. The opening address may be extended to include the patronymic, sometimes occupation, and location of the petitioner [12913 29 CE, Euhemeria].


The scribe may use some visual devices to distinguish the various sections of the petition: e.g. ekthesis and eisthesis to distinguish either part of the opening e.g. [44717 154 BCE, Herakleopolite nome; 10392 296 CE, Karanis; 13798 137 CE, Theadelphia]; a paragraphos separating the main text from the closing salutation and any subsequent subscriptions [12925 34 CE, Euhemeria; 21741 295 CE, Oxyrhynchus]; a space between the closing and the bottom margin to accommodate a subscription e.g. [44723 c.153 BCE, Herakleopolis; 3094 108 BCE, Hermopolite nome].


For early Ptolemaic petitions drawn up with a different typology see Epistolary Exchange: sub-type [enteuxis]. For documents reporting a crime see Transmission of Information: sub-type: [prosangelma]. For warrants see Epistolary Exchange: sub-type [official letter]: variation: [warrant] and Transmission of Information: sub-type: [warrant].



A [prosangelma] (προσάγγελμα) is the formal notification of an offence. These III BCE documents are addressed to a local official, usually at village level, and record the offence in a brief statement.


The structural elements of the hypomnema are adapted by the scribe in the first instance by placing the [date] at the start of the document [1934 251 BCE; 2077 241 BCE, both Philadelphia], but it can also appear at the end [1952 250 BCE, Philadelphia]. The place of writing may also be mentioned [1934].


Following the model of the explicit hypomnematic opening address, the scribe adjusts the designation and writes [προσάγγελμα][to name <dat>][from παρά name <gen>] [1934 ; 2077], or its inversion. These documents are distinctive in that there is no closing statement or salutation. 


After the III BCE, prosangelmata took on the characteristics of a petition by conforming to the more standard hypomnema form, and in many cases by making a formal request or plea for a legal resolution, see [petition_].


See also Transmission of Information: sub-type: [petition].



This sub-type covers all documents which make a formal request, opening with the hypomnema address, and followed by a [subjective verb + infinitive] construction. While there is no single definitive sub-type, the variations are distinguished by their purpose and specific statements.

Proposal to Contract

The [proposal to contract] was one of two ways a scribe could draw up a contract using the hypomnema formulation; the other was as an [undertaking] to contract. The proposal was a formal request by the addressor to enter into an agreement with the addressee. These documents could be submitted both to private individuals and to public officials and were in use from the late I BCE into the Byzantine period.


After the hypomnema opening, the construction βούλομαι + infinitive introduces the request. A brief description of the addressor may be added in the space between the end of the main text and the date [10115 l.25, 159 CE, Arsinoite nome]. There can also be a subscription by the addressee signifying his acceptance of the proposal [10593 l.30-33, 119 CE; 8991 l.24-25, 151 CE, both Arsinoite nome]. The [date] invariably follows.


The layout displays a clear separation between the addressee and the addressor with the παρά clause often beginning a new line [9296 168 CE, Arsinoite nome; 10117 181 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos]; the use of ekthesis [9861 218 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos; 10115], eisthesis [11693 149 CE, Arsinoite nome; 10756 195 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis], and windows for later subscriptions [9853 212 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos; 10609 206 CE, Philadelphia], is also common.


For contracts with a similar typology see Transmission of Information: sub-type [statement]: variation: [undertaking]. For contracts with different typologies see Epistolary Exchange: sub-type [cheirographon], and Objective Statement: sub-types: [syngraphe], [synchoresis], [private protocol].


A document of [registration] was an application to publicly register a private action or event. It was styled as a request and as such is different to a formal [declaration]. The documents are addressed to various officials depending on the process required.


After the hypomnema opening, the construction βούλομαι + infinitive introduces the request. The [date] invariably follows the main text. Subscriptions may be appended by the applicants [22242 291 CE, Oxyrhynchus; 27757 II CE, Arsinoite nome]; an official may subscribe a signature [21335 62 CE, Oxyrhynchus] or deliver an instruction [9142 67 CE, Karanis]. Official signatures may also be found at the top of the sheet e.g. [11682 129 CE, Arsinoite nome; 14000 124 CE, Arsinoite nome; 11539 143 CE, Tebtunis].


A [homologia] is an agreement or acknowledgement with some form of ὁμολογῶ as its main verb. There are only two complete examples of a homologia with the hypomnema opening formula before the end of the III CE: [78603 196 CE, Oxyrhynchus], the substitution of another person to take care of a tax matter, and [17553 215-216 CE, Panopolis], the provision of a surety for a fisherman. Fulfilling the criteria for inclusion under Transmission of Information, these homologiai are subjectively styled. From the IV CE there are more than 40 examples of this type of document, the majority of them concerning sureties.


