1. Structure
  2. Format
  3. Layout

A warrant is an order from an official to have an accused person brought before him. It usually follows from an earlier [petition], complaint, or request from an individual to a higher authority. For an overview of the different descriptions of these documents in the modern period as “Orders to Arrest” and “Summonses”, see the references in [Schubert 2018a : 253, n.2]. For a list of Ptolemaic warrants see [P.Paramone : No. 9, introduction : 104-106] and add [4126 222 BCE, Arsinoite nome]; for Roman warrants see [Schubert 2018a : 253, and n.3; 258-261]. Warrants were usually issued by the strategos to the archephodos of a village, who was tasked with locating and ensuring the accused was produced. For a discussion on the changes to policing after III CE see [Gagos and Sijpesteijn 1996 : 79-80].


Warrants in different formats are found in the Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine periods; unsurprisingly most preserved examples are from the Arsinoite and Oxyrhynchite nomes. In the Ptolemaic period they are found in two forms: as a letter or as an apostil, i.e. “a short set of instructions added to the bottom of a petition” [Schubert 2018a : 266]. In the Roman period these apostils became distinct documents in that they were no longer attached to the original petition, and had various methods of validation. By the mid-III CE, influence from the [Business Note] led to changes in the internal structure of the document, and by the IV CE warrants were again showing elements of the letter form; for a detailed description of the evolution of the warrant see [Schubert 2018a]. That these warrants were mass-produced is evidenced by [26510 II-III CE, Oxyrhynchus] and [34196 IV CE, Hermopolite nome] each with two different warrants written on the same sheet.



Ptolemaic warrants in the form of a letter referred to themselves as ἐπιστολή [8207 248 BCE, Oxyrhynchus] or γράμμα [8212 245 BCE, Oxyrhynchus]; there was no specific term for this type of document, see [P.Paramone : No. 9, introduction : 106]. These warrants began with the standard opening address [from name <nom.>][to name <dat.>][χαίρειν] e.g. [4126; 14424 6 CE, Arsinoite nome]. There often followed a brief description of the reason for the order [5021 l.2-8, 193-192 BCE, Arsinoite nome] or simply the names of the complainant and the accused [4126 l.2-9]. The main verb was usually an imperative [ἀπόστειλον] ‘dispatch’ [4126 l.11-12], [ἀποκατάστησον] ‘deliver/hand over’ [8212 l. 13-14], [ἀνάπεμψον] ‘send up’ [8207 l.1, 248 BCE, Oxyrhynchite nome], or simply [πέμψας] ‘send’ [8255 l.3, 250 BCE, Oxyrhynchite nome]. There followed a simple closing farewell [ἔρρωσο] and, as with all official letters, a [date@end] of the document. This type of warrant is last attested in 6 BCE [14424].


Warrants are also found as a short note added to the end of the petition to which it pertains, i.e. as an apostil. Some of these apostils are written in the form of a letter with the usual address [from name <nom.>][to name <dat.>][χαίρειν] and followed by a simple order to have the person produced before the authority, e.g. [5475 l.13-14, 150/139 BCE, Tebtunis] σύ[νταξον] [κατ]αστῆσα[ι] ‘order (him) to be delivered’, and no closing farewell, but with the date.


Other apostils are even shorter with a simple [to name <dat.>], followed by a brief order, no farewell, and ending with the date [8810 199 BCE, Arsinoite nome]. Such apostils continue to be written into the Roman period e.g. [14956 l.21-22, 28-30 CE, Euhemeria] ἀρχε̣(φόδῳ)· ἔκπ[ε]μ̣[ψον] ‘To the archephodos. Send them up’.


In the Roman period these succinct apostils were separated from the petition and written as individual warrants. As in the short Ptolemaic apostil, there was no mention of the official who issued the warrant (but see below) – this remained the case until the mid III CE [Schubert 2018a : 258-265]; compare [26701 II-III CE, Oxyrhynchite nome] and [16434 256 CE, Oxyrhynchus]. After this time influence from the [Business Note] led to a change in the opening address with the official in primary position [from παρά official <gen.>] [official <dat.>] [31339 l.1-2, III-IV CE, Oxyrhynchus]. Occasionally the recipient is moved to a closing footer [name <dat.>] as is the case in the [Business Note]; compare [10971 l.9, 260 CE, Theadelphia] and [128316 l.6, III-IV CE, Oxyrhynchite nome] [Schubert 2018a : 269-273]. The main sentence conveys a sense of urgency: ἐξαυτῆς ἀναπέμψατε [name] ἢ ὑμεῖς αὐτοὶ ἀνέλθατε ‘send up [the accused] immediately, or else come yourself’ [16434 l.3-5]. Sometimes a date is added [29824 l.4, II CE, Oxyrhynchus].



Ptolemaic warrants written as letters vary in format from transversa charta [1939 254 BCE, Arsinoite nome; 8207], to pagina with horizontal fibres [4126; 8209 245 BCE, Oxyrhynchite nome]. Although for many types of documents in the Roman period the favoured format was pagina, warrants from this period retained the horizontal appearance of the apostils at the end of petitions: this means that the scribe cut vertical sheets from the roll, but instead of writing along the fibres he preferred to turn the sheet so that it was horizontally oriented and wrote across the vertical fibres, see [26779 II CE, Oxyrhynchite nome; 26920 III-IV CE, Philadelphia; 31276 III CE, Ptolemais Euergetis], [Schubert 2018a : 266-269] and [Ferretti et al. 2020 : 201-202].



Warrants written in letter format are usually presented as a single block of text with the final farewell and date in eisthesis at the end of the document [1939; 4126; 5856 223-222 BCE, Apollonopolite nome]. Warrants from the Roman period are also written as a block of text, occasionally with the first [26920] or the final line [31339] in eisthesis. There is often a very large space at the end of the document [28128 II-III CE, Ptolemais Euergetis; 29824].


While in I-II CE warrants there is no reference in the written text to the issuing official, the order is often validated by the presence of a seal inscribed ὁ στρατηγός σε καλεῖ, ‘the strategos orders you’ [25693 I CE, Ptolemais Euergetis; 18272 88-96 CE, Arsinoite nome]. From the II-III CE the seal, and therefore any mention of the issuing official, disappears, and there is often a series of crosses under the text [26779; 31660 III CE, Oxyrhynchus] (and note the more unusual filler in [31417 III CE, Karanis, 30319 III CE, Arsinoite nome]). This served the dual purpose of ensuring against unauthorised additions, and acting as a form of validation, see [Schubert 2018a : 262-265]. A hybrid example of both seal and filler can be found in [30430 III CE, Oxyrhynchite nome]. With the changes in the structure of the warrant in the mid-III CE, where the identity of the official is now explicitly mentioned in the opening address, there is often a signature to validate the document σεση(μείωμαι) ‘I have signed’ [31339 l.6], also found in the [Business Note] of the same period, e.g. [22671 206/235 CE].


How to Cite

Ferretti, L., Fogarty, S., Nury, E., Schubert, P. Description of Greek Documentary Papyri: Warrant. grammateus project. DOI: 10.26037/yareta:3qbd6bw2nnbp7pkodwpisk3whq