Another variety of subjective homologia can be found under Epistolary Exchange: sub-type [cheirographon] variation: [homologia]. Objectively styled homologiai may be found under [syngraphe._].


An [undertaking] to contract was drawn up as a formal statement of intent, rather than a request to enter into an agreement (for which see [proposal to contract]). They come mostly from the Oxyrhynchite nome and concern lease agreements, often for the contracting of labour for vineyards.


After the hypomnema opening, the scribe writes ἐπιδέχομαι + infinitive: for land lease agreements this is ἐπιδέχομαι μισθώσασθαι “I undertake to (take on a) lease” [22524 296 CE], or ἐπιδέχομαι γεωργῆσαι τὴν γῆν “I undertake to farm the land” [16881 151 CE]. The [date] may be followed with a subscription by the lessor formally agreeing to the terms [21943 280 CE, 17518 226 CE].


The pagina format predominates, but sometimes with an elongated format, [15410 260 CE; 16881] which may be influenced by the Oxyrhynchite lease agreement written as a [private protocol].


For contracts with a similar typology see Transmission of Information: sub-type [statement]: variation: [proposal to contract]. For contracts with different typologies see Epistolary Exchange: sub-type [cheirographon], and Objective Statement: sub-types: [syngraphe], [synchoresis], [private protocol].

Nomination to a Liturgy


The [nomination to a liturgy] was a list of suitable candidates recommended for compulsory public service compiled by local officials and sent to the strategos for approval.


The hypomnema opening is expanded by the scribe to include the titles of the officials [11231 186 CE, Soknopaiou Nesos]. The statement of nomination comprises some form of δίδωμι, e.g. δίδωμι τὸν ὑπογεγραμμένον “I nominate the person named below” [22551 184 CE, Heroopolis (nome of Arabia); 11231], or εἰσδίδωμι [ 17504 247-248 CE, Oxyrhynchus].


A list of names follows, introduced by ἔστι δέ [22551] or εἰσὶ δέ [11231, 12031 185 CE, Arsinoite nome], which can be centred on a separate line [22550 l. 14, 183 CE, nome of Arabia], or placed at the end of the line, [9133 l. 8 170-171 CE, Arsinoite nome]. A window may have been left by the scribe between the end of the text and the [date] for the later addition of a transmission docket by an official [12031 , 11231 , 9133].


For further stages in the liturgical process see also Objective Statement: sub-type: [announcement]: variation: [programma], and Transmission of Information: sub-type [declaration]: variation: [oath].



This sub-type covers all documents which make a formal [declaration] with the hypomnema opening address, followed by a [subjective verb + infinitive] construction. Declarations are of a standardised structure and highly formulaic so that the model could be reproduced by any scribe in every small village throughout Egypt. While there is no single definitive sub-type, the variations are distinguished by their purpose and specific statements.


A compulsory [census] declaration was made periodically by all Egyptian households recording age, sex, status, and property-holding information for every member.


The hypomnema opening is followed by the declarant’s patronymic, matronymic, and place of residence, a description of any property owned, and a statement: ἀπογρά(φομαι) ἐμαυτὸν καὶ τοὺς ἐμούς “I register myself and my household” [11983 l.13, 104 CE, Bakchias]. After a list of all individuals in the household [10195 l.16, 189 CE, Tebtunis], the formal statement follows διὸ ἐπιδίδωμι, “therefore I make (the declaration)” [12174 l.24, II CE, Karanis]. There may also be an oath, καὶ ὀμνύω, “and I swear...” [22450 l.22, 133 CE, Oxyrhynchus].


The subscription may include the signature of one or more official stating that the declaration has been filed or recieved: καταχωρίζω “I register” [11983 l.28 κατακεχ(ωρίκαμεν], ἔσχον / συνέσχον “I have received” [12174 l.25, 27, 28, 29]; or simply σεση(μείωμαι) “I have signed” [9135 l.22, 23, II CE, Karanis]. The [date] completes the submission.


The pagina format is usual [13997 I CE, Philadelphia]. The addressee and addressor may be separated by a space [11983, 10195] with the initial letters of each part enlarged. Other examples present the address to the official in ekthesis to the rest of the text [12174, 12875 II CE, Soknopaiou Nesos], or the whole text in a single block [19335 II CE, Herakleopolite nome].


The scribe left windows at various points to facilitate the addition of further information or signatories e.g. between the signatures and date [12174], between main text and date [9132 II CE, Soknopaiou Nesos], in the middle of main text and between text and date [13997].


A declaration of pagan sacrifice, a [libellus], was issued by village officials as proof that the applicant had sacrificed to the gods in their presence. A few dozen are preserved, and only from the summer of 250 CE; the greatest concentration of these are from Theadelphia.


With the standard hypomnema opening the scribe was obliged to address not one official but two, τοῖς ἐπὶ τῶν θυσιῶν ᾑρημένοις, “to the (officials) in charge of the sacrifice”, followed by the declarant’s name [from παρά + name <gen.>] and place of origin or residence [12907 l.1-3].


While for practical purposes these documents are declarations, strictly speaking they are requests for certification. This may explain the presence of a closing salutation, unusual for a declaration: διευτυχεῖτε [11978 l.14; 13936 l.11].


The presence of more than one window for the insertion of official signatures at various stages of the process, clearly indicate that these documents were drawn up by the scribe in advance, see [libellus_11] and references therein.


A declaration of [death] is a request to add the name of the deceased the register of deceased individuals so that he may be removed from the register of taxpayers.


The hypomnema opening is followed by information on the deceased, his tax status, and his relationship to the declarant. The formal request is made ἀξιῶ “I request…”, ending with an oath ὀμνύω…ἀληθῆ εἶναι I swear (this) to be true [20533 I CE, Oxyrhynchus].


The subscription may include a description of the declarant, a note from the official, the signatures of both declarant and official, and the [date] [12901 II CE, Arsinoite nome].


The scribe often left a space at the end of the sheet between the official signature and date for the insertion of another official signature [8801; 8802 both 185 CE, Arsinoite nome].

Camel ownership

In Roman Egypt ownership of camels had to be declared annually for taxation purposes. Most [camel] declarations are from Soknopaiou Nesos in the Arsinoite nome, II-III CE.


In most of these documents the scribe wrote a summary docket in the form of a heading, before the opening address [9075 l.1, 137 CE] Σοκνοπ(αίου Νήσου). κάμηλ(οι) γ. After the address to the strategos and royal scribe, information on the declarant and number of camels follows. The formal declaration begins ἀπογράφομαι “I register…”.


There follows a series of subscriptions, the first where the official confirms the registration of the declaration, and adds the [date]. Other officials count and verify the number of camels and each one appends his signature and the [date].


As a boy enters his fourteenth year, a declaration of [epikrisis] had to be made by his parents to ensure an exemption from the payment of poll-tax. This was required only for those who belonged to the privileged strata of society: metropolites, citizens of πόλεις, and Roman citizens. Most surviving examples come from the Arsinoite and Oxyrhynchite nomes, and from I-III CE.


The address to the officials can be made with the full hypomnema opening [20324 86 CE, Oxyrhynchus], or the shorter version [78617 189 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. This is followed by the declarant’s status information and the presentation of his credentials, which can be extensive [19301 269 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. The subscriptions contain an official signature [11217 l.14-16, 148 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis] and sometimes that of the declarant [12900 l.16, 167 CE, Ptolemais Euergetis].


Documents from Oxyrhynchus tend to be written on long, narrow, sheets, i.e. the demotic-style [78617], similar to the format of the private protocol contract typical of the region, see Objective Statement: sub-type: [private protocol].


The scribe often uses eisthesis and an enlarged first letter of παρά to distinguish either part of the opening [9055 II CE Ptolemais Euergetis; 11217]. He may also leave a window for the later insertion of signatures [11216 II CE Ptolemais Euergetis] - the unused space in this window was filled with crosses.

Uninundated Land (ἄβροχος)

A farmer could declare his land to be [uninundated land] and so claim a reduction in tax payments. Examples of these declarations have been found mostly in the Arsinoite and Oxyrhynchite nomes, and date from mid-II to mid-III CE.


The address to the officials can be made with the full hypomnema opening [12741 II CE, Oxyrhynchus], or the shorter version [8959 II CE, Karanis]. The declaration itself begins ἀπογράφομαι “I register”, followed by the details of the land and its location. A formal statement can be added διὸ ἐπιδίδωμι τὴν ἀπογραφήν, “therefore I make the declaration” [13753 169 CE, Arsinoite]. The [date] comes before the subscription, which includes the signatures of one or more official. The scribe may allow windows for the later insertion of an official signature [13753].


Anyone notified of their appointment to a liturgical office had to swear an [oath] to perform their duties responsibly. Such oaths range from II CE to early IV CE, with the best preserved examples from the Oxyrhynchite nome.


Occasionally the type of liturgy is specified first as a heading [ 20741 244-245 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. The scribe wrote the opening address to the strategos [to strategos <dat.>], but with no addressor clause [15976 224-225 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. The addressor is named at the start of the following sentence as he makes his formal oath N ὀμνύω “I N swear” [22459 207 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. The name of a guarantor may be provided [16010 l.18-22, 237 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. The [date] is written before the subscriptions.


The format of the Oxyrhynchite examples is of the demotic-style, long and narrow [21618 II CE]. The scribe allowed a large space between the end of the text and margin to facilitate the addition of the subscription.

How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Classification of Greek Documentary Papyri: Transmission of Information. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:mw5zts5wwjazdmttbuqp4mqp34